• Wolves may lose US protection in Vt.
    The Associated Press | June 10,2013
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    AP File PHOTO

    This 2008, photo released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows a gray wolf.
    MONTPELIER — Wolves that wander into Vermont from Canada or elsewhere would lose federal protection after most species of the animal are removed from the federal endangered species list, a move the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed Friday.

    Wolves, which had been persecuted to near-extermination, have rebounded, the Fish and Wildlife Service said.

    No breeding populations of wolves exist in the Northeast, but there are populations of wolves in Canada not far from the U.S., and wolves from other regions are occasionally found in the region, said Fish and Wildlife Service endangered species specialist Mark McCollough, based in Orono, Maine. Eventually, they will no longer have federal protection, he said.

    “They will no longer be protected under the federal act, but the states will be responsible for managing wolves,” he said.

    In Vermont and Maine, wolves aren’t given protection beyond a prohibition on hunting or trapping them.

    Over the years there have been other occasions when large wolflike animals have appeared in the region. In some cases, genetic testing has found them to be mixes of wolf species and eastern coyotes.

    This year, a trail camera took a series of photos of a large wolflike animal in Wilson’s Mills, Maine, not far from the New Hampshire border. In 2012, a wolf was shot in the Canadian province of New Brunswick, not far from Maine, McCollough said.

    The proposed change to the Endangered Species Act would end four decades of recovery efforts for wolves. More than 6,100 wolves roam the northern Rockies and western Great Lakes.

    The protections available for wolf populations in the northern Midwest have been largely uncontroversial, as was the removal of these populations from the endangered species list in 2011. But in Montana and Idaho, where wolves were reintroduced a generation ago, they drew bitter opposition from ranchers and hunters. The federal protections of these populations were removed by Congress two years ago.

    Until the current proposal, federal regulations still protected wolves in areas where they once lived and to which they might return. If the new rule is adopted, that will no longer be the case.

    The only wolf populations to have protection going forward would be Mexican wolves in southern Arizona and New Mexico.

    Despite vast tracts of wilderness that are suitable for wolves in the Northeast, efforts to restore wolves to the region never got off the ground.

    McCollough said there are populations of eastern wolves in Canada within 60 miles of the Maine border, but the St. Lawrence River acts as a natural barrier, keeping all but a few of the wolves from finding their way south.

    The New York Times contributed to this report.
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