Is Trump eying swing states by removing gray wolves from endangered list? POTUS believes 'he can flip Minnesota'
President Donald Trump’s administration has stripped the species of gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act protections in most of the US. This drastic decision has ended long-standing federal protection and has put states and tribes in charge of overseeing the predators.
Daily Mail reported that the move announced by the US Department of Interior announcement ahead of the Nov. 3 election could lead to a rise in wolf hunting in key battleground states like Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The publication reported that POTUS believes "he can flip Minnesota and retain Wisconsin and Michigan", all of which are affected by the present move. The decision has been called disappointing by Minnesota Gov. Tim Waltz, who opposes recreational wolf hunting.
However, Federal wildlife officials argued that thriving populations of wolves in the western Great Lakes region, Rocky Mountains and Pacific Northwest ensure the species' long-term survival. They reportedly said that it is not necessary for wolves to be in every place they once inhabited, in order to be considered recovered. Former US Fish and Wildlife Service director Dan Ashe concurred that wolves have recovered. She reportedly said it's time for the agency to “move on” to help other imperiled wildlife. Despite the federal officials’ claim, some biologists said that this move lacked scientific justification. Wildlife advocates worry that the move will make it harder for wolves to recover in more regions, such as the southern Rocky Mountains and portions of the Northeast.
While the move around the wild animals has become contentious, here is what we need to know about the gray wolves and why were they were protected.
Why were gray wolves protected?
Gray wolves once roamed around North America, from Alaska to Mexico and Maine to California. They are adaptable and intelligent predators and studies prove that they can help maintain balance in the natural ecosystem. These predators prey on elk cows and bulls in a balanced way that maintains equilibrium in the food chain. Doug Smith, Yellowstone’s senior wildlife biologist, mentioned that gray wolves’ ability to keep elk herds' and deer populations in check can play a crucial role in the natural cycle.
However, in the 1900s a nationally coordinated extermination campaign wiped out most of the population of gray wolves. Gray wolf numbers dropped to just 1,000 by the 1970s after long being harassed, poisoned, and shot by farmers and ranchers who considered them a threat to livestock. As a result, the US had to declare the predators as endangered species in the 1970s due to low numbers. Furthermore, when Gray wolves were not around and elk cows could roam freely, their population rose way too much and disturbed the natural balance between prey and predator. Between 1932 and 1968, the U.S. National Park Service and the state of Montana removed more than 70,000 elk from the Northern Yellowstone herd by killing them or shipping them across the country to areas where they had to be eliminated to control their population.
Finally, to boost the population of gray wolves, a reintroduction effort was launched in the US. The species was listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), where it somewhat recovered, with around 6,000 wolves now in the lower 48 states. This revived the population of wolves in the Great Lakes region, Minnesota and Canada. However, gray wolves are not preferred by farmers and hunters. Agriculture groups and some hunting organizations decry wolves’ ability to kill sheep and cows and to feed on valuable livestock species. Daily Mail reported that Ashleigh Calaway of Pittsville, Wisconsin said 13 of her family farm's sheep were killed by wolves in July of 2019. Now as the present move has stripped the tag of endangered species for the reportedly vulnerable gray wolves, farmers and hunters have welcomed the news.
On the other front,100 biologists opposing the delisting argued that any perceived threats to livestock or humans from wolves are easily manageable and that protections should remain. “In recent years, efforts to delist wolves have been motivated by local and special interests,” the scientists wrote to POTUS in a letter. “As such, these efforts eviscerate the essential purpose of the federal government and the ESA, which is to conserve species insomuch as doing so is a national interest.”