Gray wolf
A gray wolf roams woods near Wisconsin Dells in 2006.

Now that the wolf has made a remarkable comeback in Wisconsin, it’s time for a management plan that protects these animals and the livestock, pets and humans they must co-exist with.

That is what Wisconsin wildlife officials want to do.

But a federal court ruling last week clouds Wisconsin’s plans.

The decision, which ordered the gray wolf reinstated to the endangered species list in Montana and Idaho, deserves to be overturned.

The case does not directly affect Wisconsin, but it does prevent two states in similar circumstances from managing their wolf populations.

The ruling was another plot twist in the lengthening story of trying to let the wolf join the list of animals that have graduated from the endangered species list.

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The court decision did not hinge on whether the wolf populations in Montana and Idaho had grown to merit their removal from the endangered list. Rather, the judge concluded that the law did not allow federal officials to treat Montana and Idaho separately from Wyoming, because all those states are home to the Northern Rockies gray wolf.

Wisconsin has experienced a similar on-and-off effort to remove its gray wolf from the endangered list. Twice since 2007 federal officials have removed the Wisconsin wolf from the endangered list only to have lawsuits get the wolf reinstated.

Wisconsin has now joined with Minnesota in another effort to remove the wolf from the list. The state’s goal is to implement a management plan that protects the wolf but allows control strategies, including permits for farmers to shoot wolves if livestock protection is at stake.

The evidence supports removing the wolf from the endangered list in Wisconsin. At the end of last winter, an estimated 700 wolves roamed Wisconsin. The population is far above the state’s original goal.

The growing wolf population raises the risk that wolves will threaten livestock and pets. Over the past three years, the state has recorded 61 hunting dogs killed by wolves, and wolves have killed livestock on nearly 100 farms.

The court decisions that have reinstated the wolf to the endangered list should be appealed. If the appeals determine that the law does not reasonably allow the wolf to be delisted, Congress should change the law.

Capital W: Plug in to Wisconsin politics

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