The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Wednesday that it is removing federal protections for wolves in the Great Lakes and Northern Rockies and will review the status of endangered gray wolves in the Northwest.
A review is required every five years for species listed under the Endangered Species Act. It will determine whether wolf populations have recovered enough so it can be delisted or reclassified, or if it remains endangered.
The Northwest review does not include the eastern third of Washington and Oregon, which are considered part of the delisted Rocky Mountain population.
There is only one confirmed breeding pack, the Lookout Pack in the in Washington's North Cascades, which state biologists and law enforcement believe has been decimated by illegal killing.
Since they were found in 2008, the Lookout Pack has fallen from as many as 10 animals to two, said Jasmine Minbashian of Conservation Northwest, which has helped document the wolves' return to the Cascades.
Minbashian said state biologists and law enforcement officials have indicated they believe the disappearance in spring 2010 of the pack's pregnant alpha female was caused by poachers.
Though only one pack has been confirmed in the Pacific Northwest, there also have been several reports of wolves in the central Cascades of Washington and Oregon, and the Klamath Basin in Oregon, including a wolf that was photographed along Highway 20 near the Three Sisters Wilderness in 2009.