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Do We Still Need To Protect Gray Wolves? Trump Administration Says No, Advocates Disagree.

John and Karen Hollingsworth / USFWS

The Trump administration wants to strip federal protection of gray wolves in almost all of the lower 48 states. Wolves were listed under federal endangered species laws in 1978.

John and Karen Hollingsworth / USFWS

The Trump administration wants to strip federal endangered species protections from gray wolves, even though a California judge ruled earlier this year that the they should remain protected in California.

"After being driven to the brink of extinction, wolves today live in only a fraction of their historic range and they've really only just begun to return to California,” said Ash Lauth with the Center for Biological Diversity.

Part of the worry is that delisting gray wolves could open up populations to hunting. But last month the administration said “federal protections are no longer warranted” and it would like to return wolf management to states and tribes. The species has already been delisted in the Northern Rocky Mountains.

“The gray wolf no longer meets the definition of a threatened or endangered species,” U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt wrote in a statement. “Today the wolf is thriving on its vast range and it is reasonable to conclude it will continue to do so in the future.”

The administration isn't holding public hearings, so wolf advocates are having their own. The lone California rally and hearing will be held in Sacramento on Thursday at 5 p.m. at the Clunie Community Center at McKinley Park. Comments will be transcribed and submitted by the May 14 deadline. Other hearings will be held in Denver and Portland.

“The future of America’s wolves is being decided right now, and the public has a right to be heard,” Lauth said. “It’s heartless and utterly shortsighted to pull the plug on wolf recovery. This is the moment to speak out.”

There are around 6,000 gray wolves across the US. The administration says that exceeds the recovery goals for the Northern Rocky Mountains and Western Great Lakes populations. In 1975 there were fewer than 1,000.  Today, there are only about two handfuls of wolves in the California, said Jordan Traverso with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“Since we know a few could get here it’s probable others are here as well,” Traverso said. “They’re very stealthy, they’re apex predators, they don’t do photo shoots, so you don’t know exactly where they are. They’re kind of like mountain lions: If you see where they are there’s something wrong.”

The California Fish and Game Commission voted in mid-April to send the Trump administration a letter opposing the federal proposal.

“The commission believes that it’s premature to delist wolves federally,” Traverso said. “While there are a few places that are showing wolf populations could support delisting that certainly doesn’t encompass places like California where we have a very limited population.”

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