AUGUSTA – A federal proposal to eliminate protections for the endangered gray wolf in the Northeast received little support Wednesday night during a lightly attended public hearing at the Augusta Civic Center.
Just 22 people showed up for the session hosted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The agency believes the Northeast should not be part of the gray wolf’s historic range. At the same time, however, it is reviewing incidents of Eastern wolves in the region.
The Wildlife Service considers the Eastern wolf, which is known to exist in Canada, to be a separate species from the gray wolf out West.
The service, which listed gray wolves as endangered in 1978 in the lower 48 states and Mexico, has tried to delist the species without success. Removing the Northeast from the gray wolf’s historic range is one step in a new strategy for reducing protections, according to Mary Parkin, the service’s recovery coordinator in the Northeast.
However, most people at the hearing said wolves do exist in Maine and deserve protection whether they are Eastern wolves or gray wolves.
Dana Herrick of New Portland traveled an hour to ask the service to protect what wolves are here, noting that the agency has documented two wolves killed in Maine, and one in Massachusetts.
“You know they’re here. So why not protect them?” Herrick asked the service’s endangered species biologists.
Sandy Neily of Greenville said the wolves that killed moose and caribou when Maine was first settled were large, like the gray wolves out West.
Marty Miller, the service’s leading endangered species biologist in the Northeast, said defining the wolf’s historic range is a guessing game. “Trying to weigh what kind of wolf could have existed (historically) takes a lot of conjecture,” he said.
Hunter Jean Arsenault of Mexico spoke against the service’s efforts to review and protect wolves of any kind, saying they would endanger the state’s deer herd, just as coyotes are doing. Maine’s wildlife division director Mark Stadler said the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife supports the proposal to remove the Northeast from the gray wolf’s historic range, but asked that the department be allowed to participate in the review of the Eastern wolf.
The service expects to conclude the rule-making process involving the gray wolf by 2012.
Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at: