Saturday, July 19, 2008

Should the Wolverine Be Put on the Endangered Species List?

The wolverine (Gulo gulo) was once a ubiquitous presence across the United States.

According to the Wolverine Foundation,

The historical North American distribution of the wolverine included the northern part of the continent southward to the northernmost tier of the United States from Maine to Washington state. It extended south along the Sierra-Cascade axis through Oregon into the southern Sierra Nevada in California and along the Rocky Mountains into Arizona and New Mexico. Records of the wolverine within the upper midwest apparently pre-date human settlement, with the animal most likely absent by the early 1900's. The wolverine has been extirpated from the northern plains states east of Montana.

In California, the historic range of the wolverine included much of the north coastal area and the Sierra Nevada. . . .

Wolverines likely occupied a wider variety of habitats during pre-settlement times as evidenced by historical presence in upper mid-western states, and fossil evidence of extant representatives in Great Basin habitats of southern Idaho. Human encroachment into historically occupied wolverine habitat may have forced the wolverine into its present distribution.

The Bush administration, disregarding the loss of range in this country and the decline of the species to no more than several hundred individuals in the northern Rockies, declined in March to list the wolverine as an endangered species. The Interior Department justified its decision on grounds that sufficient numbers of wolverines exist in Canada to make extinction unlikely.

Now the New York Times has weighed in with an editorial urging Bush to reconsider.

The paper specifically took aim at the administration's rationale that the animal is plentiful enough in other countries to preclude protection here:

If that logic — ignoring the health of an animal here if it is doing well elsewhere — had been allowed to prevail, many of the act’s notable successes, including preserving the grizzly bear and the American bald eagle, would never have happened.

Several environmental groups are considering a lawsuit challenging the administration's refusal to list the wolverine.

Judge Orders Gray Wolves Returned to Endangered Species List

The Rocky Mountain gray wolf is again an endangered species.

The population numbers haven't changed since the Bush Administration removed the species a few months ago. Instead, a federal judge in Montana issued an injunction Friday requiring the Interior Department to restore Canis lupus to protected status.

According to a New York Times article to be published in Saturday's editions, the court's decision was heavily swayed by the administration's decision to reverse course from an early refusal to allow Wyoming to put in place a management plan allowing extensive hunting.

According to a press release issued by Natural Resources Defense Council, one wolf per day has been killed, with mortality exceeding 100 animals, since the Bush Interior Department removed Endangered Species Act protections on March 28, 2008.

The gray wolf was originally listed as an endangered species in 1973, shortly after the Endangered Species Act became law. The species was eliminated from about 95 percent of its habitat in the United States by the 1930s after a lengthy, government-sponsored extermination campaign.