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WOLVES' COMEBACK COMPLETE, U.S. SAYS

Gray wolves in the northern Rockies will be removed from the endangered species list after a 13-year restoration effort that helped the animal's population soar, federal officials said Thursday.

Numbers

24% annual rate at which the wolf population has grown since the late 1980s

66 number of wolves initially introduced to Yellowstone National Park in the mid 1990s

1,500 number of wolves now roaming Idaho, Montana and Wyoming

1974 year the wolf was listed as endangered

$27M amount the government has spent on the recovery effort

What's next

The restoration effort has been unpopular with ranchers and many others in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, and some state leaders want the wolf population thinned significantly.

The states could allow hunters to target the animals as soon as this fall. That angers environmental groups, which plan to sue over the delisting and say it's too soon to remove federal protection.

"The enduring hostility to wolves still exists," said Earthjustice attorney Doug Honnold, who is preparing the lawsuit. "We're going to have hundreds of wolves killed under state management. It's a sad day for our wolves."

However, an independent wolf biologist said he would be "shocked" if the animal again ends up on the endangered list.

"The last thing any of the states want is for wolves to be relisted by the federal government," said Daniel Pletscher, director of the University of Montana's wildlife biology program.

"The wolf's recovery in the Northern Rocky Mountains is a conservation success story."

- Interior Deputy Secretary Lynn Scarlett

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