MILWAUKEE, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Federal protection for Wisconsin's gray wolf is set to expire, leaving state officials in charge of the hundreds of wolves that populate the north woods.
When the Endangered Species Act protection expires Friday, state regulations will still treat the estimated 782 wolves in Wisconsin as protected wild animals, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
Under state law, approval from the Department of Natural Resources is required before killing a wolf.
The DNR said there are no current plans for a hunting season but there are situations where wolves could legally be killed.
"We've been fighting hard to gain this authority, and we are grateful to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for removing gray wolves in the upper Midwest from the lists of endangered and threatened species," DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp said in a statement.
"We are ready and capable of managing Wisconsin's wolf population at a healthy, sustainable level and we welcome the opportunity to begin addressing those areas where problem wolves are attacking domestic animals."
Landowners could shoot wolves attacking domestic animals on their land and also obtain permits to shoot wolves on their land if they have had problems with the animals in the last two years, the DNR said.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is also removing federal gray wolf protections in Michigan and Minnesota.
Gray wolf populations in the western Great Lakes region have recovered and no longer require the protection of the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Interior Department announced in December. More than 4,000 gray wolves live in the region, with the largest number reported in Minnesota, federal officials said.
"Gray wolves are thriving in the Great Lakes region, and their successful recovery is a testament to the hard work of the Service and our state and local partners," Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe said in a statement. "We are confident state and tribal wildlife managers in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin will effectively manage healthy wolf populations now that federal protection is no longer needed."