Why Isn’t the USFWS Looking for Wolves in the Northeast?

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s response to a recent Freedom of Information Act request submitted by MWC was very enlightening, more for what it didn’t contain than for what it did. Based upon the lack of information in the response, we now know that the Service is not proactively looking for wolves in the northeast. This is reminiscent of the Canadian lynx situation here in Maine a few years ago when the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife opposed the federal listing of the lynx due to a lack of evidence of a population in the state. Of course, they had not actually looked for lynx. Once researchers started looking for lynx, they found them-and evidence of a breeding population. Why is the federal government not looking for wolves in the northeast, given the evidence of their presence (several dead wolves), and the high profile nature of the wolf issue for nearly the last twenty years? Why is the federal government proposing to de-list wolves here without having made a real effort to look for them?

The response contained additional interesting information regarding the Service’s lack of effort in attempting to accurately identify wolves in the northeast. A Genetics Examination Report and a Morphology Processing Report completed by the National Fish & Wildlife Forensics Lab in February 2008 for the 2007 Massachusetts wolf, ¬†each referred to the fact that there were no wolf samples from Ontario or Quebec with which to compare the Massachusetts wolf. In other words, more than fourteen years after the killing of the wolf in northern Maine, the USFWS still had no reference samples of wolves from the wolf populations nearest to the northeast U.S. Why not? Does the Service have some now? Without them, how can they expect to determine the origin(s) of these animals?

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