The US government has announced that it will no longer list the gray wolves of Wyoming as an endangered species. This will allow the wolves to be shot on sight across the state.
For the past twenty years the gray wolves which reside in the US state of Wyoming have been protected, meaning that it was been illegal to hunt or to trap the animals. This was covered by a special law with the aim of allowing the wolf population to grow, as the New York Times notes.
According to The Examiner, back in the 1930s there were an estimated two million gray wolves across North America. However, through a combination of changes to habitat and hunting (particularly as a result of fur trading) the numbers fell considerably.
To kick-start a new population of wolves, in the early 1990s a small population of wolves were moved from Canada to Yellowstone National Park in north-west Wyoming to encourage breeding.
Over time a number of wolves have left the park and have settled across the state (there are about 270 outside Yellowstone National Park). This has led to farmers and ranchers complaining that wolves have attacked livestock and that the numbers are now too high.
Gray wolves range in color from grizzled gray or black to all-white. Wolves generally eat ungulates, or large hoofed mammals, like elk, deer, moose and caribou.
The decision to remove protected status for the wolves was made, according to CNN, by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The decision takes effect on September 30 2012. The lifting of the protected status only applies to wolves outside of Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks; wolves within the parks remain protected.
The decision has met with protests from environment campaign groups, such as Defenders of Wildlife. According to the group "More than 60 percent of Wyoming's wolves - including pups - could be wiped out within a year. These are desperate times for wolves, and they call for swift, powerful action."