U.S. wildlife officials plan to lift protections for gray wolves across the Lower 48 states, a move certain to re-ignite the legal battle over a predator that’s rebounding in some regions and running into conflicts with farmers and ranchers, an official told The Associated Press.
Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt was expected to announce the proposal during a Wednesday speech before a wildlife conference in Denver, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Spokesman Gavin Shire said in an interview with the AP.
The decision to lift protections is based on gray wolves successfully recovering from widespread extermination last century, Shire said. He said further details would be made public during a formal announcement planned in coming days.
Long despised by farmers and ranchers, wolves were shot, trapped and poisoned out of existence in most of the U.S. by the mid-20th century.
They received endangered species protections in 1975, when there were about 1,000 left, only in northern Minnesota. Now more than 5,000 of the animals live in the contiguous U.S.
Most are in the Western Great Lakes and Northern Rockies regions. Protections for the Northern Rockies population were lifted in 2011 and hundreds are now killed annually by hunters.