Introduction or Rentroduction??
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Canis lupus irremotus
Rocky Mountain Timber Wolf
It was questionable science (or possibly incompetence) that allowed Canadian MacKenzie Valley Gray Wolf
, subspecies Canis lupus occidentallis
, to be introduced to the contiguous United States where it is not an indigenous species and cannot, therefore, be said to be an endangered species and where it did displace / replace Canis Lupus Irremotus
- the original Northern Rocky Mountain Timber Wolf.
The Endangered Species Act
of 1973 states: The purpose of this act ...
"to provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered species and threatened species depend may be conserved, to provide a program for the conservation of such endangered species and threatened species, and to take such steps as may be appropriate to achieve the purposes of the treaties and conventions set forth in subsection (a) of this section." (Section 2(b))
From Section 3(6):
"The term 'endangered species` means any species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range ..."
The subspecies Canis lupus irremotus
was listed as endangered on June 4, 1973, by the Secretary of the Interior. That listing was recorded in the Federal Register on that date, referenced as 38 FR 14678 which means Volume 38, Federal Register, page 14678.
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Canis lupus occidentalis
Mackenzie Valley Grey Wolf
The Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery Plan states
"The Northern Rocky Mountain wolf (Canis lupus irremotus
) is one of 32 subspecies of the gray wolf recognized by taxonomists (Mech 1970). Twenty-four of these subspecies once inhabited North America, with the Northern Rocky Mountain wolf occurring throughout Idaho, the eastern third of Washington and Oregon, all but the northeastern third of Montana, the northern two-thirds of Wyoming, and the Black Hills of South Dakota (Hall and Kelson 1959).
This subspecies was listed as endangered by the Secretary of the Interior in 1973 (38 Federal Register 14678, June 4, 1973).
So why was Canis lupus occidentallis
, MacKenzie Valley Wolf, introduced instead of a re-
introduction Canis lupus irremotus
, the original Northern Rocky Mountain Timber Wolf, listed as endangered on June 4, 1973?
This is where things things went wrong. Based on the possibility of enforcement problems the entire species Canis lupus
was listed as endangered throughout the lower 48 States, except Minnesota, in 1978 (43 Federal Register 9612, march 9, 1978).
Thus Northern Rocky Mountain wolf refers to any gray wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains of the contiguous 48 states, rather than a specific subspecies." Canis lupus irremotus
was reclassified simply as Canis lupus and any gray wolf in the contiguous 48 states was protected under the endangered species act.
The intent may have been to protect all of the remaining subspecies of gray wolf in their natural ranges. In Montana alone there were 424 reports of wolves
between 1973 and 1978 of those 109 were rejected as questionable. From 1979 to 1985 there were 38 reports of wolves in Southern Montana from the Big Hole Divide to South of Bannock Pass.
So far we have all gray wolves in the lower 48 protected under the endangered species act and given that protection subspecies of wolves would have been allowed to recovered in their natural ranges.
However in 1982 the Endangered Species Act was amended to include a new section, 10(j) which states:
EXPERIMENTAL POPULATIONS.—(1) For purposes of this subsection, the term ''experimental population`` means any population (including any offspring arising solely therefrom) authorized by the Secretary for release under paragraph (2), but only when, and at such times as, the population is wholly separate geographically from nonexperimental populations of the same species.
(2)(A) The Secretary may authorize the release (and the related transportation) of any population (including eggs, propagules, or individuals) of an endangered species or a threatened species outside the current range of such species if the Secretary determines that such release will further the conservation of such species.
Bottom line, the groundwork was laid to bring the largest and most aggressive subspecies of gray wolf in North America, the Canadian MacKenzie Valley Gray Wolf, into the United States, introduce it as a "nonessential experimental population" and protect it under the auspices of an endangered species, even though it was not indigenous to the areas of relocation and not endangered or threatened in its natural territory.
This federal register entry, dated November 11, 1994, clarifies,
Under section 10(j), a listed species reintroduced outside of its current range, but within its historic range, may be designated, at the discretion of the Secretary of the Interior (Secretary), as "experimental." This designation increases the Service`s flexibility and discretion in managing reintroduced endangered species because such experimental animals may be treated as a threatened species. The Act requires that animals used to form an experimental population be separated geographically from nonexperimental populations of the same species.
Additional management flexibility is possible if the experimental animals are found to be "nonessential" to the continued existence of the species in question. Nonessential experimental animals located outside national wildlife refuges or national park lands are treated for purposes of section 7 of the Act, as if they were only proposed for listing.
In a nutshell: the indigenous Gray or Timber Wolf (Canis lupus irremotus) was listed as endangered in 1973. In 1978, the entire species of Grey Wolf (including Canis lupus irremotus) were grouped into a single classification as Canis lupus and listed as endangered in 1978. This meant that even though certain subspecies of gray wolves never existed in the lower 48 they were listed as endangered there.
In 1982, the ESA of 1973 was amended to allow the introduction of experimental populations under the protection of the endangered species act and because all subspecies of gray wolf were listed as endangered it meant that any subspecies could be translocated and protected under the endangered species act, even if that subspecies never existed in the relocation area.
In 1994/95,the Canadian MacKenzie Valley Gray Wolf (the largest and most aggressive subspecies of the Grey Wolf) was brought in and released in Yellowstone and Idaho. What was left of the indigenous and truly endangered Canis lupus irremotus has most likely been replaced by the transplanted Canis lupus occidentallis.
This larger, more aggressive, subspecies has multiplied exponentially under protection of the ESA and is currently decimating ungulate populations as well as domestic livestock herds in the Northwest.