Wolves that wander into Upstate New York or northern New England from Canada or elsewhere would lose federal protection after most of the animal’s species are removed from the federal endangered species list, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed Friday.
Wolves, which have been persecuted to near-extermination, have rebounded, the Fish and Wildlife Service said.
There are no breeding populations of wolves 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 the prohibition of hunting or trapping them.
Over the years there have been other occasions when large wolf-like animals have appeared in the region. In some cases, genetic testing has found them to mixes of wolf species and eastern coyote.
This year, a trail camera took a series of photos of a large wolf-like 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. There are more than 6,100 wolves roaming the northern Rockies and western Great Lakes.
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.