Friday, January 27, 2012

Gray wolves still protected in Illinois



MacNeil Lyons / National Park Service

By Travis Morse
The Journal-Standard
Posted Jan 26, 2012
Despite recent changes implemented by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, gray wolves remain protected as a state endangered species throughout Illinois, said Joe Kath, endangered species manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Today, new guidelines go into effect that remove federal Endangered Species Act protection for gray wolves in portions of the Midwest, including north of I-80 in Illinois. Even so, gray wolves are still covered by the Illinois Endangered Species Protection Act throughout the state, so the partial removal of federal protection in Illinois will essentially have no effect on the animal’s status here, Kath said.
“Within the entire state, the animal is protected under the Illinois Endangered Species Protection Act,” Kath said. “In addition, the animal is covered under federal protection in Illinois, south of I-80. ... So nothing has changed from the state’s perspective.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed federal protection for the gray wolf in portions of the western Great Lakes because wolves in certain states like Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin have exceeded recovery goals and no longer need that protection to survive, states an IDNR news release. In areas where wolves were de-listed, including parts of adjoining states like northern Illinois, states and tribes are now responsible for wolf management, the release states.

While it is rare for hunters and trappers in Illinois to come across gray wolves, it has occurred, Kath said. Occasionally, young male wolves from Wisconsin will disperse from their packs and try to establish new packs elsewhere, sometimes in northern Illinois, Kath said.
“In Wisconsin, there are established packs as far south as Beloit,” Kath said.

According to the news release, a gray wolf was struck by a car in McHenry County, Ill., near the Chain O’Lakes State Park, in 2005. The potential for range expansion will continue as long as habitat and food sources are available, the release states.

Under state law, the gray wolf remains a threatened animal, which means it is unlawful for hunters or others to take or possess wolves anywhere in Illinois, the release states.
“People hunting and trapping should be aware of the possible presence of these animals,” Kath said. “The animal is fully protected throughout the State of Illinois.”

Illinois citizens who encounter a wolf in the wild should contact the IDNR at (217) 782-6302. Wolves resemble coyotes, but are taller, heavier, and have other characteristics that set them apart, the release states.

For more information, visit www.fws.gov/midwest/wolf, or http://dnr.state.il.us/espb.

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