Larger Wolf Packs Less Successful in Hunting Elk

courtesy of the Salt Lake Tribune
by Brian Maffly

A few weeks ago Yellowstone National Park officials discovered the carcass of one of the park’s deadliest wolves, an aging male that scientists knew to be an aggressive bison hunter.

Wolf No. 495 died naturally, but his body bore bruises consistent with injuries inflicted in an encounter with large game, according to Dan MacNulty, an assistant professor of wildlife ecology at Utah State University.

The wounds found on No. 495 help explain MacNulty’s latest findings that wolves’ hunting success bears little correlation to the size of the hunting party beyond four wolves. Wolves hunt in groups because taking down large hoofed animals is not only challenging but dangerous.

But if the attack party exceeds four animals, the chance of success levels off, according to research MacNulty and colleagues published this week in the journal Behavioral Ecology.

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Wolf Recovery Leader Not Your Average Bureaucrat

courtesy of High Country News
by Ray Ring

Ed Bangs has long been a lightning rod for the controversy around the return of wolves to the U.S. Northern Rockies. Based in Helena, Mont., he led the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s wolf-recovery effort from 1988, when the region had only a few naturally occurring wolves, through the reintroduction of Canadian wolves in 1995 and ’96, until his retirement in June 2011. During those years, the number of wolves in the region increased to more than 1,700. A plethora of lawsuits, alarmist headlines and political maneuvers culminated with Congress removing most of the region’s wolves from the Endangered Species List (an action also being challenged by lawsuits) just as Bangs retired.

Throughout the wolf battles, people on all sides of the issue respected Bangs for his unusual frankness and good humor. HCN’s senior editor, Ray Ring, talked with the 60-year-old biologist on July 1 about his lifelong interest in wildlife and his reflections on wolves and human society in general.

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Scientists Debate ‘Magic Number’ of Wolves Needed for Species’ Survival

courtesy of The Missoulian
by Rob Chaney

One of the biggest arguments left unresolved by last year’s wolf lawsuit was the most obvious: How many wolves are enough?

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took the gray wolf off the endangered species list in 2009, with the caveat that at least 150 wolves and 15 breeding pairs endure in each of the three states in the northern Rocky Mountain population (Montana, Idaho and Wyoming). Recent surveys found at least 1,700 wolves in that area – more than enough to justify delisting.

But a coalition of environmental groups sued the government, claiming those numbers were wrong. To survive and thrive, they argued, the population needed at least 2,000 and preferably 5,000 wolves.

FWS biologists said they used the best available science to pick their number. Coalition members cited the well-established rules of conservation biology to justify their threshold. While the scientists dueled, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy decided the case on a technicality and Congress reversed him with a budget rider.

Wolves in the Northern Rockies are now delisted, but almost nobody’s happy.

Continue reading “Scientists Debate ‘Magic Number’ of Wolves Needed for Species’ Survival”

Rebel, Rebel

courtesy of the Missoula Independent
by Erika Fredrickson

Black Wolf Yields a Wild Hero

In the next few weeks—from May 7 through May 14—the 34th annual International Wildlife Film Festival screens 100 films that attempt to tell wildlife stories that are both entertaining and accurate. Among those, The Rise of Black Wolf is at the top, as a film that tells a good, solid story without resorting to melodrama. The Montana-made documentary, by Emmy Award-winner Bob Landis, follows almost the entire life of one wolf as he breaks from his pack and lives to be nine-and-a-half years old—one of the oldest wolves documented in Yellowstone National Park. This particular black wolf, known by scientists and wolf enthusiasts as Black Wolf, Casanova, and 302M, has been the protagonist in other Landis films, including In the Valley of the Wolves, and was monitored by the Yellowstone Wolf Project because of his unique behavior.

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Lawsuit Challenges Constitutionality of Anti-Wolf Rider

courtesy of the Center for Biological Diversity

Challenge Says Congress Illegally Lifted Wolf Protections in Northern Rockies, Pacific Northwest

The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a challenge in federal district court in Missoula, Mont., arguing that a congressional rider requiring removal of Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains is unlawful because it violated the separation of powers in the U.S. Constitution. The rider was attached to last month’s must-pass federal budget bill by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) and marked the first time an animal or plant has been removed from the endangered species list by Congress.

“The wolf rider is a clear example of overreaching by Congress that resulted in the wrongful removal of protections for wolves,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The rider is not only a disaster for wolves but for any endangered species that a politician doesn’t like. Congress has set a terrible precedent that we hope to overturn.”

Click here to read the rest of the press release

Brisk Sales of Permits for Planned Idaho Wolf Hunts

courtesy of Reuters
by Laura Zuckerman

Permits for planned wolf hunts sold briskly in Idaho on Thursday, as most wolves in the Northern Rockies were officially removed from the endangered species list and conservationists sued over the unprecedented removal of protection by Congress.

The end of federal protection means that the roughly 1,200 wolves in Idaho and Montana will be managed by state wildlife agencies. The two states are seeking to kill hundreds of wolves, mostly through public hunting to begin in the fall.

Hunters were lining up in Idaho to purchase “tags” priced at $11.95 to help fill a hunting quota expected to be set at 220 of the state’s 700 wolves. Montana is likely to set the same quota for its 550 wolves.

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Salazar Presents National Strategy for Wolf Recovery

courtesy of The Idaho Statesman
by Rocky Barker

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar wasn’t satisfied Thursday with simply carrying out Congress’s mandate that he take gray wolves in the Rocky Mountains except for Wyoming off the endangered species list.

Salazar used the occasion to propose delisting in the Western Great Lakes and to unveil a national strategy for wolf recovery that wildlife groups have been pushing for many years. That strategy is bold and challenges the way many people have looked at the issue in the past.

The biggest change is that gray wolves that wander into 29 eastern states will no long be protected by the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s scientists determined that gray wolves, canis lupus, never really lived there.

Instead, the agency will begin a status review of the wolf they say did live there, the canis lycaon or Eastern Canadian wolf. This smaller version is similar to red wolves that have been reintroduced to the Southeast. Some scientists say this subspecies used to live in Maine, the Adirondacks and even the Catskills famous for Borscht belt comedians like Henny Youngman who might have said, “take our wolves…please!”

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Wyoming Elk Researchers to Give Talk About Study

courtesy of The Ravalli Republic
by Perry Backus

Wyoming researchers looking for the cause behind declining pregnancy rates in a Yellowstone National Park elk herd will talk about their study this week in Hamilton.

Sponsored by the Ravalli County Fish and Game Association, the talk begins at 6 p.m. at the Bitterroot River Inn.

“When dealing with wildlife management, you can never have too much information,” said association president Tony Jones. “We’re hoping that some of the things they learned may transfer over to what’s happening here.”

Last winter, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks started an ambitious study in the Bitterroot Valley looking the relationship between elk and predators.

“Big game numbers here are doing the same thing that they’ve seen in Wyoming,” Jones said. “We want to get a better handle on why our big game numbers are on a fast decline … when you have wolves and lots of them, it’s easy to say they are the problem. Sometimes it’s not the wolf that’s doing the bulk of the damage.”

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Montana FWP Wants Quota of 220 Wolves this Hunting Season

courtesy of KULR8.com
by The Associated Press

Montana officials are proposing to allow 220 gray wolves to be shot during the state’s second wolf hunting season this fall.

The figure is the highest proposed quota yet in the state — up from 186 in the canceled 2010 season and 75 in the inaugural wolf hunting season in 2009. The Independent Record in Helena reports Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials say the new quota will result in a 25 percent reduction from the estimated 2010 population of 566 wolves in the state.

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Stranded Colorado Conservationists Seek Donors For Bus Motor

courtesy of CBS 4 Denver
by Paul Day

A Colorado man who provides safe haven for unwanted wolves found himself stranded in unfamiliar territory while traveling on an educational tour in Wyoming.

“Our bus died, our motor had a catastrophic failure,” said Kent Weber, founder of Mission Wolf in a phone call with CBS4.

Weber, his wife Tracy Brooks, and three wolves were headed to the West Coast when disaster struck.

“We had to put our bus on a tow truck with the wolves in it and get towed 3 or 4 hours into Salt Lake City where we’re sitting right now,” Weber added.

Since Easter the Mission Wolf delegation has been camped out at Smith Power Products, a diesel engine repair center. They eat and sleep on the bus.

The three wolves — Magpie, Abraham and Zeab have pretty much made themselves home.

“These are unusual wolves,” Weber said. “They were born in captivity and enjoy meeting people.”

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Fish & Wildlife Seeks Accounts of Eastern Wyoming Black Wolf

courtesy of trib.com
by the Associated Press

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants people to report any more sightings of a black wolf that appears to have wandered a couple hundred miles east of Yellowstone National Park.

An officer with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services agency photographed the wolf Saturday not far from the Belle Ayre coal mine about 10 miles southeast of Gillette.

The wolf wore a radio collar but its gender is unknown. Mike Jimenez, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wyoming wolf recovery coordinator, said anybody who sees the wolf should call him at 307-733-7096.

Male and female wolves tend to disperse far from their home packs between 1 and 3 years of age. That’s probably what this wolf is doing, Jimenez said Wednesday.
“It’s difficult to say whether this wolf will stick around, or whether it’s dispersing, and it could be miles away a week from now and nobody ever sees it again. We don’t know,” he said.

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U.S. Fish & Wildlife Initiates ‘Flex’ Plan for Wolves in Wyoming

courtesy of New West
by Brodie Farquhar

Wyoming and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are exploring an idea whereby Wyoming could gain state management over wolves, retain the wolf’s dual status of trophy and predator and reduce wolf numbers outside of Yellowstone, down to 10 breeding pairs and 100 animals.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead spoke of the plan’s details during a Tuesday press conference.

“We’re trying to get out of this stalemate,” Mead said.

The key to the plan, which was originally suggested by USFWS, is what Mead called a “flex line” adjustment to the current boundary line separating trophy wolves in and immediately around Yellowstone, and the rest of the state where wolves are regarded as predators and can be shot on sight.

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Wolves to Come Off Endangered List Within 60 Days

courtesy of The Associated Press

Federal wildlife officials say they will take more than 1,300 gray wolves in the Northern Rockies off the endangered species list within 60 days.

An attachment to the budget bill signed into law Friday by President Barack Obama strips protections from wolves in five Western states.

It marks the first time Congress has taken a species off the endangered list.

Idaho and Montana plan public wolf hunts this fall. Hunts last year were canceled after a judge ruled the predators remained at risk.

Protections remain in place for wolves in Wyoming because of its shoot-on-sight law for the predators.

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US Wolf Recovery Coordinator Ed Bangs to Retire

courtesy of The Helena Independent Record
by Eve Byron

Ed Bangs, who for 23 years led the effort to reintroduce and recover healthy wolf populations in the northern Rocky Mountains, is retiring from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in June.

As the federal agency’s wolf recovery coordinator, Bangs was the face of the polarizing wolf reintroduction, conducting thousands of international, national, state and local interviews and holding hundreds of highly charged meetings, all to explain the effort as part of a massive public outreach effort. At various times, depending on the stage of the reintroduction, he was heralded as a hero while simultaneously being denounced as a wolf lover or hater, depending on people’s perspective.

Yet somehow he managed to charm many on both sides of the wolf wars, with a mix of humor tinged with a reputation for fairness.

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Congress Measure Against Wolves seen as Precedent

courtesy of The Idaho Statesman
by Matthew Brown – Associated Press

The White House is poised to accept a budget bill that includes an unprecedented end-run around Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in five Western states – the first time Congress has targeted a species protected under the 37-year-old law.

Lawmakers describe the provision in the spending bill as a necessary intervention in a wildlife dilemma that some say has spun out of control. Sixty-six wolves were reintroduced to the Northern Rockies from Canada in the mid-1990s; there are now at least 1,650.

But legal experts warn the administration’s support of lifting protections for the animals opens the door to future meddling by lawmakers catering to anti-wildlife interests.

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‘Wolfer’ Author to Discuss Hunting Predators, Appreciation for Reintroduction

courtesy of The Missoulian
by Perry Backus

Carter Niemeyer didn’t set out to become an expert on wolves. For the first 26 years of his career, the author of “Wolfer, A Memoir” was the man behind the gun who killed predators that threatened livestock.

This week, Niemeyer will tell that part of his story in appearances around Missoula. He’ll also let people know how he learned to appreciate the need to bring wolves back to the American West.

Right out of college, Niemeyer moved to Montana from his home state of Iowa and used trapping skills perfected from childhood to kill coyotes, foxes and black bears as a government trapper for a little-known agency called Animal Damage Control. When wolves began crossing from Canada into Montana and ranchers started complaining about predation of sheep and cattle, Niemeyer was called upon to investigate livestock deaths. A nonprofit group called Defenders of Wildlife compensated livestock owners for animals that officials like Niemeyer confirmed were killed by wolves. Livestock producers wouldn’t be paid without confirmation. The results of the investigations were often the difference between life and death for wolves. That conflict often led to face-to-face confrontations with people on both sides of the wolf issue.

Niemeyer was not a rubber-stamp kind of guy. His detailed forensic investigations with their meticulous scientific notes and refusal to back down from furious landowners and environmentalists caught the attention of officials preparing to reintroduce wolves into Yellowstone National Park in 1995. Niemeyer became part of the team that captured the Canadian wolves that became the nucleus of the packs that roam the Northern Rockies today. Along the way, he gained respect and understanding about the predator and the polarizing effect it had on the human population. Niemeyer saw there were two sides to this story and his search for the middle ground cost him friends and respect with Animal Damage Control officials (now called Wildlife Services).

He left the agency in 2000 for a job overseeing wolf recovery in Idaho for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. By the time he retired in 2006, Neimeyer had handled more than 300 wolves. “Not once did any of us ever have a close call,” he said Monday from his Boise, Idaho, home. “We weren’t stalked. We weren’t chased. There were no problems at all.”

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Congress, in a First, Removes an Animal From the Endangered Species List

courtesy of the NY Times
by Felicity Barringer

Congress for the first time is directly intervening in the Endangered Species List and removing an animal from it, establishing a precedent for political influence over the list that has outraged environmental groups.

A rider to the Congressional budget measure agreed to last weekend dictates that wolves in Montana and Idaho be taken off the endangered species list and managed instead by state wildlife agencies, which is in direct opposition to a federal judge’s recent decision forbidding the Interior Department to take such an action.

While the language on the Rocky Mountain wolves was a tiny item in budgetary terms, environmental groups said it set an unnerving precedent by letting Congress, rather than a science-based federal agency, remove endangered species protections.

The rider is the first known instance of Congress’ directly intervening in the list. While Congress overrode the protections extended to a tiny Tennessee fish called the snail darter about two decades ago, it did so by authorizing the construction of a dam that had originally been tabled to protect the fish. In that case, Congress did not overturn scientists’ findings about the fish’s viability.

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Big Bad Wolf – USA (short film)

Produced By ABC Australia
Distributed By Journeyman Pictures

Click here to watch the video on YouTube

Fragile species in need of protection or dangerous predator – the wolf is strongly dividing opinion in the USA. As the debate intensifies both sides are raising their hackles and squaring off for a fight.

“I think if the devil had an animal it would be the wolf.” With a license plate that simply states, ‘no wolves’, hunter Ron Gillette is on a mission. Since the reintroduction of Canadian wolves to the Rocky Mountains their numbers have grown rapidly and for Ron they are a menace growing out of control:”the wildlife terrorist”. Yet he faces strong opposition, with courts keeping the wolf on the endangered species list. For conservationist Nancy Taylor, the wolf has mystical qualities and she is equally hell-bent on protecting it.”If somebody threatened my wolves I would step in front of them and take the bullet.” Under threat or posing a threat, the question remains – how wild will the west become?

Click here to watch the video on YouTube

A Message from Senator Mark Udall

Dear Guy,

Thank you for contacting me about the status of gray wolves in the Rocky Mountains. I appreciate hearing from you about this important issue.

As you know, the gray wolf was among the first animals protected under the Endangered Species Preservation Act (ESA; a predecessor to the current Endangered Species Act). In 1978, the animal was listed as endangered in all of the lower 48 states except Minnesota.

In April 2009, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) removed Endangered Species Act protections for the Western Great Lakes population and the Northern Rocky Mountain population of gray wolves (except for Wyoming). The agency cited strong successes in population recovery efforts. On August 5, 2010, the U.S. Federal District Court in Missoula, Montana, issued an order that vacated the Northern Rocky Mountain delisting, which means that most of the Northern Rocky Mountain wolves are treated as threatened species.

In March 2011, the USFWS and several environmental groups reached a settlement that would conditionally delist gray wolves from the ESA in Montana and Idaho while leaving protections intact for the rest of the Rocky Mountain gray wolf population. This settlement must be approved by the U.S. Federal District Court in Missoula, Montana. For more information, please visit http://www.doi.gov.

Recovery programs vary based on geographic area, and it is critical that the USFWS continues to make scientific evaluations of wolf populations as hunting, human encroachment and other factors change. I am encouraged by the success of some of the gray wolf recovery efforts, but I continue to have concerns about the wolves’ ability to maintain healthy population levels. This remains an important issue and I will monitor it carefully. As a native Westerner, I am passionate about preserving our natural environment and the wildlife that inhabits the land.

I will continue to listen closely to what you and other Coloradans have to say about matters before Congress, the concerns of our communities, and the issues facing Colorado and the nation. My job is not about merely supporting or opposing legislation; it is also about bridging the divide that has paralyzed our nation’s politics. For more information about my positions and to learn how my office can assist you, please visit my website at http://www.markudall.senate.gov.

Warm regards,

Mark Udall
U.S. Senator, Colorado

Rewarding Bad Behavior

courtesy of Oregon Wild
by Rob Klavins

Over the last few years, we’ve had some laughs at the expense of the anti-wolf crowd. But just as crazy political rhetoric and misinformation got a lot less funny with the shooting of a Congresswoman and federal judge; it’s gotten a lot less funny in the wolf wars too – Especially after yet another illegal killing.

After being shot out of existence to pave the way for easier grazing, the recovery of western wolves is poised to become one of America’s greatest conservation success stories. Oregon’s less than 2-dozen wolves have successfully had pups 3 years in a row and are beginning to take their first real steps towards recovery. That’s welcome news for most Oregonians.

Still, that recovery is tenuous, and from DC to Salem to the Umatilla National Forest, wolves are facing serious threats. Since the first wolf made its way across the Snake River in 1998, over 1/3 of Oregon’s wolf population has been killed by government agents, cars, and poachers.

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Of Wolves, Elk, and Men: an Interview with Yellowstone’s Wolf Project leader

courtesy of Examiner.com
by Beth Pratt

For over thirty years, Douglas Smith has been studying wolves, and has worked on the wolf restoration project in Yellowstone since it’s inception. But this year during his annual winter research, he was taken aback by the sight of a remarkable wolf his team captured for study, 760M, now the largest wolf ever recorded in Yellowstone.

“I’ve handled hundreds of wolves, so I have sort of gotten hardened to the process. He was something—not just another wolf. As a scientist you always take the viewpoint that you can find answers. And for the first time I thought that this is a wolf who truly has secrets.”

Smith points out that 760M lives in the most remote area of the Yellowstone and of the lower 48 states. “I just started thinking in my head as I looked at him that this is the kind of wolf that remoteness produces.” At 147 pounds, 760M replaces the previous record holder for the largest wolf in Yellowstone, 495M, who weighed in at 143 pounds. But as Smith observes, 495 is still a pretty remarkable wolf. “495M is a pro. He’s doing great. We think he’ll turn 7/8 in April, so he’s past his prime, but he’s still hunting bison. And that is what is interesting about wolves, there is no such thing as a generic wolf.”

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Look Out, Varmints: Rep. Schaufler’s Coming!

courtesy of Capitol Currents
by Chris Lehman

Democratic Representative Mike Schaufler does not appear to be a fan of the Endangered Species Act.

During a hearing of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee this afternoon, Schaufler sympathized with eastern Oregon ranchers who were advocating for several bills dealing with wolves.

One bill would allow people to “take” a grey wolf if the animal is close to their house or threatening their domestic animals. Schaufler seemed to think this was a good idea.

“In my humble opinion, if your cattle, your pets, your family, your property is threatened, you should be able to shoot any varmint that’s making that threat, even if it’s the last one on earth,” he said.

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Lawmakers to Keep Pressing Wolf Bills Despite Settlement Between Wolf Advocates and Government

courtesy of The Washington Post
by the Associated Press

Lawmakers in the West said Friday they will keep pushing to lift federal protections for gray wolves despite a proposed settlement between environmental groups and the Obama administration.

The settlement would end a decade of lawsuits over the animals. But it faces significant legal hurdles that leave uncertain whether court approval will come before lawmakers act.

Approval is being sought from a judge who has twice ruled against attempts to lift wolf protections. Also, the deal faces opposition from some wildlife advocates who say their prior court victories are being squandered in a political compromise.

Given the uncertainties, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, of Montana, told The Associated Press he won’t wait to push through his legislation taking wolves off the endangered list in Montana and Idaho.

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Wolf-Fearing Idaho Lawmakers Want Emergency Declared

courtesy of the Idaho Statesman
by the Associated Press

Wolf-fearing lawmakers want Idaho to declare a disaster emergency that could include enlisting local law enforcement officers to help eradicate packs of the predators.

Rep. Judy Boyle from west-central Idaho, one of Idaho’s most active wolf opponents, told a hastily organized meeting of the House Ways and Means Committee that residents feel physically and psychologically threatened.

Boyle wants a new law giving the governor authority to declare a disaster emergency that allows rapid steps to be taken against wolves until the species is delisted, or the emergency no longer exists.

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Hundreds of Scientists Denounce Congress’ Attempt to Undermine Endangered Species Act

Press Release – courtesy of The Union of Concerned Scientists

Nearly 1,300 scientists today urged senators to oppose efforts to undermine the scientific authority of the Endangered Species Act, which they fear would threaten the long-term survival of all species protected by the law.

The letter, signed by 1,293 scientists with expertise in biology, ecology and other relevant disciplines, urges senators to block any legislation that would compromise the scientific foundation of the law. The Senate is now considering its version of the House’s Continuing Resolution for Fiscal Year 2011 (H.R. 1), which includes language that would take the gray wolf off the endangered species list. The lone rider on the Senate version contains similar language.

If Congress passed the continuing resolution with the gray wolf provision, it would be the first time a species was delisted without the benefit of scientific analysis, establishing a precedent for Congress to delist other species without scientific review.

Click here to read the rest of the press release