WASHINGTON, April 27 (UPI) -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to end federal protection for gray wolves in the west, a draft document cited by the Los Angeles Times indicates.
The removal of the wolves from the endangered species list would be a declaration of victory for the program to reintroduce the animals in western states that began 18 years ago. It would also leave protection for wolves up to individual states.
Wolves were once a top predator in much of the west. But they were regarded as a pest by ranchers and farmers, and were hunted until they were nearly wiped out.
Ranchers have been pressing for the removal of the wolf from the endangered species list, arguing there are now thousands of animals in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, putting livestock at risk.
The Mexican subspecies, with about 75 animals in Arizona and New Mexico, would continue to be protected.
The wolf's recovery in Washington and Oregon is just beginning. California is considering enacting state protections for wolves after a male was discovered to have crossed the border from Oregon, the Times said.