[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 114 (Thursday, June 13, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 35663-35719]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-13982]



[[Page 35663]]

Vol. 78

Thursday,

No. 114

June 13, 2013

Part II





Department of the Interior





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Fish and Wildlife Service





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50 CFR Part 17





Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removing the Gray Wolf 
(Canis lupus) From the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and 
Maintaining Protections for the Mexican Wolf (Canis lupus baileyi ) by 
Listing It as Endangered; Proposed Revision to the Nonessential 
Experimental Population of the Mexican Wolf; Proposed Rules

Federal Register / Vol. 78 , No. 114 / Thursday, June 13, 2013 / 
Proposed Rules

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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-HQ-ES-2013-0073; FXES11130900000C2-134-FF09E32000]
RIN 1018-AY00


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removing the Gray 
Wolf (Canis lupus) From the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife 
and Maintaining Protections for the Mexican Wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) 
by Listing It as Endangered

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTIONS: Proposed rule.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) evaluated the 
classification status of gray wolves (Canis lupus) currently listed in 
the contiguous United States and Mexico under the Endangered Species 
Act of 1973, as amended (Act). Based on our evaluation, we propose to 
remove the gray wolf from the List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife but to maintain endangered status for the Mexican wolf by 
listing it as a subspecies (Canis lupus baileyi). We propose these 
actions because the best available scientific and commercial 
information indicates that the currently listed entity is not a valid 
species under the Act and that the Mexican wolf (C. l. baileyi) is an 
endangered subspecies.
    In addition, we recognize recent taxonomic information indicating 
that the gray wolf subspecies, Canis lupus lycaon, which occurs in 
southeastern Canada and historically occurred in the northeastern 
United States and portions of the upper Midwest (eastern and western 
Great Lakes regions) United States, should be recognized as a separate 
species, Canis lycaon. This proposed rule also constitutes the 
completion of a status review for gray wolves in the Pacific Northwest 
initiated on May 5, 2011.
    Finally, this proposed rule replaces our May 5, 2011, proposed 
action to remove protections for C. lupus in all or portions of 29 
eastern states (76 FR 26086).

DATES: Comment submission: We will accept comments received or 
postmarked on or before September 11, 2013.
    Public hearings: We must receive requests for public hearings, in 
writing, at the address shown in FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT by 
July 29, 2013.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by one of the following methods:
    (1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS-HQ-ES-2013-0073, 
which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Please ensure you have 
found the correct document before submitting your comments. If your 
comments will fit in the provided comment box, please use this feature 
of http://regulations.gov, as it is most compatible with our comment-
review procedures. If you attach your comments as a separate document, 
our preferred file format is Microsoft Word. If you attach multiple 
comments (such as form letters), our preferred format is a spreadsheet 
in Microsoft Excel. Submissions of electronic comments on our Proposed 
Revision to the Nonessential Experimental Population of the Mexican 
Wolf, which also published in today's Federal Register, should be 
submitted to Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2013-0056 using the method described 
above.
    (2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public 
Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-HQ-ES-2013-0073; Division of Policy and 
Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax 
Drive, MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, Virginia 22203.
    We will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This 
generally means that we will post any personal information you provide 
us (see the Public Comments section below for more information). 
Submissions of hard copy comments on our Proposed Revision to the 
Nonessential Experimental Population of the Mexican Wolf, which also 
published in today's Federal Register should be addressed to Attn: 
Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2013-0056 using the method described above.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Headquarters Office, Ecological 
Services; telephone (703) 358-2171. Direct all questions or requests 
for additional information to: GRAY WOLF QUESTIONS, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Headquarters Office, Endangered Species Program, 4401 
North Fairfax Drive, Room 420, Arlington, Virginia 22203. Individuals 
who are hearing-impaired or speech-impaired may call the Federal Relay 
Service at 1-800-877-8337 for TTY assistance.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Executive Summary

    This document contains a proposed rule to remove the current 
listing for gray wolf, Canis lupus, from the List of Endangered 
Wildlife and Threatened (List) and add an endangered listing for the 
Mexican wolf, Canis lupus baileyi. The evaluations that are included in 
this proposed rule are summarized in Table 1. While later in this 
document we discuss our recognition of Canis lycaon as a separate 
species based on recent taxonomic information, we have not completed a 
status review on this species to date and, therefore, do not include it 
in this table.

                             Table 1--Summary of Proposed Rule Analyses and Results
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                                                                Valid listable
        Unit of assessment                Description               entity?                Determination
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Canis lupus......................  current listed entity--    no................  Delist.
                                    all or portions of 42
                                    States and Mexico.
Canis lupus......................  species--rangewide.......  yes...............  Listing not warranted.
Canis lupus nubilus..............  subspecies--rangewide....  yes...............  Listing not warranted.
Canis lupus occidentalis.........  subspecies--rangewide....  yes...............  Listing not warranted.
Canis lupus baileyi..............  subspecies--rangewide....  yes...............  List as endangered.
C. lupus in Pacific Northwest....  Western Washington,        no................  Not a listable entity.
                                    Western Oregon, and
                                    Northern California.
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Purpose of the Regulatory Action

    This proposed rulemaking is intended to ensure the List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife reflects the most current scientific 
and commercial information with respect to the status of C. lupus and 
any subspecies and potential distinct population segments of C. lupus 
in the contiguous United States. After a thorough evaluation of the 
best available science we have determined that, with the exception of 
Mexican wolves (from here on referred to by the scientific name, Canis 
lupus

[[Page 35665]]

baileyi), C. lupus and C. lupus subspecies in the contiguous United 
States do not warrant listing under the Act. This evaluation was based 
on new data that has become available since the original listing, 
including new information on C. lupus taxonomy (Chambers et al. 2012 
and Rutledge et al. 2012). Canis lupus baileyi continues to warrant 
endangered status under the Act.

Major Provision of the Regulatory Action

    This proposed action is authorized by the Act. We are proposing to 
amend Sec.  17.11(h), subchapter B of chapter I, title 50 of the Code 
of Federal Regulations by removing the entries for ``Wolf, gray'' under 
MAMMALS in the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and adding 
entries for ``Wolf, Mexican'' in alphabetic order.

Costs and Benefits

    We have not analyzed the costs or benefits of this rulemaking 
action because the Act precludes consideration of such impacts on 
listing and delisting determinations. Instead, listing and delisting 
decisions are based solely on the best scientific and commercial 
information available regarding the status of the subject species.

Acronyms and Abbreviations Used

    We use several acronyms and abbreviations throughout the preamble 
of this proposed rule. To assist the reader, we list them here:

Act Endangered Species Act 0f 1973, as amended
ADFG Alaska Department of Fish and Game
AGFD Arizona Game and Fish Department
APA Administrative Procedure Act
BRWRA Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area
CDV Canine distemper virus
CFR Code of Federal Regulations
CITES Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild 
Fauna and Flora
COSEWIC Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada
CPV Canine parvovirus
DPS distinct population segment
ESA Endangered Species Act
FR Federal Register
IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
IUCN International Union for Conservation of Nature
LEOs Law Enforcement Officers
List Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife
MWEPA Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area
NRM Northern Rocky Mountain
ODFW Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
OMB Office of Management and Budget
ORS Oregon Code of Regulations
PARC Predator and Rodent Control
RCW Revised Code of Washington
Service U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
SNP single-nucleotide polymorphisms
SPR significant portion of its range
SSP Species Survival Plan
UBI Ungulate Biomass Index
USDA U.S. Department of Agriculture
WAC Washington Administrative Code
WDFW Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
WGL Western Great Lakes

Public Comments

    We intend that any final action resulting from this proposal will 
be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, comments, new 
information, or suggestions from the public, other concerned 
governmental agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other 
interested party concerning this proposed rule are hereby solicited. In 
particular, we are seeking targeted information and comments on our 
proposed removal of C. lupus from the List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife and addition of C. l. baileyi as an endangered subspecies. We 
also seek comment on the following categories of information.
    (1) Biological, commercial trade, or other relevant information 
concerning our analysis of the current C. lupus listed entity and the 
adequacy of the approach taken in this analysis, with particular 
respect to our interpretation of the term ``population'' as it relates 
to the 1996 Policy Regarding the Recognition of Distinct Vertebrate 
Population Segments (DPS policy) (61 FR 4722, February 7, 1996) and 
specifically to gray wolves.
    (2) Information concerning the genetics and taxonomy of the eastern 
wolf, Canis lycaon.
    (3) Information concerning the status of the gray wolf in the 
Pacific Northwest United States and the following gray wolf subspecies: 
Canis lupus nubilus, Canis lupus occidentalis, and C. l. baileyi, 
including:
    (a) Genetics and taxonomy;
    (b) New information concerning range, distribution, population 
size, and population trends;
    (c) New biological or other relevant data concerning any threat (or 
lack thereof) to these subspecies, their habitat, or both; and
    (d) New information regarding conservation measures for these 
populations, their habitat, or both.
    As this proposal is intended to replace our May 5, 2011, proposal 
to remove protections for C. lupus in all or portions of 29 eastern 
contiguous states (76 FR 26086), we ask that any comments previously 
submitted that may be relevant to the proposal presented in this rule 
be resubmitted at this time.
    You may submit your comments and materials by one of the methods 
listed in ADDRESSES. We will not accept comments sent by email or fax 
or to an address not listed in ADDRESSES. Comments must be submitted to 
http://www.regulations.gov before midnight (Eastern Daylight Time) on 
the date specified in DATES. Finally, we will not consider hand-
delivered comments that we do not receive, or mailed comments that are 
not postmarked, by the date specified in DATES.
    We will post your entire comment--including your personal 
identifying information--on http://www.regulations.gov. If you provide 
personal identifying information, such as your street address, phone 
number, or email address, you may request at the top of your document 
that we withhold this information from public review. However, we 
cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.
    Comments and materials we receive, as well as some of the 
supporting documentation we used in preparing this proposed rule, will 
be available for public inspection on http://www.regulations.gov at 
Docket No. FWS-HQ-ES-2013-0073, or by appointment, during normal 
business hours at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Headquarters Office, 
Endangered Species Program, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Room 420, 
Arlington, VA 22203.

Public Hearings

    In accordance with Section 4(b)(5) of the Act, we intend to hold 
public hearings on the proposal prior to the close of the public 
comment period. The dates, times, and places of those hearings, as well 
as how to obtain reasonable accommodations, will be presented 
subsequently in the Federal Register and local newspapers at least 15 
days before any such hearings.

Peer Review

    In accordance with our joint policy on peer review published in the 
Federal Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270), we will seek the expert 
opinions of at least three appropriate and independent specialists 
regarding scientific data and interpretations contained in this 
proposed rule. The purpose of such review is to ensure that our 
decisions are based on scientifically sound data,

[[Page 35666]]

assumptions, and analyses. We will invite these peer reviewers to 
comment during this public comment period on our proposed actions.
    We will consider all comments and information we receive during 
this comment period on this proposed rule during our preparation of the 
final determination. Accordingly, the final decision may differ from 
this proposal.

Previous Federal Actions

    Gray wolves were originally listed as subspecies or as regional 
populations of subspecies in the contiguous United States and Mexico. 
In 1967, we listed C. l. lycaon in the Great Lakes region (32 FR 4001, 
March 11, 1967), and in 1973 we listed C. l. irremotus in the northern 
Rocky Mountains (38 FR 14678, June 4, 1973). Both listings were 
promulgated under the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969; 
subsequently, on January 4, 1974, these subspecies were listed under 
the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (39 FR 1171). We listed a third gray 
wolf subspecies, C. l. baileyi, as endangered on April 28, 1976 (41 FR 
17736), in the southwestern United States and Mexico. On June 14, 1976 
(41 FR 24064), we listed a fourth gray wolf subspecies, C. l. 
monstrabilis, as endangered in Texas and Mexico.
    In 1978, we published a rule (43 FR 9607, March 9, 1978) 
reclassifying the gray wolf as an endangered population at the species 
level (C. lupus) throughout the contiguous United States and Mexico, 
except for the Minnesota gray wolf population, which was classified as 
threatened. At that time, we considered the gray wolf group in 
Minnesota to be a listable entity under the Act, and we considered the 
gray wolf group in Mexico and the 48 contiguous United States other 
than Minnesota to be another listable entity (43 FR 9607 and 9610, 
respectively, March 9, 1978). The separate subspecies listings thus 
were subsumed into the listings for the gray wolf in Minnesota and the 
gray wolf in the rest of the contiguous United States and Mexico. In 
that 1978 rule, we also identified critical habitat in Michigan and 
Minnesota and promulgated special regulations under section 4(d) of the 
Act for operating a wolf management program in Minnesota. The special 
regulation was later modified (50 FR 50793, December 12, 1985).
    The 1978 reclassification was undertaken to ``most conveniently'' 
handle a listing that needed to be revised because of changes in our 
understanding of gray wolf taxonomy, and in recognition of the fact 
that individual wolves sometimes cross subspecific boundaries. In 
addition, we sought to clarify that the gray wolf was only listed south 
of the Canadian border. However, the 1978 rule also stipulated that 
``biological subspecies would continue to be maintained and dealt with 
as separate entities'' (43 FR 9609), and offered ``the firmest 
assurance that [the Service] will continue to recognize valid 
biological subspecies for purposes of its research and conservation 
programs'' (43 FR 9610, March 9, 1978). Accordingly, we implemented 
three gray wolf recovery programs in the following regions of the 
country: the Western Great Lakes (Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin, 
administered by the Service's Great Lakes, Big Rivers Region), the 
Northern Rocky Mountains (Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, administered by 
the Service's Mountain-Prairie Region and Pacific Region), and the 
Southwest (Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Mexico, administered 
by the Service's Southwest Region). Recovery plans were developed in 
each of these areas (the northern Rocky Mountains in 1980, revised in 
1987; the Great Lakes in 1978, revised in 1992; and the Southwest in 
1982, the revision of which is now underway) to establish and 
prioritize recovery criteria and actions appropriate to the unique 
local circumstances of the gray wolf. A separate recovery effort for 
gray wolves formerly listed as C. l. monstrabilis was not undertaken 
because this subspecies was subsumed with C. l. baileyi and thus 
addressed as part of the recovery plan for the Southwest.
    Between 2003 and 2009 we published several rules revising the 1978 
contiguous United States and Mexico listing for C. lupus in an attempt 
to recognize the biological recovery of gray wolves in the northern 
Rocky Mountain and western Great Lakes populations but leave the gray 
wolf in the southwestern United States and Mexico listed as endangered 
(except for the nonessential experimental population in Arizona and New 
Mexico) (68 FR 15804, April 1, 2003; 72 FR 6052, February 8, 2007; 73 
FR 10514, February 27, 2008; 74 FR 15070 and 74 FR 15123, April 2, 
2009). However, each of these revisions was challenged in court. As a 
result of court orders (Defenders of Wildlife, et al. v. Norton, et 
al., 354 F.Supp.2d 1156 (D. Or. 2005); National Wildlife Federation, et 
al. v. Norton, et al., 386 F.Supp.2d 553 (D. Vt. 2005); Defenders of 
Wildlife, et al. v. Hall, et al., 565 F.Supp.2d 1160 (D. Mont. 2008); 
Defenders of Wildlife, et al. v. Salazar, et al., 729 F.Supp.2d 1207 
(D. Mont. 2010); Humane Society of the United States v. Kempthorne, 579 
F. Supp. 2d 7 (D.D.C. 2008)) and, in one case, a settlement agreement 
(Humane Society of the United States v. Salazar, 1:09-CV-1092-PLF 
(D.D.C.)), by the spring of 2010 the listing for C. lupus in 50 CFR 
17.11 remained unchanged from the reclassification that occurred in 
1978 except for the addition of the three experimental populations 
(Yellowstone Experimental Population Area (59 FR 60252, November 22, 
1994; 70 FR 1286, January 6, 2005; 73 FR 4720, January 28, 2008), 
Central Idaho Experimental Population Area (59 FR 60266, November 22, 
1994; 70 FR 1286, January 6, 2005; 73 FR 4720, January 28, 2008), and 
the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area (63 FR 1752, January 12, 
1998)). For additional information on these Federal actions and their 
associated litigation history refer to the relevant associated rules 
(68 FR 15804, April 1, 2003; 72 FR 6052, February 8, 2007; 73 FR 10514, 
February 27, 2008; 74 FR 15070; and 74 FR 15123, April 2, 2009) or the 
Previous Federal Actions sections of our recent gray wolf actions (76 
FR 61782, October 5, 2011; 76 FR 81666, December 28, 2011; 77 FR 55530, 
September 10, 2012).
    In the northern Rocky Mountains, on May 5, 2011, we published a 
final rule that implemented Section 1713 of Public Law 112-10, 
reinstating our April 2, 2009, delisting rule which identified the 
Northern Rocky Mountain (NRM) population of gray wolf as a distinct 
population segment (DPS) and, with the exception of Wyoming, removed 
gray wolves in the DPS from the List (76 FR 25590). Although gray 
wolves in Wyoming were not included in the May 5, 2011, final 
delisting, we have since finalized the removal of gray wolves in 
Wyoming from the List (77 FR 55530, September 10, 2012).
    In the western Great Lakes, on May 5, 2011, we also published a 
proposed rule to revise the List for C. lupus in the eastern United 
States (76 FR 26086). This proposal included (1) revising the 1978 
listing of the Minnesota population of gray wolves, identifying it as 
the Western Great Lakes (WGL) DPS (the DPS includes all of Minnesota, 
Wisconsin, and Michigan and portions of the adjacent states), and 
removing that WGL DPS from the List, and (2) revising the range of the 
gray wolf (the species C. lupus) by removing all or parts of 29 eastern 
states that we recognized were not part of the historical range of the 
gray wolf.
    On December 28, 2011, we published a final rule that revised the 
listing of the Minnesota population of gray wolves, identified it as 
part of the WGL DPS, and removed the DPS from the List (76 FR 81666). 
We also notified the public that we had separated our determination on 
the delisting of the WGL DPS from

[[Page 35667]]

the determination on our proposal regarding all or portions of the 29 
eastern states we considered to be outside the historical range of the 
gray wolf and stated that a subsequent decision would be made for the 
rest of the eastern United States.
    In the southwest, on August 11, 2009, we received a petition from 
the Center for Biological Diversity requesting that we list the Mexican 
wolf as an endangered subspecies or DPS and designate critical habitat 
under the Act. On August 12, 2009, we received a petition dated August 
10, 2009, from WildEarth Guardians and The Rewilding Institute 
requesting that we list the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies 
and designate critical habitat under the Act. On October 9, 2012, we 
published a 12-month finding in the Federal Register stating that, 
because all individuals that constitute the petitioned entity already 
receive the protections of the Act, the petitioned action was not 
warranted at that time (77 FR 61375).
    As a result of the actions described above, the current C. lupus 
listed entity now includes all or portions of 42 states (Alabama, 
Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, 
Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, 
Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New 
Jersey, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South 
Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont, and West Virginia; those 
portions of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas not included in the 
experimental population, and portions of Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, North 
Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, and Washington), and Mexico 
(Figure 1).
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP13JN13.000

    On February 29, 2012, we concluded a 5-year review of the C. lupus 
listed entity, recommending that the entity currently described on the 
List should be revised to reflect the distribution and status of C. 
lupus populations in the contiguous United States and Mexico by 
removing all areas currently included in the Code of Federal 
Regulations (CFR) range except where there is a valid species, 
subspecies, or DPS that is threatened or endangered.

National Wolf Strategy

    We first described our national wolf strategy in our May 5, 2011, 
proposed rule to revise the List for the gray wolf in the eastern 
United States (76 FR 26086). This strategy was intended to: (1) Lay out 
a cohesive and coherent approach to addressing wolf conservation needs, 
including protection and management, in accordance with the Act's 
statutory framework; (2) ensure that actions taken for one wolf 
population do not cause unintended consequences for other populations; 
and (3) be explicit about the role of historical range in the 
conservation of extant wolf populations.
    The strategy is based on three precepts. First, to qualify for 
listing, wolf entities must conform to the Act's definition of 
``species,'' whether as taxonomic species or subspecies or as DPSs. 
Second, the strategy promotes the continued representation of all 
substantially unique genetic lineages of gray wolves found historically 
in the

[[Page 35668]]

contiguous United States. Third, wolf conservation under the Act is 
concerned with reducing extinction risk to imperiled species, 
subspecies, or valid DPSs. The May 5, 2011, proposed rule further 
stated that our strategy focused on conservation of four extant gray 
wolf populations: (1) The WGL population, (2) the NRM population, (3) 
the southwestern population of Mexican wolves, and (4) a potential 
population of gray wolves in the Pacific Northwest.
    All of our actions to date are consistent with this focus. As 
stated above (see Previous Federal Actions), we published final rules 
delisting the NRM DPS, except for Wyoming, on May 5, 2011 (76 FR 
25590), and the WGL DPS on December 28, 2011 (76 FR 81666). On 
September 10, 2012, we published a final rule delisting the Wyoming 
portion of the NRM DPS (77 FR 55530).
    We have completed our evaluation of the status of gray wolves 
currently occupying portions of the Pacific Northwest, and our 
assessment to determine if they qualify for Listing under the Act is 
presented in this proposed rule. The status of the southwestern 
population (i.e., C. l. baileyi) was reviewed pursuant to our 90-day 
finding on two listing petitions (75 FR 46894, August 4, 2010). We 
published a not warranted 12-month finding on October 9, 2012 (77 FR 
61375). However, in that finding we stated that we could not, 
consistent with the requirements of the Act, take any action that would 
remove the protections accruing to the southwestern population under 
the existing C. lupus listing without first determining whether the 
southwestern population warranted listing separately as a subspecies or 
a DPS, and, if so, putting a separate listing in place (77 FR 61377, 
October 9, 2012). Therefore, because we are now proposing to remove 
protections for the current C. lupus listed entity, we must reconsider 
listing the southwestern population as a subspecies or DPS, and we 
present our analysis and determination regarding that matter in this 
proposed rule.
    Our national wolf strategy also addresses the two other wolf taxa 
that fall within the range described for C. lupus in the 1978 
reclassification, the eastern wolf (C. lycaon) and the red wolf (Canis 
rufus). Consistent with our current understanding of C. lycaon taxonomy 
and the historical range of C. lupus, our proposal to remove the 
current C. lupus entity from the List addresses the error of continuing 
to include all or parts of 29 eastern states in the current C. lupus 
listing. For a complete discussion of this issue, see Taxonomy section 
below. With respect to the status of C. lycaon, our analysis is ongoing 
(see C. lycaon section below). With regard to C. rufus, red wolves 
currently are listed as endangered where found (32 FR 4001, March 11, 
1967); the red wolf listing is not affected by this proposal, and 
recovery efforts for red wolves will continue (Red Wolf Recovery and 
Species Survival Plan; Service 1990).

Approach for This Proposed Rule

    In this proposed rule we consider whether and to what extent gray 
wolves should be listed in the contiguous United States and Mexico. Our 
analysis begins with an evaluation of the current C. lupus listed 
entity (Figure 1), with a focus on current taxonomic information and 
statutory and policy requirements under the Act. Consistent with our 5-
year review, we conclude that the current C. lupus listed entity is not 
a valid species under the Act and now propose to remove this entity 
from the List (see Evaluation of the Current C. lupus Listed Entity). 
However, our 5-year review further recommends that we consider whether 
there are any valid species, subspecies, or DPSs of gray wolf that are 
threatened or endangered in the contiguous United States and Mexico. 
Thus, in this rule we consider whether the current C. lupus listed 
entity is part of a valid species or includes any valid subspecies, or 
DPSs of gray wolf that warrant protections under the Act. Because we 
are considering whether protections need to remain in place for any of 
the gray wolves that are included in the current C. lupus listed 
entity, we are focusing our evaluation on valid listable entities 
(i.e., C. lupus and subspecies and potential DPSs of C. lupus) with 
ranges that are at least partially within the contiguous United States 
or Mexico. In this rule we also consider recent scientific information 
with respect to eastern wolf taxonomy. See Taxonomy section for 
detailed discussions of the subspecies we evaluate and the Service's 
position on eastern wolf taxonomy.

Species Information

Biology and Ecology

    The biology and ecology of the gray wolf has been widely described 
in the scientific literature (e.g., Mech 1970, Mech and Boitani 2003), 
in Service recovery plans (e.g., Northern Rocky Mountain Recovery Plan 
(Service 1987) and Recovery Plan for the Eastern Timber Wolf (Service 
1992)), and in previous proposed and final rules (e.g., 68 FR 15804, 
April 1, 2003; 71 FR 15266, March 27, 2006; 74 FR 15123, April 2, 2009; 
75 FR 46894, August 4, 2010; and 76 FR 81666, December 28, 2011). Gray 
wolves are the largest wild members of the Canidae, or dog family, with 
adults ranging from 18 to 80 kilograms (kg) (40 to 175 pounds (lb)), 
depending on sex and geographic locale (Mech 1974, p. 1). Gray wolves 
have a circumpolar range including North America, Europe, and Asia. A 
recent genetic study found that gray wolves also occur in portions of 
North Africa (Rueness et al. 2011, pp. 1-5; Gaubert et al. 2012, pp. 3-
7). In North America, wolves are primarily predators of medium and 
large mammals, such as moose (Alces alces), elk (Cervus elaphus), 
white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), mule deer (Odocoileus 
hemionus), caribou (Rangifer tarandus), muskox (Ovibos moschatus), 
bison (Bison bison), and beaver (Castor canadensis). Gray wolves have 
long legs that are well adapted to running, allowing them to move fast 
and travel far in search of food (Mech 1970, p. 13), and large skulls 
and jaws, well suited to catching and feeding on large mammals (Mech 
1970, p. 14). Wolves also have keen senses of smell, hearing, and 
vision, which they use to detect prey and one another (Mech 1970, p. 
15). Pelt color varies in wolves more than in almost any other species, 
from white, to grizzled gray, brown, to coal black (Mech 1970, p. 16).
    Wolves share an evolutionary history with other mammalian 
carnivores (Order Carnivora), or meat eaters, which are distinguished 
by their long, pointed canine teeth, sharp sheering fourth upper 
premolars and first lower molars, simple digestive system, sharp claws, 
and highly developed brains (Mech 1970, pp. 20-21). Divergence among 
the ancestral mammalian carnivores began 40 to 50 million years ago 
(Mech 1970, p. 21), and at some point during the late Miocene Epoch 
(between 4.5 to 9 million years ago) the first species of the genus 
Canis arose, the forerunner of all modern wolves, coyotes (Canis 
latrans), and domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) (Nowak 2003, p. 241). 
The lineage of wolves and coyotes diverged between 1.8 to 2.5 million 
years ago (Nowak 2003, p. 241). Domestication of wolves led to all 
modern domestic dog breeds and probably started somewhere between 
135,000 to 13,000 years ago (reviewed by Honeycutt 2010, p. 3).
    Gray wolves are highly territorial, social animals and group 
hunters, normally living in packs of 7 or less, but sometimes attaining 
pack sizes of 20 or more wolves (Mech 1970, pp. 38-40; Mech and Boitani 
2003, pp. 8, 19). Packs are family groups consisting of a

[[Page 35669]]

breeding pair, their pups from the current year, offspring from the 
previous year, and occasionally an unrelated wolf (Mech 1970, p. 45; 
Mech and Boitani 2003, p. 2). Normally, only the top-ranking male and 
female in each pack breed and produce pups, although sometimes maturing 
wolves within a pack will also breed with members of the pack or 
through liaisons with members of other packs (Mech and Boitani 2003, p. 
3). Females and males typically begin breeding as 2-year-olds and may 
produce young annually until they are over 10 years old. Litters are 
born from early April into May and can range from 1 to 11 pups, but 
generally include 5 to 6 pups (Mech 1970, p. 119; Fuller et al. 2003, 
p. 176). Normally a pack has a single litter annually, but 2 litters 
from different females in a single pack have been reported, and in one 
instance 3 litters in a single pack were documented (reviewed by Fuller 
et al. 2003, p. 175). Offspring usually remain with their parents for 
10-54 months before dispersing, meaning that packs may include the 
offspring from up to 4 breeding seasons (reviewed by Mech and Boitani 
2003, p. 2).
    Packs typically occupy and defend a territory of 33 to more than 
2,600 square kilometers (sq km) (13 to more than 1,016 square miles (sq 
mi)), with territories tending to be smaller at lower latitudes (Mech 
and Boitani 2003, pp. 21-22; Fuller et al. 2003, pp. 172-175). The 
large variability in territory size is likely due to differences in 
pack size; prey size, distribution, and availability; population lags 
in response to changes in prey abundance; and variation in prey 
vulnerability (e.g., seasonal age structure in ungulates) (Mech and 
Boitani 2003, pp. 21-22).
    Pack social structure is very adaptable and resilient. Breeding 
members can be quickly replaced either from within or outside the pack, 
and pups can be reared by another pack member, should their parents die 
(Packard 2003, p. 38; Brainerd et al. 2008; Mech 2006, p. 1482). 
Consequently, wolf populations can rapidly recover from severe 
disruptions, such as very high levels of human-caused mortality or 
disease. Wolf populations have been shown to increase rapidly if the 
source of mortality is reduced after severe declines (Fuller et al. 
2003, pp. 181-183; Service et al. 2012, Table 4).
    A wolf pack will generally maintain its territory as long as the 
breeding pair is not killed, and even if one member of the breeding 
pair is killed, the pack may hold its territory until a new mate 
arrives (Mech and Boitani 2003, pp. 28-29). If both members of the 
breeding pair are killed, the remaining members of the pack may 
disperse, starve, or remain in the territory until an unrelated 
dispersing wolf arrives and mates with one of the remaining pack 
members (Brainerd et al. 2008, pp. 93-94, Mech and Boitani 2003, pp. 
28-29).
    Yearling wolves frequently disperse, although some remain with 
their natal pack (Mech and Boitani 2003, pp. 11-17). Dispersers may 
become nomadic and cover large areas as lone animals, or they may 
locate suitable unoccupied habitats and members of the opposite sex to 
establish their own territorial pack (Mech and Boitani 2003, pp. 11-
17). Dispersal distances in North America typically range from 65 to 
154 km (40 to 96 miles) (Boyd and Pletscher 1999, p. 1102), although 
dispersal distances of several hundred kilometers are occasionally 
reported (Boyd and Pletscher 1999, pp. 1094, 1100; Mech and Boitani 
2003, pp. 14-15, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) 2011, p. 
55). These dispersal movements allow a wolf population to quickly 
expand and colonize areas of suitable habitat that are nearby or even 
those that are separated by a broad area of unsuitable habitat.
    Wolf populations are remarkably resilient as long as food supply (a 
function of both prey density and prey vulnerability), habitat, and 
regulation of human-caused mortality (Fuller et al. 2003, pp. 187-189; 
Creel and Rotella 2010, pp. 4-6) are adequate. In naturally occurring 
populations (in the absence of hunting), wolves are likely limited by a 
density-dependent, intrinsic regulatory mechanism (e.g., social strife, 
territoriality, disease) when ungulate densities are high, and are 
limited by prey availability when ungulate densities are low (Carriappa 
et al. 2011, p. 729). Where harvest occurs, high levels of reproduction 
and immigration can compensate for mortality rates of 17 to 48 percent 
([Fuller et al. 2003 +/- 8 percent], pp. 184-185; Adams et al. 2008 [29 
percent], p. 22; Creel and Rotella 2010 [22 percent], p. 5; Sparkman et 
al. 2011 [25 percent], p. 5; Gude et al. 2011 [48 percent], pp. 113-
116; Vucetich and Carroll In Review [17 percent]). Recent studies 
suggest the sustainable mortality rate may be lower, and that harvest 
may have a partially additive or even super additive effect (i.e., 
harvest increases total mortality beyond the effect of direct killing 
itself, through social disruption or the loss of dependent offspring) 
on wolf mortality (Murray et al. 2010, p. 2514; Creel and Rotella 2010, 
p. 6), but there is substantial debate on this issue (Gude et al. 2012, 
pp. 113-116). When populations are maintained below carrying capacity 
and natural mortality rates and self-regulation of the population 
remain low, human-caused mortality can replace up to 70 percent of 
natural mortality (Fuller et al. 2003, p. 186).

Taxonomy

    The taxonomy of the genus Canis has a complex and contentious 
history (for an overview of the taxonomic history of the genus Canis in 
North America, see Chambers et al. 2012, pp. 16-22). The literature 
contains at least 31 published names for species or subspecies in the 
genus (Hall and Kelson 1959, p. 849; Chambers et al. 2012, Table 1). 
Hall (1981) and Nowak (1995), who conducted the most recent 
comprehensive reviews based on morphology, both recognize two species 
of wolves, C. lupus and C. rufus. Hall (1981), however, recognized 27 
subspecies (24 in North America) of C. lupus while Nowak (1995) 
recognized 14 subspecies (5 in North America) of C. lupus.
    More recently, the advance in molecular genetic capabilities has 
led to even greater controversy regarding interpretations of wolf 
taxonomy (Chambers et al. 2012, pp. 4-5). Chambers et al. (2012) 
reviewed the available scientific literature to assess the taxonomic 
classification of wolves in North America. They believe the current 
literature supports recognition of three subspecies of gray wolf in 
North America (C. l. nubilus, C. l. occidentalis, and C. l. baileyi) 
and is not definitive with regard to a potential fourth subspecies 
(Canis lupus arctos) of gray wolf in North America. Researchers 
continue to debate such questions as to the identity of the wolves in 
the Great Lakes (Wilson et al. 2000, Leonard and Wayne 2008, 
Koblm[uuml]ller et al. 2009), the northern extent of C. l. baileyi 
historical (pre-1900s) range (Leonard et al. 2005), whether wolves in 
the western United States are truly differentiated (for example, 
vonHoldt et al. 2011 show little genetic separation between the 
purported C. l. occidentalis and C. l. nubilus), and the taxonomy of 
wolves in the Pacific coastal region (Munoz-Fuentes et al. 2009, 
Weckworth et al. 2011, pp. 5-6).
    The lack of consensus among researchers on these issues prompted 
Chambers et al. (2012, entire) to conduct an evaluation and synthesis 
of the available scientific literature related to the taxonomy of North 
American wolves to date. This is the only peer-reviewed synthesis of 
its kind conducted for North American wolves and summarizes and 
synthesizes the best available scientific information on the issue. 
Chambers et al. (2012, entire)

[[Page 35670]]

employed the general concordance approach of Avise (2004, entire) to 
recognize subspecies. The nature of available data does not permit the 
application of many traditional subspecies criteria (i.e., 75-percent 
rule, Mayr 1963, p. 348; 1969, p. 190; 90 percent separation rule, 
Patten and Unitt, 2002, p. 27; reciprocal monophyly, Zink 2004, 
entire). The Avise (2004, entire) method is the most applicable to the 
disparate data sets available on wolves, and evaluates concordance in 
patterns from measures of divergence from morphology and various 
genetic marker systems.
    While many experts reject the recognition of subspecies due to the 
often arbitrary nature of the division of intraspecific variation along 
lines across which entities may freely move and interbreed, the Act is 
explicit that threatened or endangered subspecies are to be protected. 
Given the available data, we accept the conclusions of Chambers et al. 
(2012) regarding taxonomic subdivisions, including species and 
subspecies, of North American wolves and approximate historical ranges, 
and use them to inform this rule. This is consistent with Service 
regulations that require us to rely on standard taxonomic distinctions 
and the biological expertise of the Department of the Interior and the 
scientific community concerning the relevant taxonomic group (50 CFR 
424.11). Even recognizing continued uncertainty on a number of specific 
issues (e.g., the issues of continued debate noted above), we believe 
Chambers et al. (2012) is reflective of this standard. However, it 
should be noted that, while we accept the conclusions of Chambers et 
al. (2012) for use in this analysis, Canis taxonomy has long been 
complicated and continuously evolves with new data. Therefore, we do 
not view this issue as ``resolved,'' and we fully expect that Canis 
taxonomy will continue to be debated for years if not decades to come, 
and scientific opinion on what represents the current best available 
science could well shift over time.

Wolf Species of the Contiguous United States and Mexico

    Our review of the best available taxonomic information indicates 
that C. lupus did not historically occupy large portions of the eastern 
United States: That is, the northeastern United States and portions of 
the upper Midwest (eastern and western Great Lakes regions) were 
occupied by the eastern wolf (C. lycaon), now considered a separate 
species of Canis rather than a subspecies of C. lupus, and the 
southeastern United States was occupied by the red wolf (C. rufus) 
rather than the gray wolf.
    At the time the gray wolf was listed in 1978, and until the 
molecular genetics studies of the last few years, the range of the gray 
wolf prior to European settlement was generally believed to include 
most of North America. The only areas believed to have lacked gray wolf 
populations were the coastal and interior portions of California, the 
arid deserts and mountaintops of the western United States, and parts 
of the eastern and southeastern United States (Young and Goldman 1944, 
Hall 1981, Mech 1974, and Nowak 1995). However, some authorities have 
questioned the reported historical absence of gray wolves in parts of 
California (Carbyn in litt. 2000, Mech in litt. 2000).
    Furthermore, we note long-held differences of opinion regarding the 
extent of the gray wolf's historical range in the eastern and 
southeastern United States. Some researchers regarded Georgia's 
southeastern corner as the southern extent of gray wolf range (Young 
and Goldman 1944, Mech 1974); others believed gray wolves did not 
extend into the Southeast at all (Hall 1981) or did so to a limited 
extent, primarily at somewhat higher elevations (Nowak 1995). The 
southeastern and mid-Atlantic states were generally recognized as being 
within the historical range of the red wolf (C. rufus), and it is not 
known how much range overlap historically occurred between these two 
Canis species. Morphological work by Nowak (2000, 2002, 2003) supported 
extending the historical range of the red wolf into southern New 
England or even farther northward, indicating either that the 
historical range of the gray wolf in the eastern United States was more 
limited than previously believed, or that the respective ranges of 
several wolf species expanded and contracted in the eastern and 
northeastern United States, intermingling in postglacial times along 
contact zones.
    The results of recent molecular genetic analyses (e.g., Wilson et 
al. 2000, Wilson et al. 2003, Wheeldon and White 2009, Wilson et al. 
2009, Fain et al. 2010, Wheeldon et al. 2010, Rutledge et al. 2012) and 
morphometric studies (e.g., Nowak 1995, 2000, 2002, 2003) explain some 
of the past difficulties in describing the gray wolf's range in the 
eastern United States. These studies show that the mid-Atlantic and 
southeastern states historically were occupied by the red wolf (C. 
rufus) and that the Northeast and portions of the upper Midwest 
(eastern and western Great Lakes regions) historically were occupied by 
C. lycaon; they also indicate that the gray wolf (C. lupus) did not 
occur in the eastern United States.
    Based on these recent studies, we view the historical range of the 
gray wolf in the contiguous United States as the central and western 
United States, including portions of the western Great Lakes region, 
the Great Plains, portions of the Rocky Mountains, the Intermountain 
West, the Pacific states, and portions of the Southwest.
    In sum, we now recognize three wolf species with ranges in the 
contiguous United States: C. lupus, C. lycaon, and C. rufus.

Gray Wolf Subspecies of the Contiguous United States and Mexico

    Within C. lupus, individuals are generally similar with some small 
differences in the details of morphology, average body mass, and 
genetic lineage, as might be expected in a widespread species with 
geographic barriers that restrict or temporarily inhibit gene flow 
(Nowak 2003, p. 244). A number of taxonomists have attempted to 
describe and organize this variation by designating subspecies of gray 
wolf (reviewed by Nowak 2003, pp. 244-245). As stated above, gray wolf 
taxonomy at the subspecific level has long been debated with evolving 
views on the validity of various subspecies. Generally, the trend in 
gray wolf taxonomy has been toward subsuming subspecies, resulting in 
fewer recognized subspecies over time (Young and Goldman 1944, pp. 413-
415; Hall 1981, p. 76; Mech 1974, p. 1-6; Nowak 1995, pp. 375-397, 
Figure 20; vonHoldt et al. 2011, pp. 7-10; Chambers et al. 2012, 
Figures 1-3). Because of questions about the validity of some of the 
originally listed subspecies, the 1978 final rule (43 FR 9607; March 9, 
1978) reclassified all gray wolves in the contiguous United States and 
Mexico, except for those in Minnesota, into a single listed entity. 
However, the 1978 rule also stipulated that ``biological subspecies 
would continue to be maintained and dealt with as separate entities'' 
(43 FR 9609), and offered ``the firmest assurance that [the Service] 
will continue to recognize valid biological subspecies for purposes of 
its research and conservation programs'' (43 FR 9610, March 9, 1978).
    Due to the complicated taxonomy of the genus Canis and the fact 
that some subspecies of gray wolves are more strongly supported in the 
scientific literature than others, it is important to be explicit about 
what taxonomic entities we are considering in this evaluation. As 
stated above, for the purposes of this rulemaking, we are considering 
the conservation status of

[[Page 35671]]

the gray wolf, C. lupus, and those purported subspecies with described 
historical ranges at least partially within the contiguous United 
States. We are taking this approach in an effort to thoroughly consider 
what C. lupus listing(s) that include gray wolves in portions of the 
contiguous United States and Mexico, if any, would be appropriate if 
the existing listing were removed. In this rule we follow Chambers' et 
al. (2012) interpretation of available scientific literature, and are 
thus considering the following three subspecies, with the following 
approximate historical ranges, in our analysis: (1) C. lupus baileyi, 
which occupies the southwestern United States and Mexico; (2) C. lupus 
occidentalis, which occurs throughout west-central Canada, Alaska 
(except coastal southeast Alaska), and the NRM region; and (3) C. lupus 
nubilus, which occurs throughout central Canada and into northern 
Ontario and Quebec, in the Pacific Northwest (including coastal British 
Columbia, and southeast Alaska), and in the WGL region and historically 
occurred in the Great Plains states of the United States.
    The taxonomic synthesis by Chambers et al. (2012, p. 42) includes a 
general evolutionary interpretation of the conclusions of their review 
in the context of the evolutionary history of modern North American 
Canis. This evolutionary scenario describes at least three separate 
invasions of North America by C. lupus from Eurasia to account for the 
patterns of genetic variation seen in extant North American wolves. The 
first of these North American invasions was by the ancestors of C. l. 
baileyi, followed by the ancestors of C. l. nubilus, which displaced C. 
l. baileyi in the northern part of its range. The final invasion was by 
C. l. occidentalis, which displaced C. l. nubilus in the northern part 
of its former range. Delineation of the extent of the historical range 
of these subspecies is difficult given the existence of zones of 
reproductive interaction, or intergradation, between neighboring gray 
wolf populations.
    Zones of intergradation have long been a recognized characteristic 
of historical gray wolf distribution throughout their circumpolar 
distribution (Mech 1970, p. 223; Brewster and Fritts 1995, p. 372). As 
Chambers et al. (2012, p. 43) describe, ``delineation of exact 
geographic boundaries presents challenges. Rather than sharp lines 
separating taxa, boundaries should generally be thought of as 
intergrade zones of variable width. These `fuzzy' boundaries are a 
consequence of lineages of wolves that evolved elsewhere coming into 
contact. Historical or modern boundaries should also not be viewed as 
static or frozen in any particular time. The hypothesized three wolf 
invasions that resulted in the current subspecific structure would have 
resulted in considerable movement of subspecies boundaries as newer 
invaders coopted territory once held by earlier invaders. We have no 
reason to believe that this process of geographic replacement had 
reached its conclusion prior to European contact, rather this process 
likely continued into the historic period. Our understanding of the 
historical interactions between subspecies or genetically different 
populations (e.g., Leonard et al. 2005) is that they are dynamic 
processes and boundaries are in constant (and continuing) flux.''
    We include details on the specific taxonomy of the three subspecies 
in our evaluations below.

Canis lupus nubilus

    Say (1823) first defined C. l. nubilus based on wolves he observed 
in the central United States. Goldman's (1944) classification included 
a range map of 24 subspecies in North America, and described the 
distribution of C. l. nubilus as formerly Great Plains region from 
south-central Canada south to south-central United States. Earlier 
taxonomies had C. l. nubilus intergrading on the north with 
occidentalis, on the west with irremotus and youngi, on the east with 
lycaon, and on the south with monstrabilis (Goldman 1944, p. 442).
    Goldman (1944, p. 414) recognized 23 subspecies of gray wolves in 
North America, with C. l. fuscus, or the Cascades Mountains wolf, 
occupying the Pacific Northwest. His recognition of C. l. fuscus was 
based on the examination of 28 specimens (skulls and skins) from the 
west coast of Canada south through the Pacific Northwest (Young and 
Goldman 1944, p. 458). Nowak later revised the subspecific 
classification of North American wolves based on examination of 580 
wolf skulls (10 from the Pacific Northwest) and a multivariate 
statistical analysis of 10 skull measurements, to include only 5 
subspecies, lumping the Pacific Northwest wolves with those from the 
west coast of Canada and southeast Alaska, most of the Rocky Mountains, 
the Great Plains within the United States, and northeastern Canada and 
describing them as the plains wolf (C. l. nubilus) (Nowak 1995, p. 396; 
Nowak 2003, Table 9.3).
    The approximate historical range of C. l. nubilus borders each of 
the other C. lupus subspecies' ranges, with C. lycaon, and probably 
that of C. rufus, creating ambiguous zones of admixture (Chambers et 
al. 2012, pp. 39-42). Recent molecular ecology studies of wolves in 
North America have reported differentiation between coastal and inland 
wolves in western Canada based on microsatellite DNA (Weckworth et al. 
2005, p. 921), mitochondrial DNA (Leonard et al. 2005, pp. 13-15; 
Mu[ntilde]oz-Fuentes et al. 2009, p. 5; Weckworth et al. 2010, p. 921), 
and single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) (von Holdt et al. 2011, p. 
4). These coastal-inland patterns of divergence support Nowak's (1995, 
Fig 20) boundary between C. l. nubilus and C. l. occidentalis in the 
Pacific Northwest. Although Leonard et al. (2005, pp. 13-15) asserted 
that coastal wolves were evolutionarily distinct from C. l. nubilus, 
the large proportion of unique, and apparently extinct, haplotypes in 
their historical sample likely exaggerated the measure of divergence 
between the coastal populations and historical inland C. l. nubilus 
(Chambers et al. 2012, pp. 41-42). Chambers et al. (2012, pp. 41-42) 
reevaluated the haplotypes in Leonard et al. (2005) and Weckworth et 
al. (2010) and found that the most common haplotype in west-coastal 
Canada also occured in the central Great Plains of the United States, 
and nearly all coastal haplotypes are in the same phylogroup as the 
historical western C. l. nubilus haplotypes (Weckworth et al. 2010, p. 
368). These relationships are consistent with west-coastal Canada and 
southeast Alaska wolves (and probably coastal wolves in the Pacific 
Northwest) being a northward extension of C. l. nubilus. Genetic study 
of wolf skins and bones collected from the historical wolf population 
in the Pacific Northwest has not yet been accomplished, but would be 
valuable in further evaluating the historical taxonomic placement of 
gray wolves from that region.

Canis lupus occidentalis

    Richardson (1829) described C. l. occidentalis based on type 
material from the Northwest Territories. Goldman (1944) described the 
distribution of C. l. occidentalis generally as interior western Canada 
including the Rocky Mountains.
    Since publication of Goldman (1944), revisions of wolf taxonomy 
have tended toward recognition of fewer subspecies. Nowak's (1995) 
delineation of subspecies and depiction of approximate historical 
ranges indicate that, under his taxonomy, C. l. occidentalis ranged 
across Alaska except for the coastal Southeast, and from the Beaufort 
Sea in the north to the Rocky Mountains of the contiguous

[[Page 35672]]

United States in the south and including much of the interior western 
Canada (Nowak 1995, Fig. 20). Under Nowak's classification, C. l. 
occidentalis subsumes the following formerly recognized subspecies 
entirely or in part: Pambasileus, tundrarum, alces, mackenzii, 
columbianus, irremotus, and griseoalbus.

Canis lupus baileyi

    Researchers have hypothesized that North America was colonized by 
gray wolves from Eurasia during the Pleistocene through at least three 
waves of colonization, each by wolves from different lineages; C. l. 
baileyi may represent the last surviving remnant of the initial wave of 
gray wolf migration into North America (Nowak 1995, p. 396; Nowak 2003, 
p. 242; Wayne and Vil[aacute] 2003, pp. 226-228; Chambers et al. 2012, 
p. 10). The distinctiveness of C. l. baileyi and its recognition as a 
subspecies is supported by both morphometric and genetic evidence. We 
are unaware of any published study that does not support the 
recognition of C. l. baileyi as a valid subspecies.
    This subspecies was originally described by Nelson and Goldman in 
1929 as Canis nubilus baileyi, with a distribution of ``Southern and 
western Arizona, southern New Mexico, and the Sierra Madre and 
adjoining tableland of Mexico as far south, at least, as southern 
Durango (Nelson and Goldman 1929, pp. 165-166).'' Goldman (1944, pp. 
389-636) provided the first comprehensive treatment of North American 
wolves, in which he renamed C. n. baileyi as a subspecies of lupus 
(i.e., C. l. baileyi) and shifted the subspecies' range farther south 
in Arizona. His gray wolf classification scheme was subsequently 
followed by Hall and Kelson (1959, pp. 847-851; Hall 1981, p. 932). 
Since that time, gray wolf taxonomy has undergone substantial revision, 
including a major taxonomic revision in which the number of recognized 
gray wolf subspecies in North America was reduced from 24 to 5, with C. 
l. baileyi being recognized as a subspecies ranging throughout most of 
Mexico to just north of the Gila River in southern Arizona and New 
Mexico (Nowak 1995, pp. 375-397).
    Three published studies of morphometric variation conclude that C. 
l. baileyi is a morphologically distinct and valid subspecies. Bogan 
and Mehlhop (1983) analyzed 253 gray wolf skulls from southwestern 
North America using principal component analysis and discriminant 
function analysis. They found that C. l. baileyi was one of the most 
distinct subspecies of southwestern gray wolf (Bogan and Mehlhop 1983, 
p. 17). Hoffmeister (1986) conducted principal component analysis of 28 
skulls, also recognizing C. l. baileyi as a distinct southwestern 
subspecies (pp. 466-468). Nowak (1995) analyzed 580 skulls using 
discriminant function analysis. He concluded that C. l. baileyi was one 
of only five distinct North American gray wolf subspecies that should 
continue to be recognized (Nowak 1995, pp. 395-396).
    Genetic research provides additional validation of the recognition 
of C. l. baileyi as a subspecies. Three studies demonstrate that C. l. 
baileyi has unique genetic markers that distinguish the subspecies from 
other North American gray wolves. Garcia-Moreno et al. (1996, p. 384) 
utilized microsatellite analysis to determine whether two captive 
populations of C. l. baileyi were pure C. l. baileyi and should be 
interbred with the captive certified lineage population that had 
founded the captive breeding program. They confirmed that the two 
captive populations were pure C. l. baileyi and that they and the 
certified lineage were closely related. Further, they found that as a 
group, the three populations were the most distinct grouping of North 
American wolves, substantiating the distinction of C. l. baileyi as a 
subspecies.
    Hedrick et al. (1997, pp. 64-65) examined data for 20 
microsatellite loci from samples of C. l. baileyi, northern gray 
wolves, coyotes, and dogs. They concluded that C. l. baileyi was 
divergent and distinct from other sampled northern gray wolves, 
coyotes, and dogs. Leonard et al. (2005, p. 10) examined mitochondrial 
DNA sequence data from 34 preextermination wolves collected from 1856 
to 1916 from the historical ranges of C. l. baileyi and C. l. nubilus. 
They compared these data with sequence data collected from 96 wolves in 
North America and 303 wolves from Eurasia. They found that the 
historical wolves had twice the diversity of modern wolves, and that 
two-thirds of the haplotypes were unique. They also found that 
haplotypes associated with C. l. baileyi formed a unique southern clade 
distinct from that of other North American wolves. A clade is a 
taxonomic group that includes all individuals that have descended from 
a common ancestor.
    In another study, vonHoldt et al. (2011, p. 7) analyzed SNP 
genotyping arrays and found C. l. baileyi to be the most genetically 
distinct group of New World gray wolves. Most recently, Chambers et al. 
(2012, pp. 34-37) reviewed the scientific literature related to 
classification of C. l. baileyi as a subspecies and concluded that this 
subspecies' recognition remains well-supported. Maps of C. l. baileyi 
historical range are available in the scientific literature (Young and 
Goldman 1944, p. 414; Hall and Kelson, 1959, p. 849; Hall 1981, p. 932; 
Bogan and Mehlhop 1983, p. 17; Nowak 1995, p. 395; Parsons 1996, p. 
106). The southernmost extent of C. l. baileyi's range in Mexico is 
consistently portrayed as ending near Oaxaca (Hall 1981, p. 932; Nowak 
1995, p. 395). Depiction of the northern extent of the C. l. baileyi's 
presettlement range among the available descriptions varies depending 
on the authors' taxonomic treatment of several subspecies that occurred 
in the Southwest and their related treatment of intergradation zones.
    Hall's (1981, p. 932, based on Hall and Kelson 1959) map depicted a 
range for C. l. baileyi that included extreme southern Arizona and New 
Mexico, with Canis lupus mogollonensis occurring throughout most of 
Arizona, and C. l. monstrabilis, Canis lupus youngi, C. l. nubilus, and 
C. l. mogollonensis interspersed in New Mexico. Bogan and Mehlhop 
(1983, p. 17) synonymized two previously recognized subspecies of gray 
wolf, C. l. mogollonensis and C. l. monstrabilis, with C. l. baileyi, 
concluding that C. l. baileyi's range included the Mogollon Plateau, 
southern New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, and Mexico. This extended C .l. 
baileyi's range northward to central Arizona and central New Mexico 
through the area that Goldman (1944) had identified as an intergrade 
zone with an abrupt transition from C. l. baileyi to C. l. mogollensis. 
Bogan and Mehlop's analysis did not indicate a sharp transition zone 
between C. l. baileyi and C. l. mogollensis, rather the wide overlap 
between the two subspecies led them to synonymize C. l. baileyi and C. 
l. mogollensis.
    Hoffmeister (1986, p. 466) suggested that C. l. mogollonensis 
should be referred to as C. l. youngi but maintained C. l. baileyi as a 
subspecies, stating that wolves north of the Mogollon Rim should be 
considered C. l. youngi. Nowak (1995, pp. 384-385) agreed with 
Hoffmeister's synonymizing of C. l. mogollonensis with C. l. youngi, 
and further lumped these into C. l. nubilus, resulting in a purported 
northern historical range for C. l. baileyi as just to the north of the 
Gila River in southern Arizona and New Mexico. Nowak (1995) and Bogan 
and Mehlhop (1983) differed in their interpretation of which subspecies 
to assign individuals that were intermediate between recognized taxa, 
thus leading to

[[Page 35673]]

different depictions of historical range for C. l. baileyi.
    Subsequently, Parsons (1996, p. 104) included consideration of 
dispersal distance when developing a probable historical range for the 
purpose of reintroducing C. l. baileyi in the wild pursuant to the Act, 
by adding a 322-km (200-mi) northward extension to the most 
conservative depiction of C. l. baileyi historical range (i.e., Hall 
and Kelson 1959). This description of historical range was carried 
forward in the Final Environmental Impact Statement ``Reintroduction of 
the Mexican Wolf within its Historic Range in the Southwestern United 
States'' in the selection of the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area as a 
reintroduction location for C. l. baileyi (Service 1996).
    Recent molecular genetic evidence from limited historical specimens 
supports morphometric evidence of an intergradation zone between C. l. 
baileyi and northern gray wolves (Leonard et al. 2005, pp. 15-16). This 
research shows that, within the time period that the historical 
specimens were collected (1856-1916), a northern clade (i.e., group 
that originated from and includes all descendants from a common 
ancestor) haplotype was found as far south as Arizona, and individuals 
with southern clade haplotypes (associated with C. l. baileyi) occurred 
as far north as Utah and Nebraska. Leonard et al. (2005, p. 10) 
interpret this geographic distribution of haplotypes as indicating gene 
flow was extensive across the subspecies' limits during this historical 
period, and Chambers et al. (2012, p. 37) agree this may be a valid 
interpretation.

Statutory Background

    The Act authorizes the Service to ``determine whether any species 
is an endangered species or a threatened species'' (16 U.S.C 
1533(a)(1)). ``Species'' is a defined term under the Act (16 U.S.C. 
1532(16)), and only ``species'' as so defined may be included on the 
lists of threatened and endangered species (see 16 U.S.C. 1533(a)(1), 
(c)(1)). The Act defines ``species'' to include ``any subspecies of 
fish or wildlife or plants, and any distinct population segment of any 
species of vertebrate fish or wildlife which interbreeds when mature'' 
(16 U.S.C. 1532(16)). The Act defines ``endangered species'' as a 
species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range (16 U.S.C. 1532(6)) and threatened 
species as a species which is likely to become an endangered species 
within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion 
of its range (16 U.S.C. 1532(20)). The word ``range'' refers to the 
range in which the species currently exists, and the word 
``significant'' refers to the value of that portion of the range being 
considered to the conservation of the species. The ``foreseeable 
future'' is the period of time over which events or effects reasonably 
can or should be anticipated, or trends extrapolated. Determinations as 
to the status of a species must be made solely on the basis of the best 
scientific and commercial data available (16 U.S.C. 1533(b)(1)).
    Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533) and its implementing 
regulations (50 CFR part 424) set forth the procedures for adding 
species to, reclassifying species on, or removing species from the 
Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife (List). We may 
determine a species to be an endangered or threatened species due to 
one or more of the five factors described in section 4(a)(1) of the 
Act. The five listing factors are: (A) The present or threatened 
destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (B) 
overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes; (C) disease or predation; (D) the inadequacy of 
existing regulatory mechanisms; and (E) other natural or manmade 
factors affecting its continued existence. We must consider these same 
five factors in reclassifications of species (changing the status from 
threatened to endangered or vice versa), and removing a species from 
the List because it is not endangered or threatened (50 CFR 424.11(c), 
(d)).
    The Act's implementing regulations clarify that a species that is 
listed may only be delisted if it is neither endangered nor threatened 
for one of three reasons: The species is extinct, the species has 
recovered and is no longer endangered or threatened, and the original 
scientific data used at the time the species was classified were in 
error (50 CFR 424.11(d)). This language does not, however, address the 
circumstance in which the Service concludes based on the best available 
data that a group of organisms currently included on the List does not 
in fact qualify as a ``species'' under the Act. In that circumstance, 
the Service is not determining that a species is not endangered or 
threatened, the Service is determining that a group of organisms is not 
a ``species.'' Although the implementing regulations do not expressly 
address this circumstance, the Service has the authority under section 
4(c)(1) to remove a purported species from the List if the Service 
determines that it does not qualify as a ``species'' (16 U.S.C. 
1533(c)(1)). We note, however, that delisting on this basis is 
analogous to delisting upon a determination that a species is not 
threatened or endangered because the original data for classification 
were in error.

Evaluation of the Current C. lupus Listed Entity

    Our analysis begins with an evaluation of the current C. lupus 
listing (Figure 1), which derives from the 1978 reclassification (43 FR 
9607; March 9, 1978). In our May 5, 2011, proposed rule to revise the 
List for the gray wolf in the eastern United States we acknowledged 
that the current C. lupus listed entity should be revised. The recent 
5-year status review for this entity further provides the basis for 
this assertion (Service 2012). Below we present our evaluation and 
conclusion in support of removing the current C. lupus entity from the 
List. Pursuant to this evaluation, our proposed determination as to 
which entities warrant the protections of the Act is included under 
Status of Gray Wolf Listable Entities in the Contiguous United States 
and Mexico later in this proposed rule.

Is the currently listed C. lupus entity a valid listable entity under 
the Act?

    As discussed above, the Act allows us to list species, subspecies, 
and distinct population segments of any species of vertebrate fish or 
wildlife (16 U.S.C. 1532(16)). The current C. lupus listing (Figure 1) 
is not an entire species (the species C. lupus was never deemed 
threatened or endangered given its abundance across its holarctic 
range) or an entire single gray wolf subspecies (the current listing 
occurs across an area occupied by multiple purported subspecies; see 
Taxonomy section). Therefore, if the current listing is to be 
maintained, it must be as a DPS.
    The concept of a DPS is unique to the Act--it does not have an 
independent scientific meaning. Unlike species and subspecies, a DPS is 
not a taxonomic term. Rather, the term ``distinct population segment'' 
refers to certain populations of vertebrates (i.e., less than the 
entire range of a taxonomic vertebrate species or subspecies) as 
explained in the DPS policy. The Act's implementing regulations define 
a ``population'' as a ``group of fish or wildlife . . . in common 
spatial arrangement that interbreed when mature'' (50 CFR 17.3). That 
group may consist of a single collection of organisms, or multiple 
loosely bounded, regionally distributed collections of organisms all of 
the same species or subspecies. Therefore, consistent with our standard 
practice (see 74 FR 15125

[[Page 35674]]

``Defining the Boundaries of the NRM DPS,'' April 2, 2009, and 76 FR 
81670 ``Geographical Area of the Western Great Lakes DPS,'' December 
28, 2011), before applying the discreteness and significance tests laid 
out in the DPS Policy, we must first identify one or more populations 
and the spatial arrangement or range which they share. To meet the 
definition of a ``population,'' for the purposes of the DPS Policy the 
group of vertebrate fish or wildlife identified must be in ``common 
spatial arrangement'': In other words, there must first be a reasonable 
correlation between the group and the geographic area used to describe 
its range.
    To consider whether the currently listed entity describes a 
population of C. lupus in an appropriate range that should be evaluated 
against the standards of the 1996 DPS Policy, we first discuss how the 
history of gray wolf listing and recent scientific information relate 
to this question. Based on this information we conclude that neither 
the 1978 reclassification nor the current listing represent valid 
species under the Act. We then analyze the current data regarding 
wolves within the current listed entity, the degree to which that data 
confirms relevant populations of gray wolves, and the relationship any 
such populations bear to the geographic scope of the current listing. 
Based on this information, we further conclude that the ``spatial 
arrangement'' identified in the current listing does not correlate to 
the current population(s) of C. lupus found within that range.
    History of the C. lupus listing as it relates to DPS--When the gray 
wolf was reclassified in March 1978 (replacing multiple subspecies 
listings with two C. lupus population listings as described further in 
the Previous Federal Actions section), it had been extirpated from much 
of its historical range in the contiguous United States. Although the 
1978 reclassification listed two gray wolf entities (a threatened 
population in Minnesota and an endangered population throughout the 
rest of the contiguous United States and Mexico), these listings were 
not predicated upon a formal DPS analysis, because the reclassification 
predated the November 1978 amendments to the Act, which revised the 
definition of ``species'' to include distinct population segments of 
vertebrate fish or wildlife, and our 1996 DPS Policy.
    The broadly defined geography of the 1978 reclassification was 
employed as an approach of convenience (as noted in 47 FR 9607, March 
9, 1978), rather than an indication of where gray wolves existed or 
where gray wolf recovery would occur. Thus, the 1978 reclassification 
resulted in inclusion of large areas of the contiguous United States 
where gray wolves were extirpated, as well as the mid-Atlantic and 
southeastern United States--west to central Texas and Oklahoma--an area 
that is generally accepted not to be within the historical range of C. 
lupus (Young and Goldman 1944, pp. 413-416, 478; Nowak 1995, p. 395, 
Fig. 20). While this generalized approach to the listing appropriately 
protected dispersing wolves throughout the historical range of C. lupus 
and facilitated recovery in the NRM and WGL regions, it also 
erroneously included areas outside the species' historical range and 
was misread by some members of the public as an expression of a larger 
gray wolf recovery effort not required by the Act and never intended by 
the Service.
    The Act does not require us to restore the gray wolf (or any other 
species) to all of its historical range or even to a majority of the 
currently suitable habitat. Instead, the Act requires that we recover 
listed species such that they no longer meet the definitions of 
``threatened species'' or ``endangered species.'', i.e., are no longer 
in danger of extinction now or in the foreseeable future. For some 
species, recovery may require expansion of their current distribution, 
but the amount of expansion is driven by a species' biological needs 
affecting viability and sustainability, and not by an arbitrary percent 
of a species' historical range or currently suitable habitat. Many 
other species may be recovered in portions of their historical range or 
currently suitable habitat by removing or addressing the threats to 
their continued existence. And some species may be recovered by a 
combination of range expansion and threats reduction. There is no set 
formula for how recovery must be achieved.
    As stated previously, the 1978 reclassification stated that 
``biological subspecies would continue to be maintained and dealt with 
as separate entities'' (43 FR 9607, March 9, 1978). Accordingly, 
regional recovery plans were developed and implemented in the Western 
Great Lakes in 1978 (revised in 1992) (Service 1978, entire; Service 
1992, entire), the Northern Rocky Mountains in 1980 (revised in 1987) 
(Service 1980, entire; Service 1987, entire), and the Southwest in 1982 
(this plan is currently being revised) (Service 1982, entire). This 
approach was an appropriate use of our discretion to determine how best 
to proceed with recovery actions. These recovery efforts covered all 
gray wolf populations confirmed in the contiguous United States since 
passage of the Act, and either these efforts have worked, or are 
working, to conserve all of the genetic diversity remaining in gray 
wolves south of Canada after their widespread extirpation (Leonard et 
al. 2005, entire). Thus, the goal of the Act has been achieved in the 
Northern Rocky Mountains (76 FR 25590, May 5, 2011 and 77 FR 55530, 
September 10, 2012) and Western Great Lakes (76 FR 81666, December 28, 
2011) and is still a work in progress in the Southwest (see C. l. 
baileyi analysis below).
    Recent scientific information relevant to the validity of the C. 
lupus listing--In addition to the issues identified above, recent 
scientific research further necessitates our revisiting the current 
listing for C. lupus. The most recent scientific information indicates 
that the eastern wolf, previously described as the subspecies C. l. 
lycaon, with a historical range that includes the northeastern United 
States and portions of the upper Midwest United States (eastern and 
western Great Lakes regions) should be recognized as a separate 
species, C. lycaon (See Taxonomy section). These new data indicate that 
additional geographic areas contained within the current listed area 
were not historically occupied by gray wolves (specifically, the 
northeastern United States) and thus are erroneously included in the 
current gray wolf listing.
    Synthesis--Combining the erroneous inclusion of the southeastern 
United States in the 1978 reclassification with the new data further 
restricting the historical range of C. lupus, we determine that 
essentially the entire eastern third of the contiguous United States 
was erroneously included in the 1978 listing, and is still included in 
the current listing. As a result, there was not a reasonable 
correlation between the group of gray wolves in the contiguous United 
States (minus Minnesota) and Mexico in 1978, nor is there today. 
Therefore, the 1978 listing did not describe, nor does the current 
listing describe, a valid ``population,'' which is a prerequisite for a 
DPS. This determination alone requires that the current listed entity 
be delisted pursuant to section 4(c)(1) because it is not a ``species'' 
under the Act.
    Distribution of gray wolves within the described boundary of the 
currently listed entity--Even if C. lupus historically had been found 
throughout the contiguous United States, with the recent recovery and 
delisting of gray wolf populations in the NRM and WGL (see Previous 
Federal Actions section) and the associated revisions to the 1978

[[Page 35675]]

listing, the described boundary of the C. lupus listed entity has been 
modified and now includes all or portions of only 42 States, as opposed 
to the original 48 States, and Mexico (Figure 1). The gross mismatch 
between the group of wolves protected by the current listing (see 
below) provides an independent basis for determining that the current 
listed entity is not a DPS.
    As stated above, our regulations define a ``population'' as a 
``group of fish or wildlife . . . in common spatial arrangement that 
interbreed when mature'' (50 CFR 17.3). We have refined that definition 
in experimental gray wolf reintroduction rules to mean ``at least two 
breeding pairs of gray wolves that each successfully raise at least two 
young'' annually for 2 consecutive years (59 FR 60252 and 60266, 
November 22, 1994). This definition represents what we believe are the 
minimum standards for a gray wolf population (Service 1994). The courts 
have supported this definition. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth 
Circuit found that ``by definition lone dispersers do not constitute a 
population or even part of a population, since they are not `in common 
spatial arrangement' sufficient to interbreed with other members of a 
population'' (Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation v. Babbitt, 199 F.3d 1224, 
1234 (10th Cir. 2000)). The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held 
that, despite ``sporadic sightings of isolated indigenous wolves in the 
release area [a gray wolf reintroduction site], lone wolves, or 
`dispersers,' do not constitute a population'' under the Act (U.S. v. 
McKittrick, 142 F. 3d 1170, 1175 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 525 U.S. 
1072 (1999)). Thus, the courts have upheld our interpretation that a 
``population'' must include two or more breeding pairs.
    Below, we provide specific information on the distribution of gray 
wolves within the described boundary of the current C. lupus listed 
entity.
    A single wild gray wolf population (C. l. baileyi), of at least 75 
wolves (as of December 31, 2012), inhabits the southwestern United 
States today in central Arizona and New Mexico (Figure 2). In Mexico, 
efforts to reestablish a wild population in Mexico began in 2011. Of 
eight wolves released between October 2011 and October 2012, two wolves 
are ``fate unknown,'' four are confirmed dead, and two are alive as of 
January 2, 2013 (Service, our files). Additional releases in Mexico are 
expected in 2013. In addition, a captive population of 240 to 300 C. l. 
baileyi exists in the United States and Mexico today in about 50 
captive breeding facilities. For more information on gray wolves in the 
southwestern United States and Mexico see the C. l. baileyi analysis 
below.
    There are currently three confirmed gray wolf packs in the western 
two-thirds (where gray wolves are listed as endangered) of Washington 
State (Lookout pack, Teanaway pack, and Wenatchee pack). Reproduction 
was confirmed in the Teanaway pack in June 2012, has not been 
documented since 2009 in the Lookout pack, and has not yet been 
documented in the Wenatchee pack. To date, two radio-collared wolves 
from the Imnaha pack in northeast Oregon have dispersed west, across 
the NRM DPS boundary, and are currently in the portion of Oregon where 
they have endangered status. One of these wolves spent over 1 year in 
northern California before returning to Oregon in March of 2013. 
However, no packs or reproduction have been documented in those 
portions of Oregon or California. For more information on the gray 
wolves in the Pacific Northwest, see the Pacific Northwest DPS analysis 
below.
    We also have recent records of a few lone long-distance dispersing 
individual gray wolves within the boundary of the current C. lupus 
listed entity; however, these lone individuals are believed to be 
dispersing away from the more saturated habitat in the primary range of 
the recovered NRM and WGL DPSs or Canada populations into peripheral 
areas where wolves are scarce or absent (Licht and Fritts 1994, p. 77; 
Licht and Huffman 1996, pp. 171-173; 76 FR 26100, May 5, 2011; Jimenez 
in litt. 2012. For example, a gray wolf dispersing south from the NRM 
DPS was trapped near Morgan, Utah in 2002 and another was killed in an 
agency control action in Utah in 2010 (Jimenez in litt. 2012). In 
addition, we have two records for individual wolves near Idaho Springs 
and Rifle, Colorado, in 2004 and 2009, respectively (Jimenez in litt. 
2013). An adult gray wolf killed by a vehicle near Sturgis, South 
Dakota, was a disperser from the Greater Yellowstone area in the Rocky 
Mountains to the west (Fain et. al. 2010 cited in 76 FR 26100). A few 
individual dispersing gray wolves have been reported in other areas of 
the Midwest, including a gray wolf that dispersed from Michigan to 
north-central Missouri (Mech and Boitani 2003, p. 16; Treves et al. 
2009, p. 194) and another that dispersed from Wisconsin to eastern 
Indiana (Thiel et al. 2009, p. 122 and Treves et al. 2009, p. 194). At 
least two wolves have been reported in Illinois, one in 2002 and one in 
2005 (Great Lakes Directory 2003, unpaginated). Two individual wolves 
were also reported (on different occasions) in Nebraska (Anschutz in 
litt. 2003, Anschutz in litt. 2006, Jobman in litt. 1995).
    Although it is possible for these dispersers to encounter and mate 
with another wolf outside the primary range of the recovered 
populations, we have no information demonstrating that any of these 
naturally dispersing animals have formed persistent reproducing packs 
or constitute a population (for a more thorough discussion on Pacific 
Northwest wolves and whether they constitute a population, see the 
Pacific Northwest DPS analysis below). Thus, C. l. baileyi is the only 
population within the area where gray wolves are currently listed, with 
a likelihood that wolves in the Pacific northwest will soon meet this 
standard (again, see the Pacific Northwest DPS analysis below for more 
information on the status of wolves in this area). We are not aware of 
any other confirmed gray wolf populations occurring within the 
described boundary of the current C. lupus listed entity (Figure 1).

[[Page 35676]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP13JN13.001

    Based on the current distribution of gray wolves in the contiguous 
United States and Mexico, we determine that the only gray wolves that 
currently meet our definition of a gray wolf population, outside of the 
recovered and delisted NRM and WGL gray wolf populations, is the 
population of gray wolves (C. l. baileyi) in the southwestern United 
States (see C. l. baileyi analysis below for a detailed discussion of 
the wolves occupying that region) and possibly the gray wolves 
currently occupying the Pacific Northwest (specifically, those wolves 
outside of the NRM DPS's western boundary and south of the Canadian 
border). As we explain in detail below (see Pacific Northwest--Do 
Wolves in This Area Constitute a Population?), although the gray wolves 
in the Pacific Northwest do not yet constitute a population according 
to our 1994 definition, it is possible that additional breeding pairs 
have gone

[[Page 35677]]

undetected or that the documented breeding pairs have successfully bred 
in consecutive years without detection.
    Synthesis--Instead of identifying an appropriate geographic area 
from scratch for the purpose of analyzing a potential new DPS listing, 
as is our standard practice, we have an existing listing. Therefore, we 
must compare the geographic scope of the existing listing with the 
population identified.
    It is evident that the listed entity as it is currently described 
in the CFR (Figure 1) does not correlate with the existing C. lupus 
population, which includes the population inhabiting the southwestern 
United States and the possible existing (or future) population 
inhabiting the Pacific Northwest United States (Figure 2). The current 
C. lupus listing includes large areas of the contiguous United States 
that the best available information indicates are outside of the 
historical range of the species. Additionally, no other areas within 
the boundary of the current C. lupus listed entity, outside of those 
areas being evaluated for C. l. baileyi recovery, have been identified 
as necessary for recovery of any existing listable C. lupus entity. 
Therefore, we conclude that the current listed C. lupus entity does not 
appropriately describe the existing gray wolf population, and is 
therefore not a valid DPS. Furthermore, the current listing does not 
reflect what is necessary or appropriate for wolf recovery under the 
Act for the existing gray wolf population.
    For these reasons we also conclude that it would not be appropriate 
to conduct a DPS analysis on the extant population of gray wolves 
occurring in the southwestern United States combined with the possible 
C. lupus population occurring in the Pacific Northwest United States 
using the broadly defined geography of the currently listed entity as 
its boundary. It is instead more logical to take a fresh comprehensive 
look at the status of gray wolves in the contiguous United States and 
Mexico by employing a standard process of analysis and the best 
available information to carefully consider whether the gray wolves 
that make up the current C. lupus listed entity are part of the C. 
lupus species, or a subspecies, or DPSs of C. lupus that warrant 
protections under the Act.

Conclusion

    As stated previously, the current C. lupus listed entity is neither 
an entire species nor an entire single subspecies. It was listed prior 
to the November 1978 amendments to the Act and the issuance of the 1996 
DPS policy, and is the outcome of a broad, generalized contiguous 
United States and Mexico reclassification and subsequent targeted 
delistings of the recovered NRM and WGL gray wolf populations (see 
Previous Federal Actions section). Further, the 1978 listing 
erroneously included the eastern United States, a region of the 
contiguous United States that the best scientific information indicates 
is outside of the historical range of C. lupus (see Wolf Species of the 
United States section). Therefore, based on the best scientific 
information available we find that the 1978 listing did not represent a 
valid ``species'' under the Act. The C. lupus listed entity as it is 
currently described on the List derives from the 1978 listing and 
shares the same deficiency. In addition, the current listing suffers 
from the additional problem that there is not a reasonable correlation 
between the remaining population and the geographic scope of the 
listing. Therefore, the current C. lupus listed entity is not a 
``species'' as defined by the Act, and we propose to remove it from the 
List in accordance with 16 U.S.C. 1533(c)(1).
    Nonetheless, we must also consider whether this entity should be 
replaced with a valid listing for the C. lupus species, or a 
subspecies, or a DPS of C. lupus that is threatened or endangered in 
the contiguous United States and Mexico. If any gray wolf population 
occupying any portion of the current C. lupus listed entity is deemed 
part of a valid listable entity that is threatened or endangered under 
the Act, the population must be separately listed concurrent with any 
final decision to remove the current C. lupus listed entity from the 
List. Therefore, currently listed gray wolves that warrant listing 
under the Act will never experience a lapse in the Act's protections 
due to this action. The remainder of this rule considers this question.

Status of Gray Wolf Listable Entities in the Contiguous United States 
and Mexico

    Given our intention to remove the current C. lupus entity from the 
List, we now consider whether and to what extent any subspecies or 
populations of C. lupus should be listed in the contiguous United 
States and Mexico. More specifically, we address whether any gray 
wolves covered by the current C. lupus listed entity (Figure 1) belong 
to a valid listable entity that warrants the protections of the Act. 
Because we are focused on the status of gray wolves in the contiguous 
United States and Mexico, we concentrate our analyses on the C. lupus 
species and subspecies or DPSs of C. lupus with ranges that are within 
the contiguous United States and Mexico. Thus, this phase of the 
analysis begins with a consideration of the status of C. lupus 
rangewide followed by analyses of potential threats facing each of 
three North American gray wolf subspecies--C. l. nubilus, C. l. 
occidentalis, and C. l. baileyi--as well as consideration of a 
potential DPS of C. lupus. If we determine that the species (C. lupus), 
or a subspecies (C. l. nubilus, C. l. occidentalis, C. l. baileyi), or 
a DPS of C. lupus is threatened or does not warrant the protections of 
the Act, then we will consider whether there are any significant 
portions of their ranges where they are in danger of extinction or 
likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    As stated previously (see Statutory Background section above), 
Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533) and its implementing regulations 
(50 CFR part 424) set forth the procedures for adding species to, 
reclassifying species on, or removing species from the Federal List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife (List). We may determine a species 
to be an endangered or threatened species due to one or more of the 
five factors described in section 4(a)(1) of the Act. The five listing 
factors are: (A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, 
or curtailment of its habitat or range; (B) overutilization for 
commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (C) 
disease or predation; (D) the inadequacy of existing regulatory 
mechanisms; and (E) other natural or manmade factors affecting its 
continued existence. We must consider these same five factors in 
reclassifications of species (changing the status from threatened to 
endangered or vice versa), and removing a species from the List because 
it is not endangered or threatened (50 CFR 424.11(c), (d)).
    Under section 3 of the Act, a species is ``endangered'' if it is in 
danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its 
range (16 U.S.C. 1532(6)), and is ``threatened'' if it is likely to 
become endangered in the foreseeable future throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range (16 U.S.C. 1532 (20)). The word 
``range'' refers to the range in which the species currently exists, 
and the word ``significant'' refers to the value of that portion of the 
range being considered to the conservation of the species. The 
``foreseeable future'' is the period of time over which events or 
effects reasonably can or should be anticipated, or trends 
extrapolated.
    In considering what factors might constitute threats, we must look 
beyond

[[Page 35678]]

the exposure of the species to a particular factor to evaluate whether 
the species may respond to the factor in a way that causes actual 
impacts to the species. If there is exposure to a factor and the 
species responds negatively, the factor may be a threat, and during the 
status review, we attempt to determine how significant a threat it is. 
The threat is significant if it drives or contributes to the risk of 
extinction of the species, such that the species warrants listing as 
endangered or threatened as those terms are defined by the Act. 
However, the identification of factors that could affect a species 
negatively may not be sufficient to compel a finding that the species 
warrants listing. The information must include evidence sufficient to 
suggest that the potential threat is likely to materialize and that it 
has the capacity (i.e., it should be of sufficient magnitude and 
extent) to affect the species' status such that it meets the definition 
of endangered or threatened under the Act.
    We considered and evaluated the best available scientific and 
commercial information for these analyses. Information pertaining to C. 
lupus, C. l. nubilus, C. l. occidentalis, and C. l. baileyi in relation 
to the five factors provided in section 4(a)(1) of the Act is discussed 
below.

Does the rangewide population of C. lupus warrant the protections of 
the Act?

    Our first evaluation considers whether the gray wolves that are 
included in the current C. lupus listing (Figure 1) warrant the 
protections of the Act as part of a species-level rangewide listing of 
C. lupus. We begin this evaluation by summarizing the historical and 
current global distribution of gray wolves, followed by a discussion of 
the species' current status and threats.

C. lupus--Historical Global Distribution

    Canis lupus historically occurred across much of North America, 
Europe, and Asia (Mech 1970, pp. 32-33). Recent genetic work now 
suggests gray wolves also occurred (and still occur) in portions of 
North Africa (Rueness et al. 2011, pp. 1-5; Gaubert et al. 2012, pp. 3-
7). In North America, C. lupus formerly occurred from the northern 
reaches of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland to the central mountains and 
the high interior plateau of southern Mexico (Mech 1970, p. 31; Nowak 
2003, p. 243).

C. lupus--Current Global Distribution

    The historical worldwide range for C. lupus has been reduced by 
approximately one-third (Mech and Boitani 2010, p. 5). A majority of 
this range contraction has occurred in developed areas of Europe, Asia, 
Mexico, and the United States by poisoning and deliberate targeted 
elimination (Boitani 2003 pp. 318-321; Mech and Boitani 2010, p. 5). 
Canis lupus currently occupies portions of North America, Europe, 
North, Central and South Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa (Mech 
and Boitani 2004, pp. 125-128; Linnell et al. 2008, p. 48; 77 FR 55539; 
76 FR 81676; Rueness et al. 2011, pp. 1-5; Gaubert et al. 2012, pp. 3-
7). Summaries of rangewide population data, by range country, are 
available in Boitani 2003 (pp. 322-323) and Mech and Boitani 2004 (pp. 
125-128). In addition, a detailed overview of C. lupus populations in 
Europe (including the European part of Russia) can be found in Linnell 
et al. 2008 (pp. 48, and 63-67). Available population data for North 
America are presented in detail in our recent rulemakings (77 FR 55539, 
September 10, 2012 and 76 FR 81676, December 28, 2011) and in the 
status reviews below. Based upon recent available population data for 
the species, C. lupus number more than 160,000 individuals globally 
(Mech and Boitani 2004, pp. 125-128; Linnell et al. 2008, p. 48; 77 FR 
55539; 76 FR 81676) and, according to one estimate, may number as high 
as 200,000 (Boitani 2003, pp. 322-323).

Current Status of C. lupus

    The most recent global assessment by the International Union for 
Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission Wolf 
Specialist Group classifies the species C. lupus as Least Concern 
globally (Mech and Boitani 2010, entire), although at the regional 
level some populations are seriously threatened. Plants and animals 
that have been evaluated to have a low risk of extinction are 
classified as Least Concern. Widespread and abundant taxa are included 
in this category. The worldwide population trend for the species is 
currently identified as stable (Mech and Boitani 2010, p. 4). Gray 
wolves are found in 46 countries around the world, and the species 
maintains legal protections in 21 countries (Boitani 2003, pp. 322-
323). The arrest of wolf population declines and subsequent natural 
recolonization occurring since 1970 is attributed to legal protection, 
land-use changes, and human population shifts from rural areas to 
cities (Mech and Boitani 2010, p. 5). Mech and Boitani generally 
identify the following as ongoing threats to the species: (1) 
Competition with humans for livestock, especially in developed 
countries; (2) exaggerated concern by the public concerning the threat 
and danger of wolves; and (3) fragmentation of habitat, with resulting 
areas becoming too small for populations with long-term viability (Mech 
and Boitani 2010, p. 5).
    The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild 
Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement between 
governments aimed to ensure that international trade in specimens of 
wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. CITES works 
by subjecting international trade in specimens of selected species to 
certain controls. The species covered by CITES are listed in three 
Appendices according to the protection they need. Appendix II includes 
species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade 
must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with 
their survival. Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction. 
Trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional 
circumstances. Canis lupus is listed as Appendix II (except the 
populations of Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Pakistan; which are included 
in Appendix I). These listings exclude the domesticated form and the 
dingo which are referenced as Canis lupus familiaris and Canis lupus 
dingo (www.cites.org, accessed on July 13, 2012).

Conclusion

    Although C. lupus has undergone significant range contraction in 
portions of its historical range, the species continues to be 
widespread and, as a whole, is stable. The species is currently 
protected in many countries; however, in some portions of the range, C. 
lupus populations are so abundant that they are managed as furbearers 
with open hunting and trapping seasons. In addition, C. lupus is 
currently categorized as Least Concern by the IUCN. We have found no 
substantial evidence to suggest that gray wolves are at risk of 
extinction throughout their global range now or are likely to become so 
in the foreseeable future. Further, we can point to the recovered, and 
delisted, populations in the northern Rocky Mountains and the western 
Great Lakes and our analyses for the North American subspecies C. l. 
nubilus and C. l. occidentalis below as evidence that the species is 
not at risk of extinction throughout all of its range; therefore, we 
will not consider this question further for the purposes of this 
proposed rule. See the Significant Portion of the Range Analysis 
section below for our evaluation as to whether C. lupus may

[[Page 35679]]

or may not be in danger of extinction in a significant portion of its 
range.

Does the North American subspecies C. l. nubilus warrant the 
protections of the Act?

C. l. nubilus--Historical Distribution
    The historical range of C. l. nubilus was described by Nowak (1995, 
p. 396) generally as coastal southeastern Alaska, western Canada, the 
contiguous United States from the Pacific to the Great Lakes region, 
and eastern Canada except the extreme southeast, and occasionally west 
central Greenland.
C. l. nubilus--Current Distribution
    For purposes of this review we will discuss the current 
distribution of C. l. nubilus by state, province, or region in which it 
is found. Management of the gray wolf species is carried out by 
individual states and provinces, complicating the discussion of status 
by biological population. No state or province in the range of C. l. 
nubilus monitors wolf populations to the extent that precise estimates 
of population size can be made. For this reason, population estimates 
should be regarded as estimates based on professional judgment of the 
agencies involved.
    United States--Canis lupus nubilus does not occupy its historical 
range in the United States with the exception of the western Great 
Lakes region (delisted due to recovery, 76 FR 81666, December 28, 
2011), southeastern Alaska, and a small number of wolves in the Pacific 
Northwest that appear to be an admixture with C. l. occidentalis 
(Figure 2). The first account of breeding by wolves (the Lookout pack) 
in Washington State since the 1930s was documented in the North 
Cascades in 2008. In the spring of 2011, a new pack (the Teanaway pack) 
was documented, and genetic testing of a member of the pack confirmed 
that it was a gray wolf closely related to (consistent with being an 
offspring of) the Lookout pack breeding pair (Robinson et al. 2011, in 
litt., pp. 1-2). In the spring of 2013, a group of two wolves, the 
Wenatchee pack, was documented in the listed area. It is unknown 
whether these wolves will remain resident in the area. Dispersing 
wolves have been documented in Oregon, and one in California, but there 
currently are no packs of known C. l. nubilus origin in either state.
    Despite the fact that the area is recognized as historical C. l. 
nubilus range, microsatellite genotyping indicated that the two packs 
currently occupying Washington west of the NRM DPS are descended from 
wolves occurring in (1) coastal British Columbia (C. l. nubilus) and 
(2) northeastern British Columbia (C. l. occidentalis), northwestern 
Alberta (C. l. occidentalis), or the reintroduced populations in 
central Idaho and the greater Yellowstone area (C. l. occidentalis) 
(Pollinger 2008, in litt.; Nowak 1995, p. 397). Intergrade zones, or 
zones of reproductive interaction, between neighboring wolf populations 
have long been a recognized characteristic of historical gray wolf 
distribution (Mech 1970, p. 223; Brewster and Fritts 1995, p. 372). 
While historical subspecies delineations based on morphology suggest 
that a biological boundary limiting dispersal or reproductive 
intermixing likely existed between eastern and western Oregon and 
Washington prior to the extirpation of wolves from the region (Bailey 
1936, pp. 272-275; Young and Goldman 1944, p. 414; Hall and Kelson 
1959, p. 849, Figure 6), the boundary was likely not impermeable by 
dispersers. Additionally, Chambers et al. (2012, p. 43) argues that 
historical or modern boundaries should not be viewed as static or 
frozen in any particular time but instead, as the result of dynamic 
processes, boundaries can shift over time.
    We expect dispersal from both sources (western British Columbia and 
the NRM DPS) to continue, but the recolonization of this area is in its 
infancy, and the ultimate recolonization pattern of wolves in 
historical C. l. nubilus range is unpredictable.
    British Columbia--Wolves currently range throughout most of British 
Columbia, with C. l. nubilus occupying the western and coastal regions 
and C. l. occidentalis occupying the inland portion of the province. C. 
l. nubilus has reoccupied most of its historical range, including 
Vancouver Island and other islands along the mainland coast. Surveys in 
1997 estimated 8,000 wolves in British Columbia, and populations are 
believed to be increasing (COSEWIC 2001, p. 22; Hatler et al. 2003, p. 
5). More recent information suggests that wolf populations are 
increasing in some areas as a result of natural range expansion 
following control efforts in the 1950s and 1960s, and stable in other 
areas. Overall, the province-wide wolf population is thought to have 
increased since the 1990s, but not substantially (British Columbia 
Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations 2012). 
Agencies generally do not distinguish among subspecies when reporting 
harvest or estimating population sizes; however, COSEWIC (2001 p. 38) 
estimated wolf numbers by ecological areas. They concluded that 
approximately 2,200 wolves occupy the Pacific Ecological Area, which 
coincides with the historical range of C. l. nubilus.
    Northwest Territories and Nunavut--An estimated 10,000 gray wolves 
inhabited the Northwest Territories and Nunavut in 2001 (COSEWIC 2001, 
p. 22). The COSEWIC report does not differentiate among subspecies; 
however, many of these wolves were likely to be C. l. nubilus due to 
their geographic location, including those wolves found in most of 
mainland Nunavut and a portion of mainland Northwest Territories.
    Manitoba--Canis lupus nubilus occupies boreal forests and tundra in 
northern Manitoba. The total wolf population numbers approximately 
4,000 to 6,000 and appears to be stable (COSEWIC 2001, p. 21; Hayes and 
Gunson 1995, p. 22). Although a population estimate for each subspecies 
does not exist, most of the high quality wolf habitat occurs in 
northern Manitoba, where human densities and rates of agriculture are 
lower; therefore, we expect at least half of the 4,000-6,000 wolves 
occupy the north, where they fall into C. l. nubilus range.
    Ontario--Ontario is home to both C. l. nubilus and C. lycaon. 
Wolves currently occupy approximately 85 percent of their historical 
range in this province, and although current ranges of the two taxa are 
not entirely clear, C. l. nubilus likely dominates the boreal and 
tundra regions of the province in the north, while C. lycaon probably 
originally occupied most of southern Ontario (Ontario Ministry of 
Natural Resources 2005, p. 4). Population estimates suggest that around 
5,000 wolves (C. l. nubilus) occupy the northern regions and that a 
total of 8,850 wolves (C. l. nubilus and C. lycaon) exist province-wide 
(Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources 2005, pp. 7-9).
    Quebec--Wolves (C. l. nubilus and C. lycaon) currently occupy the 
entire province of Quebec except the regions south of the St. Lawrence 
River (Jolicoeur and H[eacute]nault 2010, p. 1). Like Ontario, the 
purported boundaries between the two subspecies have always been 
approximate and vary among studies. Canis lupus nubilus generally 
occupies areas north of Quebec City, within the distribution of moose 
and caribou. The total population is estimated at 7,000 individuals 
(Jolicoeur and Henault 2010, p. 1), with an increasing trend the past 
10 years, following deer population trends and despite heavy 
exploitation (Jolicoeur and Henault 2010, p.3). Subspecies population 
estimates are not available; however, the area occupied by C. lycaon

[[Page 35680]]

is small compared to that occupied by C. l. nubilus, and it is likely 
that the majority of the 7,000 wolves in Quebec are C. l. nubilus.
    Newfoundland/Labrador--Canis lupus nubilus is extirpated from 
Newfoundland. Approximately 1,500 wolves occupy Labrador (COSEWIC 2001, 
p. 18).
    The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada 
(COSEWIC) published an assessment and status report on C. lupus in 2001 
(COSEWIC 2001, entire). The assessment evaluates the status and 
protection level of wolves across jurisdictions. Assessments are 
complete for C. l. nubilus, C. l. occidentalis, and C. lycaon. The 
subspecific ranges described are not entirely consistent with those 
used in this proposed rule (C. l. occidentalis range described by 
COSEWIC included Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland-Labrador, 
which the Service now considers part of C. l. nubilus range, following 
Nowak (2002, pp. 395-596)). This discrepancy is inconsequential, 
however, as COSEWIC found that both C. l. nubilus and C. l. 
occidentalis are ``Not at Risk'' based on widespread, large, stable 
populations, with no evidence of decline over the last 10 years despite 
liberal harvest (COSEWIC 2001, p. ii). Furthermore, Environment Canada 
found that export of legally obtained harvested wolves is 
nondetrimental to the survival of C. lupus in Canada (Environment 
Canada 2008). Supporting information included biological 
characteristics, current status, harvest management, control of 
harvest, harvest trend, harvest monitoring, benefits of harvest, and 
protection of harvest. The finding describes stable to increasing 
populations, a lack of threats, and high confidence in the current 
Canadian harvest management system. Most jurisdictions operate under an 
adaptive management strategy, which imposes strict control of harvest 
and is reactive to changing conditions, with the aim of ensuring 
sustainable harvest and maintaining biodiversity.

Summary of Information Pertaining to the Five Factors

    The portion of the range of C. l. nubilus encompassed by the 
Western Great Lakes DPS was recently delisted due to recovery (76 FR 
8166). Therefore, this analysis focuses on assessing threats to wolves 
in the remaining portion of the subspecies' range. Gray wolves that 
occur in the historical range of C. l. nubilus in the contiguous United 
States, outside of the WGL DPS, are currently listed as endangered 
under the Act. Thus, in this analysis we evaluate threats currently 
facing the subspecies and threats that are reasonably likely to affect 
the subspecies if the protections of the Act were not in place. Within 
the likely historical range of C. l. nubilus in the central United 
States, the Southern Rocky Mountains and Colorado Plateau, and the 
Pacific Northwest of the United States, wolves were extirpated soon 
after colonization and establishment of European-style agriculture and 
livestock growing. This range contraction appears to be permanent (with 
the exception of the Pacific Northwest, which is actively being 
recolonized) and does not appear to be contracting further at this 
time. The analysis of the Five Factors below does not consider the 
potential for affects to C. l. nubilus in areas where the subspecies 
has been extirpated, rather effects are considered in the context of 
the present population. We do not consider historical range 
contraction, by itself, to represent a threat to a species, but loss of 
range is reflected in the current status of a species. In all cases, 
threat factors are evaluated in the context of the current species 
status, therefore in some cases, historical range contraction can 
affect the outcome of the Five Factor analysis.
Factor A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or 
Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range
    Wolves are habitat generalists (Mech and Boitani 2003, p. 163) and 
once occupied or transited most of the United States and Canada. 
However, much of the historical range of C. l. nubilus (Chambers et al. 
2012, pp. 34-42) within this area has been modified for human use. 
While lone wolves can travel through, or temporarily live, almost 
anywhere (Jimenez et al. In review, p. 1), much of the historical range 
is no longer suitable habitat to support wolf packs (Oakleaf et al. 
2006, p. 559; Carroll et al. 2006, p. 32, Mladenoff et al. 1995, p. 
287), regardless of subspecies. The areas that wolves currently occupy 
correspond to ``suitable'' wolf habitat as modeled by Oakleaf et al. 
(2006, entire), Carroll et al. (2006, entire), Mladenoff (1995, 
entire), and Mladenoff et al. (1999, entire). Although these models 
analyzed only habitat in the contiguous United States, the principles 
of suitable wolf habitat in Canada are similar; that is, wolves persist 
where ungulate populations are adequate to support them and conflict 
with humans and their livestock is low. The areas considered 
``unsuitable'' in these models are not occupied by wolves due to human 
and livestock presence and the associated lack of tolerance of wolves 
due primarily to livestock depredation.
    Our 2009 NRM DPS delisting rule includes more information on wolf 
suitable-habitat models (74 FR 15123, pp. 15157-15159). In that 
document we concluded that the most important habitat attributes for 
wolf-pack persistence are forest cover, public land, high ungulate 
(elk) density, and low livestock density. Unsuitable habitat is 
characterized by low forest cover, high human density and use, and 
year-round livestock presence (Oakleaf et al. 2006, Fig. 2). We 
conclude that similar areas in adjacent Canada are also unsuitable for 
wolf colonization and occupation for the same reasons.
    Canis lupus nubilus maintains robust populations across much of its 
historical range, with the exception of prairie areas and large 
intermountain valleys in southern portions of Canada where conflicts 
with humans preclude wolf presence, large portions of the central 
United States that have been irreversibly modified for human use, and 
throughout the Southern Rocky Mountains and Colorado Plateau, northern 
California, western Oregon, and western Washington. It is not uncommon 
for recolonization to occur by subspecies other than those historically 
present because of changes in distribution.
    Sufficient suitable habitat exists in the area occupied by C. l. 
nubilus to continue to support wolves into the future (Mladenoff et al. 
1995, pp. 286-289; Mladenoff et al. 1999, pp. 41-43; Carroll et al. 
2006). Wolf populations should remain strong in these areas with 
management activities that focus on wolf population reduction areas as 
needed to maintain populations of wild ungulates and reduce conflicts 
with livestock. Traditional land-use practices throughout the vast 
majority of the subspecies' current range do not appear to be affecting 
viability of wolves, and do not need to be modified to maintain the 
subspecies. We do not anticipate overall habitat changes in the 
subspecies' range to occur at a magnitude that would impact the 
subspecies rangewide, because wolf populations are distributed across 
the current range, are strong, and are able to withstand high levels of 
mortality due to their high reproductive rate and vagility (Fuller et 
al. 2003, p. 163; Boitani 2003, pp. 328-330). Much of the subspecies' 
range occurs on public land where wolf conservation is a priority and 
conservation plans have been adopted to ensure continued wolf 
persistence (73 FR 10514, p. 10538). Areas in Canada within the 
subspecies' range include large areas with little human and livestock 
presence and,

[[Page 35681]]

therefore, little to no effect on wolf persistence.
    Other Components of Wolf Habitat--Another important factor in 
maintaining wolf populations is the native ungulate population. Primary 
wild ungulate prey within the range of C. l. nubilus include elk, 
white-tailed deer, mule deer, moose, bison, and caribou. Bighorn sheep, 
dall sheep, mountain goats, and pronghorn also are common but not 
important as wolf prey. Each state or province within the range of C. 
l. nubilus manages its wild ungulate populations to maintain 
sustainable populations for harvest by hunters. Each state or province 
monitors big game populations to adjust hunter harvest in response to 
changes in big game population numbers and trends. Predation is a 
factor that affects those numbers and trends, and is considered when 
setting harvest quotas. We know of no future condition that would cause 
a decline in ungulate populations significant enough to affect C. l. 
nubilus throughout its range.
    Human population growth and land development will continue in the 
range of C. l. nubilus, including increased development and conversion 
of private low-density rural land to higher density urban developments, 
road development and transportation facilities (pipelines and energy 
transmission lines), resource extraction (primarily oil and gas, coal, 
and wind development in certain areas), and more recreationists on 
public lands. Despite efforts to minimize impacts to wildlife (Brown 
2006, pp. 1-3), some of this development will make some areas of the 
subspecies' range less suitable for wolf occupancy. However, it is 
unlikely that these potential developments and increased human presence 
will affect the subspecies in the future for the following reasons: (1) 
Wolves are habitat generalists and one of the most adaptable large 
predators in the world, and became extirpated in the southern portion 
of the subspecies' range only because of sustained deliberate human 
targeted elimination (Fuller et al. 2003, p. 163; Boitani 2003, pp. 
328-330); (2) land-use restrictions on land development are not 
necessary to ensure the continued conservation of the subspecies--even 
active wolf dens can be quite resilient to nonlethal disturbance by 
humans (Frame and Meier 2007, p. 316); and (3) vast areas of suitable 
wolf habitat and the current wolf population are secure in the 
subspecies' range (national parks, wilderness, roadless areas, lands 
managed for multiple uses, and areas protected by virtue of remoteness 
from human populations) and are not available for or suitable to 
intensive levels of land development.
    Development on private land near suitable habitat will continue to 
expose wolves to more conflicts and higher risk of human-caused 
mortality. However it is likely that the rate of conflict is well 
within the wolf population's biological mortality threshold (generally 
between 17 to 48 percent ([Fuller et al. 2003 +/-8 percent], pp. 184-
185; Adams et al. 2008 [29 percent], p. 22; Creel and Rotella 2010 [22 
percent], p. 5; Sparkman et al. 2011 [25 percent], p. 5; Gude et al. 
2011 [48 percent], pp. 113-116; Vucetich and Carroll In Review [17 
percent]), especially given the large amount of secure habitat that 
will support a viable wolf population and will provide a reliable and 
constant source of dispersing wolves (Mech 1989, pp. 387-388). Wolf 
populations persist in many areas of the world that are far more 
developed than the range of C. l. nubilus currently is or is likely to 
be in the future (Boitani 2003, pp. 322-323). Habitat connectivity in 
the range of C. l. nubilus may be reduced below current levels, but 
wolves have exceptional abilities to disperse through unsuitable 
habitat (Jimenez et al. In review, p. 1), and such impacts would still 
not affect the subspecies rangewide.
    Given the large number of wolves across the subspecies' range and 
the species' natural vagility, natural habitat connectivity is ensured 
over most of the range. We have not identified any occupied areas in 
Canada or the United States where lack of connectivity is affecting C. 
l. nubilus now or is likely to do so in the future.
    The large amount of public lands and lands that are naturally 
inaccessible due to topography and/or remoteness from human settlement 
that cannot or will not be developed within the range of the subspecies 
assures that adequate suitable habitat for wolves will exist into the 
future. Even though some habitat degradation will occur in smaller 
areas of suitable habitat, the quantity and quality of habitat that 
will remain will be sufficient to maintain natural connectivity into 
the future (e.g., Carroll et al. 2006 p. 32).
    Human populations in the southern portion of the subspecies' range 
are expected to increase (Carroll et al. 2006, p. 30). Increasing human 
populations do not necessarily lead to declining predator populations. 
Mortality can be limited with adequate management programs (Linnell et 
al. 2001, p. 348), research and monitoring, and outreach and education 
about living with wildlife. In Canada and the United States, government 
lands such as national parks and Crown Land provide habitat for prey 
species as well as wolves.
    Management plans of appropriate land-management agencies and 
governments manage public lands to limit resource impacts from human 
use of those lands, and these plans are more than adequate to support a 
viable wolf population across the range of C. l. nubilus. In Canada, 
large expanses of remote and inaccessible habitat accomplish the same 
thing. Habitat suitability for wolves will change over time with human 
population growth, land development, activities, and attitudes, but not 
to the extent that it is likely to affect the subspecies rangewide.
Summary of Factor A
    We do not foresee that impacts to suitable and potentially suitable 
habitat will occur at levels that will significantly affect wolf 
numbers or distribution or affect population growth and long-term 
viability of C. l. nubilus. See the recent WGL DPS delisting rule (76 
FR 81688, pp. 81688-81693) for a full discussion of this factor for C. 
l. nubilus. In Canada, even higher levels of certainty of habitat 
availability and security are provided by large areas of relatively 
inaccessible land, in addition to lands with protections provided by 
government regulations. These large areas of wolf habitat are likely to 
remain suitable into the future.
Factor B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Educational Purposes
    Wolves in the western Great Lakes were delisted (76 FR 81693) based 
in part on the existence of well-managed programs for legal take for 
commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes for that 
population. In Canada, where the vast majority of C. l. nubilus exist, 
overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes has not had a significant effect on the 
subspecies. Mortality rates caused by commercial, recreational, 
scientific, or educational purposes are not anticipated to exceed 
sustainable levels in the future. These activities have not affected 
the viability of the wolves in the past, and we have no reason to 
believe that they would do so in the future. In Canada, wolf 
populations are managed through public hunting and trapping seasons.
    Scientific Research and Monitoring--Each of the states and 
provinces in the range of C. l. nubilus conduct scientific research and 
monitoring of wolf populations. Activities range from surveys of hunter 
observations of wolf locations and numbers to aerial

[[Page 35682]]

counting surveys to darting wolves from airplanes and fixing them with 
radio collars for intensive monitoring. Even the most intensive and 
disruptive of these activities (anesthetizing for the purpose of radio-
collaring) involves a very low rate of mortality for wolves (73 FR 
10542, February 27, 2008). We expect that capture-related mortality by 
governments, Tribes, and universities conducting wolf monitoring, 
nonlethal control, and research will remain below three percent of the 
wolves captured, and will be an insignificant source of mortality to C. 
l. nubilus.
    Education--We are unaware of any wolves that have been removed from 
the wild solely for educational purposes in recent years. Wolves that 
are used for such purposes are typically privately held captive-reared 
offspring of wolves that were already in captivity for other reasons. 
However, states may get requests to place wolves that would otherwise 
be euthanized in captivity for research or educational purposes. Such 
requests have been, and will continue to be, rare; would be closely 
regulated by the state and provincial wildlife-management agencies 
through the requirement for state permits for protected species; and 
would not substantially increase human-caused wolf mortality rates.
    Commercial and Recreational Uses--Wolves in Oregon and Washington 
are protected by state Endangered Species Acts (Washington 
Administrative Code (WAC) 232-12-014 and 232-12-011; Oregon Code of 
Regulations (ORS) 496.171 to 496.192 and 498.026). Wolves in California 
are currently undergoing a status review to determine whether listing 
is warranted under the state Endangered Species Act (California 
Department of Fish and Wildlife Code, Sections 2050-2085). While in 
candidacy status, wolves in California will be treated as a state-
listed species. Wolf management plans in Oregon (ODFW 2010, entire) and 
Washington (Wiles et al. 2011, entire) establish recovery goals for 
each state and help protect wolves from overutilization for commercial, 
recreational, scientific, and educational purposes. Since their listing 
under the Act, no wolves have been legally killed or removed from the 
wild in the northwest United States (outside of the NRM DPS) for either 
commercial or recreational purposes. Some wolves may have been 
illegally killed for commercial use of the pelts and other parts, but 
illegal commercial trafficking in wolf pelts or parts and illegal 
capture of wolves for commercial breeding purposes happens rarely. We 
believe these state Endangered Species Acts will continue to provide a 
strong deterrent to illegal killing of wolves by the public in the 
absence of Federal protections.
    Hunting and trapping occurs across the range of C. l. nubilus in 
Canada, and are managed through provincial and territorial wildlife 
acts whose regulations provide a framework for sustainable harvest 
management and monitoring (Environment Canada 2008). Harvest strategies 
are reviewed annually and involve regulatory controls as well as 
management plans. Seasons do not distinguish between subspecies of C. 
lupus and vary across jurisdictions and management unit from ``no 
closed season'' to ``no open season'' with an average open season of 9 
to 10 months. In some provinces, harvest is also monitored by mandatory 
carcass checks, reporting, or questionnaires. Where local wolf 
populations are declining or of concern, seasons and harvest strategies 
may be more restrictive and bag limits or quotas may be applied 
(COSEWIC 2001, pp. 18-24), and where concern is low, liberal 
regulations typically prevail. Hunting of gray wolves is not allowed in 
Washington, Oregon, or California; however, lethal removal of 
depredating wolves has been allowed in eastern Washington and eastern 
Oregon (i.e., in the NRM DPS) where wolves are no longer federally 
protected.
    Wolves in British Columbia are currently designated as both a game 
animal and a furbearer. Seasons run from 4.5 months to 8 months long, 
and bag limits range between two wolves and unlimited wolves depending 
on location. Average annual numbers of wolves killed by hunting, 
trapping, and control for livestock, along with estimated percent of 
the population taken annually from 1986 to 1991 were 945 wolves, 
totaling 11 percent of the population in British Columbia (Hayes and 
Gunson 1995, p. 23). Estimated wolf harvest has increased to nearly 
1,400 wolves in 2009 and 2010 as a result of higher wolf populations 
(British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource 
Operations 2012, pp. 17-18).
    The Northwest Territories and Nunavut manage wolves as a big game 
and furbearing species through hunting and trapping seasons (Nunavut 
2012, pp. 1-9). Harvest numbers are known only for wolf pelts sold on 
the open market as pelts used domestically are not counted by the 
Provincial governments (COSEWIC 2001, p. 23). In the past 10 years, fur 
auction sales have ranged from 711 to 1,469 pelts annually from these 2 
territories (COSEWIC 2001, p. 25). Although the amount to which 
domestic use adds to the total harvest is unknown, it is believed to be 
relatively insignificant (COSEWIC 2001, p. 25). The average annual 
number of wolves killed in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut by 
hunting, trapping, and control for livestock protection from 1986 to 
1991 was 793 wolves, totaling 7 to 8 percent of the population (Hayes 
and Gunson 1995, p. 23).
    Wolves are classified as big game and furbearer in Manitoba 
(Manitoba 2012a, entire). Hunters and trappers can take anywhere from 
one to unlimited wolves during a 5.5- to 12-month season (Manitoba 
2012a, entire; Manitoba 2012b, entire). Most recent available data 
estimate the average annual number of wolves killed in Manitoba by 
hunting, trapping, and control for livestock protection, from 1986 to 
1991 at 295 wolves, totaling 7 to 10 percent of the population (Hayes 
and Gunson 1995, p. 23). We have no information that there has been a 
significant change in harvest since this report.
    Wolves are classified as small game and furbearers in Ontario. 
Hunting and trapping seasons last from September 15 through March 15, 
with a bag limit of two wolves for hunters and no bag limit for 
trappers (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources 2005, pp. 21-22). 
Annual wolf harvest by hunters is likely in the range of 110 to 260 
wolves per season and trapper harvest in Ontario averaged 337 wolves 
(range: 285 to 1,248) annually from the 1971-1972 season to the 2002/
2003 season (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources 2005, pp. 21-22). 
The combined harvest equates to approximately 6 percent (range: 4 to 17 
percent) of the provincewide population of C. lupus in Ontario. Numbers 
of wolves killed for livestock protection is unknown, but Ontario 
Ministry of Natural Resources (2005, p. 23) estimates that the numbers 
are likely small.
    In Quebec, wolves are classified as big game and furbearer, and 
seasons range from 4.5 months for trapping to 6 months for hunting 
(Jolicoeur and Henault 2010). Harvest rates, based on annual fur sales 
and population estimates, average 5.9 percent (range: 2.8 to 29.5 
percent) for the entire province. Most recent available data estimate 
the average annual number of wolves killed in Quebec by hunting, 
trapping, and control for livestock protection from 1986 to 1991 at 945 
wolves, totaling 11 percent of the population (Hayes and Gunson 1995, 
p. 23). We have no information that there has been a significant change 
in harvest since this report.
    In Labrador, wolves are classified as furbearers and can be hunted 
or trapped during the 6-month season.

[[Page 35683]]

Approximately 100 to 350 wolves are killed by hunters annually.
    Wolf populations can maintain themselves despite sustained human-
caused mortality rates of 17 to 48 percent ([Fuller et al. 2003 +/- 8 
percent], pp. 184-185; Adams et al. 2008 [29 percent], p. 22; Creel and 
Rotella 2010 [22 percent], p. 5; Sparkman et al. 2011 [25 percent], p. 
5; Gude et al. 2011 [48 percent], pp. 113-116; Vucetich and Carroll In 
Review [17 percent]). Recent studies suggest the sustainable mortality 
rate may be lower, and that harvest may have a partially additive or 
even super additive (i.e., harvest increases total mortality beyond the 
effect of direct killing itself, through social disruption or the loss 
of dependent offspring) (Creel and Rotella 2010, p. 6), but substantial 
debate on this issue remains (Gude et al. 2012, pp. 113-116). When 
populations are maintained below carrying capacity and natural 
mortality rates and self-regulation of the population remain low, 
human-caused mortality can replace up to 70 percent of natural 
mortality (Fuller et al. 2003, p. 186). Wolf pups can also be 
successfully raised by other pack members, and breeding individuals can 
be quickly replaced by other wolves (Brainerd et al. 2008, p. 1). 
Collectively, these factors mean that wolf populations are quite 
resilient to human-caused mortality if it is adequately regulated. This 
trend is evident in this subspecies in that, despite liberal harvest 
imposed across the range of C. l. nubilus in Canada, populations are 
still high and trends stable to increasing.
    In Canada, some wolves may have been illegally killed for 
commercial use of pelts and other parts, but because licenses are not 
required to hunt wolves in several provinces, illegal commercial 
trafficking in wolf pelts or parts and illegal capture of wolves for 
commercial breeding purposes happens rarely. We do not expect the use 
of wolves for scientific purposes to change in proportion to total wolf 
numbers. Although exact figures are not available throughout the range, 
such permanent removals of wolves from the wild have been very limited, 
and we have no substantial information suggesting that this is likely 
to change in the future.
    In summary, states and provinces have humane and professional 
animal-handling protocols and trained personnel that will ensure 
population monitoring and research result in little unintentional 
mortality. Furthermore, the states' and provinces' permitting process 
for captive wildlife and animal care will ensure that few, if any, 
wolves will be removed from the wild solely for educational purposes. 
We conclude that any potential wolf take resulting from commercial, 
scientific, or educational purposes in the range of the subspecies does 
not appear to be affecting the viability of C. l. nubilus. Furthermore, 
states and provinces have regulatory mechanisms in place to ensure that 
populations remain viable (see discussion under factor D).
Factor C. Disease or Predation
    This section discusses disease and parasites, natural predation, 
and all sources of human-caused mortality not covered under factor B 
above (the factor B analysis includes sources of human-caused mortality 
for commercial and recreational uses). The array of diseases, 
parasites, and predators affecting C. l. nubilus is similar to that 
affecting other wolf subspecies. The following analysis focuses on 
wolves in the WGL because it is the most intensively studied population 
of C. l. nubilus and is a good surrogate for assessing the rest of the 
subspecies' range. Although we lack direct information on disease rates 
and mortality rates from disease for the subspecies rangewide, it is 
likely that the impact of disease and predation is similar for other 
parts of the range; that is, disease and predation have a variety of 
sources, rates of disease are largely density-dependent, and disease 
and predation are not significantly affecting the subspecies.
    A wide range of diseases and parasites have been reported for the 
gray wolf, and several of them have had significant but temporary 
impacts during the recovery of the species in the 48 contiguous United 
States (Brand et al. 1995, p. 419; Wisconsin Department of Natural 
Resources 1999, p. 61, Kreeger 2003, pp. 202-214). We fully anticipate 
that, in the range of C. l. nubilus, these diseases and parasites will 
follow the same pattern seen in other members of the genus in North 
America (Brand et al. 1995, pp. 428-429; Bailey et al. 1995, p. 445; 
Kreeger 2003, pp. 202-204; Atkinson 2006, pp. 1-7; Smith and Almberg 
2007, pp. 17-19; Johnson 1995a, b). Although destructive to 
individuals, most of these diseases seldom cause significant, long-term 
changes in population growth (Fuller et al. 2003, pp. 176-178; Kreeger 
2003, pp. 202-214).
    Canine parvovirus (CPV) infects wolves, domestic dogs (Canis 
familiaris), foxes (Vulpes vulpes), coyotes, skunks (Mephitis 
mephitis), and raccoons (Procyon lotor). The population impacts of CPV 
occur via diarrhea-induced dehydration leading to abnormally high pup 
mortality (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources 1999, p. 61). 
Clinical CPV is characterized by severe hemorrhagic diarrhea and 
vomiting; debility and subsequent mortality (primarily pup mortality) 
is a result of dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and shock. Canine 
parvovirus has been detected in nearly every wolf population in North 
America including Alaska (Bailey et al. 1995, p. 441; Brand et al. 
1995, p. 421; Kreeger 2003, pp. 210-211; Johnson et al. 1994), and 
exposure in wolves is thought to be almost universal. Nearly 100 
percent of the wolves handled in Montana (Atkinson 2006), Yellowstone 
National Park (Smith and Almberg 2007, p. 18), and Minnesota (Mech and 
Goyal 1993, pp. 331) had blood antibodies indicating nonlethal exposure 
to CPV. The impact of disease outbreaks to the overall NRM wolf 
population has been localized and temporary, as has been documented 
elsewhere (Bailey et al. 1995, p. 441; Brand et al. 1995, p. 421; 
Kreeger 2003, pp. 210-211).
    Despite these periodic disease outbreaks, the NRM wolf population 
increased at a rate of about 22 percent annually from 1996 to 2008 
(Service et al. 2009, Table 4). Mech et al. (2008, p. 824) recently 
concluded that CPV reduced pup survival, subsequent dispersal, and the 
overall rate of population growth in Minnesota (a population near 
carrying capacity in suitable habitat). After the CPV became endemic in 
the population, the population developed immunity and was able to 
withstand severe effects from the disease (Mech and Goyal, 1993, pp. 
331-332). These observed effects are consistent with results from 
studies in smaller, isolated populations in Wisconsin and on Isle 
Royale, Michigan (Wydeven et al. 1995, entire; Peterson et al. 1998, 
entire) but indicate that CPV also had only a temporary population 
effect in a larger population.
    Canine distemper virus (CDV) is an acute disease of carnivores that 
has been known in Europe since the sixteenth century and infects dogs 
worldwide (Kreeger 2003, p. 209). This disease generally infects dog 
pups when they are only a few months old, so mortality in wild wolf 
populations might be difficult to detect (Brand et al. 1995, pp. 420-
421). Mortality from CDV among wild wolves has been documented only in 
two littermate pups in Manitoba (Carbyn 1982, pp. 111-112), in two 
Alaskan yearling wolves (Peterson et al. 1984, p. 31), and in two 
Wisconsin wolves (an adult in 1985 and a pup in 2002 (Thomas in litt. 
2006; Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2003, p. 20)). Carbyn (1982, pp. 113-116) 
concluded that CDV was partially responsible for a 50-percent decline 
in the wolf population in Riding Mountain National Park

[[Page 35684]]

(Manitoba, Canada) in the mid-1970s. Serological evidence indicates 
that exposure to CDV is high among some wolf populations--29 percent in 
northern Wisconsin and 79 percent in central Wisconsin from 2002 to 
2003 (Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2003, pp. 23-24, Table 7) and 2004 
(Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2004, pp. 23-24, Table 7), and similar levels 
in Yellowstone National Park (Smith and Almberg 2007, p. 18). However, 
the continued strong recruitment in Wisconsin and elsewhere in North 
American wolf populations indicates that distemper is not likely a 
significant cause of mortality (Brand et al. 1995, p. 421). These 
outbreaks will undoubtedly occur when wolf densities are high and near 
carrying capacity, but as documented elsewhere, CDV will not likely 
significantly affect C. l. nubilus.
    Lyme disease, caused by a spirochete bacterium, is spread primarily 
by deer ticks (Ixodes dammini). Host species include humans, horses 
(Equus caballus), dogs, white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, white-footed 
mice (Peromyscus leucopus), eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus), 
coyotes, and wolves. Lyme disease infections in wolves have been 
reported only in the WGL. In this region, the disease might be 
suppressing population growth by decreasing wolf pup survival 
(Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources 1999, p. 61); Lyme disease 
has not been reported from wolves beyond the Great Lakes regions and is 
not expected to be a factor affecting C. l. nubilus rangewide 
(Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources 1999, p. 61).
    Mange (Sarcoptes scabeii) is caused by a mite that infests the 
skin. The irritation caused by feeding and burrowing mites results in 
intense itching, resulting in scratching and severe fur loss, which can 
lead to mortality from exposure during severe winter weather or 
secondary infections (Kreeger 2003, pp. 207-208). Advanced mange can 
involve the entire body and can cause emaciation, staggering, and death 
(Kreeger 2003, p. 207). In a long-term Alberta wolf study, higher wolf 
densities were correlated with increased incidence of mange, and pup 
survival decreased as the incidence of mange increased (Brand et al. 
1995, pp. 427-428). Mange has been shown to temporarily affect wolf 
population-growth rates and perhaps wolf distribution (Kreeger 2003, p. 
208).
    Mange has been detected in wolves throughout North America (Brand 
et al. 1995, pp. 427-428; Kreeger 2003, pp. 207-208). In Montana and 
Wyoming, proportions of packs with mange fluctuated between 3 and 24 
percent from 2003 to 2008 (Jimenez et al. 2010; Atkinson 2006, p. 5; 
Smith and Almberg 2007, p. 19). In packs with the most severe 
infestations, pup survival appeared low, and some adults died (Jimenez 
et al. 2010); however, evidence suggests infestations do not normally 
become chronic because wolves often naturally overcome them. Mange has 
been detected in Wisconsin wolves every year since 1991, with no impact 
on population growth (Wydeven et al. 2009, pp. 96-97). Despite its 
constant presence as an occasional mortality factor, the wolf 
population expanded from 39 to 41 wolves in 1991 to its present level 
of 815 or more in winter 2011 to 2012 (Wydeven et al. 2012).
    Dog-biting lice (Trichodectes canis) commonly feed on domestic 
dogs, but can infest coyotes and wolves (Schwartz et al. 1983, p. 372; 
Mech et al. 1985, p. 404). The lice can attain severe infestations, 
particularly in pups. The worst infestations can result in severe 
scratching, irritated and raw skin, substantial hair loss particularly 
in the groin, and poor condition. While no wolf mortality has been 
confirmed, death from exposure and/or secondary infection following 
self-inflicted trauma, caused by inflammation and itching, appears 
possible. Dog-biting lice were first confirmed on two wolves in Montana 
in 2005, on a wolf in south-central Idaho in early 2006 (Service et al. 
2006, p. 15; Atkinson 2006, p. 5; Jimenez et al. 2010), and in 4 
percent of Minnesota wolves in 2003 through 2005 (Paul in litt. 2005), 
but their infestations were not severe. Dog-biting-lice infestations 
are not expected to have a significant impact even at a local scale in 
C. l. nubilus.
    Other diseases and parasites, including rabies, canine heartworm, 
blastomycosis, bacterial myocarditis, granulomatous pneumonia, 
brucellosis, leptospirosis, bovine tuberculosis, hookworm, coccidiosis, 
and canine hepatitis have been documented in wild wolves, but their 
impacts on future wild wolf populations are not likely to be 
significant (Brand et al. 1995, pp. 419-429; Hassett in litt. 2003; 
Johnson 1995b, pp. 431, 436-438; Mech and Kurtz 1999, pp. 305-306; 
Thomas in litt. 1998, Thomas in litt. 2006, Wisconsin Department of 
Natural Resources 1999, p. 61; Kreeger 2003, pp. 202-214). Continuing 
wolf range expansion, however, likely will provide new avenues for 
exposure to several of these diseases, especially canine heartworm, 
raccoon rabies, and bovine tuberculosis (Thomas in litt. 2000, in litt. 
2006), further emphasizing the need for disease-monitoring programs.

Natural Predation

    No wild animals habitually prey on wolves. Other predators, such as 
mountain lions (Felis concolor), black bears (Ursus Americanus), and 
grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) (Service 2005, p. 3), or even 
large prey, such as deer, elk, and moose (Mech and Nelson 1989, pp. 
676; Smith et al. 2001, p. 3), occasionally kill wolves, but this has 
been documented only rarely. Other wolves are the largest cause of 
natural predation among wolves (less than three percent rate of natural 
wolf mortality in the NRM). Intraspecific-strife mortality is normal 
behavior in healthy wolf populations and is an expected outcome of 
dispersal conflicts and territorial defense. This form of mortality is 
something with which the species has evolved, and it should not affect 
C. l. nubilus.

Human-Caused Mortality

    Wolves are susceptible to human-caused mortality, especially in 
open habitats such as those that occur in the western United States 
(Bangs et al. 2004, p. 93). An active eradication program is the sole 
reason that wolves were extirpated from their historical range in the 
United States (Weaver 1978, p. i). Humans kill wolves for a number of 
reasons. In all locations where people, livestock, and wolves coexist, 
some wolves are killed to resolve conflicts with livestock (Fritts et 
al. 2003, p. 310; Woodroffe et al. 2005, pp. 86-107, 345-347). 
Occasionally, wolves are killed accidentally (e.g., wolves are hit by 
vehicles, mistaken for coyotes and shot, or caught in traps set for 
other animals) (Bangs et al. 2005, p. 346).
    However, many wolf killings are intentional, illegal, and never 
reported to authorities. Wolves may become unwary of people or human 
activity, increasing their vulnerability to human-caused mortality 
(Mech and Boitani 2003, pp. 300-302). The number of illegal killings is 
difficult to estimate and impossible to accurately determine because 
they generally occur with few witnesses. Illegal killing was estimated 
to make up 70 percent of the total mortality rate in a north-central 
Minnesota wolf population and 24 percent in the NRM (Liberg et al. 
2011, pp. 3-5). Liberg et al. (2011, pp. 3-5) suggests more than two-
thirds of total poaching may go unaccounted for, and that illegal 
killing can pose a severe threat to wolf recovery. In the NRM, poaching 
has not prevented population recovery, but it has affected wolf 
distribution (Bangs et al. 2004, p. 93) preventing successful pack 
establishment and persistence in open

[[Page 35685]]

prairie or high desert habitats (Bangs et al. 1998, p. 788; Service et 
al. 1989-2005). We would expect a similar pattern for C. l. nubilus in 
the northwestern United States, but not in Canada, where harvest 
regulations are liberal and social tolerance of wolves is higher.
    Vehicle collisions contribute to wolf mortality rates throughout 
North America. They are expected to rise with increasing wolf 
populations, and as wolves colonize areas with more human development 
and a denser network of roads and vehicle traffic. Highway mortalities 
will likely constitute a small proportion of total mortalities.
    Populations of C. l. nubilus are high and stable to increasing in 
the many areas throughout Canada. We have no reason to believe that 
threats of disease and predation have increased recently or will 
increase. Therefore, we conclude that neither disease nor predation, 
including all forms of human-caused mortality, is significantly 
affecting C. l. nubilus throughout its range.
Factor D: The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms
    The Act requires us to examine the adequacy of existing regulatory 
mechanisms with respect to those existing and foreseeable threats 
discussed under the other factors that may affect C. l. nubilus. Wolves 
within the WGL DPS were delisted based in part on the fact that there 
would be adequate regulatory mechanisms in place following delisting to 
facilitate the maintenance of the recovered status of the wolves in the 
western Great Lakes. For a full discussion of the regulatory mechanisms 
in place for gray wolves in the western Great Lakes, see the December 
28, 2011, final delisting rule (76 FR 81666, pp. 81701-81717).
    Wolves are classified as endangered under both the Washington and 
Oregon State Endangered Species Acts (WAC 232-12-014 and 232-12-011; 
ORS 496.171 to 496.192 and 498.026). Unlawful taking (when a person 
hunts, fishes, possesses, maliciously harasses or kills endangered fish 
or wildlife, and the taking has not been authorized by rule of the 
commission) of endangered fish or wildlife is prohibited in Washington 
(RCW 77.15.120). Prohibitions and limitations regarding endangered 
species in Oregon are established by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife 
Commission to ensure the survival of the species and may include take 
avoidance (``to kill or obtain possession or control of any wildlife,'' 
ORS 496.004) and protecting resource sites (ORS 496.182). Wolves in 
California are currently undergoing a status review to determine 
whether listing is warranted under the California Endangered Species 
Act (California Department of Fish and Wildlife Code 2050-2069).
    Oregon and Washington also have adopted wolf-management plans 
(California is currently developing a wolf-management plan) intended to 
provide for the conservation and reestablishment of wolves in these 
states (ODFW 2010, entire; Wiles et al. 2011, entire). These plans 
include population objectives, education and public outreach goals, 
damage-management strategies, and monitoring and research plans. Wolves 
will remain on each state's respective endangered species list until 
the population objectives (four breeding pairs for 3 consecutive years 
in Oregon and four breeding pairs for 3 consecutive years in each of 
three geographic regions plus three breeding pairs anywhere in 
Washington) have been reached. Once the objectives are met, wolves will 
be either reclassified to threatened or removed from the state's 
endangered species lists. Once removed, the states will use regulated 
harvest to manage wolf populations. Wolves in the western two thirds of 
Oregon will maintain protected status until four breeding pairs occupy 
that region for 3 consecutive years.
    Both plans also recognize that management of livestock conflicts is 
a necessary component of wolf management (Service 1980, p. 4; Service 
1987, p. 3; Hayes and Gunson 2005, p. 27). Control options are 
currently limited within C. l. nubilus' historical range in Oregon and 
Washington, where they are federally protected. If Federal delisting 
occurs, guidelines outlined in each state's plan define conditions 
under which depredating wolves can be harassed or killed by agency 
officials (ODFW 2010, pp. 43-54; Wiles et al. 2011, pp. 72-94).
    Within the range of C. l. nubilus in Canada, wolf populations are 
managed as big game and as furbearers; hunting and trapping are the 
principal management tools used to keep populations within the limits 
of human tolerance. Each province within the range has committed to 
maintain sustainable populations while allowing for harvest and 
minimizing conflict with livestock (COSEWIC 2001, pp. 18-29, 44-46). 
Maintaining wild ungulate populations in numbers that allow for liberal 
human harvest for local consumption is also a priority in many areas 
(COSEWIC 2001, pp. 18-26).
    Although wolves are not dependent on specific habitat features 
other than an adequate food supply and human tolerance, state, 
provincial, and Federal land-management regimes provide protection for 
wolves and wolf habitat throughout the range of C. l. nubilus. Canadian 
National Parks in the southern portion of the range of C. l. nubilus do 
not allow hunting, while National Parks in the northern portion of the 
range allow hunting by Native Peoples only (COSEWIC 2001, p. 26). 
National Parks and Monuments also exist in Washington (three National 
Parks and three National Monuments) totaling 7,707 km\2\ (1,904,451 
million acres) and Oregon (one National Park and two National 
Monuments) totaling 800 km\2\ (197,656 acres); some of these areas will 
likely act as refugia once recolonized by wolves. These land-management 
regimes provide refugia for wolf populations from hunting, trapping, 
and control activities, and in turn these protected populations may 
serve as a source of dispersing wolves for low-density populations.
    We have long recognized that control of wolf numbers and especially 
depredating wolves was central to maintaining public support for wolf 
conservation. Much of the impact of livestock production on C. l. 
nubilus occurred during the period between settlement and the mid-20th 
century when wolves were extirpated from most of the United States due 
to depredations on livestock. Wolves have not repopulated these regions 
due to continued lack of human tolerance to their presence and habitat 
alteration. In Canada, outside of relatively high-human-density areas, 
wolf populations have remained strong since the cessation of widespread 
predator poisoning campaigns in the 1950s. We have no information to 
suggest that the current regulatory regime in Canada is not adequate to 
provide for the conservation of C. l. nubilus, and so we conclude that 
the jurisdictions in these areas have been successful in their search 
for an appropriate balance between wolf conservation, human tolerance, 
and providing for human uses. Therefore, both in Canada, and in the 
United States, in the absence of the Act, the existing regulatory 
mechanisms are currently adequate to provide for the long-term 
conservation of C. l. nubilus.
Factor E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued 
Existence
    Wolves in the western Great Lakes were delisted based in part on 
the conclusion that other natural or manmade factors are unlikely to 
affect the viability of wolves in the western Great Lakes in the 
future. For a full discussion of factor E for C. lupus nubilus in the 
Western Great Lakes DPS,

[[Page 35686]]

see the December 28, 2011, final delisting rule (76 FR 81666, pp. 
81717-81721).
    Public Attitudes Toward the Gray Wolf--Throughout much of Canada, 
in contrast to the contiguous United States, wolves are not dependent 
on human tolerance for their conservation. Even during the height of 
wolf control that included indiscriminate poisoning and trapping 
campaigns by the public and by government agencies, wolves were able to 
maintain viable populations in much of C. l. nubilus' historical range 
simply by virtue of remote and rugged terrain and low human population 
densities. However, in southern Canada and in the United States today 
public attitudes toward wolves are important conservation issues. In 
these areas with higher human densities and the presence of livestock, 
the primary determinant of the long-term conservation of gray wolves 
will likely be human attitudes toward this large predator. These 
attitudes are largely based on the real and perceived conflicts between 
human activities and values and wolves, such as depredation on 
livestock and pets, competition for surplus wild ungulates between 
hunters and wolves, concerns for human safety, wolves' symbolic 
representation of wildness and ecosystem health, killing of wolves by 
humans, and the wolf-related traditions of Native American Tribes or 
local culture.
    It is important to find a balance in wolf management that will 
sustain wolf populations but also address other human concerns in a way 
that maintains tolerance of wolves among the human populations that 
live with them (Bangs et al. 2009, p. 111; 62 FR 15175, April 2, 2009). 
Addressing these concerns will often involve lethal take of wolves or 
other removal methods (Bangs et al. 2009, pp. 107-111. These 
activities, when employed in an overall management framework, are 
essential wolf-conservation activities as they provide the public with 
assurances that human interests and needs will be considered 
appropriately during wolf-management decisions (Bangs et al. 2009, pp. 
111-114.
    Predator control--Wolf numbers have been the subject of control 
efforts to reduce conflicts with livestock and to increase ungulate 
numbers in Canada since the turn of the 20th century (Boertje et al. 
2010, p. 917). Since the 1970s, wolf control has been focused on 
increasing populations of wild ungulates, mostly moose but also 
caribou, for human consumption and in some cases to conserve caribou 
herds that were at risk (Russell 2010, pp. 6-12). Wolf control has 
included both lethal and nonlethal methods, using public hunting and 
trapping seasons, aerial gunning by government agents, and 
experimentation with predator exclosures, sterilization, and 
supplemental feeding (Russell 2010, pp. 6-12).
    Predator-control programs as they currently exist are not affecting 
the viability of C. l. nubilus for several reasons: (1) The types of 
control measures that have resulted in effective extirpation of wolf 
populations from large areas are no longer permitted or prescribed by 
the states and provinces that pursue wolf control. Historically, wolves 
were persecuted by people seeking to eliminate wolves from the 
landscape using any means necessary. These means included government 
agencies systematically poisoning and trapping wolves. The goal of 
wolf-control programs and associated research in Canada today is to 
maintain sustainable (though low-density) wolf populations. Control 
programs do not employ indiscriminant broadcast poisoning, and trapping 
or shooting of wolves is limited by estimates of population numbers 
with the goal of reducing but not eliminating wolf populations.
    (2) Wolf control is very expensive and so is not likely to be 
applied broadly enough and consistently enough to reduce the rangewide 
population of C. l. nubilus substantially. Typically, wolf-control 
areas are repopulated within 4 years of cessation of control efforts, 
indicating that population control is temporary and reliant on constant 
application of control efforts (Boertje et al. 2010, p. 920).
    (3) Wolf control must be applied over a large area to be effective 
(National Research Council 1997, p. 10). This fact combined with number 
2 above ensures that wolf control is not likely to be applied unless 
wolf populations are high enough for the perceived benefits to outweigh 
the costs. This situation is not likely to exist over a large portion 
of the subspecies' range simultaneously.
    (4) Wolves are extremely resilient with high population-growth 
potential and high rates of dispersal. After control operations, wolf 
populations recover to precontrol levels within a few years.
    (5) Wolf control will be applied only where wolf populations are 
high. This means that wolf control may act as a density-dependent 
population-control mechanism. When wolf populations are high, ungulate 
populations become depressed, leading to pressures for management 
authorities to employ predator control actions to address the 
situation. As predator populations are reduced and ungulate populations 
rebound, pressure to continue the control actions is reduced, leading 
to reduction or cessation of the program to reduce expenditures. This 
dynamic likely supplies some added protection to the long-term 
viability of the subspecies.
    Climate Change--Our analyses under the Act include consideration of 
ongoing and projected changes in climate. The terms ``climate'' and 
``climate change'' are defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on 
Climate Change (IPCC). ``Climate'' refers to the mean and variability 
of different types of weather conditions over time, with 30 years being 
a typical period for such measurements, although shorter or longer 
periods also may be used (IPCC 2007, p. 78). The term ``climate 
change'' thus refers to a change in the mean or variability of one or 
more measures of climate (e.g., temperature or precipitation) that 
persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer, whether 
the change is due to natural variability, human activity, or both (IPCC 
2007, p. 78). Various types of changes in climate can have direct or 
indirect effects on species. These effects may be positive, neutral, or 
negative and they may change over time, depending on the species and 
other relevant considerations, such as the effects of interactions of 
climate with other variables (e.g., habitat fragmentation) (IPCC 2007, 
pp. 8-14, 18-19). In our analyses, we use our expert judgment to weigh 
relevant information, including uncertainty, in our consideration of 
various aspects of climate change.
    Throughout their circumpolar distribution, gray wolves persist in a 
variety of ecosystems with temperatures ranging from -70 [deg]F to 120 
[deg]F (-57 [deg]C to 49 [deg]C) with wide-ranging prey type and 
availability (Mech and Boitani 2003, p. xv). C. l. nubilus are 
historically and currently known to inhabit a range of ecotypes 
subsisting on large ungulate prey as well as small mammals. Due to this 
plasticity, we do not consider C. l. nubilus to be vulnerable to 
climate change. Similarly, elk, the primary prey in many areas, are 
known to be habitat generalists due to their association with wide 
variation in environmental conditions (Kuck 1999, p. 1). We recognize 
that climate change may have detectable impacts on the ecosystems that 
affect C. l. nubilus. For example, to the degree that warmer 
temperatures and decreased water availability limit prey abundance, we 
would also expect decreased wolf densities. However, we do not consider 
these potential impacts of climate change to be affecting C. l. nubilus 
now or to likely do so in the future. For a full discussion of 
potential

[[Page 35687]]

impacts of climate change on wolves, please see our recent final 
delisting rule for the gray wolf in Wyoming (77 FR 55597-55598, 
September 10, 2012).

Summary of Factor E

    Natural or manmade factors are not affecting the viability of C. l. 
nubilus. Positive public attitudes continue to be fostered through 
management of conflicts and hunting and trapping opportunities and 
their associated economic benefits. Wolf control to increase ungulate 
numbers is pursued in local areas but is not likely to significantly 
affect the subspecies. In addition, control actions are not aimed at 
extirpation of wolf populations, but instead seek to reduce overall 
density of wolves while maintaining viable populations.
Cumulative Effects
    A species may be affected by more than one factor in combination. 
Within the preceding review of the five listing factors, we discussed 
potential factors that may have interrelated impacts on C. l. nubilus. 
Our analysis did not find any significant effects to C. l. nubilus. 
However, we recognize that multiple sources of mortality acting in 
combination have greater potential to affect wolves than each source 
alone. Thus, we consider how the combination of factors may affect C. 
l. nubilus. Canis lupus nubilus occurs as widespread, large, and 
resilient populations across much of its historical geographic range 
and in recent years has expanded in distribution. Given the current 
size of the C. l. nubilus population in Canada and the lack of 
identified threats, we do not find any combination of factors to be a 
significant threat.
    Isolation of C. l. nubilus in the Pacific Northwest, including 
western British Columbia and western Washington, from the larger 
population of C. l. nubilus in central and eastern Canada, in 
combination with small population size, could exacerbate the potential 
for other factors to disproportionately affect that population. While 
the current population estimate is large (2,200 wolves), increased 
mortality (resulting from hunting, vehicle collisions, poaching, 
natural sources of mortality) could reduce the population to a level 
where effects of small population size take effect. Small population 
size directly and significantly increases the likelihood of inbreeding 
depression, which may decrease individual fitness, hinder population 
growth, and increase the population's extinction risk. Small population 
size also increases the likelihood that concurrent mortalities from 
multiple causes that individually may not be resulting in a population 
decline (e.g., vehicle collisions, natural sources of mortality) could 
collectively do so. Combined effects from disease, catastrophe, or 
hybridization events that normally could be sustained by a larger, 
resilient population have the potential to affect the size, growth 
rate, and genetic integrity of a smaller C. l. nubilus population. The 
combined effects of genetic and environmental events to a small 
population could represent a significant effect. However, given the 
current size of the C. l. nubilus population in Canada, we do not find 
the combination of factors to be significant at this time.

Conclusion

    As required by the Act, we considered the five factors in assessing 
whether the subspecies C. l. nubilus is threatened or endangered 
throughout all of its range. We examined the best scientific and 
commercial information available regarding the past, present, and 
future threats faced by the subspecies. We reviewed the information 
available in our files, other available published and unpublished 
information, and we consulted with recognized experts and other 
Federal, state, and tribal agencies. We found that wolves occupying C. 
l. nubilus' historical range are widespread and exist as large, stable 
populations, with no evidence of decline over the last 10 years despite 
liberal harvest. During this process we did not identify any threats to 
the subspecies, indicating that C. l. nubilus is not in danger of 
extinction throughout its range and does not, therefore, meet the 
definition of an endangered species. It is also not likely to become 
endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all of its range.
    C. l. nubilus was extirpated from the central United States, the 
Southern Rocky Mountains and Colorado Plateau, and the Pacific 
Northwestern United States by the 1930s and, with the exception of the 
Pacific Northwest, which is actively being recolonized by C. l. nubilus 
and C. l. occidentalis, has not re-established populations in these 
areas. It is likely that land uses associated with agriculture and 
livestock make the majority of these areas unsuitable for wolf 
occupation in the future. Past range contraction can be evidence of 
threats that may still be acting on the species, and is therefore 
relevant in considering the status of the species in its remaining 
range. Thus, we considered whether the extirpation of C. l. nubilus 
from these areas suggests that the remaining range may likewise be 
subject to the threats that caused the past range contraction such that 
substantial additional range contraction is likely. We determined that 
it is not. The past range contraction was caused largely by conflict 
with man resulting from the introduction of intensive livestock growing 
and agriculture in suitable areas concurrent with European expansion 
across the continent; as discussed above most of the remaining range of 
C. l. nubilus is not suitable for conversion to intensive livestock 
growing and agriculture, nor has there been significant expansion of 
those activities or human population growth into occupied wolf habitat 
for many decades. This conclusion is consistent with the observed 
pattern of C. l. nubilus range over time: The contraction occurred as 
intensive human use of the land expanded; both that expansion and C. l. 
nubilus range contraction halted many decades ago; and C. l. nubilus 
range is now stable or expanding. This strongly supports the conclusion 
that the factors that were responsible for the C. l. nubilus' range 
contraction will not cause further range contraction, and will not 
result in the subspecies becoming endangered in the foreseeable future. 
See the Significant Portion of the Range Analysis section below for our 
evaluation as to whether this subspecies may or may not be in danger of 
extinction in a significant portion of its range.

Does the North American subspecies C. l. occidentalis warrant the 
protections of the Act?

C. l. occidentalis--Historical Distribution
    The historical range of C. l. occidentalis includes all of Alaska 
except for the southeastern Coast, interior western Canada, and the 
northern Rocky Mountains of the contiguous United States. C. l. 
occidentalis range is bordered on the east and west by the subspecies 
C. l. nubilus, and on the northeast by C. l. arctos (Nowak 1995, Fig. 
20).
C. l. occidentalis Current Distribution
    For purposes of this status review we will discuss the current 
distribution of C. l. occidentalis by state, province, or region in 
which it is found. Across the range of the subspecies, management is 
carried out by individual states and provinces--complicating the 
discussion of status by biological population. No state or province in 
the range of C. l. occidentalis monitors wolf populations to the extent 
that precise estimates of population size can be made. For this reason, 
population estimates should be regarded as estimates using professional 
judgment of the agencies involved.

[[Page 35688]]

    Contiguous United States--The historical range of C. l. 
occidentalis in the contiguous United States included the northern 
Rocky Mountains and surrounding areas (delisted due to recovery 76 FR 
25590, May 5, 2011). Recent expansion of populations of this subspecies 
in this region in response to recovery actions has resulted in a large 
recovered population and the recent delisting of gray wolves in the 
northern Rocky Mountains (76 FR 25590, May 5, 2011, and 77 FR 55530, 
September 10, 2012) recovered population. Currently there are only a 
few members of C. l. occidentalis known in the contiguous United States 
outside of the delisted areas; these wolves are in the Pacific 
Northwest. The first account of breeding by wolves (the Lookout pack) 
in Washington State since the 1930s was documented in the North 
Cascades (outside of the delisted area) in 2008. Preliminary genetic 
testing of the breeding male and female suggested they were descended 
from wolves occurring in (1) coastal British Columbia (C. l. nubilus) 
and (2) northeastern British Columbia (C. l. occidentalis), 
northwestern Alberta (C. l. occidentalis), or the reintroduced 
populations in central Idaho and the greater Yellowstone area (C. l. 
occidentalis) (Pollinger 2008, pers. comm.; Nowak 1995, p. 397). In the 
spring of 2011, a new pack was documented, and genetic testing of a 
pack member confirmed that this individual was a gray wolf that was 
closely related to (consistent with being an offspring of) the Lookout 
pack breeding pair (Robinson et al. 2011, in litt., pp. 1-2).
    Alaska--Alaska has a robust population of C. l. occidentalis found 
over most of its historical range at densities that are strongly 
correlated with variations in ungulate biomass (Orians et al. 1997, p. 
3). Alaska's wolf population is estimated by Alaska Department of Fish 
and Game (ADFG) to be 7,000 to 11,000 (ADFG 2007, p. 8). A small number 
of C. l. nubilus also occur in southeastern Alaska.
C. l. occidentalis in Canada
    The COSEWIC published an assessment and status report on C. lupus 
in 2001 (COSEWIC 2001, entire). The assessment evaluates the status and 
protection level of wolves across jurisdictions for C. l. nubilus, C. 
l. occidentalis, C. l. lycaon, and C. l. arctos. The subspecific ranges 
described are not entirely consistent with those used for this status 
review (C. l. occidentalis range described by COSEWIC included 
Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland-Labrador, which the Service 
considers part of C. l. nubilus range). This discrepancy, however, is 
inconsequential as COSEWIC found that both C. l. nubilus and C. l. 
occidentalis are ``Not at Risk'' based on widespread, large, stable 
populations, with no evidence of decline over the last 10 years despite 
liberal harvest (COSEWIC 2001, p. ii). For the purposes of this 
analysis, where the COSEWIC report differs from Nowak (1995, Fig. 20) 
in interpretation of subspecies boundaries, we have used Provincial 
population estimates to infer subspecies numbers.
    Furthermore, Environment Canada published a Non-Detriment Finding 
for the export of legally harvested C. lupus in Canada in 2008 
(Environment Canada 2008, entire). Supporting information analyzed in 
this finding included biological characteristics, current status, 
harvest management, control of harvest, harvest trend, harvest 
monitoring, benefits of harvest, and protection from harvest. The 
finding describes stable to increasing populations, a lack of threats, 
and high confidence in the current Canadian harvest-management system. 
Most jurisdictions operate under an adaptive-management strategy, which 
imposes strict control of harvest and is reactive to changing 
conditions, with the aim of ensuring sustainable harvest and 
maintaining biodiversity.
    Yukon Territories--An estimated 4,500 wolves inhabited the Yukon in 
2001 (COSEWIC 2001, p. 22). Wolves are managed as big game and as 
furbearers with bag limits set for residents and nonresidents.
    Northwest Territories and Nunavut--An estimated 10,000 wolves 
existed in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut in 2001 (COSEWIC 2001, 
p. 22); these wolves compose three subspecies: C. l. occidentalis, C. 
l. nubilus, and C. l. arctos. The distribution of the three subspecies 
is known only in a general sense, and the boundaries between subspecies 
are not discrete. In general, C. l. arctos inhabits the Arctic Islands 
of Nunavut, C. l. nubilus inhabits most of the mainland portion of 
Nunavut, and C. l. occidentalis inhabits all of Northwest Territories 
and the western edge of mainland Nunavut (Nowak 1995, Fig. 20). The 
COSEWIC report does not differentiate between C. l. occidentalis and C. 
l. arctos; however, many of the estimated numbers were likely to be C. 
l. occidentalis due to their geographic range, including most of 
mainland Northwest Territories and a portion of mainland Nunavut.
    British Columbia--Two gray wolf subspecies are present in British 
Columbia: C. l. occidentalis and C. l. nubilus. C. l. nubilus inhabits 
coastal areas including some coastal islands. C. l. occidentalis is 
widely distributed on the inland portion of the province. Generally, 
government agencies do not distinguish between subspecies when 
reporting take or estimating population sizes. Therefore, determining 
exactly what portion of reported numbers for British Columbia are C. l. 
nubilus and which are C. l. occidentalis is not possible. Where 
possible, we have separated accounts of wolves in coastal areas from 
those inland, but our ability to do this is limited by the lack of 
subspecific reporting. An estimated 8,000 wolves were present in 
British Columbia in 1997 (COSEWIC 2001, p. 22). The COSEWIC report 
estimates that 2,200 wolves were in the ``Pacific'' region of British 
Columbia in 1999, and this estimate likely refers to C. l. nubilus, 
leaving the remaining 5,800 wolves in British Columbia referable to C. 
l. occidenalis (COSEWIC 2001, Table 7).
    Alberta--C. l. occidentalis range across Alberta with the exception 
of the prairie area in the southeastern portion of the province where 
wolves were extirpated in the early 1900s (COSEWIC 2001, p. 13). An 
estimated 5,000 wolves were present in 1997.
    Saskatchewan--C. l. occidentalis range across Saskatchewan outside 
of prairie areas where wolves were extirpated in the early 1900s 
(COSEWIC 2001, p. 13). In 1997 an estimated 2,200 to 4,300 wolves 
inhabited the province, with an average harvest of 238 per year 
(COSEWIC 2001, p. 21).
    Manitoba--C. l. occidentalis inhabits western and southern Manitoba 
and shares an intergradation zone with C. l. nubilus in the north-
central portion of the province (Chambers et al. 2012, Fig. 13). 
Provincial records and accounts generally do not distinguish between 
these subspecies, so it is impossible to determine which subspecies is 
being referred to in government documents. An estimated 4,000 to 6,000 
wolves of either subspecies existed in Manitoba in 1997, and average 
harvest was 366 (COSEWIC 2001, p. 21).

Summary of Information Pertaining to the Five Factors

    Gray wolves were recently delisted due to recovery in a portion of 
the range of C. l. occidentalis in the contiguous United States (76 FR 
25590, May 5, 2011; 77 FR 55530, September 10, 2012). Therefore this 
analysis focuses on assessing threats to wolves in the remaining 
portion of the subspecies' range. Within the likely historical range of 
C. l. occidentalis in the Great Plains portion of southern Canada and 
northern United States, wolves were extirpated soon after colonization 
and

[[Page 35689]]

establishment of European-style agriculture and livestock growing. This 
range contraction appears to be permanent and is relatively small 
compared to the historical and current range of the subspecies, and the 
range does not appear to be contracting further at this time. The 
analysis of the Five Factors below does not consider the potential for 
effects to C. l. occidentalis in this area where the species has been 
extirpated, rather effects are considered in the context of the present 
population. We do not consider historical range contraction, by itself, 
to represent a threat to the species, but loss of historical range is 
reflected in the current status of the species. Threat factors are 
always evaluated in the context of the current species status, 
therefore in some cases, historical range contraction can affect the 
outcome of the Five Factor analysis.
Factor A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or 
Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range
    Canis lupus occidentalis ranges over portions of 13 states and 
provinces in the western United States and western Canada. This area 
represents nearly all of the subspecies' historical range (Chambers et 
al. 2012) with the exception of prairie areas and large intermountain 
valleys in the southern and eastern portion of the range where 
conflicts with livestock preclude wolf presence. Within this area, 
wolves maintain robust populations in virtually all areas where wild 
ungulate populations are high enough to support wolves and where human 
and livestock presence are low enough to tolerate wolf populations. The 
areas that wolves occupy correspond to ``suitable'' wolf habitat as 
modeled by Oakleaf et al. (2006, entire) and Carroll et al. (2006 
entire). Although these models analyzed only habitat in the contiguous 
United States, the principles of suitable wolf habitat in Canada and 
Alaska are similar; that is, wolves persist where ungulate populations 
are adequate to support them and conflict with humans and their 
livestock is low. The areas considered ``unsuitable'' in these models 
are not occupied by wolves due to human and livestock presence and the 
associated lack of tolerance of wolves and livestock depredations. See 
our April 2, 2009, Northern Rocky Mountains DPS final delisting rule 
for more information on wolf suitable-habitat models (74 FR 15123, pp. 
15157-15159). In that document we concluded that the most important 
habitat attributes for wolf pack persistence are forest cover, public 
land, high ungulate (elk) density, and low livestock density. The area 
depicted in Oakleaf et al. (2006, Fig. 2) illustrates where suitable 
wolf habitat occurs in the southern portion of C. l. occidentalis 
distribution. In this area, habitat is generally suitable in the large, 
forested public-land complexes in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming and 
unsuitable in prairie habitats where forest cover is lacking, human 
density and use is high, and livestock are present year-round. We 
conclude that similar areas in adjacent Canada are also unsuitable for 
wolf colonization and occupation for the same reasons.
    Wolves referable to C. l. occidentalis currently occupy nearly the 
entire historical range of the species; the only exceptions are areas 
that have been modified for human use such as prairies and some valley 
bottoms. We believe that enough suitable habitat exists in the 
currently occupied area to continue to support wolves into the future. 
Wolf populations will likely remain viable in these areas, and 
management activities will continue to focus on wolf population 
reduction in many areas to maintain populations of wild ungulates and 
reduce conflicts. We do not anticipate overall habitat changes in the 
subspecies' range to occur at a magnitude that would pose a threat to 
the subspecies because wolf populations are distributed across the 
current range, populations are stable, and are able to withstand high 
levels of mortality due to their high reproductive rate and vagility. 
Much of the subspecies' southern range (i.e., within the contiguous 
United States) is in public ownership where wolf conservation is a 
priority and management plans have been adopted to ensure continued 
wolf persistence (74 FR 15123, pp. 15159-15160; 77 FR 55530, pp. 55576-
55577). Areas in Canada and Alaska within the subspecies' range include 
large areas with little human and livestock presence where there are no 
threats to wolf persistence.
    Other Components of Wolf Habitat--Another important factor in 
maintaining wolf populations is the native ungulate population. Primary 
sources of wild ungulate prey within the range of C. l. occidentalis 
include elk, white-tailed deer, mule deer, moose, bison, and caribou. 
Bighorn sheep, dall sheep, mountain goats, and pronghorn also are 
common but not important as wolf prey. Each state or province within 
the range of C. l. occidentalis manages its wild ungulate populations 
to maintain sustainable populations for harvest by hunters. Each state 
or province monitors big game populations to adjust hunter harvest in 
response to changes in big-game population numbers and trends. 
Predation is a factor that affects those numbers and trends and is 
considered when setting harvest quotas. We know of no future condition 
that would cause a decline in ungulate populations significant enough 
to affect C. l. occidentalis rangewide.
    Human population growth and land development will continue in the 
range of C. l. occidentalis, including increased development and 
conversion of private low-density rural land to higher density urban 
developments, road development and transportation facilities (pipelines 
and energy transmission lines), resource extraction (primarily oil and 
gas, coal, and wind development in certain areas), and more 
recreationists on public lands. Despite efforts to minimize impacts to 
wildlife (Brown 2006, pp. 1-3), some of this development will make some 
areas of the subspecies' range less suitable for wolf occupancy. 
However, these potential developments and increased human presence are 
unlikely to affect the subspecies in the future for the following 
reasons: (1) Wolves are habitat generalists and one of the most 
adaptable large predators in the world, and only became extirpated in 
the southern portion of the subspecies' range because of sustained 
deliberate human targeted elimination (Fuller et al. 2003, p. 163; 
Boitani 2003, pp. 328-330); (2) land-use restrictions on human 
development are not necessary to ensure the continued conservation of 
the subspecies--even active wolf dens can be quite resilient to 
nonlethal disturbance by humans (Frame et al. 2007, p. 316); and (3) 
vast areas of suitable wolf habitat and the current wolf population are 
secure in the subspecies' range (national parks, wilderness, roadless 
areas, lands managed for multiple uses, and areas protected by virtue 
of remoteness from human populations) and are not available for or 
suitable to intensive levels of human development.
    Development on private land near suitable habitat will continue to 
expose wolves to more conflicts and higher risk of human-caused 
mortality. However it is likely that the rate of conflict is well 
within the wolf population's biological mortality threshold (generally 
from 17 to 48 percent ([Fuller et al. 2003 +/- 8 percent], pp. 184-185; 
Adams et al. 2008 [29 percent], p. 22; Creel and Rotella 2010 [22 
percent], p. 5; Sparkman et al. 2011 [25 percent], p. 5; Gude et al. 
2011 [48 percent], pp. 113-116; Vucetich and Carroll In Review [17 
percent]), especially given the large amount of secure habitat that 
will support a viable wolf population and will provide a reliable and 
constant source of dispersing wolves (Mech 1989,

[[Page 35690]]

pp. 387-388). Wolf populations persist in many areas of the world that 
are far more developed than the range of C. l. occidentalis currently 
is or is likely to be in the future (Boitani 2003, pp. 322-323). 
Habitat connectivity in the range of C. l. occidentalis may be reduced 
below current levels, but wolves have exceptional abilities to disperse 
through unsuitable habitat (Jimenez et al. In review, p. 1) and such 
impacts would still not have a significant effect on the subspecies.
    Given the large number of wolves across the subspecies' range and 
the species' natural vagility, natural habitat connectivity is ensured 
over most of the range. We have not identified any occupied areas in 
Canada or the United States where lack of connectivity is affecting C. 
l. occidentalis now or is likely to do so in the future.
    The large amount of public lands and lands that are naturally 
inaccessible due to topography and/or remoteness from human settlement 
that cannot or will not be developed within the range of the subspecies 
assures that adequate suitable habitat for wolves will exist into the 
future. Even though some habitat degradation will occur in smaller 
areas of suitable habitat, the quantity and quality of habitat that 
will remain will be sufficient to maintain natural connectivity (e.g., 
Carroll et al. 2006 p. 32).
    Human populations in the southern portion of the subspecies' range 
are expected to increase (Carroll et al. 2006, p. 30). Increasing human 
populations do not necessarily lead to declining predator populations. 
Mortality can be limited with adequate management programs (Linnell et 
al. 2001, p. 348), research and monitoring, and outreach and education 
about living with wildlife. In Canada and the United States, government 
lands such as national parks and Crown Land provide habitat for prey 
species as well as wolves.
    Management plans of appropriate land-management agencies and 
governments manage public lands to limit resource impacts from human 
use of those lands, and these plans are more than adequate to support a 
viable wolf population across the range of C. l. occidentalis. In 
Canada and Alaska, large expanses of remote and inaccessible habitat 
accomplish the same thing. Habitat suitability for wolves will change 
over time with human development, activities, and attitudes, but not to 
the extent that it is likely to affect the subspecies rangewide.
Summary of Factor A
    We do not foresee that impacts to suitable and potentially suitable 
habitat will occur at levels that will significantly affect wolf 
numbers or distribution or affect population growth and long-term 
viability of C. l. occidentalis. See the NRM DPS delisting rule (74 FR 
15123, April 2, 2009) for a full discussion of this factor for the 
contiguous United States. In Canada and Alaska, even higher levels of 
certainty of habitat availability and security are provided by large 
areas of relatively inaccessible land, in addition to lands with 
protections provided by government regulations. These large areas of 
suitable wolf habitat will remain suitable into the future.
Factor B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Educational Purposes
    Wolves within the NRM DPS were delisted based in part on the 
existence of well-managed programs for legal take for commercial, 
recreational, scientific, or educational purposes for that population. 
For a full discussion of the management of wolves in the NRM DPS, see 
the final delisting rules (74 FR 15123, April 2, 2009 and 77 FR 55530, 
September 10, 2012). In Canada and Alaska overutilization for 
commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes has not 
had a significant effect on C. l. occidentalis. We do not anticipate 
that mortality rates caused by commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes will exceed sustainable levels in the future. 
These activities have not affected the viability of the wolves in the 
past, and we have no reason to believe that they would do so in the 
future. In Canada and Alaska wolves are managed for harvest by 
recreational hunters and trappers.
    Scientific Research and Monitoring-- Each of the states and 
provinces in the range of C. l. occidentalis conducts scientific 
research and monitoring of wolf populations. Activities range from 
surveys of hunter observations of wolf locations and numbers to aerial 
counting surveys to darting wolves from airplanes and fixing them with 
radio collars for intensive monitoring. Even the most intensive and 
disruptive of these activities (anesthetizing for radio telemetry) 
involves a very low rate of mortality for wolves (73 FR 10542, February 
27, 2008). We expect that capture-caused mortality by governments, 
Tribes, and universities conducting wolf monitoring, nonlethal control, 
and research will remain below three percent of the wolves captured, 
and will be an insignificant source of mortality to C. l. occidentalis.
    Education--We are unaware of any wolves that have been removed from 
the wild solely for educational purposes in recent years. Wolves that 
are used for such purposes are typically privately held captive-reared 
offspring of wolves that were already in captivity for other reasons. 
However, states may receive requests to place wolves that would 
otherwise be euthanized in captivity for research or educational 
purposes. Such requests have been, and will continue to be, rare; would 
be closely regulated by the state and provincial wildlife-management 
agencies through the requirement for state permits for protected 
species; and would not substantially increase human-caused wolf-
mortality rates.
    Commercial and Recreational Uses--Across the subspecies' range any 
legal take is regulated by provincial or state law to maintain 
sustainable wolf populations while also protecting big-game numbers and 
providing for recreational hunting and trapping (See factor D). Because 
wolves are highly territorial, wolf populations in saturated habitat 
naturally limit further population increases through wolf-to-wolf 
conflict or dispersal to unoccupied habitat. As stated previously, wolf 
populations can maintain themselves despite high human-caused mortality 
rates (Mech 2001, p. 74; Fuller et al. 2003, pp. 184-185; Adams et al. 
2008, p. 22; Creel and Rotella 2010, p. 5; Sparkman et al. 2011, p. 5; 
Gude et al. 2011, pp. 113-116; Vucetich and Carroll In Review). Wolf 
pups can be successfully raised by other pack members, and breeding 
individuals can be quickly replaced by other wolves (Brainerd et al. 
2008, p. 1). Collectively, these factors mean that wolf populations are 
quite resilient to human-caused mortality if it is regulated.
    States and provinces within the range of C. l. occidentalis 
regulate human-caused mortality to manipulate wolf distribution and 
overall population size to help reduce conflicts with livestock and, in 
some cases, human hunting of big game, just as they do for other 
resident species of wildlife. States, provinces, and some tribes allow 
regulated public harvest of surplus wolves for commercial and 
recreational purposes by regulated private and guided hunting and 
trapping. Such take and any commercial use of wolf pelts or other parts 
is regulated by state or provincial law (see discussion of state and 
provincial laws and regulations under factor D). The regulated take of 
those wolves is not affecting the viability of the subspecies because 
the

[[Page 35691]]

states and provinces allow such take only for wolves that are surplus 
to maintaining a sustainable population. We do not expect this to 
change in the future.
    Alaska's wolves are managed as a furbearer (ADFG 2011, entire), and 
also as a predator species that may be subject to control measures to 
increase big-game numbers (Titus 2007, entire; ADFG 2007, entire). The 
state of Alaska monitors wolf populations using a variety of methods 
including aerial surveys in winter and reports by trappers (ADFG 2007, 
p. 10). Alaska's wolf management is guided by the principle of 
sustainable yield, such that annual harvest should not exceed the 
annual regeneration of a resource unless management goals encompass 
reducing a population to a lower, but still sustainable, level (ADFG, 
2007, p. 6). In designated Intensive Predator Control Areas high 
numbers of ungulate species are maintained by law for human 
consumption. In these areas, if ADFG determines that wild ungulate 
(generally moose and caribou) populations are being depressed below 
predetermined population objectives, ADFG must consider and evaluate 
intensive management actions (which may include wolf population 
reduction) as a means of attaining the objectives (ADFG 2007, p. 6). 
This control program has been thoroughly scientifically vetted; see 
Orians et al. 1997 (entire) for further information on the scientific 
basis of Alaska's predator control program.
    The Yukon has a wolf-management policy and has implemented wolf 
control to increase ungulate populations (COSEWIC 2001, p. 22; 
Government of Yukon 2012, entire). The total take of wolves due to 
hunting, trapping, and control efforts has not exceeded three percent 
of the population per year since 1993, when control efforts began 
(COSEWIC 2001, p. 22).
    The Northwest Territories manage wolves as a harvestable species 
both through hunting and trapping with specific seasons for harvest for 
both aboriginal and nonaboriginal hunters (COSEWIC 2001, p. 23; 
Government of Northwest Territories 2011, pp. 7-12). There is no bag 
limit for aboriginal hunters but nonaboriginal hunters are limited to 
one wolf per season. Harvest numbers are known only for wolf pelts sold 
on the open market as pelts used domestically are not counted by the 
Provincial Government (COSEWIC 2001, p. 23). In the past 10 years, fur 
auction sales have ranged from 711 to 1,469 pelts annually from these 2 
territories (COSEWIC 2001, p. 25). Although the amount to which 
domestic use adds to the total harvest is not known, it is not thought 
to be significant (COSEWIC 2001, p. 25).
    In British Columbia wolves are legally classified as a furbearer 
and as big game and may be taken during fall and winter (COSEWIC 2001, 
p. 22; British Columbia Ministry of Environment 2011, entire). Official 
records from 1992 to 1997 indicate that from 287 to 588 wolves were 
harvested during these years. Again, it is likely that most of these 
animals were C. l. occidentalis due to their wide range in the 
province.
    Wolves are managed as ``furbearing carnivores'' in Alberta and can 
be harvested during open seasons with proper license on Crown 
(government) Land and any time without a license on private property 
(COSEWIC 2001, p. 21; Government of Alberta 2011a, entire; 2011b, 
entire). Wolves are also lethally removed in response to livestock 
depredation (COSEWIC 2001, p. 21). Wolves are classified as a furbearer 
in Saskatchewan and can be taken only by licensed trappers during 
trapping season (COSEWIC 2001, p. 21; Government of Saskatchewan 2011, 
entire). In Manitoba, wolves are managed as a big-game species and can 
be taken by hunters and trappers in season or on agricultural lands at 
any time (COSEWIC 2001, p. 21; Government of Manitoba 2011a, entire; 
2011b, entire).
    In summary, the states and provinces have regulatory and 
enforcement systems in place to limit human-caused mortality of wolves 
in all areas of the subspecies' distribution where regulated take is 
important to maintaining wolf populations into the future. Canadian 
Provinces and Alaska maintain wolf populations to be sustainably 
harvested by hunters and trappers. The states and provinces have humane 
and professional animal-handling protocols and trained personnel that 
will continue to ensure that population monitoring and research result 
in few unintentional mortalities. Furthermore, the states' and 
provinces' permitting processes for captive wildlife and animal care 
will continue to ensure that few, if any, wolves will be removed from 
the wild solely for educational purposes. We conclude that any 
potential wolf take resulting from commercial, scientific, or 
educational purposes in the range of the subspecies is and will 
continue to be regulated so that these factors are not affecting the 
viability of C. l. occidentalis now and are not likely to do so in the 
future.
Factor C. Disease or Predation
    Wolves within the NRM DPS were delisted based in part on our 
conclusion that impacts from disease and predation do not pose a 
significant threat to that population. For a full discussion of this 
factor in the NRM DPS, see the final delisting rules (74 FR 15162-
15166, April 2, 2009; 77 FR 55582-55588, September 10, 2012). The array 
of diseases, parasites, and predators affecting C. l. occidentalis is 
similar to that affecting other wolf subspecies. For a full discussion 
of the effects of disease, parasites, and predators on wolves, see 
factor C in the C. l. nubilus section above--the information there 
applies to C. l. occidentalis as well. No diseases or parasites, even 
in combination, are of such magnitude that they are significantly 
affecting C. l. occidentalis. Similarly, predation, including human-
caused mortality, is not significantly affecting the subspecies. The 
rates of mortality caused by disease, parasites, and predation are well 
within acceptable limits, and we do not expect those rates to change 
appreciably in the future.
Factor D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms
    The Act requires us to examine the adequacy of existing regulatory 
mechanisms with respect to those existing and foreseeable threats, 
discussed under the other factors that may affect C. l. occidentalis. 
Wolves within the NRM DPS were delisted based in part on our conclusion 
that adequate regulatory mechanisms would be in place for that 
population following delisting. For a full discussion of the regulatory 
mechanisms in place for gray wolves in the NRM DPS, see the final 
delisting rules (74 FR 15123, April 2, 2009; and 77 FR 55530, September 
10, 2012). Within the range of C. l. occidentalis in Canada and Alaska, 
wolf populations are managed as big game and as a furbearer and with 
hunting and trapping the principal management tool used to keep 
populations within the limits of human tolerance. Each state and 
province within the range has committed to maintain sustainable 
populations while allowing for harvest and minimizing conflict with 
livestock. Maintaining wild ungulate populations in numbers that allow 
for liberal human harvest for local consumption is also a priority in 
many areas.
    Although wolves are not dependent on specific habitat features 
other than an adequate food supply and human tolerance, state, 
provincial, and Federal land-management regimes are in place that 
provide protection for wolves and wolf habitat throughout the range of 
C. l. occidentalis in Alaska and Canada. In Alaska, lands managed by 
the National Park Service and the Service are not subject to predator 
control by the state

[[Page 35692]]

of Alaska (Boertje et al. 2010, p. 923). In addition, National Parks do 
not allow hunting. In Canada, National Parks in the southern portion of 
the range of C. l. occidentalis do not allow hunting, while National 
Parks in the northern portion of the range allow hunting by Native 
Peoples (COSEWIC 2001, p. 26). These land-management regimes provide 
refugia for wolf populations from hunting, trapping, and control 
activities, and in turn these protected populations may serve as a 
source of dispersing wolves for low-density populations.
    We have long recognized that control of wolf numbers and especially 
depredating wolves is central to maintaining public support for wolf 
conservation. Much of the impact of livestock production on C. l. 
occidentalis in Alaska and Canada occurred during the period between 
settlement and the mid-twentieth century when wolves were extirpated 
from the prairie regions and larger intermountain valleys of southern 
Canada due to depredations on livestock. Wolves have not repopulated 
these regions due to continued lack of human tolerance to their 
presence. Outside of these relatively high human density areas, wolf 
populations have remained resilient since the cessation of widespread 
predator poisoning campaigns in the 1950s.
    We have no information to suggest that the current regulatory 
regime in Alaska or Canada is not adequate to provide for the 
conservation of C. l. occidentalis. The subspecies appears to maintain 
healthy populations and relatively high numbers across most of its 
historical range and is actively managed to provide for sustainable 
populations while at the same time address conflicts with humans. The 
jurisdictions in these areas have been successful in their search for 
an appropriate balance between wolf conservation, human tolerance, and 
providing for human uses. Therefore, we have determined that both in 
Canada and the United States the existing regulatory mechanisms are 
currently adequate to provide for the long-term conservation of C. l. 
occidentalis. This will remain the case after the current C. lupus 
listed entity is delisted as only a few C. l. occidentalis are known to 
reside outside of the already delisted area in the northern Rocky 
Mountains.
Factor E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued 
Existence
    Wolves in the NRM DPS were delisted based in part on our conclusion 
that other natural or manmade factors are unlikely to pose a threat to 
the wolves in the NRM DPS in the future. For a full discussion of this 
factor for the NRM DPS, see the final delisting rules (74 FR 15123, 
April 2, 2009 and 77 FR 55530, September 10, 2012).
    Public Attitudes Toward the Gray Wolf--In much of Alaska and 
Western Canada, in contrast to the contiguous United States, wolves are 
not dependent on human tolerance for their conservation. Even during 
the height of wolf-control efforts that included broadcast 
indiscriminate poisoning and trapping campaigns by the public and 
government agencies, wolves were able to maintain viable populations in 
much of Canada and Alaska simply by virtue of remote and rugged terrain 
and low human population densities. However, in much of coastal Alaska 
and southern Canada today, public attitudes toward wolves are important 
conservation issues. In these areas with higher human densities and the 
presence of livestock, the primary determinant of the long-term 
conservation of gray wolves will be human attitudes toward this large 
predator. These attitudes are largely based on the real and perceived 
conflicts between human activities and values and wolves, such as 
depredation on livestock and pets, competition for surplus wild 
ungulates between hunters and wolves, concerns for human safety, 
wolves' symbolic representation of wildness and ecosystem health, 
killing of wolves by people, and the wolf-related traditions of Native 
American Tribes or local culture. We strive to find a balance in wolf 
management that will sustain wolf populations but also address other 
human concerns in a way that maintains tolerance of wolves among the 
human populations that live with them. Addressing these concerns will 
often involve lethal take of wolves or other removal methods. These 
activities, when employed in an overall management framework, are 
essential wolf-conservation activities as they provide the public with 
assurances that human interests and needs will be considered 
appropriately during wolf-management decisions. At this time, this 
balance appears to have been achieved across the range of C. l. 
occidentalis through the many management actions employed in the many 
jurisdictions involved, and public attitudes do not constitute a threat 
to the subspecies.
    Predator control--Wolf numbers have been the subject of control 
efforts to reduce conflicts with livestock and to increase ungulate 
numbers in Alaska and Canada since the turn of the twentieth century 
(Boertje et al. 2010, p. 917). Since the 1970s, wolf control has been 
focused on increasing populations of wild ungulates, mostly moose but 
also caribou, both for human consumption and in some cases to conserve 
caribou herds that were at risk (Russell 2010, pp. 6-12). Wolf control 
has included both lethal and nonlethal methods using public hunting and 
trapping seasons, aerial gunning by government agents, and 
experimentation with predator exclosures, sterilization, and 
supplemental feeding (Russell 2010, pp. 6-12). The state of Alaska has 
been the most active in wolf control since the 1970s, maintaining 
predator control areas where wolf numbers are reduced to increase moose 
populations for human harvest (see Titus 2007, entire, for a review of 
Alaska's Intensive Predator Management program). Other jurisdictions 
have employed wolf control to address specific perceived problems or 
experimentally to determine if wolf control is an effective ungulate-
management tool (Russell 2010, pp. 6-12).
    Predator-control programs as they currently exist are not a threat 
and are not expected to become a threat to C. l. occidentalis for 
several reasons:
    (1) The types of control measures that have resulted in effective 
extirpation of wolf populations from large areas are no longer 
permitted or prescribed by the states and provinces that pursue wolf 
control. Historically, wolves were persecuted by people seeking to 
eliminate wolves from the landscape using any means necessary. These 
means included government agencies systematically poisoning and 
trapping with the expressed goal of extirpation of wolves if at all 
possible. Wolf-control programs and associated research in Alaska and 
Canada today have as their goal the maintenance of sustainable (though 
low-density) wolf populations. They do not employ indiscriminate 
broadcast poisoning, and trapping or shooting of wolves is limited by 
estimates of population numbers with the goal of reducing but not 
eliminating wolf populations.
    (2) Wolf control is very expensive and so is not likely to be 
applied broadly enough and consistently enough to reduce the rangewide 
population of C. l. occidentalis substantially. For example, in Alaska, 
where wolf control is most active, control areas are located near human 
populations and cover approximately nine percent of the state. This 
relatively small area of coverage by control activities leaves most of 
the state as ``refuge'' for wolf populations where regulated hunting 
and trapping occurs, but special control efforts are not prescribed. 
Typically, wolf control areas

[[Page 35693]]

are repopulated within 4 years of cessation of control efforts, 
indicating that population control is temporary and reliant on constant 
application of control efforts (Boertje et al. 2010, p. 920).
    (3) Wolf control must be applied over a large area to be effective 
(National Research Council 1997, p. 10). This fact, combined with 
number 2 above, ensures that wolf control is not likely to be applied 
unless wolf populations are high enough for the perceived benefits to 
outweigh the costs. This situation is not likely to exist over a large 
portion of the subspecies' range simultaneously.
    (4) Wolves are extremely resilient with high population-growth 
potential and high rates of movement. After control operations, wolf 
populations recover to precontrol levels within a few years.
    (5) Wolf control will be applied only where wolf populations are 
high. This means that wolf control may act as a density-dependent 
population-control mechanism. When wolf populations are high, ungulate 
populations become depressed, leading to pressures for management 
authorities to employ predator control actions to address the 
situation. As predator populations are reduced and ungulate populations 
rebound, pressure to continue the control actions is reduced, leading 
to reduction or cessation of the program to reduce expenditures. This 
dynamic likely supplies some added protection and makes it even less 
likely that wolf control will become a threat to the subspecies.
    Climate Change--Our analyses under the Act include consideration of 
ongoing and projected changes in climate. The terms ``climate'' and 
``climate change'' are defined by the IPCC. ``Climate'' refers to the 
mean and variability of different types of weather conditions over 
time, with 30 years being a typical period for such measurements, 
although shorter or longer periods also may be used (IPCC 2007, p. 78). 
The term ``climate change'' thus refers to a change in the mean or 
variability of one or more measures of climate (e.g., temperature or 
precipitation) that persists for an extended period, typically decades 
or longer, whether the change is due to natural variability, human 
activity, or both (IPCC 2007, p. 78). Various types of changes in 
climate can have direct or indirect effects on species. These effects 
may be positive, neutral, or negative, and they may change over time, 
depending on the species and other relevant considerations, such as the 
effects of interactions of climate with other variables (e.g., habitat 
fragmentation) (IPCC 2007, pp. 8-14, 18-19). In our analyses, we use 
our expert judgment to weigh relevant information, including 
uncertainty, in our consideration of various aspects of climate change.
    Throughout their circumpolar distribution, gray wolves persist in a 
variety of ecosystems with temperatures ranging from -70[emsp14][deg]F 
to 120[emsp14][deg]F (-57 [deg]C to 49 [deg]C) with wide ranging prey 
type and availability (Mech and Boitani 2003, p. xv). C. l. 
occidentalis are historically and currently known to have inhabited a 
range of ecotypes, subsisting on large ungulate prey as well as small 
mammals. Due to this plasticity, we do not consider C. l. occidentalis 
to be highly vulnerable to climate change. Similarly, elk and bison, 
the primary prey in many areas, are known to be habitat generalists due 
to their association with wide variation in environmental conditions 
(Kuck 1999, p. 1). We recognize that climate change may have detectable 
impacts on the ecosystems that affect C. l. occidentalis. For example, 
temperature and precipitation changes could lead to changes in tree 
cover over large areas in boreal Canada and Alaska. These changes could 
result in increased forage and lower rates of winter die-off for 
ungulates, and possible beneficial effects to wolves. We have no 
indication that these potential impacts of climate change are affecting 
C. l. occidentalis at the current time or in the future. For a full 
discussion of potential impacts of climate change on wolves, please see 
our recent final delisting rule for the gray wolf in Wyoming (77 FR 
55597-55598, September 10, 2012).
Summary of Factor E
    Natural or manmade factors are not affecting the viability of C. l. 
occidentalis nor are they likely to do so in the future. Positive 
public attitudes continue to be fostered through management of 
conflicts and hunting/trapping opportunities and their associated 
economic benefits. Genetic viability is good with no prospects for 
widespread loss of genetic diversity. Wolf control to increase ungulate 
numbers is pursued in local areas but is not likely to have a 
significant effect on wolves. In addition, control actions are not 
aimed at extirpation of wolf populations, but instead seek to reduce 
overall density of wolves while maintaining viable populations.

Cumulative Effects

    A species may be affected by more than one factor in combination. 
Within the preceding review of the five listing factors, we discussed 
potential factors that may have interrelated impacts on C. l. 
occidentalis. Our analysis did not find any significant effects to C. 
l. occidentalis. However, we recognize that multiple sources of 
mortality acting in combination have greater potential to affect wolves 
than each source alone. Thus, we consider how the combination of 
factors may affect C. l. occidentalis. Canis lupus occidentalis occurs 
as well-connected, resilient populations across most of its historical 
geographic range and has expanded into some areas of historical C. l. 
nubilus range in recent years. Given the current size of the C. l. 
occidentalis population in Canada and Alaska and the lack of identified 
effects, we do not find any combination of factors to be a significant 
threat.

Conclusion

    As required by the Act, we considered the five factors in assessing 
whether the subspecies C. l. occidentalis is threatened or endangered 
throughout all of its range. We examined the best scientific and 
commercial information available regarding the past, present, and 
future threats faced by the subspecies. We reviewed the information 
available in our files and other available published and unpublished 
information, and we consulted with recognized experts and other 
Federal, state, and tribal agencies. We also reviewed the report from 
COSEWIC (1999, entire) for status and threats to Canadian wolf 
populations (See Canada in the Status section above). During this 
process we did not identify any effects to the subspecies that would 
rise to the level of threatening or endangering this subspecies. C. l. 
occidentalis was extirpated from the Great Plains of southern Canada 
and northern United States by the 1930s and have not re-established 
populations in these areas. It is likely that land uses associated with 
agriculture and livestock make these areas unsuitable for wolf 
occupation in the future. Past range contraction can be evidence of 
threats that may still be acting on the species, and is therefore 
relevant in considering the status of the species in its remaining 
range. Thus, we considered whether the extirpation of C. l. 
occidentalis from these areas suggests that the remaining range may 
likewise be subject to the threats that caused the past range 
contraction such that substantial additional range contraction is 
likely. We determined that it is not. The past range contraction was 
caused largely by conflict with man resulting from the introduction of 
intensive livestock growing and agriculture in suitable areas 
concurrent with European expansion across the continent; as

[[Page 35694]]

discussed above most of the remaining range of C. l. occidentalis is 
not suitable for conversion to intensive livestock growing and 
agriculture, nor has there been significant expansion of those 
activities or human population growth into occupied wolf habitat for 
many decades. This conclusion is consistent with the observed pattern 
of C. l. occidentalis range over time: The contraction occurred as 
intensive human use of the land expanded; both that expansion and C. l. 
occidentalis range contraction halted many decades ago; and C. l. 
occidentalis range is now stable or expanding. This strongly supports 
the conclusion that the factors that were responsible for the C. l. 
occidentlais' range contraction will not cause further range 
contraction, and will not result in the subspecies becoming endangered 
in the foreseeable future. See the Significant Portion of the Range 
Analysis section below for our evaluation as to whether this subspecies 
may or may not be in danger of extinction in a significant portion of 
its range.

Does the North American subspecies C. l. baileyi warrant the 
protections of the Act?

Subspecies Description
    C. l. baileyi is the smallest extant gray wolf in North America. 
Adults weigh 23 to 41 kg (50 to 90 lb) with a length of 1.5 to 1.8 m (5 
to 6 ft) and height at shoulder of 63-81 cm (25-32 in) (Brown 1988, p. 
119). C. l. baileyi are typically a patchy black, brown to cinnamon, 
and cream color, with primarily light underparts (Brown 1988, p. 118). 
Solid black or white coloration, as seen in other North American gray 
wolves, does not exist in C. l. baileyi. Basic life history for C. l. 
baileyi is similar to that of other gray wolves (Mech 1970, entire; 
Service 1982, p. 11; Service 2010, pp. 32-41).
Historical Distribution and Causes of Decline
    Prior to the late 1800s, C. l. baileyi inhabited the southwestern 
United States and Mexico. In Mexico, C. l. baileyi ranged from the 
northern border of the country southward through the Sierra Madre 
Oriental and Occidental and the altiplano (high plains) to the 
Neovolcanic Axis (a volcanic belt that runs east-west across central-
southern Mexico) (SEMARNAP 2000, p. 8), although wolf distribution may 
not have been continuous through this entire region (McBride 1980, pp. 
2-7). C. l. baileyi is the only subspecies known to have inhabited 
Mexico. In the United States, C. l. baileyi (and, in some areas, C. l. 
nubilus and the previously recognized subspecies C. l. monstrabilis, C. 
l. mogollonensis, and C. l. youngi) inhabited montane forests and 
woodlands in portions of New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas (Young and 
Goldman 1944, p. 471; Brown 1988, pp. 22-23) (see Taxonomy). In 
southern Arizona, C. l. baileyi inhabited the Santa Rita, Tumacacori, 
Atascosa-Pajarito, Patagonia, Chiricahua, Huachuca, Pinaleno, and 
Catalina mountains, west to the Baboquivaris and east into New Mexico 
(Brown 1983, pp. 22-23). In central and northern Arizona, C. l. baileyi 
and other subspecies of gray wolf were interspersed (Brown 1983, pp. 
23-24). C. l. baileyi and other subspecies were present throughout New 
Mexico, with the exception of low desert areas, documented as numerous 
or persisting in areas including the Mogollon, Elk, Tularosa, Diablo 
and Pinos Altos Mountains, the Black Range, Datil, Gallinas, San Mateo, 
Mount Taylor, Animas, and Sacramento Mountains (Brown 1983, pp. 24-25). 
Gray wolf distribution (of other subspecies) continued eastward into 
the Trans-Pecos region of Texas and northward up the Rocky Mountains 
and to the Grand Canyon (Young and Goldman 1944, pp. 23, 50, 404-405).
    Population estimates of gray wolves, and specifically C. l. 
baileyi, prior to the late 1800s are not available for the southwestern 
United States or Mexico. Some trapping records and rough population 
estimates are available from the early 1900s, but do not provide a 
rigorous estimate of population size of C. l. baileyi in the United 
States or Mexico. For New Mexico, a statewide carrying capacity 
(potential habitat) of about 1,500 gray wolves was hypothesized by 
Bednarz, with an estimate of 480 to 1030 wolves present in 1915 (ibid, 
pp. 6, 12). Brown summarized historical distribution records for the 
wolf from McBride (1980, p. 2) and other sources, showing most records 
in the southwestern United States as being from the Blue Range and the 
Animas region of New Mexico (Brown 1983, p. 10). In Mexico, Young and 
Goldman (1944, p. 28) stated that from 1916 to 1918 C. l. baileyi was 
fairly numerous in Sonora, Chihuahua, and Coahuila, although McBride 
comments that C. l. baileyi apparently did not inhabit the eastern and 
northern portions of Coahuila, even in areas with seemingly good 
habitat (1980, p. 2). The 1982 Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan cautioned; 
``It is important . . . not to accept unquestioningly the accounts of 
the 1800s and early 1900s that speak of huge numbers of wolves ravaging 
herds of livestock and game . . . . The total recorded take indicates a 
much sparser number of wolves in the treated areas than the complaints 
of damage state or signify, even when one remembers that these figures 
do not reflect the additional numbers of wolves taken by ranchers, 
bounty-seekers and other private individuals (Service 1982, p. 4).''
    C. l. baileyi populations declined rapidly in the early and mid-
1900s, due to government and private efforts across the United States 
to kill wolves and other predators responsible for livestock 
depredation. By 1925, poisoning, hunting, and trapping efforts 
drastically reduced C. l. baileyi populations in all but a few remote 
areas of the southwestern United States, and control efforts shifted to 
wolves in the borderlands between the United States and Mexico (Brown 
1983, p. 71). Bednarz (1988, p. 12) estimated that breeding populations 
of C. l. baileyi were extirpated from the United States by 1942. The 
use of increasingly effective poisons and trapping techniques during 
the 1950s and 1960s eliminated remaining wolves north of the United 
States-Mexico border, although occasional reports of wolves crossing 
into the United States from Mexico persisted into the 1960s. Wolf 
distribution in northern Mexico contracted to encompass the Sierra 
Madre Occidental in Chihuahua, Sonora, and Durango, as well as a 
disjunct population in western Coahuila (from the Sierra del Carmen 
westward). Leopold (1959, p. 402) found conflicting reports on the 
status of the Coahuila population and stated that wolves were likely 
less abundant there than in the Sierra Madre Occidental.
    When C. l. baileyi was listed as endangered under the Act in 1976, 
no wild populations were known to remain in the United States or 
Mexico. McBride (1980, pp. 2-8) conducted a survey to determine the 
status and distribution of wolves in Mexico in 1977. He mapped 3 
general areas where wolves were recorded as still present in the Sierra 
Madre Occidental: (1) Northern Chihuahua and Sonora border (at least 8 
wolves); (2) western Durango (at least 20 wolves in 2 areas); and (3) a 
small area in southern Zacatecas. Although occasional anecdotal reports 
have been made during the last three decades that a few wild wolves 
still inhabit forested areas in Mexico, no publicly available 
documented verification exists. Several individuals of C. l. baileyi 
captured in the wild in Mexico became the basis for the captive-
breeding program that has enabled the reintroduction of C. l.

[[Page 35695]]

baileyi to the wild (see below, Current Distribution--In Captivity).
C. l. baileyi--Current Distribution--United States
    Today, a single wild population of a minimum of 75 C. l. baileyi 
(December 31, 2012 population count) inhabits the United States in 
central Arizona and New Mexico. We began reintroducing captive-born C. 
l. baileyi to the wild in 1998 as a nonessential experimental 
population under section 10(j) of the Act in the Blue Range Wolf 
Recovery Area (BRWRA) within the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population 
Area (MWEPA). The BRWRA consists of the entire Gila and Apache National 
Forests in east-central Arizona and west-central New Mexico (6,845 
mi\2\ or 17,775 km\2\). The MWEPA is a larger area surrounding the 
BRWRA that extends from Interstate Highway 10 to Interstate Highway 40 
across Arizona and New Mexico and a small portion of Texas north of 
U.S. Highway 62/180 (63 FR 1752; January 12, 1998).
    C. l. baileyi associated with the BRWRA also occupy the Fort Apache 
Indian Reservation of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, adjacent to the 
western boundary of the BRWRA. Since 2000, an agreement between the 
Service and the White Mountain Apache Tribe permits the release, 
dispersal, and establishment of C. l. baileyi onto the reservation, 
providing an additional 6,475 km\2\ (2,500 mi\2\) of high-quality 
forested wolf habitat for the reintroduction (Service 2001, p. 4). 
Information about the number and location of wolves on the reservation 
is not publicly available by request of the White Mountain Apache 
Tribe.
    Since 1998, we have been striving to establish a population of at 
least 100 wild wolves in the BRWRA. This population target was first 
recommended in the 1982 Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan as an interim goal 
upon which to base future recovery goals and expectations and was 
subsequently brought forward in our 1998 Final Rule, ``Establishment of 
a Nonessential Experimental Population of the Mexican Gray Wolf in 
Arizona and New Mexico.'' We continue to acknowledge that this 
population target is appropriate as an interim objective (Service 1982, 
p. 28, Service 1996, p. 1-1) but insufficient for recovery and 
delisting of C. l. baileyi, as the subspecies would still be in danger 
of extinction with a single population of this size (Service 2010, pp. 
78-79).
    Detailed information on the status of the nonessential experimental 
population and the reintroduction project can be found in the 2001 to 
2011 annual reports and the 2010 Mexican Wolf Conservation Assessment 
(Service 2010) available at: www.fws.gov/southwest.es/mexicanwolf.
C. l. baileyi--Current Distribution--Mexico
    Mexico initiated the reestablishment of C. l. baileyi to the wild 
(see Historical Distribution) with the release of five captive-bred C. 
l. baileyi into the San Luis Mountains just south of the U.S.-Mexico 
border in October 2011. As of February 2012, four of the five released 
animals were confirmed dead due to ingestion of illegal poison. The 
status of the fifth wolf is unknown. A sixth wolf was released in March 
2012; its fate is unknown as only its collar was found in April 2012 
(Service, our files). In October 2012, a pair of wolves was released 
and both are alive as of March 3, 2013. Mexico plans to release 
additional wolves in this area, and possibly several other locations in 
Mexico in 2013; however, a schedule of releases is not publicly 
available at this time. We expect the number of wolves in Mexico to 
fluctuate from zero to several wolves or packs of wolves during 2013 in 
or around Sonora, Durango, and Chihuahua.
C. l. baileyi--Current Distribution--In Captivity
    Due to the extirpation of C. l. baileyi in the United States and 
Mexico, the first step for the recovery of the subspecies was the 
development of a captive-breeding population to ensure the subspecies 
did not go extinct. A binational captive-breeding program between the 
United States and Mexico, referred to as the Mexican Wolf Species 
Survival Plan (SSP), was initiated in 1977 to 1980 with the capture of 
the last known C. l. baileyi in the wild in Mexico and subsequent 
addition of wolves from captivity in Mexico and the United States. The 
individual wolves used to establish the captive-breeding program are 
considered the ``founders'' of the breeding population. Seven founder 
wolves represent three founding lineages (family groups): McBride (also 
known as the Certified lineage; three individuals), Ghost Ranch (two 
individuals), and Aragon (two individuals). Through the breeding of 
seven founding wolves from these three lineages and generations of 
their offspring, the population has expanded through the years to its 
current size.
    Close to 300 C. l. baileyi are now housed in captivity as part of 
the SSP captive-management program (258 wolves in 52 facilities: 34 
facilities in the United States and 18 facilities in Mexico as of 
October 12, 2012) (Siminski and Spevak 2012, p. 2). The purpose of the 
SSP is to reestablish C. l. baileyi in the wild through captive 
breeding, public education, and research. This captive population is 
the sole source of C. l. baileyi available to reestablish the species 
in the wild and is imperative to the success of the C. l. baileyi 
reintroduction project and any additional efforts to reestablish the 
subspecies that may be pursued in the future in Mexico by the General 
del Vida Silvestre or by the Service in the United States.
    Captive C. l. baileyi are routinely transferred among the zoos and 
other SSP holding facilities to facilitate genetic exchange (through 
breeding) and maintain the health and genetic diversity of the captive 
population. The SSP strives to house a minimum of 240 wolves in 
captivity at all times to ensure the security of the species in 
captivity, while still being able to produce surplus animals for 
reintroduction.
    In the United States, C. l. baileyi from captive SSP facilities 
that are identified for potential release are first sent to one of 
three prerelease facilities to be evaluated for release suitability and 
to undergo an acclimation process. All wolves selected for release in 
the United States and Mexico are genetically redundant to the captive 
population, meaning their genes are already well represented. This 
minimizes any adverse effects on the genetic integrity of the remaining 
captive population in the event wolves released to the wild do not 
survive.
Habitat Description
    Historically, C. l. baileyi was associated with montane woodlands 
characterized by sparsely to densely forested mountainous terrain 
consisting of evergreen oaks (Quercus spp.) or pinyon (Pinus edulus) 
and juniper (Juniperus spp.) to higher elevation pine (Pinus spp.), 
mixed-conifer forests, and adjacent grasslands at elevations of 4,000 
to 5,000 ft (1,219 to 1,524 m) where ungulate prey were numerous. 
Factors making these vegetation communities attractive to C. l. baileyi 
likely included the abundance of ungulate prey, availability of water, 
and the presence of hiding cover and suitable den sites. Early 
investigators reported that C. l. baileyi probably avoided desert scrub 
and semidesert grasslands that provided little cover, food, or water 
(Brown 1988, pp. 19-22).
    Prior to their extirpation in the wild, C. l. baileyi were believed 
to have preyed upon white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), mule 
deer (O. hemionus), elk (Cervus elaphus), collared peccaries (javelina) 
(Tayassu

[[Page 35696]]

tajacu), pronghorn (Antilocapra americana), bighorn sheep (Ovis 
canadensis), jackrabbits (Lepus spp.), cottontails (Sylvilagus spp.), 
and small rodents (Parsons and Nicholopoulos 1995, pp. 141-142); white-
tailed deer and mule deer were believed to be the primary sources of 
prey (Brown 1988, p. 132; Bednarz 1988, p. 29).
    Today, C. l. baileyi in Arizona and New Mexico inhabit evergreen 
pine-oak woodlands (i.e., Madrean woodlands), pinyon-juniper woodlands 
(i.e., Great Basin conifer forests), and mixed-conifer montane forests 
(i.e., Rocky Mountain, or petran, forests) that are inhabited by elk, 
mule deer, and white-tailed deer (Service 1996, p. 3-5; AMOC and IFT 
2005, p. TC-3). C. l. baileyi in the BRWRA show a strong preference for 
elk compared to other ungulates (AMOC and IFT 2005, p. TC-14, Reed et 
al. 2006, pp. 56, 61; Merkle et al. 2009, p. 482). Other documented 
sources of prey include deer (O. virginianus and O. hemionus) and 
occasionally small mammals and birds (Reed et al. 2006, p. 55). C. l. 
baileyi are also known to prey and scavenge on livestock (Reed et al. 
2006, p. 1129).

Summary of Information Pertaining to the Five Factors

    Several threats analyses have been conducted for C. l. baileyi. In 
the initial proposal to list C. l. baileyi as endangered in 1975 and in 
the subsequent listing of the entire gray wolf species in the 
contiguous United States and Mexico in 1978, the Service found that 
threats from habitat loss (factor A), sport hunting (factor B), and 
inadequate regulatory protection from human targeted elimination 
(factor D) were responsible for C. l. baileyi's decline and near 
extinction (40 FR 17590, April 21, 1975; 43 FR 9607, March 9, 1978). In 
the 2003 reclassification of the gray wolf into three distinct 
population segments, threats identified for the gray wolf in the 
Southwestern Distinct Population Segment (which included Mexico, 
Arizona, New Mexico, and portions of Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, and 
Texas) included illegal killing and (negative) public attitudes (68 FR 
15804, April 1, 2003). The 2010 Mexican Wolf Conservation Assessment 
(Conservation Assessment) contains the most recent five-factor analysis 
for C. l. baileyi (Service 2010, p. 60). The purpose of the 
Conservation Assessment, which was a nonregulatory document, was to 
evaluate the status of the C. l. baileyi BRWRA reintroduction project 
within the broader context of the subspecies' recovery. The 
Conservation Assessment found that the combined threats of illegal 
shooting, small population size, inbreeding, and inadequate regulatory 
protection were hindering the ability of the current population to 
reach the population objective of at least 100 wolves in the BRWRA 
(Service 2010, p. 60).
    The threats we address in this five-factor analysis and our 
conclusions about a given factor may differ from previous listing 
actions due to new information, or, in the case of the Conservation 
Assessment, the difference in perspective necessitated by the listing 
process compared to that of the Conservation Assessment, which was 
focused on recovery. For example, in this five-factor analysis we 
analyze currently occupied habitat, whereas the Conservation Assessment 
included discussion of unoccupied habitat that may be important in the 
future for recovery. In this five-factor analysis, we are assessing 
which factors pose a threat to the existing population of wolves in the 
BRWRA or would pose a threat to these wolves if the protections of the 
Act were not in place.
Factor A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or 
Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range
    As previously discussed, wolves are considered habitat generalists 
with fairly broad ecological capabilities and flexibility in using 
different prey and vegetation communities (Peterson and Ciucci 2003, 
pp. 104-111). Gray wolves hunt in packs, primarily pursuing medium to 
large hooved mammals. Wolf density is positively correlated to the 
amount of ungulate biomass available and the vulnerability of ungulates 
to predation (Fuller et al. 2003, pp. 170-175). These characterizations 
apply to C. l. baileyi and form our basis for defining suitable 
habitat.
    We define suitable habitat for C. l. baileyi as forested, montane 
terrain containing adequate wild ungulate populations (elk, white-
tailed deer, and mule deer) to support a wolf population. Suitable 
habitat has minimal roads and human development, as human access to 
areas inhabited by wolves can result in wolf mortality. Specifically, 
roads can serve as a potential source of wolf mortality due to 
vehicular collision and because they provide humans with access to 
areas inhabited by wolves, which can facilitate illegal killing of 
wolves. Although the road itself could be considered a form of habitat 
modification, the primary threat to wolves related to roads stems from 
the activities enabled by the presence of roads (i.e., vehicular 
collision and illegal killing) rather than a direct effect of the road 
on the wolf such as a boundary to dispersal. We address illegal killing 
under factor C. Disease or Predation, and vehicular collision under 
factor E. Other.
    For C. l. baileyi, we define habitat destruction, modification, or 
curtailment as a decrease or modification in the extent or quality of 
forested, montane terrain in currently occupied habitat, or a decrease 
in ungulate populations in currently occupied habitat, such that wolves 
would not persist in that area. In order to assess whether habitat 
destruction, modification, or curtailment is a threat to C. l. baileyi, 
we consider information related to land status (as a characteristic of 
quality related to minimal human development), ungulate population 
density, and the effects of catastrophic wildfire on wolves and 
ungulates. Our definitions of suitable habitat and of habitat 
destruction, modification, and curtailment are the same for the United 
States and Mexico. Climate change, which has sometimes been addressed 
under factor A by the Service in other listing rules, is addressed 
under factor E. Other.
    United States--C. l. baileyi currently occupies the BRWRA and the 
adjacent Fort Apache Indian Reservation. The 17,775 km\2\ (6,845 mi\2\) 
BRWRA has consistently been identified as one of the highest quality 
sites for C. l. baileyi establishment in the Southwest based on its 
size, public-land status, prey abundance, low road density, and 
additional characteristics such as topography, water availability, and 
historical inhabitance by wolves (Johnson et al. 1992, pp. 28-42, 47-
48; Service 1996, pp. 2-2-2-4; Carroll et al. 2005, pp. 1, 30, 31; 
Carroll et al. 2006, p. 33). The Fort Apache Indian Reservation 
provides an additional 6,475 km\2\ (2,500 mi\2\) of high-quality 
forested wolf habitat for the reintroduction (Service 2001, p. 4) (see 
Current Distribution--United States). Although wolves occasionally 
occupy areas outside of the BRWRA or Fort Apache Indian Reservation 
within the MWEPA, the Service does not currently allow C. l. baileyi to 
establish territories on public lands wholly outside of the BRWRA 
boundaries (63 FR 1754; January 12, 1998). In compliance with the 
existing regulations of our nonessential experimental population 
designation, wolves that establish territories wholly outside the BRWRA 
but inside the MWEPA are captured and returned to a recovery area or to 
captivity. The Service does not routinely capture and return wolves 
that make occasional forays onto public land outside of the BRWRA (63 
FR 1771; January 12, 1998). Given our current

[[Page 35697]]

regulations for the nonessential experimental population requiring wolf 
establishment to occur only within the BRWRA (63 FR 1771; January 12, 
1998), we do not consider temporary occupation outside the BRWRA or 
Fort Apache Indian Reservation to be relevant to our analysis of 
habitat destruction, modification, or curtailment. Elsewhere in today's 
Federal Register, we propose revisions to our regulations for the 
nonessential experimental population.
    We consider the public-land status of the BRWRA to be an important 
characteristic of the quality of the reintroduction area: 95 percent of 
the BRWRA is U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service lands, 
made up of the entire Gila and Apache National Forests (with a number 
of small private inholdings making up the last 5 percent). Public lands 
such as National Forests are considered to have the most appropriate 
conditions for wolf reintroduction and recovery efforts because they 
typically have significantly lesser degrees of human development and 
habitat degradation than other land-ownership types (Fritts and Carbyn 
1995, p. 26). We do not have any information or foresee any change in 
the size, status, ownership, or management of the Gila and Apache 
National Forests in the future. If C. l. baileyi were not protected by 
the Act, we cannot foresee any changes to the status of these National 
Forests such that suitability for wolves would significantly diminish.
    The most prevalent biotic communities in the BRWRA include petran 
montane and great basin conifer forests, plains and great basin 
grasslands, Madrean evergreen woodland, and semidesert grasslands 
(Service 1996, pp. 3-5). Elevation in the BRWRA ranges from 1,219 to 
3,353m (4,000 to 11,000 ft), from the lowlands of the San Francisco 
River to the top of Mount Baldy, Escudilla Mountain, and the Mogollon 
Mountains. In 2011 (minimum population count of 58), wolves occupied 
6,959 km\2\ (2,687 mi\2\) (approximately 40 percent) of the BRWRA, 
utilizing habitat throughout a wide range of elevations (based on 
location of home ranges in 2011, Service 2011, p. 23). (We are in the 
process of calculating occupied range for 2012, in which our minimum 
population estimate rose to 75 wolves.)
    The vegetation communities of the BRWRA support elk, white-tailed 
deer, and mule deer. Prior to the reintroduction, the Service 
determined that adequate prey was available in the BRWRA to support a 
population of at least 100 wolves based on estimates of elk and deer 
(Service 1996, pp. 4-20). Our current estimates continue to support 
this finding. In 2005, we assessed documented predation events in the 
BRWRA and confirmed that prey were adequate to support the population 
(AMOC and IFT 2005, p. TC-19). More recently, we estimated a 
``theoretical biologically supportable wolf population'' using the 
number of elk and deer presented in the Final Environmental Impact 
Statement, ``Reintroduction of the Mexican Wolf Within Its Historic 
Range in the Southwestern United States'' (Service 1996), and in more 
recent estimates (Heffelfinger, unpublished data) that relates Ungulate 
Biomass Index (UBI) to wolves per 1,000 km\2\ (Fuller et al. 2003, p. 
171).
    The UBI scales wild ungulates on the landscape to deer equivalents. 
For instance, an elk is considered three times the size of deer in the 
UBI scale, whereas the smaller white-tailed deer were scaled as a 0.5 
deer equivalent. Mule deer were given a score of 1. Our results suggest 
that estimated current ungulate populations in the BRWRA could support 
from 203 to 354 wolves. However, we recognize that other factors may 
limit how many wolves could be supported on the landscape, such as 
management of wolves related to interactions with livestock and humans, 
patchy distribution of prey, uncertainties associated with a multiprey 
system, and social interactions among wolves. No observation or 
documentation of behavior (e.g., high levels of intraspecific strife) 
or significant levels of wolf mortality due to starvation have been 
made during the course of the reintroduction, supporting our conclusion 
that wolves are not food limited in the BRWRA (AMOC and IFT 2005, pp. 
20-21; Service files).
    Current and reasonably foreseeable management practices in the Gila 
and Apache National Forests are expected to support ungulate 
populations at levels that will sustain the current wolf population as 
it grows toward the population objective of at least 100 wild wolves. 
Prey populations throughout all of Arizona and New Mexico continue to 
be monitored by the state wildlife agencies within Game Management 
Units, the boundaries of which are defined in each state's hunting 
regulations. If C. l. baileyi was not protected by the Act, we do not 
predict any significant resulting change to the ungulate populations 
that inhabit the Gila and Apache National Forests such that habitat 
suitability for wolves would diminish.
    Wildfire is a type of habitat modification that could affect the C. 
l. baileyi population in two primary ways--by killing of wolves 
directly or by causing changes in the abundance and distribution of 
ungulates. Two recent large wildfires, the Wallow Fire and the 
Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire, have burned within close proximity to 
denning wolf packs in the BRWRA. Due to their very large size and rapid 
spread, both of these fires are considered catastrophic wildfires.
    On May 29, 2011, the Wallow Fire began in Arizona and spread to 
over 538,000 acres (217,721 ha) in Arizona (Apache, Navajo, Graham, and 
Greenlee Counties; San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation, Fort Apache 
Indian Reservation) and New Mexico (Catron County) by the end of June 
(www.inciweb.org/incident/2262; accessed July 5, 2011). The Wallow Fire 
was human-caused (www.inciweb.org/incident/2262; accessed July 5, 2011) 
and is the second largest fire in Arizona's recorded history 
(www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/fires/main/ariz-fire-20110609, accessed 
November 1, 2012).
    The Wallow Fire burned through approximately 11 percent of the 
BRWRA. Three known or presumed wolf pack denning locations (Rim pack, 
Bluestem pack, Hawks Nest pack) were within the fire's boundaries 
(Service 2011). Although we had initial concern that denning pups 
(which are not as mobile as adults or may depend on adults to move them 
from the den) may not survive the fire due to their proximity to the 
rapidly spreading fire, we did not document any wolf mortalities as a 
result of the fire. Telemetry information indicated all radio-collared 
animals survived, and pups from two of the packs whose den areas burned 
survived through the year's end to be included in the end-of-year 
population survey. While denning behavior was observed in the third 
pack, the presence of pups had not been confirmed prior to the fire, 
and no pups were documented with this pack at the year's end (Service 
2011).
    In addition to possible direct negative effects of the Wallow Fire 
(i.e., mortality of wolves, which we did not document), we also 
considered whether the fire was likely to result in negative short- or 
long-term effects to ungulate populations. The Wallow Fire Rapid 
Assessment Team's postfire assessment hypothesized that elk and deer 
abundance will respond favorably as vegetation recovers, with ungulate 
abundance exceeding prefire conditions within 5 years due to decreased 
competition of forage and browse with fire-killed conifers (Dorum 2011, 
p. 3). Based on this information, we recognize

[[Page 35698]]

and will continue to monitor the potential for this fire to result in 
beneficial (increased prey) effects for C. l. baileyi over the next few 
years.
    On May 16, 2012, the Whitewater-Baldy Complex fire was ignited by 
lightning strikes. It burned at least 297,845 acres (www.inciweb.org/incident/2870, July 23, 2012), including an additional (to the Wallow 
Fire) 7 percent of the BRWRA. The Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire was 
contained 2 mi (3 km) from a denning wolf pack to the north (Dark 
Canyon pack) and 5 mi (8 km) from a denning wolf pack to the east 
(Middle Fork pack). We have not documented any adverse effects, 
including mortality, from the fire to these packs. We similarly 
hypothesize, as with the Wallow Fire, that elk and deer abundance will 
respond favorably as vegetation recovers in the burned area, with 
ungulate abundance exceeding pre-fire conditions within several years.
    Given that we have not observed any wolf mortality associated with 
the Wallow and Whitewater-Baldy Complex fires, these specific fires 
have not significantly affected the C. l. baileyi population. Moreover, 
although these fires demonstrate the possibility that a catastrophic 
wildfire within the reintroduction area could result in mortality of 
less mobile, denning pups, we recognize that adult wolves are highly 
mobile animals and can move out of even a catastrophic fire's path. 
While mortality of pups would slow the growth of the population over a 
year or two, the adult, breeding animals drive the ability of the 
population to persist. We do not consider even these catastrophic fires 
to be a significant mortality risk to adult wolves given their mobility 
and, therefore, do not consider wildfire to be a significant threat to 
C. l. baileyi. Further, we predict that these fires will result in 
changes in vegetation communities and prey densities that will be 
favorable to wolves within a few years. We have no reason to believe 
there would be changes to the effects of fire on C. l. baileyi if they 
were not protected by the Act.
    Mexico--C. l. baileyi appears to have been extirpated from the wild 
in Mexico for more than 30 years. Recently, researchers and officials 
in Mexico identified priority sites for reintroduction of C. l. baileyi 
in the states of Sonora, Durango, Zacatecas, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo 
Leon, and Tamaulipas based on vegetation type, records of historical 
wolf occurrence, and risk factors affecting wolf mortality associated 
with proximity to human development and roads (Araiza et al. 2012, pp. 
630-637). Subsequently, officials in Mexico reintroduced eight wolves 
to the wild during 2011 and 2012 (see Current Distribution--Mexico). 
Four of these wolves are confirmed dead, the status of two wolves is 
unknown, and two wolves are alive (as of January 2, 2013).
    We recognize that wolves are being reintroduced in Mexico to areas 
identified as priority sites based on current research (Araiza et al. 
2012). However, we also note that Araiza et. al's habitat assessment 
does not include assessment of prey availability within the six 
identified areas, which is a critical indicator of habitat suitability. 
Some information on prey availability is currently being collected and 
synthesized by Mexico for specific locations, but is not publicly 
available at this time. We also note that, due to the majority of land 
in Mexico being held in private ownership, large patches of secure 
public land are unavailable in Mexico to support reintroduction, which 
has been an important characteristic of reintroduction sites in the 
United States. We will continue to observe the status of the wolf 
reintroduction effort in Mexico. At this time, because our focus in 
this analysis is on currently occupied range, the absence of a wolf 
population in Mexico precludes analysis of habitat threats to C. l. 
baileyi there.
Summary of Factor A
    We have no information indicating that present or threatened 
habitat destruction, modification, or curtailment is significantly 
affecting C. l. baileyi or is likely to do so in the future. The BRWRA 
continues to provide an adequately sized area of protected, high-
quality, forested montane terrain with adequate ungulate populations to 
support the current population of about 75 wolves. We do not foresee 
any changes in the status of the area (as National Forest land) or 
management of ungulates in occupied habitat. Further, we do not 
consider wildfire to be resulting in habitat destruction, modification, 
or curtailment that is threatening C. l. baileyi, although we recognize 
that future catastrophic wildfires have the potential to slow the 
growth of the population if pup mortality occurs in several packs.
    We have not conducted an analysis of threats under factor A in 
Mexico due to the lack of a C. l. baileyi population there for more 
than 30 years. Based on the mortality of reintroduced wolves in Mexico 
during 2011-2012, we do not expect a population to be established there 
for several years.
Factor B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Educational Purposes
    Since the inception of the BRWRA C. l. baileyi reintroduction, we 
have not authorized legal killing or removal of wolves from the wild 
for commercial, recreational (i.e., hunting), scientific, or 
educational purposes. We are not aware of any instances of illegal 
killing of BRWRA wolves for their pelts in the Southwest, or of illegal 
trafficking in C. l. baileyi pelts or parts. C. l. baileyi pelts and 
parts from wolves that die in captivity or in the wild may be used for 
educational or scientific purposes, such as taxidermy mounts for 
display, when permission is granted from the Service; most wolf parts 
are sent to a curatorial facility at the University of New Mexico to be 
preserved, catalogued, and stored. A recreational season for wolf 
hunting is not currently authorized in the Southwest.
    We have authorized, through a section 10(a)(1)(A) research-and-
recovery permit under 50 CFR 17.32, as well as in accordance with the 
Mexican wolf nonessential experimental population rule and section 
10(j) management rule under 50 CFR 17.84(k), agency personnel to take 
any C. l. baileyi in the nonessential experimental population, as well 
as to conduct activities related directly to the recovery of 
reintroduced nonessential experimental populations of C. l. baileyi 
within Arizona and New Mexico. While some removal of individual C. l. 
baileyi (including lethal take) has occurred by the Service as a result 
of these measures, these actions are conducted within the purpose of 
our recovery program to contribute to the conservation of the Mexican 
gray wolf.
    Several C. l. baileyi research projects occur in the BRWRA or 
adjacent tribal lands by independent researchers or project personnel, 
but these studies have utilized radio-telemetry, scat analysis, and 
other noninvasive methods that do not entail direct handling of, or 
impact to, wolves (e.g., Cariappa et al. 2008, Breck et al. 2011, 
Rinkevich 2012). Nonlethal research for the purpose of conservation is 
also conducted on C. l. baileyi in the SSP captive-breeding program; 
projects include research on reproduction, artificial insemination, and 
gamete collection and preservation (see Service Mexican Wolf Recovery 
Program annual reports online at www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf 
for descriptions of past and current research projects). Research on 
disease and conditioned taste aversion is also being conducted in the 
SSP captive-breeding program. In all cases, any take

[[Page 35699]]

authorized by the Service for scientific, educational, and conservation 
purposes must benefit C. l. baileyi and promote its recovery.
    Since reintroductions began in 1998, we are aware of 18 incidents 
in which C. l. baileyi were captured in nongovernmental (private) 
traps, 8 of which resulted in injury (including 2 mortalities). Sixteen 
of the total incidents occurred in New Mexico. While these injuries may 
have a significant effect on the individual wolf and may affect that 
particular animal's pack, they are relatively rare occurrences (18 
known incidences in 15 years). We conclude that two mortalities over 
the course of the project have not affected the population's growth.
    Absent the protection of the Act, C. l. baileyi could be protected 
from overutilization in the United States by State regulations and 
programs in Arizona and New Mexico and Federal law in Mexico. The 
Arizona Revised Statutes Title 17 gives the Arizona Game and Fish 
Commission (Commission) the authority to regulate take of wildlife in 
the state of Arizona. ``Take'' (to pursue, shoot, hunt, trap, kill, 
capture, snare, or net) of wildlife in Arizona on lands under the 
authority of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission is prohibited, unless 
a provision (e.g., Commission Order, special rule, permit) is made to 
allow take. Arizona Game and Fish Commission Rules, Article 4, outlines 
additional restrictions that would provide further protections from 
overutilization including regulating and outlining prohibitions on 
possession and transport of illegally taken wildlife, and regulating 
and placing restrictions on scientific collection/handling of wildlife. 
Because Commission Order 14 (Other Birds and Mammals) does not open a 
hunting season on wolves, all take of C. l. baileyi in Arizona is 
prohibited (except via special permit, as for science and management 
purposes; permits that in-turn require the permittee to secure all 
required federal permits). A hunting season could be opened if the 
agency documented a harvestable surplus or identified a need for 
population reduction in a specific area. The Arizona Game and Fish 
Department, the administrative, management, and enforcement arm of the 
Commission, is charged with carrying out the Commission's programs and 
enforcing its regulations.
    Pursuant to the Wildlife Conservation Act of New Mexico, it is 
unlawful to take, possess, transport, export, process, sell, or offer 
for sale or ship any state or Federal endangered species (17-2-41 
NMSA), thus, as a state-listed endangered species, C. l. baileyi would 
be protected from take related to overutilization.
    Similarly, in Mexico, the General Wildlife Law (``Ley General de 
Vida Silvestre'', 2000, as amended) provides regulation against take of 
species identified by the Norma Oficial Mexicana NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010, 
``Protecci[oacute]n ambiental-Especies nativas de M[eacute]xico de 
flora y fauna silvestres.'' These regulatory provisions are further 
discussed under factor D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory 
Mechanisms.
Summary of Factor B
    Based on available information, overutilization for commercial, 
recreational, scientific, or educational purposes does not occur or is 
exceedingly rare in the United States. In addition, we have no examples 
of these forms of take occurring in Mexico since the Mexican 
reintroduction program began in 2011. Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico 
have regulatory provisions under which C. l. baileyi could be protected 
against overutilization if the subspecies were not protected by the 
Act. Due to the nonexistent or very low level of overutilization 
occurring, and the ability of the States and Mexico to regulate 
overutilization, we do not consider overutilization to be affecting C. 
l. baileyi now or in the future.
Factor C. Disease or Predation
    A number of viral, fungal, and bacterial diseases and endo- and 
ectoparasites have been documented in gray wolf populations (Kreeger 
2003, pp. 202-214). However, little research has been done specific to 
disease in C. l. baileyi, and little documentation exists of disease 
prevalence in wild wolves in the BRWRA population. We obtain the 
majority of our information on documented mortalities (from all 
sources, including disease) in the BRWRA from animals wearing radio 
collars. We may, therefore, underestimate the number of mortalities 
resulting from disease (e.g., due to the number of uncollared wolves).
    Typically, infectious diseases (such as viruses and bacteria) are 
transmitted through direct contact (e.g., feces, urine, or saliva) with 
an infected animal, by aerosol routes, or by physical contact with 
inanimate objects (fomites). Parasites are infective through water, 
food sources, or direct contact. Wolves are able to tolerate a number 
of parasites, such as tapeworms or ticks, although occasionally such 
organisms can cause significant disease, or even be lethal (Kreeger 
2003, p. 202).
    C. l. baileyi are routinely vaccinated for rabies virus, distemper 
virus, parvovirus, parainfluenza virus, and adenovirus before release 
to the wild from captive facilities. In addition, common dewormers and 
external parasite treatments are administered. Wolves captured in the 
wild are vaccinated for the same diseases and administered dewormers 
and external parasite treatments. Kreeger (2003, pp. 208-211) describes 
the transmission route and effect of these diseases on gray wolves and 
can be referenced for general information. Recent rules for the Western 
Great Lakes and Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf populations contain 
information from studies of disease occurrences in those geographic 
regions, and can also serve as a reference for a more comprehensive 
discussion of these (and other) diseases than that provided below (72 
FR 6051, February 8, 2007; 73 FR 10513, February 27, 2008).
    Rabies, caused by a rhabdovirus, is an infectious disease of the 
central nervous system typically transmitted by the bite of an infected 
animal. Rabies can spread between infected wolves in a population 
(e.g., among and between packs), or between populations, resulting in 
severe population declines. Rabies is untreatable and leads to death. A 
rabies outbreak in and near the BRWRA began in 2006 in eastern Arizona 
and continued through 2009, with positive rabies diagnoses (fox 
variant) in both foxes and bobcats. No wolves in the Blue Range 
population were diagnosed with rabies during this outbreak (Arizona 
Department of Health Services 2012; New Mexico Department of Health 
2011) or throughout the history of the reintroduction.
    Canine distemper, caused by a paramyxovirus, is an infectious 
disease typically transmitted by aerosol routes or direct contact with 
urine, feces, and nasal exudates. Death from distemper is usually 
caused by neurological complications (e.g., paralysis, seizures), or 
pneumonia. Distemper can cause high fatality rates, though survivors 
are occasionally documented in canine populations. Distemper virus may 
have been a contributing factor to high levels of pup mortality in 
Yellowstone National Park during several summers (Smith and Almberg 
2007, p. 18). Although wolf populations are known to be exposed to the 
virus in the wild, mortality from distemper in wild C. l. baileyi is 
uncommon. However, we expect C. l. baileyi pups, in general, would be 
most susceptible to death from distemper virus at a time period prior 
to when they are captured, collared, and vaccinated. Therefore, our 
collared sample of pups may not be accurately documenting this source 
of mortality.

[[Page 35700]]

    Distemper has been documented in one wild litter of wolves in the 
BRWRA. Two sibling C. l. baileyi pups brought to a captive-wolf-
management facility in 2000 from the wild were diagnosed with distemper 
(indicating they were exposed to the disease in the wild) and died in 
captivity (AMOC and IFT 2005, p. TC-12). (Note: These captive deaths 
are not included in the BRWRA mortality statistics.) These are the only 
known mortalities due to distemper documented in relation to the 
current population (AMOC and IFT 2005, p. TC-12).
    Canine parvovirus is an infectious disease caused by a virus that 
results in severe gastrointestinal and myocardial (heart disease) 
symptoms. Parvovirus is persistent in the environment and can be spread 
by direct contact or viral particles in the environment. Symptoms of an 
infected adult animal may include severe vomiting and diarrhea, 
resulting in death due to dehydration or electrolyte imbalance. Pups 
may die from myocardial (heart) disease if infected with canine 
parvovirus while in utero or soon after birth from cardiac arrhythmias. 
Although canine parvovirus has been documented in wild wolf 
populations, documented mortalities due to parvovirus are few; 
researchers hypothesize that parvovirus can be a survivable disease, 
although less so in pups. Parvovirus is thought to have slowed various 
stages of colonization and dispersal of wolves in the greater Minnesota 
population (Mech et al. 2008, pp. 832-834).
    Parvovirus has been documented in one wild litter of wolves in the 
BRWRA. Three sibling C. l. baileyi pups were documented having, and 
then dying from, parvovirus in 1999: One pup died in an acclimation 
release pen in the BRWRA, indicating it had been exposed to the disease 
in the wild (AMOC and IFT 2005, p. TC-12). (This pup is the single 
disease-related mortality documented for the wild population. The other 
two pups, which also may have been exposed to the disease in the wild, 
were transferred to, and died at, a prerelease captive facility and are 
considered captive mortalities). Mortality from canine parvovirus has 
otherwise not been documented in the BRWRA population. However, we 
expect pups, in general, to be most susceptible to death from 
parvovirus prior to when they are captured, collared, and vaccinated. 
Therefore, our collared sample of pups may not be accurately 
documenting this source of mortality.
    Three of 92 total documented wolf deaths in the BRWRA population 
between 1998 and 2012 have been attributed to disease: 1 to canine 
parvovirus, 1 to chronic bacterial pleuritis (bacterial infection 
around the lungs), and 1 to bacterial pneumonia. The pleuritis and 
pneumonia cases, though bacterial diseases, are likely both secondary 
to other unknown natural factors, rather than contagious, infectious 
diseases. Potential pup mortality caused by infectious disease may be 
poorly documented in the free-ranging population because these pups are 
too young to radio collar and thus difficult to detect or monitor. In 
addition, collared animals are vaccinated, which reduces the potential 
for mortality to occur among collared wolves.
    We do not have evidence that disease was a significant factor in 
the decline of C. l. baileyi prior to its protection by the Act in the 
1970's. However, we recognize that, in a general sense, disease has the 
potential to affect the size and growth rate of a wolf population and 
could have a negative impact on the BRWRA population if the active 
vaccination program were not in place. We also recognize that some 
diseases are more likely to spread as wolf-to-wolf contact increases 
(Kreeger 2003, pp. 202-214), thus the potential for disease outbreaks 
to occur may increase as the current population expands in numbers or 
density, although the effect on the population may be lower because a 
larger wolf population would be more likely to sustain the epidemic. 
Absent the protection of the Act, the potential for disease to affect 
the C. l. baileyi population would primarily depend on whether state 
wildlife agencies or other parties provided a similar level of 
vaccination to the population as that which we currently provide.
    In addition to disease, we must also assess whether predation is 
affecting C. l. baileyi now or in the future under factor C. In our 
assessment of predation, we focus on wild predators as well as 
intentional human killing of wolves.
    Wild predators do not regularly prey on wolves (Ballard et al. 
2003, pp. 259-271). Although large prey may occasionally kill wolves 
during self-defense (Mech and Peterson 2003, p. 134), this occurrence 
is rare and not considered predation on the wolf. Between 1998 and 
December 31, 2012, three documented C. l. baileyi mortalities are 
attributed to predators (wolf, mountain lion, and unknown) (Service 
2012, Mexican Wolf Blue Range Reintroduction Population Statistics). 
This may be an underestimate (e.g., due to the number of uncollared 
wolves), but we still consider the overall incidence to be low based on 
the occurrences we have documented. Monitoring of Northern Rocky 
Mountain wolf populations demonstrates that wolf-to-wolf conflicts may 
be the biggest source of predation among gray wolves, but this 
typically occurs from territorial conflicts and has not occurred at a 
level sufficient to affect the viability of these populations (73 FR 
10513; February 27, 2008). As the C. l. baileyi population begins to 
saturate available habitat, wolf mortalities resulting from territorial 
conflicts may become more prevalent but this type of mortality is not 
currently a concern. We do not foresee any change in the occurrence of 
wild predation on C. l. baileyi if the subspecies was not protected by 
the Act and, therefore, do not consider predation from wild predators 
to be affecting C. l. baileyi.
    Illegal shooting of wolves has been the biggest single source of 
mortality since the reintroduction began in 1998, and the largest 
single source of mortality in 8 separate years between 1998 and 
December 31, 2012 (Service 2013: Mexican Wolf Blue Range Reintroduction 
Project Statistics). Out of 92 wild wolf mortalities documented between 
1998 and 2012, 46 deaths are attributed to illegal shooting (50 percent 
of total mortalities). Documented illegal shootings have ranged from 
zero to seven per year between 1998 and December 2012, with one or more 
occurring every year with the exception of 1999. Illegal shooting has 
varied from no impact to the population (e.g., in 1999 when no illegal 
shootings occurred) to resulting in the known mortality of about 15 
percent of the population in a given year (e.g., in 2001). Forty-five 
percent of the illegal shootings have occurred during the last 4 to 5 
years (as opposed to 55 percent in the first 14 years), signaling an 
increasing trend in this threat. Documented causes of illegal shooting 
in other gray wolf populations have included intentional killing and 
mistaken identity as a coyote or dog (Fuller et al. 2003, p. 181). We 
do not know the reason for each instance of illegal shooting of C. l. 
baileyi in the BRWRA.
    We recognize that some wolf populations can maintain themselves 
despite sustained human-caused mortality rates of 17 to 48 percent 
([Fuller et al. 2003 +/- 8 percent], pp. 184-185; Adams et al. 2008 [29 
percent], p. 22; Creel and Rotella 2010 [22 percent], p. 5; Sparkman et 
al. 2011 [25 percent], p. 5; Gude et al. 2011 [48 percent], pp. 113-
116; Vucetich and Carroll In Review [17 percent]) and that human-caused 
mortality sometimes replaces much of the wolf mortality in

[[Page 35701]]

a population that would have occurred naturally (e.g., due to 
intraspecific strife from territorial conflicts occurring in 
populations that have saturated available habitat) (Fuller et al. 2003, 
p. 186). However, for the BRWRA population, which is small and is not 
near carrying capacity, we think it is likely that the majority of 
illegal shootings function as additive mortality to the BRWRA 
population (that is, these mortalities are in addition to other 
mortalities that occur, rather than compensatory mortality where the 
deaths from illegal shooting would substitute for deaths that would 
occur naturally) (Murray et al. 2010, pp. 2515, 2522). Illegal shooting 
has a negative effect on the size and growth rate of the BRWRA 
population, but the effect of these mortalities on the population has 
likely been masked to some degree by the number of captive wolves 
released into the wild over the course of the reintroduction effort (92 
wolves). Additionally, we are unable to document all mortalities to the 
population (e.g., uncollared wolves) and, therefore, may be 
underestimating the number of mortalities caused by illegal shooting.
    We expect that, absent the protection of the Act, killing of wolves 
would continue at current levels or, more likely, increase 
significantly because Federal penalties would not be in place to serve 
as a deterrent. C. l. baileyi could be protected from take by state 
regulations in Arizona and New Mexico and Federal regulations in 
Mexico, but state penalties are less severe than Federal penalties (see 
a description and discussion of this under factor D) and Federal 
protection in Mexico does not infer protection for wolves in the United 
States. Based on the continuous occurrence of illegal shooting taking 
place while C. l. baileyi is protected by the Act and the likelihood of 
increased occurrences of wolf shooting absent the protection of the 
Act, we consider illegal shooting of C. l. baileyi to be significant to 
the population. We further consider the threat of illegal shooting to 
C. l. baileyi in ``Combination of Factors/Focus on Cumulative 
Effects.'' which discusses this and other threats within the context of 
the small, geographically restricted and isolated BRWRA population.
    In Mexico, illegal killing of wolves released to the wild in 2011-
2012 has already been documented. Necropsy results confirm that four 
wolves released in Sonora, Mexico, in 2011 were killed by feeding on 
poison-laced carcasses within several months of their release (Service, 
our files). Whether the poison was intentionally targeting C. l. 
baileyi or was aimed more generally at predators, especially coyotes, 
is unknown. However, the poison used was an illegal substance, and 
investigation into these mortalities is ongoing. Illegal killing of 
four wolves has significantly hindered Mexico's initial efforts to 
establish a population; continued monitoring of the wolves Mexico 
releases in the future will be necessary to document whether these 
initial events were by chance or are indicative of a significant, 
ongoing threat to C. l. baileyi in Mexico.
Summary of Factor C
    Based on the low incidence of disease and mortality from wild 
predators, we do not consider these factors to be significantly 
affecting C. l. baileyi nor do we expect them to in the future. Illegal 
shooting has been a continuous source of mortality to the BRWRA 
population since its inception, and we expect that if C. l. baileyi 
were not protected by the Act the number of shootings would increase 
substantially in the United States. Therefore, we consider illegal 
shooting to be significantly affecting C. l. baileyi in the United 
States. In Mexico, four wolves released in 2011 were illegally poisoned 
within months of their release to the wild, significantly hindering 
their reintroduction efforts. Illegal poisoning may affect the future 
C. l. baileyi population in Mexico significantly if such events 
continue.
Factor D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms
    The Act requires us to examine the adequacy of existing regulatory 
mechanisms with respect to those existing and foreseeable threats, 
discussed under the other factors, that may affect the Mexican wolf. In 
this five-factor analysis, we consider illegal shooting (factor C), 
inbreeding (factor E), and small population size (factor E) to be 
significantly affecting C. l. baileyi. We address regulatory mechanisms 
related to illegal shooting, as no regulatory mechanisms are available 
to address inbreeding or small population size beyond the overarching 
protection of the Act.
    As discussed in factor C, illegal killing (or ``take,'' as it is 
referred to in the Act) of C. l. baileyi currently occurs at 
significant levels in both the United States and Mexico. In the United 
States, illegal shooting of C. l. baileyi has been a continuous source 
of mortality over the course of the BRWRA reintroduction. In Mexico, 
illegal killing has resulted in a setback to the reestablishment of a 
population of wolves in the state of Sonora and the Western Sierra 
Madre.
    The Act provides broad protection of listed species to prohibit and 
penalize illegal take but has not been sufficient to deter all illegal 
killing of C. l. baileyi in the United States. Section 9 of the Act 
(Prohibited acts) prohibits the take of any endangered species. Section 
11 (Penalties and enforcement) provides civil penalties up to $25,000, 
and criminal penalties up to $50,000 and/or not more than 1 year in 
jail for knowing violations of section 9. Experimental populations, 
such as C. l. baileyi in the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area, 
are treated as if they are listed as a threatened species, which limits 
criminal penalties to up to $25,000 and imprisonment for not more than 
6 months.
    All cases of suspected illegal shooting of C. l. baileyi in the 
United States are investigated by the Service's Office of Law 
Enforcement Special Agents. On-the-ground personnel involved in 
preventing illegal take of C. l. baileyi and apprehending those who 
commit illegal take include Service Special Agents, AGFD Game Wardens, 
New Mexico Department of Fish and Game Conservation Officers, U.S. 
Forest Service special agents and Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs), San 
Carlos Apache Tribe LEOs, and White Mountain Apache Tribe LEOs. 
Specific actions to reduce illegal take include targeted patrols during 
high-traffic periods (hunting seasons and holidays); the ability to 
restrict human activities within a 1-mi (1.6-km) radius of release 
pens, active dens, and rendezvous sites; proactive removal of road 
kills to reduce the potential of wolves scavenging, which may result in 
vehicular collision and illegal take of C. l. baileyi; and monetary 
rewards for information that leads to a conviction for unlawful take of 
the subspecies. Of the 43 wolf mortalities classified as illegal 
shooting between 1998 and 2011, only 4 positive convictions have been 
made.
    If C. l. baileyi were not protected by the Act, it would be 
protected by state regulations in Arizona and New Mexico, and by 
Federal law in Mexico. In Arizona, the (Mexican) gray wolf is managed 
as Wildlife of Special Concern (Arizona Game and Fish Commission Rules, 
Article 4, R12-4-401) and is identified as a Species of Greatest 
Conservation Need (Tier 1a, endangered) (Species of Greatest 
Conservation Need 2006, pending). Species with these designations are 
managed under the Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Management program by 
the AGFD. This program seeks to protect, restore, preserve, and 
maintain such species. These provisions, i.e., the Species of Greatest

[[Page 35702]]

Conservation Need list and the Wildlife of Special Concern list, are 
nonregulatory. However, Arizona Revised Statute Title 17 establishes 
AGFD with authority to regulate take of wildlife in the state of 
Arizona. ``Take'' (to pursue, shoot, hunt, trap, kill, capture, snare, 
or net) of wildlife in Arizona on lands under the authority of the 
Arizona Game and Fish Commission is prohibited, unless a provision 
(e.g., Commission Order, special rule, permit) is made to allow take. 
Penalties for illegal take or possession of wildlife can include 
revocation of hunting license or civil penalties up to $8,000 depending 
on its classification as established through annual regulations.
    In New Mexico, C. l. baileyi is listed as endangered (Wildlife 
Conservation Act, pp. 17-2-37 through 17-2-46 NMSA 1978). Pursuant to 
the Wildlife Conservation Act, it is unlawful to take, possess, 
transport, export, process, sell, or offer for sale or ship any state 
or Federal endangered species (17-2-41 NMSA). Penalties for violating 
the provisions of 17-2-41 (endangered species) may include fines of up 
to $1,000 or imprisonment.
    In Mexico, several legal provisions provide regulatory protection 
for C. l. baileyi. C. l. baileyi is classified as ``E'' (``probably 
extinct in the wild'') by the Norma Oficial Mexicana NOM-059-SEMARNAT-
2010, ``Protecci[oacute]n ambiental-Especies nativas de M[eacute]xico 
de flora y fauna silvestres-Categor[iacute]as de riesgo y 
especificaciones para su inclusi[oacute]n, exclusi[oacute]n o cambio-
Lista de especies en riesgo'' (NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010), which is a list 
of species at risk. This regulation does not directly provide 
protection of the listed species; rather it includes the criteria for 
downlisting, delisting, or including a species or population on the 
list. The General Wildlife Law (``Ley General de Vida Silvestre,'' 
2000, as amended), however, has varying restrictions depending on risk 
status that apply only to species that are listed in the NOM-059-
SEMARNAT-2010.
    Mexico's Federal Penal Law (``C[oacute]digo Penal Federal'' 
published originally in 1931) Article 420 assigns a fine of 300 to 
3,000 days of current wage and up to 9 years prison to those who 
threaten the viability of a species or population, transport a species 
at risk, or damage a specimen of a species at risk. Administrative 
fines are imposed by an administrative authority (PROFEPA, 
``Procuraduria Federal de Proteccion al Ambiente,'' or the Attorney 
General for Environmental Protection) and are calculated on the basis 
of minimum wage in Mexico City ($62.33 daily Mexican pesos). The fines 
established in the General Wildlife Law range from 1,246.60 to 311,650 
Mexican pesos (approximately U.S. $98 to U.S. $24,400) for the four 
minor infractions, to a range of 3,116 to 3,116,500 Mexican pesos 
(approximately U.S. $244 to U.S. $244,400) for the other offenses, 
including the killing of a wolf. Penal fines are imposed by a judge and 
are calculated on the basis of the current daily wage of the offender 
including all his income.
    We have no reason to believe that, absent the Act's protections, 
shooting of C. l. baileyi in the United States would cease. Rather, we 
believe that shooting of C. l. baileyi could increase, as state 
penalties (assuming wolves were granted protected status by the States) 
would be less severe than current Federal penalties under the Act. 
Thus, existing State penalties in Arizona and New Mexico would not 
serve as an adequate deterrent to illegal take. The illegal killing of 
four wolves in Mexico (see factor C) in 2011-2012 suggests that Federal 
penalties in Mexico may not be an adequate deterrent to illegal take 
there, although Federal fines in Mexico are potentially higher than 
those available under the Act in the United States. The adequacy of 
these penalties to address overutilization (factor B) is not an issue, 
as instances of overutilization do not occur or are exceedingly rare 
and, therefore, do not significantly affect C. l. baileyi.
Summary of Factor D
    Regulatory mechanisms to prohibit and penalize illegal killing 
exist under the Act, but illegal shooting of wild C. l. baileyi in the 
United States persists. We believe that absent the protection of the 
Act, killing of wolves in the United States would increase, potentially 
drastically, because state penalties are less severe than current 
Federal penalties. The recent poisoning of several wolves reintroduced 
to Mexico suggests that illegal killing may be a challenge for that 
country's reintroduction efforts as well. Thus, in the absence of the 
Act, existing regulatory mechanisms will not act as an effective 
deterrent to the illegal taking of wolves, and this inadequacy will 
significantly affect C. l. baileyi.
Factor E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued 
Existence
    We document sources of mortality in six categories as part of our 
ongoing monitoring of C. l. baileyi in the BRWRA: Illegal Shooting, 
Vehicle Collision, Natural, Other, Unknown, and Awaiting Necropsy. In 
factor C, we assessed illegal shooting in the United States, disease, 
and predation (our category ``Natural'' includes disease and 
predation). In factor E, we assess the impacts to C. l. baileyi from 
the remaining sources of mortality--Vehicle Collision, Natural, Other, 
and Unknown. As stated in our discussions of disease, predation, and 
illegal shooting, we may not be documenting all mortalities to the 
population because mortality of uncollared wolves is not typically 
detected; similarly, we may underestimate the number of mortalities 
attributed to any one cause discussed below. We also assess human 
intolerance of wolves, land-use conflicts, hybridization, inbreeding, 
climate change, and small population size.
    Our category of ``Natural'' causes of mortality includes a number 
of mortality sources, such as predation, starvation, interspecific 
strife, lightning strikes, and disease. Because we have documented 
three or fewer natural mortalities per year since 1998, we do not 
consider natural mortalities to be occurring at a level, individually 
or collectively, that significantly affects C. l. baileyi (and see 
factor C for additional discussion of disease and predation) (Service 
2012: Mexican Wolf Blue Range Reintroduction Project Statistics). 
Therefore, we do not further discuss these ``Natural'' causes of 
mortality. Similarly, mortalities caused by ``Other'' source of 
mortality, which also includes several sources of mortality (capture-
related mortalities, public-trap mortality, legal public shooting, 
etc.) and ``Unknown'' causes are occurring at very low levels (4 of 88 
mortalities (1 mortality or fewer per year), and 9 of 88 mortalities (2 
mortalities or fewer per year), respectively) and are not occurring at 
a level that significantly affects C. l. baileyi.
    Vehicular collision has accounted for 15 percent of C. l. baileyi 
mortalities from 1998 to December 31, 2012 (14 out of 92 total 
documented C. l. baileyi deaths) (Service 2012: Mexican Wolf Blue Range 
Reintroduction Project Statistics). Thirteen out of 14 wolf mortalities 
attributed to vehicular collision throughout the course of the 
reintroduction (through December 31, 2012) occurred along paved U.S. or 
State highways; one wolf died on a Forest Service dirt road as a result 
of vehicle collision. Five of the vehicle strikes occurred outside of 
the BRWRA boundary. The number of vehicular-related mortalities, which 
has ranged from zero to two per year, with the exception of a high of 
four vehicular-related wolf deaths in 2003, has not shown a trend 
(increasing or decreasing) over time. Given the occurrence of these

[[Page 35703]]

mortalities on highways, it is likely that these collisions were 
accidental events that occurred from vehicles traveling at relatively 
high speeds.
    Roads, both paved and unpaved, in the BRWRA primarily exist to 
support forest management, livestock grazing, recreational access, 
resource protection, and transport of forest products on the Gila and 
Apache National Forests (Service 1996, pp. 3-13). Different types of 
roads present different threats to wolves--paved roads with higher 
speed limits present more risk of wolf mortality due to vehicular 
collision than unpaved roads with lower speed limit, but both roads and 
trails can provide access into wolf habitat. National Forests contain 
various road types (paved, unpaved, opened, closed, etc.) and trails 
(motorized, nonmotorized), but are generally considered to be driven at 
relatively low speeds and have relatively low traffic volume. Non-
Forest Service roads (e.g., highways and other paved roads) are limited 
within the BRWRA, and include portions of U.S Highways 191 and 180, and 
State Highways 260, 152, 90, 78, 32, and 12. U.S. highway 60 runs 
immediately to the north of this area.
    Road density in the BRWRA was estimated at 0.8 mi road per mi\2\ 
(1.28 km road per km\2\) prior to the reintroduction (Johnson et al. 
1992, p. 48). The USDA Forest Service Southwest Region recently 
calculated road densities for the Gila and Apache-Sitgreaves National 
Forests during analysis of alternatives to designate a system of roads, 
trails, and areas designated for motor vehicle use in compliance with 
the Travel Management Rule. They did not assess road use in terms of a 
baseline of traffic volume or projections of traffic volume for the 
future. Both the Gila and Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests continue 
to have an appropriately low density of roads for the wolf 
reintroduction effort in the BRWRA, with no plans to increase road 
density in either Forest-road density in the Apache portion of the 
Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest is estimated at 0.94 mi road per 
mi\2\ for all roads (1.5 km road per km\2\) (open, closed, 
decommissioned) and motorized trails, or 0.43 mi road per mi\2\ (0.69 
km road per km\2\) for open roads and motorized trails (USDA 2010a, p. 
102); road density in the Gila National Forest is estimated at 1.02 mi 
per mi\2\ (1.64 km per km\2\) for open and closed (but not 
decommissioned) roads and motorized trails (an overall average of 0.99 
mi per mi\2\ (1.59 km per km\2\) (USDA 2010b, p. 149). It has been 
recommended that areas targeted for wolf recovery have low road density 
of not more than 1 linear mile of road per square mile of area (1.6 
linear km of road per 2.56 square kilometers; Thiel 1985, pp. 406-407), 
particularly during colonization of an area (Fritts et al. 2003, p. 
301).
    In summary, road density in the BRWRA remains within 
recommendations for wolf habitat and C. l. baileyi reintroduction 
efforts. Mortalities from vehicular collision show a strong pattern of 
occurrence on high-speed paved State or U.S. Highways rather than on 
Forest Service roads, and are occurring at relatively low levels (two 
or fewer mortalities per year, with the exception of 1 year in which 
four mortalities were attributed to vehicular collision). In absence of 
Federal protection, we expect that incidence of wolf-vehicular 
collision would continue at similar levels, due to the accidental 
nature of these incidents. At this level, with or without the 
protections of the Act, we conclude that vehicular collisions, 
considered in isolation of other sources of mortality, are not 
significantly affecting C. l. baileyi. We further consider the 
significance of these mortalities in Combination of Factors/Focus on 
Cumulative Effects.
    Human Intolerance--Human attitudes have long been recognized as a 
significant factor in the success of gray wolf recovery efforts to the 
degree that it has been suggested that recovery may depend more on 
human tolerance than habitat restoration (see Boitani 2003, p. 339, 
Fritts et al. 2003; Mech 1995). In the Southwest, extremes of public 
opinion vary between those who strongly support or oppose the recovery 
effort. Support stems from such feelings as an appreciation of the wolf 
as an important part of nature and an interest in endangered species 
restoration, while opposition may stem from negative social or economic 
consequences of wolf reintroduction, general fear and dislike of 
wolves, or Federal land-use conflicts.
    Public polling data in Arizona and New Mexico shows that most 
respondents have positive feelings about wolves and support the 
reintroduction of C. l. baileyi to public land (Research and Polling 
2008a, p. 6, Research and Polling 2008b, p. 6). These polls targeted 
people statewide in locations outside of the reintroduction area, and 
thus provide an indication of regional support.
    Meanwhile, we suspect that human intolerance of wolves is resulting 
in some of the illegal shooting occurring in the BRWRA. Without 
additional information, we are unable to confirm whether, or the degree 
to which, disregard for or opposition to the reintroduction project is 
a causative factor in illegal shootings. Similarly, in Mexico, we do 
not yet know whether the illegal poisoning of four reintroduced C. l. 
baileyi was purposeful and stemmed from opposition to the 
reintroduction or rather was targeted more generally at (other) 
predators. We recognize that humans can be very effective at 
extirpating wolf populations if human-caused mortality rates continue 
at high levels over time, as demonstrated by the complete elimination 
of wolves across the Southwest and Mexico prior to the protection of 
the Act; at this time, however, we do not have enough information to 
determine whether, or the degree to which, human intolerance may pose a 
threat to C. l. baileyi.
    Land-Use Conflicts--Historically, land-use conflict between wolves 
and livestock producers was a primary cause of the wolf's endangerment 
due to human killing of wolves that depredated livestock. At the outset 
of the reintroduction effort, the amount of permitted grazing in the 
recovery area was identified as a possible source of public conflict 
for the project due to the potential for wolves to depredate on 
livestock (Service 1996, p. 4-4). Service removal of wolves due to 
livestock depredation has occurred in 9 out of 15 years of the 
reintroduction effort, reaching a high of 16 and 19 removals in 2006 
and 2007, respectively (Service 2012 Mexican Wolf Blue Range Project 
Statistics). The Service, other state, federal, and tribal agencies, 
private parties, and livestock producers have increased proactive 
efforts (e.g., hazing, fencing, fladry, range riders) to minimize 
depredations in recent years, resulting in fewer removals from 2008 to 
2012 than in the first 10 years of the program. Since 2007, we have 
removed only one wolf from the BRWRA population due to confirmed 
livestock depredation, which occurred in 2012 (Service BRWRA Monthly 
Project Updates, October 2012, http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/CEBRWRA.cfm).
    The Service is committed to actively managing depredating wolves to 
improve human tolerance in the BRWRA, while recognizing that management 
removals must be part of an overall management scheme that will promote 
the growth of the nonessential experimental population. Thus these 
removals are critical to ameliorating some conflicts that result from 
the presence of both wolves and livestock in the BRWRA. We are also 
working to establish a Mexican Wolf Livestock Interdiction Fund to 
generate long-term

[[Page 35704]]

funding for prolonged financial support to livestock operators within 
the framework of cooperative conservation and recovery. Our 
depredation-response removals, proactive efforts to reduce conflict, 
and depredation-compensation funding are critical components of our 
overall management approach to establish a population of at least 100 
wild wolves. Based on these efforts, we conclude that land-use 
conflicts are not significantly affecting C. l. baileyi. In absence of 
protection by the Act, land-use conflicts would still occur in areas 
where wolves and livestock coexist. However, because C. l. baileyi is 
protected by state law, we expect that livestock producers and state 
agencies would continue to employ effective practices of hazing or 
other active management measures to reduce the likelihood of occurrence 
of depredation incidents. Therefore, we conclude that land-use 
conflicts are unlikely to significantly affect C. l. baileyi if it was 
not protected by the Act.
    Hybridization--Hybridization between wolves and other canids can 
pose a significant challenge to recovery programs (e.g., the red wolf 
recovery program) (Service 2007, pp. 10-11) because species in Canis 
can interbreed and produce viable offspring. In the BRWRA, 
hybridization is a rare event. Three confirmed hybridization events 
between C. l. baileyi and dogs have been documented since the 
reintroduction project began in 1998. In the first two cases, hybrid 
litters were humanely euthanized (Service 2002, p. 17, Service 
2005:16.) In the third case, four of five pups were humanely 
euthanized; the fifth pup, previously observed by project personnel but 
not captured, has not been located and its status is unknown (BRWRA 
Monthly Project Updates, June 24, 2011, http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/CEBRWRA.cfm). No hybridization between C. l. baileyi and 
coyotes has been confirmed through our genetic monitoring of coyotes, 
wolves, and dogs that are captured in the wild.
    Our response to hybridization events has negated any potential 
impact to the BRWRA population from these events (e.g., effects to the 
genetic integrity of the population). Moreover, the likelihood of 
hybrid animals surviving, or having detectable impacts on wolf 
population genetics or viability, is low due to aspects of wolf 
sociality and fertility cycles (Mengel 1971, p. 334; Vila and Wayne 
1999, pp. 195-199).
    We do not foresee any change in the likelihood of hybridization 
events occurring, or the potential effect of hybridization events, if 
C. l. baileyi was not protected by the Act; that is, hybridization 
events and effects would continue to be rare. Therefore, we conclude 
that hybridization is not significantly affecting the C. l. baileyi 
population now nor is it likely to do so or in the future.
    Inbreeding, Loss of Heterozygosity, and Loss of Adaptive 
Potential--Canis lupus baileyi has pronounced genetic challenges 
resulting from an ongoing and severe genetic bottleneck (that is, a 
reduction in a population's size to a small number for at least one 
generation) caused by its near extirpation in the wild and the small 
number of founders upon which the captive population was established. 
These challenges include inbreeding (mating of close relatives), loss 
of heterozygosity (a decrease in the proportion of individuals in a 
population that have two different alleles for a specific gene), and 
loss of adaptive potential, three distinct but interrelated phenomena.
    When a population enters a genetic bottleneck the strength of 
genetic drift (random changes in gene frequencies in a population) is 
increased and the effectiveness of natural selection is decreased. As a 
result, formerly uncommon alleles may drift to higher frequencies and 
become fixed (the only variant that exists), even if they have 
deleterious effects on the individuals that carry them. Conversely, 
beneficial alleles may become less common and even be lost entirely 
from the population. In general, rare alleles are lost quickly from 
populations experiencing bottlenecks. Heterozygosity is lost much more 
slowly, but the losses may continue until long after the population has 
grown to large size (Nei et al. 1975, entire). The extent of allele and 
heterozygosity loss is determined by the depth (the degree of 
population contraction) and duration of a bottleneck. Heterozygosity is 
important because it provides adaptive potential and can mask (prevent 
the negative effects of) deleterious alleles.
    Inbreeding can occur in any population, but is most likely to occur 
in small populations due to limited choice of mates. The potential for 
inbreeding to negatively affect the captive and reintroduced C. l. 
baileyi populations has been a topic of concern for over a decade 
(Parsons 1996, pp. 113-114; Hedrick et al. 1997, pp. 65-68). Inbreeding 
affects traits that reduce population viability, such as reproduction 
(Kalinowski et al. 1999, pp. 1371-1377; Asa et al. 2007, pp. 326-333; 
Fredrickson et al. 2007, pp. 2365-2371), survival (Allendorf and Ryman 
2002, pp. 50-85), and disease resistance (Hedrick et al. 2003, pp. 909-
913). Inbreeding is significant because it reduces heterozygosity and 
increases homozygosity (having two of the same alleles) throughout the 
genome.
    Inbreeding depression is thought to be primarily a result of the 
full expression of deleterious alleles that have become homozygous as a 
result of inbreeding (Charlesworth and Willis 2009, entire). In other 
words, rare deleterious alleles, or gene variants that have deleterious 
effects such as deformities, are more likely to be inherited and 
expressed in an offspring of two related individuals than of unrelated 
individuals (that is, the offspring may be homozygous). Theory suggests 
that although lethal alleles (those that result in the death of 
individuals with two copies) may be purged or reduced in frequency in 
small populations (Hedrick 1994, pp. 363-372), many other mildly and 
moderately deleterious alleles are likely to become fixed in the 
population (homozygous in all individuals) with little or no reduction 
in the overall genetic load (amount of lethal alleles) (Whitlock et al. 
2000, pp. 452-457). In addition, there is little empirical evidence in 
the scientific literature that purging reduces the genetic load in 
small populations.
    As previously described, C. l. baileyi experienced a rapid 
population decline during the 1900s, as predator eradication programs 
sought to eliminate wolves from the landscape. Subsequently, a captive-
breeding program was initiated. The McBride lineage was founded with 
three wolves in 1980. The Ghost Ranch and Aragon lineages were each 
founded by single pairs in 1961 and around 1976, respectively. These 
lineages were managed separately until the mid-1990s, by which time all 
three lineages had become strongly inbred. Inbreeding coefficients (f) 
(a measure of how genetically close two individuals are) for McBride 
pups born in the mid-1990s averaged about 0.23--similar to inbreeding 
levels for offspring from outbred full sibling or parent-offspring 
pairs (f = 0.25). Inbreeding coefficients for Aragon and Ghost Ranch 
lineage pups born in the mid-1990s were higher, averaging 0.33 for 
Aragon pups and 0.64 for Ghost Ranch pups (Hedrick et al. 1997, pp. 47-
69).
    Of the three lineages, only the McBride lineage was originally 
managed as a captive breeding program to aid in the conservation of C. 
l. baileyi. However, out of concern for the low number of founders and 
rapid inbreeding accumulation in the McBride lineage, the decision was 
made to merge the Aragon and Ghost Ranch lineages into the McBride 
lineage after genetic

[[Page 35705]]

testing confirmed that this approach could improve the gene diversity 
of the captive population (Garcia-Moreno et al. 1996, pp. 376-389). 
Consequently, pairings (for mating) between McBride wolves and Aragon 
wolves and between McBride and Ghost Ranch wolves began in 1995 with 
the first generation (F1) of these pups born in 1997. 
Although the parents of these (F1) wolves were strongly 
inbred, the offspring were expected to be free of inbreeding and free 
of the inbreeding depression. Forty-seven F1 wolves were 
produced from 1997 to 2002. Upon reaching maturity, the F1 
wolves were paired among themselves, backcrossed with pure McBride 
wolves, and paired with the descendants of F1 wolves called 
``cross-lineage'' wolves to maintain gene diversity and reduce 
inbreeding in the captive population.
    Although there was slight statistical evidence of inbreeding 
depression among captive wolves of the McBride and Ghost Ranch 
lineages, the outbred F1 wolves proved to have far greater 
reproductive fitness than contemporary McBride and Ghost Ranch wolves 
(which were strongly inbred) as well as minimally inbred wolves from 
early in the McBride and Ghost Ranch pedigrees. Pairings between 
F1 wolves were 89 percent more likely to produce at least 
one live pup, and mean litter sizes for F1 x F1 
pairs were more than twice as large as contemporary McBride pairings 
(7.5 vs 3.6 pups per litter; Fredrickson et al. 2007, pp. 2365-2371). 
The large increases in reproductive fitness among F1 wolves 
suggested that the McBride and Ghost Ranch lineages were suffering from 
a large fixed genetic load of deleterious alleles. In other words, 
McBride and Ghost Ranch wolves had accumulated identical copies of gene 
variants that had negative effects on their health or reproductive 
success at many locations (loci) throughout their genome. In addition, 
pups born to cross-lineage dams (mother wolves) had up to 21 percent 
higher survival rates to 180 days than contemporary McBride lineage 
pups (Fredrickson et al. 2007, pp. 2365-2371).
    Although the F1 wolves had high reproductive fitness, 
strong inbreeding depression among cross-lineage wolves in captivity 
has been documented. Inbreeding levels of both dams and sires (father 
wolves) were found to negatively affect the probability that a pair 
would produce at least one live pup. For example, the estimated 
probabilities of a pair producing at least one live pup dropped from 
0.96 for F1 x F1 pairs (with no inbreeding in the dam and sire) to 0.40 
for pairs with a mean inbreeding coefficient of 0.15 (Fredrickson et 
al. 2007, pp. 2365-2371). Consistent with the finding that inbreeding 
levels of sires affected the probability of producing at least one live 
pup, Asa et al. (2007, pp. 326-333) found that two measures of semen 
quality, sperm cell morphology and motility of sperm cells, declined 
significantly as inbreeding levels increased. Among pairs that produced 
at least one live pup, increases of 0.1 in the inbreeding coefficients 
of both the dam and pups was estimated to reduce litter size by 2.8 
pups. Inbreeding levels of the pups were found to have about twice the 
detrimental effect as inbreeding in the dam, suggesting that inbreeding 
accumulation in pups was causing pups to die prior to being born 
(Fredrickson et al. 2007, pp. 2365-2371).
    As of October 2012, the captive population of Mexican wolves 
consisted of 258 wolves, of which 33 are reproductively compromised or 
have very high inbreeding coefficients, leaving 225 wolves as the 
managed population (Siminski and Spevak 2012). The age structure of the 
population, however, is heavily skewed, with wolves 7 years old and 
older comprising about 62 percent of the population--meaning that most 
of the population is comprised of old wolves who will die within a few 
years. This age structure has resulted from the high reproductive 
output of the F1 wolves and their descendants in captivity, 
the combination of few releases of captive-born wolves to the wild in 
recent years, removal of wolves from the wild population to captivity, 
and limited pen space for pairings, and means that additional gene 
diversity will be lost as the captive population continues to age.
    The SSP strives to minimize and slow the loss of gene diversity of 
the captive population but (due to the limited number of founders) 
cannot increase it. As of 2012, the gene diversity of the captive 
program was 83.37 percent of the founding population, which falls below 
the average mammal SSP (93 percent) and below the recognized SSP 
standard to maintain 90 percent of the founding population diversity. 
Below 90 percent, the SSP states that reproduction may be compromised 
by low birth weight, smaller litter sizes, and related issues.
    Representation of the Aragon and Ghost Range lineages in 2012 was 
18.80 percent and 17.65 percent, respectively (Siminski and Spevak 
2012, p. 6). More specifically, the representation of the seven 
founders is very unequal in the captive population, ranging from about 
30 percent for the McBride founding female to 4 percent for the Ghost 
Ranch founding male. Unequal founder contributions lead to faster 
inbreeding accumulation and loss of founder alleles. The captive 
population is estimated to retain only 3.01 founder genome equivalents, 
suggesting that more than half of the alleles (gene variants) from the 
seven founders have been lost from the population.
    The genetically effective population size (Ne) of the 
captive population is estimated to be 20 wolves and the ratio of 
effective to census size (Ne/N; that is, the number of breeding animals 
as a percentage of the overall population size) is estimated to be 
0.0846 (Siminski and Spevak 2012, p. 7). The genetically effective 
population size is defined as the size of an ideal population that 
would result in the rate of inbreeding accumulation or heterozygosity 
loss as the population being considered. The effective sizes of 
populations are almost always smaller than census sizes of populations. 
A rule of thumb for conservation of small populations holds 
Ne should be maintained above 50 to prevent substantial 
inbreeding accumulation, and that small populations should be grown 
quickly to much larger sizes (Ne >= 500) to maintain 
evolutionary potential (Franklin 1980, entire). The low ratio of 
effective to census population sizes in the captive population reflects 
the limitations on breeding (due to a lack of cage space) over the last 
several years, while the low effective population size is another 
indicator of the potential for inbreeding and loss of heterozygosity.
    The gene diversity of the reintroduced population of C. l. baileyi 
can only be as good as the diversity of the captive population from 
which it is established. Based on information available on July 11, 
2012, the genetic diversity of the wild population was 74.99 percent of 
the founding population (Siminski and Spevak 2012, pp. 6-7), with 4.97 
percent and 13.80 percent representation of Aragon and Ghost Range 
lineages, respectively. Although C. l. baileyi (in the reintroduced 
population) reached an all-time high population size in 2012 (minimum 
estimate of 75 wolves), it is currently a poor representation of the 
genetic variation remaining in the captive population. Founder 
representation in the reintroduced population is more strongly skewed 
than in the captive population. Mean inbreeding levels are 61 percent 
greater (0.1924 versus 0.1197), and founder genome equivalents are 33 
percent lower (2 vs. 3.01) than in the captive population. In addition, 
the estimated relatedness of C. l. baileyi in the reintroduced 
population is on average 50 percent greater than

[[Page 35706]]

that in the captive population (population mean kinship: 0.2501 vs. 
0.1663; Siminski & Spevak 2012, p. 8). This suggests that C. l. baileyi 
in the reintroduced population are on average as related to one another 
as outbred full siblings are related to each other. Without substantial 
management action to improve the genetic composition of the population, 
inbreeding will accumulate and heterozygosity and alleles will be lost 
much faster than in the captive population.
    There is evidence of strong inbreeding depression in the 
reintroduced population. Fredrickson et al. (2007, pp. 2365-2371) 
estimated that the mean observed litter size (4.8 pups for pairs 
producing pups with no inbreeding) was reduced on average by 0.8 pups 
for each 0.1 increase in the inbreeding coefficient of the pups. For 
pairs producing pups with inbreeding coefficients of 0.20, the mean 
litter size was estimated to be 3.2 pups. Computer simulations of the 
Blue Range population incorporating the Mexican wolf pedigree suggest 
that this level of inbreeding depression may substantially reduce the 
viability of the population (Carroll et al. in prep; Fredrickson et al. 
in prep).
    The recent history of Mexican wolves can be characterized as a 
severe genetic bottleneck that began no later than the founding of the 
Ghost Ranch lineage in 1960. The founding of the three lineages along 
with their initial isolation likely resulted in the loss of most rare 
alleles and perhaps even some moderately common alleles. Heterozygosity 
loss was accelerated as a result of rapid inbreeding accumulation. The 
merging of the captive lineages likely slowed the loss of alleles and 
heterozygosity, but did not end it. The consequences to Mexican wolves 
of the current genetic bottleneck will be future populations that have 
reduced fitness (for example, smaller litter sizes, lower pup survival) 
due to inbreeding accumulation and the full expression of deleterious 
alleles. The loss of alleles will limit the ability of future Mexican 
wolf populations to adapt to environmental challenges.
    Based on data from the SSP documenting loss of genetic variation, 
research documenting viability-related inbreeding effects in C. l. 
baileyi, and our awareness that the wild population is at risk of 
inbreeding due to its small size, we conclude that inbreeding, and loss 
of heterozygosity, and loss of adaptive potential are significantly 
affecting C. l. baileyi and are likely to continue to do so in the 
future. If C. l. baileyi was not protected by the Act, these risks 
would remain, and may increase if states or other parties did not 
actively promote genetic diversity in the reintroduced population by 
releasing wolves with appropriate genetic ancestry to the population.
    Small Population Size--Rarity may affect the viability (likelihood 
of extinction or persistence over a given time period) of a species 
depending on the species' biological characteristics and threats acting 
upon it. We consider several types of information to determine whether 
small population size is affecting C. l. baileyi, including historical 
conditions, consideration of stochastic (or, chance) events, 
theoretical recommendations of population viability, and applied 
population-viability models specific to C. l. baileyi. We discuss three 
types of stochastic events--demographic, environmental, and 
catastrophic--as the fourth type of stochastic event--genetic--is 
addressed under the subheading of Inbreeding. We further discuss the 
significance of small population size in Combination of Factors/Focus 
on Cumulative Effects, below.
    Historical abundance and distribution serve as a qualitative 
reference point against which to assess the size of the current 
population. Prior to European colonization of North America, C. l. 
baileyi were geographically widespread throughout numerous populations 
across the southwestern United States and Mexico. Although we do not 
have definitive estimates of historical abundance, we can deduce from 
gray wolf population estimates (Leonard et al. 2005, p. 15), trapping 
records, and anecdotal information that C. l. baileyi numbered in the 
thousands across its range in the United States and Mexico. We, 
therefore, recognize that the current size and geographic distribution 
of C. l. baileyi (approximately 75 wolves in a single population 
occurring in a fraction of its historical range) represents a 
substantial contraction from its historical (pre-1900s) abundance and 
distribution.
    Scientific theory and practice generally agree that a species 
represented by a small population faces a higher risk of extinction (or 
a lower probability of population persistence) than a species that is 
widely and abundantly distributed (Goodman 1987, pp. 11-31; Pimm et al. 
1988, p. 757). One of the primary causes of this susceptibility to 
extinction is the sensitivity of small populations to random 
demographic events (Shaffer 1987, pp. 69-86, Caughley 1994, p. 217). In 
small populations, even those that are growing, random changes in 
average birth or survival rates could cause a population decline that 
would result in extinction. This phenomenon is referred to as 
demographic stochasticity. As a population grows larger and individual 
events tend to average out, the population becomes less susceptible to 
extinction from demographic stochasticity and is more likely to 
persist.
    At its current size of a minimum of 75 wolves, and even at the 
current population target of at least 100 wild wolves, the BRWRA 
population is, by demographic measures, considered small (Shaffer 1987, 
p. 73; Boyce 1992, p. 487; Mills 2007, p. 101; Service 2010, pp. 63-68) 
and has a low probability of persistence. The viability of the 
population when it reaches its target of at least 100 wolves remains 
unquantified, although qualitatively this target is significantly below 
estimates of viability appearing in the scientific literature and gray 
wolf recovery plans, which suggest hundreds to over a thousand wolves 
are necessary for long-term persistence in the wild (Service 2010, pp. 
63-68).
    Two C. l. baileyi population-viability analyses were initiated 
subsequent to the development of the 1982 Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan 
but prior to the BRWRA reintroduction (Seal 1990 entire, IUCN 1996 
entire, Service 2010, p. 66), although neither was completed. 
Population-viability modeling is currently being conducted as part of 
the development of draft recovery criteria; these results will be 
available to the public when the draft recovery plan is published. 
However, initial results continue to strongly support our understanding 
that the wild population currently faces a high degree of extinction 
risk simply due to its current size. Given our understanding of the 
high extinction risk of the current size of the population and our 
awareness that this rarity is not the typical abundance and 
distribution pattern for C. l. baileyi, we consider the small 
population size of the BRWRA to be significantly affecting C. l. 
baileyi.
    Absent the protection of the Act, the extinction risks associated 
with small population size would remain, and may increase if state(s) 
or other parties did not actively support the reintroduced population 
through appropriate management measures.
    The vulnerability of a small population to extinction can also be 
driven by the population's vulnerability to decline or extinction due 
to stochastic environmental or catastrophic events (Goodman 1987, pp. 
11-31; Pimm et al. 1988, p. 757). While we consider these types of 
events to be critically important considerations in our recovery 
efforts for the species, we

[[Page 35707]]

have not identified any single environmental event (i.e., disease, 
climate change (below)) or catastrophic event (wildfire) to be 
significantly affecting C. l. baileyi based on our current information 
and management practices (i.e., vaccinations, monitoring). However, we 
reconsider the concept of vulnerability to these events below, in 
Combination of Factors/Focus on Cumulative Effects.
    Climate Change--Our analyses under the Act include consideration of 
ongoing and projected changes in climate. The terms ``climate'' and 
``climate change'' are defined by the IPCC. ``Climate'' refers to the 
mean and variability of different types of weather conditions over 
time, with 30 years being a typical period for such measurements, 
although shorter or longer periods also may be used (IPCC 2007, p. 78). 
The term ``climate change'' thus refers to a change in the mean or 
variability of one or more measures of climate (e.g., temperature or 
precipitation) that persists for an extended period, typically decades 
or longer, whether the change is due to natural variability, human 
activity, or both (IPCC 2007, p. 78). Various types of changes in 
climate can have direct or indirect effects on species. These effects 
may be positive, neutral, or negative, and they may change over time, 
depending on the species and other relevant considerations, such as the 
effects of interactions of climate with other variables (e.g., habitat 
fragmentation) (IPCC 2007, pp. 8-14, 18-19). In our analyses, we use 
our expert judgment to weigh relevant information, including 
uncertainty, in our consideration of various aspects of climate change.
    Throughout their circumpolar distribution, gray wolves persist in a 
variety of ecosystems with temperatures ranging from -70 to 120 degrees 
Farenheit (-56 to 48 degrees Celcius) with wide ranging prey type and 
availability (Mech and Boitani 2003, p. xv). C. l. baileyi historically 
inhabited and still inhabit a range of southwestern ecotypes subsisting 
on large ungulate prey as well as small mammals. Due to this plasticity 
and lack of reliance on microhabit, we do not consider C. l. baileyi to 
be highly vulnerable or sensitive to climate change (Dawson et. al 
2011, p. 53). Similarly, elk, the primary prey of C. l. baileyi in the 
BRWRA, are known to be habitat generalists due to their association 
with wide variation in environmental conditions (Kuck 1999, p. 1). We 
recognize that climate change may have detectable impacts on the 
ecosystems of the Southwest that affect C. l. baileyi. For example, to 
the degree that warmer temperatures and increased aridity or decreased 
water availability (Dai 2011, p. 58) limit prey abundance, we would 
also expect decreased wolf densities. However, both wolves and their 
prey are species that exhibit reasonable adaptive capacity (Dawson et 
al. 2011, p. 53) such that they could shift habitats in response to 
changing conditions or potentially persist in place. Therefore, based 
on the relatively low vulnerability and sensitivity of C. l. baileyi to 
changes in climate, and on the relatively high adaptive capacity of the 
subspecies to respond to changes, we conclude that climate change is 
not significantly affecting C. l. baileyi at the current time nor do we 
expect it to do so in the future. The effects of climate change on C. 
l. baileyi would not change if it was not protected by the Act.
Summary of Factor E
    Inbreeding, loss of adaptive potential, loss of heterozygosity, and 
small population size are significantly affecting C. l. baileyi. 
Inbreeding and loss of heterozygosity has the potential to affect 
viability-related fitness traits in C. l. baileyi and therefore to 
affect the persistence of the subspecies in the wild in the near term; 
loss of genetic variation significantly affects the likelihood of 
persistence of C. l. baileyi over longer time frames. Absent the 
protection of the Act, inbreeding, loss of heterozygosity, and loss of 
adaptive potential would persist and possibly increase depending on 
whether the states or other parties undertook active promotion of the 
maintenance of gene diversity.
    The small population size of the BRWRA population results in a high 
risk of extinction due to the susceptibility of the population to 
stochastic demographic events. Neither the current population 
(approximately 75 wolves), nor the population target of at least 100 
wild wolves, is a sufficient size to ensure persistence into the 
future. Absent the protection of the Act, small population size would 
continue to significantly affect C. l. baileyi, or may increase if 
states or other parties did not actively support the reintroduced 
population through appropriate management measures.
    Vehicular collisions, human intolerance, land-use conflicts, 
hybridization, and climate change are not significantly affecting C. l. 
baileyi, nor are they expected to do so in the near future.
Combination of Factors/Focus on Cumulative Effects
    In the preceding review of the five factors, we find that C. l. 
baileyi is most significantly affected by illegal killing, inbreeding, 
loss of heterozygosity, loss of adaptive potential, and small 
population size. In absence of the Act's protections, these issues 
would continue to affect C. l. baileyi, and would likely increase in 
frequency or severity. We also identify several potential sources of 
mortality or risk (disease, vehicular collision, wildfire, 
hybridization, etc.) that we do not currently consider to be 
significantly affecting C. l. baileyi due to their low occurrence and 
minimal impact on the population or lack of information. However, we 
recognize that multiple sources of mortality or risk acting in 
combination have greater potential to affect C. l. baileyi than each 
factor alone. Thus, we consider how factors that by themselves may not 
have a significant effect on C. l. baileyi, may affect the subspecies 
when considered in combination.
    The small population size of the BRWRA population exacerbates the 
potential for all other factors to disproportionately affect C. l. 
baileyi. The combined effects of demographic, genetic, environmental, 
and catastrophic events to a small population can create an extinction 
vortex--an unrecoverable population decline--that results in 
extinction. Small population size directly and significantly increases 
the likelihood of inbreeding depression, which has been documented to 
decrease individual fitness, hinder population growth, and decrease the 
population's probability of persistence. Small population size also 
increases the likelihood that concurrent mortalities from multiple 
causes that individually may not be resulting in a population decline 
(e.g., vehicular collisions, natural sources of mortality) could 
collectively do so, depending on the population's productivity, 
especially when additive to an already significant source of mortality 
such as illegal shooting. Effects from disease, catastrophe, 
environmental conditions, or loss of heterozygosity that normally could 
be sustained by a larger, more resilient population have the potential 
to rapidly affect the size, growth rate, and genetic integrity of the 
small BRWRA population when they act in combination. Therefore we 
consider the combination of factors B, C, and E to be significantly 
affecting C. l. baileyi.

[[Page 35708]]

Summary of Five-Factor Analysis

    We do not find habitat destruction, curtailment, or modification to 
be significantly affecting C. l. baileyi now, nor do we find that these 
factors are likely to do so in the future regardless of whether the 
subspecies is protected by the Act. The size and federally protected 
status of the Gila and Apache National Forests are adequate and 
appropriate for the reintroduction project. These National Forests 
provide secure habitat with an adequate prey base and habitat 
characteristics to support the current wolf population. The Wallow Fire 
and the Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire, while catastrophic, were not 
sources of habitat modification, destruction, or curtailment that 
affected C. l. baileyi because there were no documented wolf 
mortalities during the fires, and prey populations are expected to 
increase in response to postfire positive effects on vegetation.
    We do not find overutilization for commercial, recreational, 
scientific, or educational purposes to be significantly affecting C. l. 
baileyi because we have no evidence to indicate that legal killing or 
removal of wolves from the wild for commercial, recreational (i.e., 
hunting), scientific, or educational purposes is occurring. The killing 
of wolves for their pelts is not known to occur, and C. l. baileyi 
research-related mortalities are minimal or nonexistent. Incidence of 
injuries and mortalities from trapping (for other animals) has been 
low. In absence of Federal protection, state regulations in Arizona and 
New Mexico, and Federal regulations in Mexico, could provide 
regulations to protect C. l. baileyi from overutilization. 
Overutilization of C. l. baileyi would not likely increase if they were 
not listed under the Act due to the protected status they would be 
afforded by the states and Mexico.
    Based on known disease occurrences in the current population and 
the active vaccination program, we do not consider disease to be a 
threat to C. l. baileyi. Absent the protection of the Act, a similar 
vaccination program would need to be implemented by the states or other 
parties, or the potential for disease to significantly affect C. l. 
baileyi could increase.
    Predation (by nonhuman predators) is not significantly affecting C. 
l. baileyi. No wild predator regularly preys on wolves, and only a 
small number of predator-related wolf mortalities have been documented 
in the current C. l. baileyi population. We do not consider predation 
likely to significantly affect C. l. baileyi in the future or if the 
subspecies was not protected by the Act.
    Illegal shooting is identified as a current threat. Adequate 
regulatory protections are not available to protect C. l. baileyi from 
illegal shooting without the protection of the Act. We would expect 
shooting of C. l. baileyi to increase if they were not federally 
protected, as state penalties (assuming C. l. baileyi was maintained as 
a state-protected species) are less than Federal penalties.
    Inbreeding, loss of heterozygosity, loss of adaptive potential, and 
small population size are significantly affecting C. l. baileyi. We 
recognize the importance of the captive management program and the 
active reintroduction project and recovery program in addressing these 
issues. Absent the protection of the Act, their effects on C. l. 
baileyi would continue, or possibly increase depending on the degree of 
active management provided by the states or other parties.
    Vehicular collisions, human intolerance, land-use conflicts, 
hybridization, and climate change are not significantly affecting C. l. 
baileyi, nor are they expected to do so in the near future or if C. l. 
baileyi was not protected by the Act.
    Climate change is not significantly affecting the Mexican wolf nor 
would it do so in the absence of the Act's protections. The effects of 
climate change may become more pronounced in the future, but as is the 
case with all stressors that we assess, even if we conclude that a 
species is currently affected or is likely to be affected in a negative 
way by one or more climate-related impacts, it does not necessarily 
follow that these effects are significant to the species. The 
generalist characteristics of the wolf and their primary prey, elk, 
lead us to conclude that climate change will not significantly affect 
C. l. baileyi in the future.
    The cumulative effects of factors that increase mortality and 
decrease the genetic diversity health of C. l. baileyi are 
significantly affecting C. l. baileyi, particularly within the context 
of its small population size (a characteristic that significantly 
decreases the probability of a population's persistence). Cumulative 
effects are significantly affecting C. l. baileyi at the current time 
and likely will continue to do so in the future. Absent the protection 
of the Act, negative cumulative effects may increase due to the 
potential for more killing of wolves, increased risk of inbreeding, 
disease epidemics, and other sources of mortality, all exacerbated by 
C. l. bailey's small population size.

Conclusion

    We recently published a not-warranted 12-month finding on petitions 
to list the Mexican wolf as a subspecies or DPS (77 FR 61375, October 
9, 2012). Our finding was based on the fact that the population in 
question was already fully protected as endangered under the Act (77 FR 
61375, October 9, 2012). However, our finding further stated that we 
could not, consistent with the requirements of the Act, take any action 
that would remove the protections accruing to the southwestern 
population under the existing C. lupus listing without first 
determining whether the Mexican wolf warranted listing separately as a 
subspecies or a DPS, and, if so, putting a separate listing in place 
(77 FR 61377, October 9, 2012). Therefore, because we are now proposing 
to remove protections for the current C. lupus listed entity, we must 
reconsider listing the Mexican wolf as a subspecies or DPS.
    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial data 
available regarding the past, present, and future threats to C. l. 
baileyi and have determined that the subspecies warrants listing as 
endangered throughout its range. As required by the Act, we considered 
the five potential threat factors to assess whether C. l. baileyi is 
endangered or threatened throughout its range. Based on our analysis, 
we find that C. l. baileyi is in danger of extinction throughout all of 
its range due to small population size, illegal killing, inbreeding, 
loss of heterozygosity and adaptive potential, and the cumulative 
effect of all threats. Absent protection by the Act, regulatory 
protection, especially against shooting, poisoning, or other forms of 
killing, would not be adequate to ensure the survival of C. l. baileyi.
    Our finding that C. l. baileyi is in danger of extinction 
throughout all of its range is consistent with our administrative 
approach to determining which species are on the brink of extinction 
and, therefore, warrant listing as endangered. Prior to the early 
1900s, C. l. baileyi was distributed over a large geographic area that 
included portions of the Southwest and much of Mexico. C. l. baileyi 
was nearly eliminated in the wild by the mid-1900's due to predator 
eradication efforts, which led to its listing as an endangered 
subspecies in 1976 and again as part of the species-level gray wolf 
listing in 1978. Therefore, C. l. baileyi is a subspecies that was 
formerly widespread but was

[[Page 35709]]

reduced to such critically low numbers and restricted range (i.e., 
eliminated in the wild) that it is at high risk of extinction due to 
threats that would not otherwise imperil it.
    At the time of its initial listing, no robust populations of C. l. 
baileyi remained in the wild. The establishment and success of the 
captive-breeding program temporarily prevented immediate absolute 
extinction of C. l. baileyi and, by producing surplus animals, has 
enabled us to undertake the reestablishment of C. l. baileyi in the 
BRWRA by releasing captive animals to the wild. In the context of our 
current proposal to list C. l. baileyi as an endangered subspecies, we 
recognize that, even with these significant improvements in C. l. 
baileyi's status, its current geographic distribution in the BRWRA is a 
very small portion of its former range. Moreover, within this reduced 
and restricted range, C. l. baileyi faces significant threats that are 
intensified by its small population size. Canis lupus baileyi is highly 
susceptible to inbreeding, loss of heterozygosity, and loss of adaptive 
potential due to the bottleneck created during its extreme population 
decline prior to protection by the Act, the limited number of and 
relatedness of the founders of the captive population, and the loss of 
some genetic material from the founders. The effects of inbreeding have 
been documented in C. l. baileyi and require active, ongoing management 
to minimize.
    Mortality of C. l. baileyi from illegal killing, as well as all 
other sources of mortality or removal from the wild population, is 
occurring within the context of a small population. While all 
populations sustain some amount of mortality, including that caused by 
humans, the current small population has a low probability of 
persistence compared to a larger, more geographically widespread 
population. Absent the protection of the Act, illegal killing would 
likely increase dramatically, further reducing the population's size 
and increasing its vulnerability to genetic and demographic factors, 
putting C. l. baileyi at imminent risk of extinction. These factors are 
occurring throughout C. l. baileyi's range in the wild, resulting in 
our determination that the subspecies warrants listing as endangered 
throughout its range.


Is there a DPS of C. lupus in the contiguous United States or Mexico 
that warrants the protections of the Act?

    We now consider whether there are any DPSs of C. lupus that occur 
within the bounds of the current C. lupus listed entity (Figure 1) and 
warrant the protections of the Act. The gray wolf populations in the 
northern Rocky Mountains and the western Great Lakes are successfully 
recovered and delisted (76 FR 25590, 77 FR 55530, 76 FR 81666). These 
populations are not part of the current C. lupus listed entity and thus 
are not considered in this analysis. Further, because we have already 
determined that C. l. baileyi is an endangered subspecies, we do not 
need to consider any gray wolves representative of that population in 
this analysis. Given these facts, only the gray wolves currently 
occupying the Pacific Northwest need be considered; we begin our 
evaluation with a description of the historical and current 
distribution of gray wolves in that region followed by a DPS analysis.
Pacific Northwest--Historical Distribution
    Wolves were historically distributed across most of the Pacific 
Northwest, except in arid deserts and on mountaintops (Young and 
Goldman 1944, pp. 10, 18, 30, 44-45; Mech 1970, p. 31; Nowak 2003, p. 
243). In western Oregon and Washington, wolves were historically common 
and widely distributed in the Coast Range, Cascade Mountains, Olympic 
Peninsula, and, prior to major settlement of the American west, were 
also regularly reported from the Willamette Valley and Puget Trough 
(Suckley 1859, pp. 75, 90; Suckley and Gibbs 1859, pp. 110-111; Conard 
1905, p. 393; Bailey 1936, pp. 272-275; Dalquest 1948, pp. 232-233). By 
the 1940s, wolves in Washington and Oregon were primarily confined to 
remote mountainous areas, mostly in the National Forests of the Cascade 
Mountains, although there were a couple of wolf records in eastern 
Oregon in the 1930s (1 in Grant County and 1 in Lake County) (Young and 
Goldman 1944, pp. 53-55). In Oregon, Service records indicate that, by 
1941, the only area west of the Cascades known to contain wolves was 
primarily in eastern Douglas County (Rowe 1941, entire).
    Historical range maps show considerable variation in the gray 
wolf's former range in California (Shelton and Weckerly 2007, pp. 224-
227). There are only two known recent museum records of gray wolves 
from California, both in the possession of the Museum of Vertebrate 
Zoology in Berkeley, California (Schmidt 1991, p. 82; Jurek 1994, p. 
2): in 1922, an adult male gray wolf was trapped in the Providence 
Mountains, in eastern San Bernardino County (Jurek 1994, p. 2); and, in 
1924, a gray wolf was trapped in the Cascade Mountains of Lassen 
County, 1 mile east of Litchfield, California (Jurek 1994, p. 2). In 
addition to these two records, in 1962, a gray wolf was shot in the 
southern Sierra Nevada Mountains at Woodlake, near Sequoia National 
Park (Ingles 1963, pp. 109-110); however, subsequent skull measurements 
indicate that this individual may have been an introduced Asiatic wolf 
(McCullough 1967, pp. 146-153)]. Despite limited preserved physical 
evidence for wolves in California, there were many reports of wolves 
from around the state in the 1800s and early 1900s (e.g., Sage 1846, 
entire, Price 1894, p. 331; Dunn 1904, pp. 48-50; Dixon 1916, pp. 125; 
Young and Goldman 1944, pp. 18-19, 56-57; Sumner and Dixon 1953, pp. 
464-465; Schmidt 1991, pp. 79-85), with the earliest reports noting 
that they were ``numerous and troublesome'' and ``a source of great 
annoyance to the inhabitants by destroying their sheep, calves, colts, 
and even full-grown cattle and horses'' (Sage 1846, p. 196). Cronise 
(1868, p. 439) described gray wolves in the mid-1800s as ``common in 
the northern and higher districts of the state [of California],'' with 
the skin being worth ``one to two dollars.'' In 1904, Stephens (1906, 
p. 217) stated, ``A very few Gray Wolves live in the high Sierras and 
in the mountains of northeastern California.'' Descriptions of early 
explorers were sometimes accompanied by little detail, and coyotes were 
sometimes called wolves (California Department of Fish and Wildlife 
2011, pp. 1-2); however, Schmidt (1991, entire) accounted for this 
situation in his analysis of anecdotal wolf records in California by 
only accepting records that differentiated between coyotes, foxes, and 
wolves.
    In 1939, the U.S. Forest Service estimated that wolves were present 
in small numbers on the Lassen (16 wolves), Tahoe (4), Eldorado (12), 
Stanislaus (6), Angeles (5) in California, although the basis for these 
estimates is not given (Young and Goldman 1944, p. 55). Charles Poole 
of the Forest Service confirmed five wolves from northern Modoc County 
on the Oregon-California border in the vicinity of Cow Head Lake in the 
1920s, and one was shot in July 1922 in Modoc County (Young and Goldman 
1944, p. 57). The paucity of physical evidence of wolves occupying 
California is likely an artifact of targeted elimination associated 
with the Spanish missions and their extensive livestock interests 
(Schmidt 1991, p. 83) prior to the era of collecting specimens for 
natural-history museums. Late Pleistocene remains of gray wolves have 
been uncovered in several regions of

[[Page 35710]]

California (including at La Brea tarpits (Los Angeles County), Maricopa 
Brea (Kern County), McKittrick Tar Seeps (Kern County), Potter Creek 
Cave (Shasta County), Samwel Cave (Shasta County), and Shuiling Cave 
(San Bernardino County) (Nowak 1979, pp. 99-100). Moreover, wolves were 
historically known to occupy every habitat containing large ungulates 
in the Northern Hemisphere from about 20 degrees latitude to the polar 
ice pack (Fuller et al. 2003, p. 163). The adaptability of wolves and 
the early firsthand accounts of wolves in California suggest that 
wolves likely occurred in northern California, the Sierra Nevada, and 
southern California mountains.
    In Nevada, wolves may have always been scarce (Young and Goldman 
1944, p. 30), but probably occurred in the forested regions of the 
state (Young and Goldman 1944, pp. 10, 455). During 20 years of 
predator control campaigns of the early 1900s, six wolves were taken, 
only one of which was from the western half of the state, near the 
ghost town of Leadville, NV (Young and Goldman 1944, p. 30; Hall 1946, 
pp. 266-269). In addition to this record, there is one record of early-
recent gray wolf bone remains, near Fallon, Nevada (Churchill County) 
(Morrison 1964, p. 73; Nowak 1979, p. 101). Several wolf observations 
from western Nevada were also reported in 1852 from around the Humboldt 
River, Humboldt Sink, and Carson Valley (Turnbull 1913, pp. 164, 195, 
200, 208; Young and Goldman 1944, p. 30).
Pacific Northwest--Causes of Decline
    Extensive unregulated trapping of wolves for their pelts began with 
the arrival of the Hudson's Bay Company in the Pacific Northwest and 
the establishment of a system of trade for wolf pelts in 1820s (Laufer 
and Jenkins 1989, p. 323). From 1827 to 1859, more than 7,700 wolf 
pelts were traded from in or near the Cascade Mountains area in 
Washington and British Columbia alone (Laufer and Jenkins 1989, p. 
323). This trade was followed by an influx of settlers to the region in 
the mid-1800s who used strychnine to poison wolves in an effort to 
protect livestock (e.g., Putnam 1928, p. 256). As the first provisional 
governments in the region were formed, they enacted wolf bounties, 
which spawned an industry of bounty hunters, or ``wolfers,'' who used 
strychnine to kill large numbers of wolves to collect bounties and to 
sell wolf pelts (Hampton 1997, pp. 107-108). Eradication of wolves 
continued into the twentieth century, when government forest rangers 
were encouraged to kill wolves on public lands to destroy the remaining 
``breeding grounds'' of wolves (Hampton 1997, pp. 131-132). In 1915, 
Congress appropriated money to the federal Bureau of Biological Survey 
and its Division of Predator and Rodent Control (PARC) to fund the 
extirpation of wolves and other animals injurious to agriculture and 
animal husbandry (Hampton 1997, p. 134). Spurred by Federal, state, and 
local government bounties, the combination of poisoning, unregulated 
trapping and shooting, and the public funding of wolf extermination 
efforts ultimately resulted in the elimination of the gray wolf from 
the Pacific Northwest and many other areas.
Pacific Northwest--Current Distribution
    At the time of the passage of the Federal Endangered Species Act of 
1973, wolves were presumed to be extirpated from the Pacific Northwest; 
however, a wolf (OSUFW 8727) was killed in eastern Douglas County, 
Oregon in 1978 (Verts and Carraway 1998, p. 363). As a result of 
colonization from core wolf habitats in Yellowstone and central Idaho 
where wolves were reintroduced in the mid-1990s, breeding wolf packs 
became reestablished in northeastern Oregon and eastern Washington 
(Service et al. 2011, p. 5). Because of their connectivity to core 
habitats in central Idaho, wolves in the eastern third of Oregon and 
Washington are now considered part of the NRM DPS (76 FR 25590).
    In Oregon, there have been several recent credible reports of 
wolves west of the NRM DPS, in the western Blue Mountains, central 
Cascades, and Klamath Basin, including a lone wolf that was 
photographed along Highway 20 near the Three Sisters Wilderness in 
2009, and a radio-collared wolf (OR-3) from the Imnaha Pack (one of 
four known packs located within the NRM DPS) that was photographed by a 
trail camera on July 5, 2011, on the western edge of the Umatilla 
National Forest in Wheeler County. The last telemetry location for this 
dispersing wolf was recorded on September 30, 2011, in Crook County, 
Oregon, more than 250 km (156 mi) from its natal area (ODFW 2011). In 
addition, another dispersing wolf (OR-7), also from the Imnaha pack, 
has travelled more than 600 km (373 mi) straight-line distance from its 
natal area and ventured as far as northern California. Evidence of 
wolves breeding west of the NRM DPS in Oregon has not been documented 
in recent times (personal communication T. Hiller, ODFW, 2011).
    In the North Cascades of Washington, near the Canadian Border, 
numerous wolf sightings were reported in the 1980s and 1990s, including 
at least three separate groups of adult wolves with pups (Laufer and 
Jenkins 1989, p. 323; North Cascades National Park 2004, pp. 2-3). 
Multiple wolf reports from Okanogan County in 2008 led to confirmation 
of the first fully documented (through photographs, howling responses, 
and genetic testing) breeding by a wolf pack in Washington since the 
1930s. A pack (named the Lookout Pack) with at least four adults/
yearlings and six pups was confirmed in the western part of the county 
and adjacent northern Chelan County (west of the NRM DPS) in the summer 
of 2008, when the breeding male and female were captured and radio-
collared, and other pack members were photographed. Preliminary genetic 
testing of the breeding male and female suggested they were descended 
from wolves occurring in (1) coastal British Columbia and (2) 
northeastern British Columbia, northwestern Alberta, or the 
reintroduced populations in central Idaho and the greater Yellowstone 
area (J. Pollinger 2008, in litt.).
    The pack produced another litter of at least four pups in 2009, as 
well as a probable litter in 2007 based on a sighting report of six to 
eight animals in nearby northern Chelan County in September 2007 (R. 
Kuntz, National Park Service, pers. comm.) and a report of seven to 
nine animals in Okanogan County in the winter of 2007-2008. The pack 
appears to have suffered significant human-caused mortality from 
illegal killing. In June, 2011, a Federal grand jury indictment 
included the alleged killing of up to five wolves in 2008 and 2009, 
believed to be members of the Lookout pack. In May 2010, the Lookout 
breeding female disappeared several weeks after the suspected birth of 
a litter. This appeared to cause a breakdown in pack structure, with 
the breeding male ranging more widely and spending most of the summer 
alone. The status of this pack was unknown at the end of 2011. However, 
sightings of multiple wolves (including the breeding male) traveling 
together in the winter of 2011-2012 indicate two wolves still inhabit 
the Lookout pack's territory. The pack occupied an area totaling about 
350 square miles from 2008 to 2010 (Wiles et al. 2011, p. 23).
    In the spring of 2011, numerous sightings of wolves were reported 
from the Cle Elum Ranger District in central Washington and the 
subsequent deployment of remotely activated field cameras documented 
four different

[[Page 35711]]

wolflike canids in the area, with one photo showing an adult and a 
subadult. A lactating female from this group of canids (named the 
Teanaway pack) was subsequently captured, and genetic testing confirmed 
that this individual was a gray wolf that was closely related to 
(consistent with being an offspring of) the Lookout pack breeding pair 
(Robinson et al. 2011, in litt., pp. 1-2). In December 2011, 
researchers determined that this pack consisted of three adults and 
four pups occupying an area of approximately 300 square miles (Frame 
and Allen, 2012, p. 8).
    During the winter of 2010-2011, remote cameras recorded images of 
what appeared to be wolves near Hozemeen, Washington in the Ross Lake 
National Recreation Area, near the Canadian border. In May 2011, 
biologists from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) 
conducted an effort to trap and radio-collar potential wolves at this 
location. Abundant canine scat and several sets of canine tracks were 
observed during the 3-week effort, but no animals were captured. At 
this time the genetic status (wolf, dog, or wolf-dog hybrid) and 
denning location of these animals has not been determined.
    In March 2013, WDFW remote cameras documented two wolves feeding on 
an elk carcass together southwest of Wenatchee, WA. The wolves were 
spotted in the area several days later, and were confirmed as the 
Wenatchee pack. One of the wolves is thought to be a dispersing animal 
from the Teanaway pack, and the other is unknown. It is unclear at this 
time whether these wolves will remain resident in the area.
    In California, the only wolf confirmed since their extirpation has 
been the dispersing wolf (OR-7) from northeastern Oregon. In Nevada, 
there have been no confirmed reports of wolves since their extirpation, 
which likely occurred in the 1940s (Young and Goldman 1944, p. 56).
Pacific Northwest--Do wolves in this area constitute a population?
    Fundamental to identification of a possible DPS is the existence of 
a population. As stated previously, our regulations define a 
``population'' as a ``group of fish or wildlife in the same taxon below 
the subspecific level, in common spatial arrangement that interbreed 
when mature'' (50 CFR 17.3). We have refined that definition in other 
wolf rulemakings to mean ``at least 2 breeding pairs of wild wolves 
successfully raising at least 2 young each year (until December 31 of 
the year of their birth), for 2 consecutive years'' (Service 1994, 
Appendix 8; 59 FR 60252, 60266; November 22, 1994). The determination 
justifying this definition found that these standards were ``the 
minimum standards for a wolf population'' and that a ``group of wolves 
[meeting this standard] would cease to be a population if one or both 
pairs do not survive, do not maintain their pair-bond, do not breed, or 
do not produce offspring, or if both pups do not survive for the 
specified period'' (Service 1994, Appendix 8).
    To date, this standard has not been documented in the Pacific 
Northwest (specifically, for those wolves outside of the NRM DPS's 
western boundary and south of the Canadian border). While two breeding 
pairs have been documented in listed portions of the Pacific Northwest 
(both in Washington), 2 consecutive years of raising two young has been 
documented only for one breeding pair. The Teanaway pack was documented 
successfully raising at least two young until December 31 in 2011 and 
2012 (Frame and Allen 2012, p. 8; Becker et al. 2013). Breeding-pair 
status in the Lookout pack has not been confirmed since 2009. 
Otherwise, only lone dispersing animals have been documented in this 
area.
    Even though wolves in the Pacific Northwest, when viewed in 
isolation, do not yet constitute a population according to our 1994 
definition, we decided to undertake a DPS analysis for two reasons. 
First, given the rugged terrain in the North Cascades and the limited 
search effort, and the fact that the Lookout pack has not had any 
radio-collared individuals since 2010, it is possible that additional 
breeding pairs have gone undetected or that the documented breeding 
pairs have successfully bred in consecutive years without detection. 
Over the last 2 years, WDFW has collected evidence suggesting that a 
pack may be located on the Canadian border, but radio collaring efforts 
have not yet been successful. Public observations also support the 
possibility of other wolves in the area, but as of the date of this 
publication, only two breeding pairs have been confirmed in 
Washington's North Cascades in recent times.
    Second, wolf recolonization patterns (Frame and Allen 2012, p. 6; 
Morgan 2011, pp. 2-6) indicate that, even if wolves do not currently 
meet our technical definition of a population in the Pacific Northwest, 
we expect more dispersing wolves from the Northern Rocky Mountains and 
British Columbia to occupy the area in the near future. Three new packs 
were documented in eastern Washington (four additional packs are 
suspected; three in eastern Washington and one in northwestern 
Washington) in 2012. Wolves in the NRM DPS and in British Columbia are 
expanding in number and distribution. (Service 2012, pp. 1, 2; British 
Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations 
2012, p. 4). Expansion of wolves into these surrounding areas increases 
the chance that dispersing wolves will move into unoccupied areas or 
areas with low wolf densities (Fuller et al. 2003, p. 181, Jimenez et 
al. In review, entire), such as the Pacific Northwest. Therefore, while 
the best available information indicates our standard for a population 
has not yet been satisfied, this standard will likely be met in the 
next few years.
    It is worth noting that this situation is fundamentally different 
than past situations where wolves were evaluated against our ``wolf 
population standard.'' In 1994, we determined that neither the Greater 
Yellowstone Area nor the central Idaho region were ``even close to 
having a separate population'' (Service 1994, Appendix 8). In this 
evaluation, Idaho was noted as having the most wolf activity, but even 
this situation was described as only ``occasional immigration of single 
wolves from a breeding population(s) elsewhere, possible with 
intermittent reproduction in some years'' (Service 1994, Appendix 8). 
Similarly, in 2010, we concluded that a petition to list a northeastern 
U.S. wolf DPS ``did not present substantial scientific or commercial 
information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted'' 
primarily because the petition and other readily available information 
failed to show anything more than occasional dispersers and no 
reproduction (75 FR 32869, June 10, 2010). These situations contrast 
with the Pacific Northwest where the region appears to be approaching 
our standards for a population. Given the above, we evaluate the 
discreteness of wolves in this area relative to other wolf populations.
Pacific Northwest--Distinct Vertebrate Population Segment Analysis 
Introduction
    In accordance with the 1996 DPS policy, to be recognized as a DPS, 
a population of vertebrate animals must be both discrete and 
significant (61 FR 4722, February 7, 1996). A population of a 
vertebrate taxon may be considered discrete if it satisfies either of 
the following conditions: (1) It is markedly separated from other 
populations of the same taxon as a consequence of physical, 
physiological, ecological, or behavioral factors (quantitative measures 
of genetic or morphological discontinuity may provide evidence of this 
separation), or (2) it is delimited by

[[Page 35712]]

international governmental boundaries within which differences in 
control of exploitation, management or habitat, conservation status, or 
regulatory mechanisms exist that are significant in light of section 
4(a)(1)(D) of the Act. If we determine that a population segment is 
discrete, we next consider its biological and ecological significance 
in light of Congressional guidance (see Senate Report 151, 96th 
Congress, 1st Session) that the authority to list DPS's be used ``. . . 
sparingly'' while encouraging the conservation of genetic diversity. In 
carrying out this examination, the Service considers available 
scientific evidence of its significance to the taxon to which it 
belongs. This may include, but is not limited to, the following: (1) 
Persistence of the discrete population segment in an ecological setting 
unusual or unique for the taxon, (2) evidence that loss of the discrete 
population segment would result in a significant gap in the range of 
the taxon, (3) evidence that the discrete population segment represents 
the only surviving natural occurrence of a taxon that may be more 
abundant elsewhere as an introduced population outside of its historic 
range, and/or (4) evidence that the discrete population segment differs 
markedly from other populations of the species in its genetic 
characteristics. If a vertebrate population is determined to be 
discrete and significant, we then evaluate the conservation status of 
the population to determine if it is threatened or endangered.
    The DPS evaluation that follows concerns gray wolves occurring in 
the Pacific Northwest (i.e., wolves to the west of the Northern Rocky 
Mountain DPS within the contiguous United States).
Pacific Northwest--Discreteness Analysis
    Adjacent to our analysis area are two wolf population sources, 
including wolves to the east in the NRM DPS and wolves to the north, in 
British Columbia. We will analyze discreteness in relation to the NRM 
DPS first. If we determine that wolves in the Pacific Northwest are not 
discrete from NRM wolves, an evaluation with respect to British 
Columbia is not needed. If, however, Pacific NW wolves are discrete 
from NRM wolves, we will then analyze discreteness from the wolves in 
British Columbia.
    Marked Separation--Physical Factors--In our 2009 rule designating 
and delisting the NRM DPS (vacated (Defenders of Wildlife et al. v. 
Salazar et al., (729 F. Supp. 2d 1207 (D. Mont.), but later reinstated 
by act of Congress (Sec.  1713 of Pub. L. 112-10)) we found that wolves 
in the NRM were physically discrete from any wolves that might 
eventually occupy the area to the west of the NRM boundary (74 FR 
15123). At that time, only one wolf pack existed west of the NRM 
boundary, and genetic evidence suggested that at least one member of 
that pack came from British Columbia. The boundary for the NRM DPS, 
finalized in 2008 (73 FR 10518, February 27, 2008), was determined 
largely by identifying a breakpoint (three times the average dispersal 
distance) for unusually long-distance dispersal out from existing pack 
territories in 2004.
    Since that time, wolves have expanded in number and distribution 
(Service 2012), and the outer edge of the NRM wolf population is now 
very close to the western boundary of the NRM DPS in northeast 
Washington and Oregon. Wolves, which likely originated from the NRM 
DPS, currently occupy territories within 40 km (25 mi) of the DPS 
boundary in Oregon and within 80 km (50 mi) of the DPS boundary in 
Washington (suspected packs in Washington; confirmed packs are 135 km 
(85 mi)). Furthermore, the Lookout Pack (which is outside the NRM DPS 
boundary in listed portions of Washington) are within approximately 89 
km (55 mi) from the nearest pack in the NRM DPS (Strawberry pack, on 
the Colville Indian Reservation in north central Washington). 
Similarly, the Teanaway pack (also outside the NRM DPS boundary in 
listed portions of Washington, in the Cascade Mountains) is 
approximately 177 km (110 mi) from the Strawberry pack. In our rule 
delisting the NRM DPS of gray wolf we defined likely dispersal 
distances of from 97 to 300 km (60 to 190 mi) from a core wolf 
population. Distances between wolves currently occupying territories on 
either side of the NRM DPS boundary fall well within our defined range 
of likely dispersal distances, suggesting that physical distance will 
not separate these wolves in the long term.
    To further understand physical separation in the Pacific Northwest, 
we reviewed several wolf-habitat models (Houts 2003, p. 7; Ratti et al. 
2004, p. 30, Larsen and Ripple 2006, pp. 48, 52, 56; Carroll et al. 
2001, p. 36; Carroll et al. 2006, p. 27, Carroll, in litt. 2008, p. 2) 
and an analysis of wolf-movement habitat linkages and fracture zones in 
Washington (Singleton et al. 2002, Fig. 12). We also reviewed a 
modeling effort by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife that 
combined habitat models with movement data (Wiles et al. 2011, p. 55). 
Because none of these models covered the entire area of interest, we 
also projected Oakleaf et al.'s (2006) wolf-habitat model across 
Washington, Oregon, and northern California using local data (Service, 
unpublished data). Based on this new review of wolf-habitat models, 
there is little separation of occupied wolf habitat in the NRM DPS and 
suitable habitat in the analysis area. Furthermore, because most wolf-
habitat models are developed based on the location of wolf territories 
(rather than dispersing wolves), geographic gaps in suitable habitat 
may not be reflective of long-term barriers to population interchange 
(Mladenoff et al. 1999), as we previously implied (74 FR 15123), 
especially as wolf occupancy continues to increase on both sides of the 
NRM DPS' western boundary.
    Data from habitat mapping efforts suggests that any gaps in 
suitable (breeding) habitat are not so wide as to preclude dispersing 
individuals. Wolves are well known to move long distances across a 
variety of habitat types including open grasslands and agricultural 
areas (Mech 1995, p. 272), and rivers are not effective barriers to 
movement (Young and Goldman 1944, pp. 79-80).
    In Washington, the NRM DPS boundary runs along the Okanogan River, 
which occupies a narrow (15- to 25-km (10- to 15-mi) strip of 
unsuitable habitat (open sagebrush, agriculture) between the Okanogan 
Highlands and the Cascade Mountains. Further south, the DPS boundary 
transects the Columbia Basin, an unforested agricultural region that 
likely limits wolf dispersal to a certain extent. Wolf-habitat models 
by Larsen and Ripple (2006, entire) and Carroll (in litt. 2008, p. 2) 
showed suitable habitat along the Oregon coast and the Cascade Range, 
with limited separation of suitable habitat across the NRM DPS boundary 
in northeast Oregon. The Blue Mountain range stretches from the extreme 
northeast corner of Oregon southwest to the NRM DPS boundary, where the 
Blue Mountains transition into the smaller Aldrich and Ochoco ranges. 
These public lands link together smaller tracts of suitable habitat, 
and arrive at the Middle Deschutes-Crooked River basin about 175 km 
(108 mi) west of the NRM DPS, and 65 km (40 mi) east of the Cascade 
Mountains (a large tract of high-quality wolf habitat). Although 
somewhat patchy, several juvenile wolves have successfully traveled 
through this habitat while dispersing from the NRM DPS (ODFW 2011, pp. 
5-6).
    Based on our analysis above, we find no significant physical 
separation

[[Page 35713]]

delimiting wolves in the analysis area from the NRM wolf population.
    Marked Separation--Physiological, Behavioral, or Ecological 
Factors--Information on the current physiological, behavioral, or 
ecological separation of wolves in the analysis area and wolves in the 
NRM DPS is equivocal. Genetic analysis of a male and female wolf from 
the Lookout pack found that the male possessed a mitochondrial 
haplotype unique to coastal/southern British Columbia region and 
markedly different than haplotypes present in the NRM DPS (Pollinger et 
al., in litt. 2008, p. 2). However, the female possessed a 
mitochondrial haplotype that was broadly distributed throughout North 
America (Pollinger et al., in litt. 2008, p. 2). The fact that the 
female had a more broadly distributed mitochondrial haplotype means 
that she could have originated from coastal British Columbia, but the 
data cannot rule out the possibility that she may have originated 
elsewhere (i.e., NRM DPS). Analysis of microsatellites ruled out the 
possibility that the two wolves originated from the southern Alberta/
northwest Montana population, but could not clearly determine whether 
they were more related to coastal/southern British Columbia wolves or 
wolves from the reintroduced population in Idaho and Yellowstone 
(Pollinger et al., in litt. 2008, p. 3). Genetic testing of a female 
wolf from the Teanaway pack in the southern Cascades of Washington 
State indicated that she was closely related to the male and female of 
the Lookout pack (i.e., probably a descendent of the Lookout pack's 
male and female) (Robinson et al., in litt. 2011, pp. 1-2). While we 
expect individuals of markedly different haplotypes to continue to 
recolonize the area from coastal British Columbia and from the NRM DPS, 
we also expect interbreeding to occur, as genetic evidence of the 
Lookout pack suggests. Therefore, contemporary genetic information does 
not lead us to conclude that wolves on either side of the NRM DPS line 
have marked genetic differences.
    Historical subspecies delineations based on morphology suggest that 
a biological boundary limiting dispersal or reproductive intermixing 
likely existed between eastern and western Oregon and Washington prior 
to the extirpation of wolves from the region (Bailey 1936, pp. 272-275; 
Young and Goldman 1944, p. 414; Hall and Kelson 1959, p. 849, Figure 
6). Moreover, recent genetic, behavioral, and morphological data in 
British Columbia and Alaska show marked separation of coastal and 
inland wolves (Geffen et al. 2004, pp. 2488-2489; Mu[ntilde]oz-Fuentes 
et al. 2009, pp. 10-12; Weckworth et al. 2010, pp. 371-372, vonHoldt et 
al. 2011, pp. 2-8), which is indicative of ecological processes that 
may extend into the Pacific Northwest of the United States where 
climatic and physiographic factors of coastal and inland ecosystems 
parallel those to the north (Commission for Environmental Cooperation 
1997, pp. 9, 21-22).
    If dispersing gray wolves select habitats similar to the one in 
which they were reared (as hypothesized by Mu[ntilde]oz-Fuentes et al. 
(2009, pp. 10-11)), we would expect limited movement and interbreeding 
of wolves in coastal and inland areas, similar to the historical 
pattern of differentiation. However, the mechanisms for a subspecific 
divide in British Columbia is unknown and the ultimate recolonization 
pattern of wolves in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States 
and the extent of any future separation from the NRM DPS is 
unpredictable. Wolves can disperse long distances across a variety of 
habitats, as evidenced by OR-3 and OR-7, dispersing wolves from Oregon 
(Mech 1995, p. 272). Thus, wolves may recolonize western Oregon and 
Washington and the rest of the region from coastal British Columbia, 
from eastern Oregon and eastern Washington, or from both areas. Whether 
wolves from one area will possess traits that allow them to outcompete 
or exclude wolves from the other area or whether they will regularly 
intermix is unknown. However, given their long-range dispersal 
capabilities, known long-distance dispersal events across the NRM 
boundary, and lack of major habitat barriers, it is more likely that 
wolves on either side of the NRM boundary will not form discrete 
populations as defined in our DPS policy.
Summary for DPS Analysis
    Recovery of wolf populations in the NRM DPS and southern British 
Columbia (British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural 
Resource Operations (2012, p. 4) has contributed to recolonization of 
new areas in eastern Washington and Oregon. While we know of resident 
wolves occupying territories in the western two thirds of Washington 
(outside the NRM DPS), they do not currently constitute a 
``population'' and, therefore, the area cannot be defined as a DPS. 
Nevertheless, given ongoing recolonization and the lack of substantial 
dispersal barriers into the Pacific Northwest from populations to the 
north and east, wolves in the area are likely to meet our standard for 
a population in the near future. Therefore, we moved forward with a DPS 
analysis to see if such a likely future population would be discrete 
from the existing population in the Northern Rocky Mountains and 
British Columbia.
    In the absence of identified barriers to intermixing, dispersal of 
wolves across the NRM DPS boundary is likely to continue such that a 
future wolf population in the Pacific Northwest is not likely to be 
discrete from wolves in the NRM DPS. Habitat linkages also connect 
occupied wolf habitat in British Columbia to available habitat in the 
Pacific Northwest (Carroll in litt. 2008, p. 8, Appendix A). It is 
reasonable to expect that the future population of wolves in the 
Pacific Northwest will be an extension, or part of, populations to the 
north and east, rather than a discrete population. Furthermore, the 
best available information does not indicate that wolves in the Pacific 
Northwest are likely to possess physiological, behavioral, or 
ecological traits that separate them from wolves in the Northern Rocky 
Mountains. Therefore, we find that wolves in the Pacific Northwest are 
not discrete from wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains--rather they 
constitute the expanding front of large, robust, and recovered wolf 
populations to the north and east. Even if we considered a larger DPS, 
with a northern boundary extending into British Columbia, we would 
still find a lack of discreteness from the NRM DPS. Due to this lack of 
discreteness, wolves in the Pacific Northwest, whether considered in 
combination with wolves in British Columbia or alone, would not qualify 
as a distinct population segment under our 1996 DPS policy and are, 
therefore, not eligible for protection under the Act.
    We are confident that wolves will continue to recolonize the 
Pacific Northwest regardless of Federal protection. Wolves are 
classified as endangered under both the Oregon and Washington 
Endangered Species Acts (WAC 232-12-014 and 232-12-011; ORS 496.171 to 
496.192 and 498.026), and both states have conservation strategies for 
recovering wolves (ODFW 2010, entire; Wiles et al. 2011, entire). In 
addition, California recently declared wolves as a candidate for 
listing under the California Endangered Species Act. While it reviews 
whether to add wolves to its list of threatened or endangered species, 
California will treat wolves as a state-listed species.

[[Page 35714]]

Significant Portion of Its Range Analysis

    The Act defines ``endangered species'' as any species which is ``in 
danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its 
range,'' and ``threatened species'' as any species which is ``likely to 
become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout 
all or a significant portion of its range.'' The definition of 
``species'' is also relevant to this discussion. The Act defines the 
term ``species'' as follows: ``The term `species' includes any 
subspecies of fish or wildlife or plants, and any distinct population 
segment [DPS] of any species of vertebrate fish or wildlife which 
interbreeds when mature.'' The phrase ``significant portion of its 
range'' (SPR) is not defined by the statute, and we have never 
addressed in our regulations: (1) The consequences of a determination 
that a species is either endangered or likely to become so throughout a 
significant portion of its range, but not throughout all of its range; 
or (2) what qualifies a portion of a range as ``significant.''
    Two recent district court decisions have addressed whether the SPR 
language allows the Service to list or protect less than all members of 
a defined ``species'': Defenders of Wildlife v. Salazar, 729 F. Supp. 
2d 1207 (D. Mont. 2010), vacated on other grounds (9th Cir. 2012), 
concerning the Service's delisting of the Northern Rocky Mountain gray 
wolf (74 FR 15123, Apr. 12, 2009); and WildEarth Guardians v. Salazar, 
2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 105253 (D. Ariz. Sept. 30, 2010), concerning the 
Service's 2008 finding on a petition to list the Gunnison's prairie dog 
(73 FR 6660, Feb. 5, 2008). The Service had asserted in both of these 
determinations that it had authority, in effect, to protect only some 
members of a ``species,'' as defined by the Act (i.e., species, 
subspecies, or DPS), under the Act. Both courts ruled that the 
determinations were arbitrary and capricious on the grounds that this 
approach violated the plain and unambiguous language of the Act. The 
courts concluded that reading the SPR language to allow protecting only 
a portion of a species' range is inconsistent with the Act's definition 
of ``species.'' The courts concluded that, once a determination is made 
that a species (i.e., species, subspecies, or DPS) meets the definition 
of ``endangered species'' or ``threatened species,'' it must be placed 
on the list in its entirety and the Act's protections applied 
consistently to all members of that species (subject to modification of 
protections through special rules under sections 4(d) and 10(j) of the 
Act).
    On December 9, 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the 
National Marine Fisheries Service published a notice (76 FR 76987) of 
draft policy to establish a joint interpretation and application of SPR 
that reflects a permissible reading of the law and its legislative 
history, and minimizes undesirable policy outcomes, while fulfilling 
the conservation purposes of the Act. To date, the draft SPR policy has 
not been finalized. Although the following analyses does not implement 
the draft policy as a binding rule, and instead independently lay out 
the rational for the SPR analyses, if an SPR policy is finalized prior 
to the Service making a final determination on this proposed action we 
will ensure that our final determination is consistent with the final 
SPR policy.
    Consistent with the district court decisions discussed above, and 
for the purposes of this finding, we interpret the phrase ``significant 
portion of its range'' in the Act's definitions of ``endangered 
species'' and ``threatened species'' to provide an independent basis 
for listing; thus there are two situations (or factual bases) under 
which a species would qualify for listing: A species may be endangered 
or threatened throughout all of its range; or a species may be 
endangered or threatened in only a significant portion of its range. If 
a species is in danger of extinction throughout an SPR, it, the 
species, is an ``endangered species.'' The same analysis applies to 
``threatened species.'' Therefore, the consequence of finding that a 
species is endangered or threatened in only a significant portion of 
its range is that the entire species shall be listed as endangered or 
threatened, respectively, and the Act's protections shall be applied 
across the species' entire range.
    We conclude, for the purposes of this finding, that interpreting 
the SPR phrase as providing an independent basis for listing is the 
best interpretation of the Act because it is consistent with the 
purposes and the plain meaning of the key definitions of the Act; it 
does not conflict with established past agency practice, as no 
consistent, long-term agency practice has been established; and it is 
consistent with the judicial opinions that have most closely examined 
this issue. Having concluded that the phrase ``significant portion of 
its range'' provides an independent basis for listing and protecting 
the entire species, we next turn to the meaning of ``significant'' to 
determine the threshold for when such an independent basis for listing 
exists.
    Although there are potentially many ways to determine whether a 
portion of a species' range is ``significant,'' we conclude, for the 
purposes of this finding, that the significance of the portion of the 
range should be determined based on its biological contribution to the 
conservation of the species. For this reason, we describe the threshold 
for ``significant'' in terms of an increase in the risk of extinction 
for the species. We conclude that a biologically based definition of 
``significant'' best conforms to the purposes of the Act, is consistent 
with judicial interpretations, and best ensures species' conservation. 
Thus, for the purposes of this finding, a portion of the range of a 
species is ``significant'' if its contribution to the viability of the 
species is so important that, without that portion, the species would 
be in danger of extinction.
    We evaluate biological significance based on the principles of 
conservation biology using the concepts of redundancy, resiliency, and 
representation. Resiliency describes the characteristics of a species 
that allow it to recover from periodic disturbance. Redundancy (having 
multiple populations distributed across the landscape) may be needed to 
provide a margin of safety for the species to withstand catastrophic 
events. Representation (the range of variation found in a species) 
ensures that the species' adaptive capabilities are conserved. 
Redundancy, resiliency, and representation are not independent of each 
other, and some characteristic of a species or area may contribute to 
all three. For example, distribution across a wide variety of habitats 
is an indicator of representation, but it may also indicate a broad 
geographic distribution contributing to redundancy (decreasing the 
chance that any one event affects the entire species), and the 
likelihood that some habitat types are less susceptible to certain 
threats, contributing to resiliency (the ability of the species to 
recover from disturbance). None of these concepts is intended to be 
mutually exclusive, and a portion of a species' range may be determined 
to be ``significant'' due to its contributions under any one of these 
concepts.
    For the purposes of this finding, we determine whether a portion's 
biological contribution is so important that the portion qualifies as 
``significant'' by asking whether, without that portion, the 
representation, redundancy, or resiliency of the species would be so 
impaired that the species would have an increased vulnerability to 
threats to the point that the overall species would be in danger of 
extinction (i.e., would be ``endangered''). Conversely, we would not 
consider the portion of the range at

[[Page 35715]]

issue to be ``significant'' if there is sufficient resiliency, 
redundancy, and representation elsewhere in the species' range that the 
species would not be in danger of extinction throughout its range if 
the population in that portion of the range in question became 
extirpated (extinct locally).
    We recognize that this definition of ``significant'' establishes a 
threshold that is relatively high. On the one hand, given that the 
consequences of finding a species to be endangered or threatened in an 
SPR would be listing the species throughout its entire range, it is 
important to use a threshold for ``significant'' that is robust. It 
would not be meaningful or appropriate to establish a very low 
threshold whereby a portion of the range can be considered 
``significant'' even if only a negligible increase in extinction risk 
would result from its loss. Because nearly any portion of a species' 
range can be said to contribute some increment to a species' viability, 
use of such a low threshold would require us to impose restrictions and 
expend conservation resources disproportionately to conservation 
benefit: listing would be rangewide, even if only a portion of the 
range of minor conservation importance to the species is imperiled. On 
the other hand, it would be inappropriate to establish a threshold for 
``significant'' that is too high. This would be the case if the 
standard were, for example, that a portion of the range can be 
considered ``significant'' only if threats in that portion result in 
the entire species' being currently endangered or threatened. Such a 
high bar would not give the SPR phrase independent meaning, as the 
Ninth Circuit held in Defenders of Wildlife v. Norton, 258 F.3d 1136 
(9th Cir. 2001).
    The definition of ``significant'' used in this finding carefully 
balances these concerns. By setting a relatively high threshold, we 
minimize the degree to which restrictions will be imposed or resources 
expended that do not contribute substantially to species conservation. 
But we have not set the threshold so high that the phrase ``in a 
significant portion of its range'' loses independent meaning. 
Specifically, we have not set the threshold as high as it was under the 
interpretation presented by the Service in the Defenders litigation. 
Under that interpretation, the portion of the range would have to be so 
important that current imperilment there would mean that the species 
would be currently imperiled everywhere. Under the definition of 
``significant'' used in this finding, the portion of the range need not 
rise to such an exceptionally high level of biological significance. 
(We recognize that if the species is imperiled in a portion that rises 
to that level of biological significance, then we should conclude that 
the species is in fact imperiled throughout all of its range, and that 
we would not need to rely on the SPR language for such a listing.) 
Rather, under this interpretation we ask whether the species would be 
endangered everywhere without that portion, i.e., if that portion were 
completely extirpated. In other words, the portion of the range need 
not be so important that even being in danger of extinction in that 
portion would be sufficient to cause the remainder of the range to be 
endangered; rather, the complete extirpation (in a hypothetical future) 
of the species in that portion would be required to cause the remainder 
of the range to be endangered.
    The range of a species can theoretically be divided into portions 
in an infinite number of ways. However, there is no purpose to 
analyzing portions of the range that have no reasonable potential to be 
significant and threatened or endangered. To identify only those 
portions that warrant further consideration, we determine whether there 
is substantial information indicating that: (1) The portions may be 
``significant,'' and (2) the species may be in danger of extinction 
there or likely to become so within the foreseeable future. Depending 
on the biology of the species, its range, and the threats it faces, it 
might be more efficient for us to address the significance question 
first or the status question first. Thus, if we determine that a 
portion of the range is not ``significant,'' we do not need to 
determine whether the species is endangered or threatened there; if we 
determine that the species is not endangered or threatened in a portion 
of its range, we do not need to determine if that portion is 
``significant.'' In practice, a key part of the portion status analysis 
is whether the threats are geographically concentrated in some way. If 
the threats to the species are essentially uniform throughout its 
range, no portion is likely to warrant further consideration. Moreover, 
if any concentration of threats applies only to portions of the 
species' range that clearly would not meet the biologically based 
definition of ``significant,'' those portions will not warrant further 
consideration.

C. lupus, C. l. nubilus, and C. l. occidentalis

    Having determined that C. lupus, C. l. nubilus, and C. l. 
occidentalis are not endangered or threatened throughout their ranges, 
we next consider whether there are any significant portions of the 
range where C. lupus, C. l. nubilus, or C. l. occidentalis is in danger 
of extinction or is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable 
future.
    We consider the range of C. lupus to include portions of North 
America, Europe, North, Central and South Asia, the Middle East, and 
North Africa (Mech and Boitani 2004, pp. 125-128; Linnell et al. 2008, 
p. 48; 77 FR 55539; 76 FR 81676; Rueness et al. 2011, pp. 1-5; Gaubert 
et al. 2012, pp. 3-7).
    We consider the range of C. l. nubilus to include the western Great 
Lakes region, and portions of western Washington and western Oregon, 
and southeastern Alaska in the United States, the western and coastal 
regions of British Columbia, most of mainland Nunavut, a portion of 
mainland Northwest Territories, northern Manitoba, northern Ontario, 
and most of Quebec in Canada.
    We consider the range of C. l. occidentalis to include Montana, 
Idaho, Wyoming, eastern Oregon and Washington, and most of Alaska in 
the United States, and the Yukon Territories, Northwest Territories, 
the western edge of mainland Nunavut, British Columbia, most of Alberta 
and Saskatchewan, and western and southern Manitoba in Canada.
    Applying the process described above, we evaluated the range of C. 
lupus, C. l. nubilus, and C. l. occidentalis to determine if any 
portion of the ranges of these taxa warranted further consideration.
    Canis lupus--As stated previously, populations of C. lupus occur in 
46 countries and are distributed across several continents. Through our 
review we found evidence to indicate that at the regional level some 
populations are facing significant threats. For example C. lupus 
populations in the southwestern United States (see C. l. baileyi 
analysis above), on the Iberian Peninsula of Southern Spain, and in 
Central Europe (Linnell et al. 2008, p. 63), are significantly affected 
by illegal targeted elimination, small population size, and isolation. 
However, the species' large population levels elsewhere, high 
reproductive rate, dispersal capabilities, and expansive range relative 
to any of the threatened regional populations, along with the lack of 
any substantial information indicating otherwise, lead us to conclude 
that substantial threats are not occurring across enough of the range 
for any of these portions to be considered a significant portion of the 
range of C. lupus.

[[Page 35716]]

    Canis lupus nubilus and Canis lupus occidentalis--Based on our 
evaluations (see C. l. nubilus and C. l. occidentalis analyses above) 
it is evident that C. l. nubilus and C. l. occidentalis populations are 
well distributed in Canada and currently represented in the WGL and NRM 
regions of the United States respectively. We evaluated the current 
ranges of C. l. nubilus and C. l. occidentalis to determine if there is 
any apparent geographic concentration of the primary stressors 
potentially affecting the subspecies, including human-caused mortality, 
habitat alteration, public attitudes/tolerance, and predator control. 
We found that over the vast majority of the range of each subspecies, 
the stressors affecting the species are both diffuse and minor. The 
areas that might possibly qualify as significant for one of the 
subspecies (e.g., all of the Canadian Rockies for C. l. occidentalis or 
coastal British Columbia for C. l. nubilus) clearly do not face 
stressors of sufficient imminence, intensity, or magnitude for the 
subspecies to possibly be threatened there. Further, given the robust 
nature of C. l. occidentalis populations in Alaska and of C. l. nubilus 
in eastern Canada, even the Canadian Rockies and coastal British 
Columbia might not meet the threshold for ``significant'' described 
above even if substantial threats did exist there.
    Conversely, any of the local areas in which there is a notable 
concentration of stressors (for example, intermountain valleys where 
human populations and agriculture are concentrated), are small and 
spread throughout the mountainous western part of the subspecies' 
ranges and generally surrounded by mountainous habitats with healthy 
wolf populations. The diffuse nature of these pockets where risk 
factors for wolves are concentrated reduce the importance of these 
areas on the conservation of the two subspecies. In addition, these 
pockets are individually so small that it is not possible for them to 
meet the threshold for significance set forth above. Further, even if 
there were no wolves in any of these pockets of increased risk, the 
much larger remaining areas of source populations would not be 
threatened, much less endangered, for all of the reasons discussed 
above. Wolf populations in North America have historically weathered 
large contractions in their geographic ranges without obvious adverse 
effects to populations in other areas.
    Within the historical ranges of C. l. nubilus and C. l. 
occidentalis, plains populations from the contiguous United States and 
southern Canada were extirpated in the early 20th century and have not 
repopulated these areas. Despite the lack of wolf populations in the 
plains (where current agricultural practices are not compatible with 
wolf presence) both subspecies maintain secure populations over vast 
areas where effects from human activities have been less severe. 
Therefore, we find that there is not substantial information for either 
subspecies indicating that any portion may be both ``significant'' and 
in danger of extinction there or likely to become so within the 
foreseeable future.

Summary of Finding

    In summary, we find that neither the 1978 listing nor the current 
C. lupus listed entity as it is described on the List represent valid 
``species'' under the Act. We base this conclusion on the following: 
(1) The 1978 listing erroneously included the eastern United States a 
region of the contiguous United States that the best scientific 
information indicates is outside of the historical range of C. lupus 
(see Wolf Species of the United States section); (2) the C. lupus 
listed entity as it is currently described on the List derives from the 
1978 listing and shares the same deficiency; and (3) the current 
listing suffers from the additional problem that there is not a 
reasonable correlation between the remaining population and the 
geographic scope of the listing. Therefore, the current C. lupus listed 
entity is not a ``species'' as defined by the Act, and we propose to 
remove it from the List in accordance with 16 U.S.C. 1533(c)(1).
    We considered whether the currently listed entity should be 
replaced with a valid listing for (1) the C. lupus species, (2) a 
subspecies of C. lupus that occurs within the contiguous United States 
and Mexico, or (3) a DPS of C. lupus that includes part of the 
contiguous United States and Mexico. As required by the Act, we 
considered the five factors in assessing whether C. lupus, C. l. 
nubilus, C. l. occidentalis, or C. l. baileyi are threatened or 
endangered throughout all of its range. We examined the best scientific 
and commercial data available regarding the past, present, and future 
threats faced by these taxa. We reviewed the information available in 
our files and other available published and unpublished information, 
and we consulted with recognized experts and other Federal, state, and 
tribal agencies.
    With respect to C. lupus, we find that, although the species has 
undergone significant range contraction in portions of its historical 
range, C. lupus continues to be widespread and, as a whole, is stable. 
We found no substantial evidence to suggest that C. lupus is at risk of 
extinction throughout its global range now or is likely to become so in 
the foreseeable future.
    With respect to the North American subspecies C. l. nubilus and C. 
l. occidentalis, we find that wolves occupying C. l. nubilus's and C. 
l. occidentalis's historical ranges are widespread and exist as large, 
stable populations, with no evidence of decline over the last 10 years 
despite being subject to harvest over much of their range and 
population reduction actions in local areas. We did not identify any 
significant effects to these subspecies indicating that C. l. nubilus 
and C. l. occidentalis are in danger of extinction throughout their 
ranges and, therefore, neither subspecies meets the definition of an 
endangered species. Canis lupus nubilus and C. l. occidentalis are also 
not likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future 
throughout all of their ranges.
    With respect to C. l. baileyi, we find that the subspecies is in 
danger of extinction throughout all of its range due to illegal 
killing, inbreeding, loss of heterozygosity, loss of adaptive 
potential, small population size, and the combination of factors B, C, 
and E. Canis lupus baileyi used to range throughout central and 
southern Arizona and New Mexico, a small portion of Texas, and much of 
Mexico. Its numbers were reduced to near extinction prior to protection 
by the Act in the 1970's, such that the captive- breeding program was 
founded with only seven wolves. Although our recovery efforts for C. l. 
baileyi, which are still under way, have led to the reestablishment of 
a wild population in the United States, the single, small population of 
C. l. baileyi would face an imminent risk of extinction from the 
combined effects of small population size, inbreeding, and illegal 
shooting, without the protection of the Act. Absent protection by the 
Act, regulatory protection, especially against shooting, poisoning, or 
other forms of killing, would not be adequate to ensure the survival of 
C. l. baileyi.
    With respect to gray wolves in the Pacific Northwest (outside of 
the NRM DPS), recovery of wolf populations in the NRM DPS and southern 
British Columbia (British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands and 
Natural Resource Operations (2012, p. 4) has contributed to 
recolonization of new areas in eastern Washington and Oregon. While we 
know of resident wolves occupying territories in the western two thirds 
of Washington (outside the NRM DPS),

[[Page 35717]]

they do not currently constitute a ``population,'' and, therefore, the 
area cannot be defined as a DPS. Nevertheless, given ongoing 
recolonization and the lack of substantial dispersal barriers into the 
Pacific Northwest from populations to the north and east, wolves in the 
area are likely to meet our standard for a population in the near 
future. Therefore, we moved forward with a DPS analysis to see if such 
a likely future population would be discrete from existing populations 
in the Northern Rocky Mountains and British Columbia.
    In the absence of identified barriers to intermixing, dispersal of 
wolves across the NRM DPS boundary is likely to continue such that a 
future wolf population in the Pacific Northwest is not likely to be 
discrete from wolves in the NRM DPS. Habitat linkages also connect 
occupied wolf habitat in British Columbia to available habitat in the 
Pacific Northwest (Carroll in litt. 2008, p. 8, Appendix A). It is 
reasonable to expect that the future population of wolves in the 
Pacific Northwest will be an extension, or part of, populations to the 
north and east, rather than a discrete population. Furthermore, the 
best available information does not indicate that wolves in the Pacific 
Northwest are likely to possess physiological, behavioral, or 
ecological traits that separate them from wolves in the Northern Rocky 
Mountains. Therefore, we find that wolves in the Pacific Northwest are 
not discrete from wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains--rather they 
constitute the expanding front of large, robust, and recovered wolf 
populations to the north and east. Even if we considered a larger DPS, 
with a northern boundary extending into British Columbia, we would 
still find a lack of discreteness from the NRM DPS. Due to this lack of 
discreteness, wolves in the Pacific Northwest, whether considered in 
combination with wolves in British Columbia or alone, would not qualify 
as a distinct population segment under our 1996 DPS policy and are, 
therefore, not eligible for protection under the Act.
    With respect to whether any of the relevant taxa is threatened or 
endangered in a significant portion of its range, we find that, 
although some regional populations of C. lupus are facing significant 
threats, the species' large population levels elsewhere, high 
reproductive rate, dispersal capabilities, and expansive range relative 
to any of the threatened regional populations leads us to conclude that 
the existing threats are not geographically concentrated in an area 
large enough to be considered a significant portion of the range of C. 
lupus. In addition, we evaluated the current ranges of C. l. nubilus 
and C. l. occidentalis to determine if there is any apparent geographic 
concentration of the primary stressors potentially affecting the 
subspecies. We found that, over the vast majority of the range of each 
subspecies, the stressors affecting the species are both diffuse and 
minor. The areas that might possibly qualify as significant for one of 
the subspecies clearly do not face stressors of sufficient imminence, 
intensity, or magnitude for the subspecies to possibly be threatened 
there. And any areas in which the local wolves might be threatened or 
endangered are so small and unimportant, individually or collectively, 
to qualify as significant portions of the range of the relevant taxa. 
Therefore, we find that there is not substantial information for either 
subspecies indicating that any portion may be both ``significant'' and 
in danger of extinction there or likely to become so within the 
foreseeable future.
    Based on the best scientific and commercial information, we find 
that C. lupus, C. l. nubilus, and C. l. occidentalis are not in danger 
of extinction now, and are not likely to become endangered within the 
foreseeable future, throughout all or a significant portion of their 
ranges. Therefore, listing C. lupus, C. l. nubilus, or C. l. 
occidentalis as threatened or endangered under the Act is not warranted 
at this time.

Canis lycaon

    Canis lycaon was proposed as the designation for the eastern wolf 
by Wilson et al. (2000), and Nowak (2009) provisionally stated that, if 
given species status, the name, Canis lycaon, would take precedence 
over any alternative scientific name; see also Brewster and Fritts 1995 
and Goldman 1944. Since Wilson et al.'s (2000) proposed species 
designation, C. lycaon has been used by Wayne and Vila (2003), Grewal 
et al. (2004), Kyle et al. (2006), Chambers et al. (2012), Wilson et 
al. (2009), Rutledge et al. (2010a,b), and Rutledge et al. (2012).
    Although the taxonomy of the eastern wolf is still being debated, 
we have considered the best information available to us at this time 
and concur with the recognition of C. lycaon. We understand that 
different conclusions may be drawn by taxonomists and other scientists 
depending on whether they give precedence to morphological or genetic 
data; however, we also agree with Thiel and Wydeven's (2012) 
observation that ``Genetics taxonomy is still undergoing rapid 
advances, and is replacing morphological taxonomy as the prime 
determinant in designating species.'' In considering the different 
lines of evidence, we conclude that the findings of the most recent 
analyses (Chambers et al. 2012 and Rutledge et al. 2012, both of which 
heavily rely on genetic data) represent the best available information.
    We are proposing to delist the current C. lupus entity due, in 
part, to our recognition of the eastern wolf taxon as C. lycaon, rather 
than a subspecies of gray wolf (see Evaluation of the Current C. lupus 
Listed Entity). We now also have information concerning the 
conservation status of C. lycaon within its current range--the status 
review conducted by Thiel and Wydeven (2012). Before we can determine 
whether C. lycaon warrants listing as endangered or threatened, we must 
first address outstanding science and policy questions. We must 
consider treatment of wolf-coyote hybrids in terms of how they affect 
the identity of C. lycaon and whether they contribute to the species' 
viability. Also, we must assess whether the threats identified in Thiel 
and Wydeven (2012) indicate that the species meets the definition of a 
``threatened species'' or an ``endangered species.'' In addition, we 
will coordinate with COSEWIC regarding its status assessment for C. 
lycaon.

Northeast Wolf Petition

    On October 9, 2012, the Service received a petition dated September 
26, 2012, from Mr. John M. Glowa, Sr., acting on behalf of himself as 
President of the Maine Wolf Coalition and 397 petition signatories. The 
petition requested continued protection under the Act for all wolves in 
the Northeast and a Northeast wolf recovery plan. Section 4 of the Act 
authorizes petitions to list, reclassify, or delist a species and to 
amend existing critical habitat designations. Section 553(e) of the 
Administrative Procedure Act (APA) provides interested parties the 
right to petition for the issuance, amendment, or repeal of a rule.
    Because the gray wolf, C. lupus, is currently listed in the 
Northeast and no rulemaking is necessary to provide protection under 
the Act, we find that the request for continued protection of wolves 
under the Act in the Northeast is not petitionable under the Act at 
this time. Also, because no rulemaking is necessary to provide the 
Act's protection of wolves in the Northeast at this time, we dismiss 
this request under the APA. If this proposed rule is made final, 
however, any wolves that were to disperse to the northeast United 
States would no longer be protected under the

[[Page 35718]]

Act. As explained above, the Service is assessing the extent and status 
of C. lycaon, the species native to the northeastern United States; the 
outcome of this assessment will determine the need for the Act's 
protections.
    With respect to the request for a Northeast wolf recovery plan, 
development and implementation of a recovery plan are not identified as 
petitionable actions under the Act. Also, because these actions do not 
meet the definition of a rule or rulemaking, they are not petitionable 
actions under the APA either. However, the outcome of our assessment of 
the extent and status of C. lycaon will determine the need for a 
recovery plan.

Proposed Determination

    After a thorough review of all available information and an 
evaluation of the five factors specified in section 4(a)(1) of the Act, 
as well as consideration of the definitions of ``threatened species'' 
and ``endangered species'' contained in the Act and the reasons for 
delisting as specified in 50 CFR 424.11(d), we propose to remove the 
current C. lupus entity from the List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife (50 CFR 17.11) and replace it with a listing for C. l. baileyi 
(Mexican wolf) as endangered wherever found. The currently listed C. 
lupus entity does not represent a valid listable entity under the Act, 
and C. l. baileyi is in danger of extinction throughout all of its 
range and thus warrants the protections of the Act.
    We recognize recent taxonomic information indicating that the gray 
wolf subspecies C. l. lycaon should be elevated to the full species C. 
lycaon. However, as stated above, we are not prepared to make a 
determination on the conservation status of C. lycaon throughout its 
range in the United States and Canada at this time.

Effects of the Rule

    This proposal, if made final, would remove the protections of the 
Act for the current C. lupus listing, by removing this entity from the 
List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.
    This proposal, if made final, would list C. l. baileyi as an 
endangered subspecies.
    This proposed rule has no effect on the existing nonessential 
experimental population designation for gray wolves in portions of 
Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. However, as a matter of procedure, in a 
separate but concurrent rulemaking, we are also reproposing the 
nonessential experimental population to ensure appropriate association 
of the experimental population with the new C. l. baileyi listing. In 
addition, that proposed rule includes revisions to the regulations 
governing the management of the nonessential experimental population.
    This proposed rule does not apply to the separate listing and 
protection of the red wolf (C. rufus). Furthermore, the remaining 
protections of C. l. baileyi under the Act do not extend to C. l. 
baileyi-dog hybrids.

Required Determinations

Clarity of the Rule

    We are required by Executive Orders 12866 and 12988 and by the 
Presidential Memorandum of June 1, 1998, to write all rules in plain 
language. This means that each rule we publish must:
    (a) Be logically organized;
    (b) Use the active voice to address readers directly;
    (c) Use clear language rather than jargon;
    (d) Be divided into short sections and sentences; and
    (e) Use lists and tables wherever possible.
    If you feel that we have not met these requirements, send us 
comments by one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section. To 
better help us revise the rule, your comments should be as specific as 
possible. For example, you should tell us the names of the sections or 
paragraphs that are unclearly written, which sections or sentences are 
too long, the sections where you feel lists or tables would be useful, 
etc.

National Environmental Policy Act

    We determined that an environmental assessment or an environmental 
impact statement, as defined under the authority of the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969, need not be prepared in connection 
with regulations adopted pursuant to section 4(a) of the Act. We 
published a notice outlining our reasons for this determination in the 
Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244).

Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995

    Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regulations at 5 CFR part 
1320, which implement provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 
U.S.C. 3501 et seq.), require that Federal agencies obtain approval 
from OMB before collecting information from the public. This rule does 
not contain any new collections of information that require approval by 
OMB under the Paperwork Reduction Act. This rule will not impose 
recordkeeping or reporting requirements on state or local governments, 
individuals, businesses, or organizations. An agency may not conduct or 
sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to, a collection of 
information unless it displays a currently valid OMB control number.

Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes

    In accordance with the President's memorandum of April 29, 1994, 
Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal 
Governments (59 FR 22951), E.O. 13175, and the Department of the 
Interior's manual at 512 DM 2, we readily acknowledge our 
responsibility to communicate meaningfully with recognized Federal 
Tribes on a government-to-government basis. In accordance with 
Secretarial Order 3206 of June 5, 1997 (American Indian Tribal Rights, 
Federal-Tribal Trust Responsibilities, and the Endangered Species Act), 
we readily acknowledge our responsibilities to work directly with 
Tribes in developing programs for healthy ecosystems, to acknowledge 
that tribal lands are not subject to the same controls as Federal 
public lands, to remain sensitive to Indian culture, and to make 
information available to Tribes. We intend to coordinate the proposed 
rule with the affected Tribes in order to both (1) provide them with a 
complete understanding of the proposed changes, and (2) to understand 
their concerns with those changes. We will fully consider all of the 
comments on the proposed rule that are submitted by Tribes and Tribal 
members during the public comment period and will attempt to address 
those concerns, new data, and new information where appropriate.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited in this document is posted 
on http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-HQ-ES-2013-0073 and 
available upon request from the Arlington, Virginia, Headquarters 
Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

Data Quality Act

    In developing this rule we did not conduct or use a study, 
experiment, or survey requiring peer review under the Data Quality Act 
(Pub. L. 106-554).

Authors

    This proposed rule was a collaborative effort throughout, thus the 
primary authors of this rule are the staff members of the Services 
Endangered Species Program in the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Office, 
Boise, Idaho; the New Mexico Ecological Services Field Office, 
Albuquerque, New Mexico; the Midwest

[[Page 35719]]

Regional Office, Ft. Snelling, Minnesota; the Northeast Regional 
Office, Hadley, Massachusetts; the Montana Field Office, Helena, 
Montana; the Pacific Southwest Regional Office, Sacramento, California; 
and the Headquarters Office, Arlington, Virginia (see FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT).

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Transportation.

Proposed Regulation Promulgation

    Accordingly, 50 CFR part 17 is proposed to be amended as follows:

PART 17--[AMENDED]

0
1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 1531-1544; 4201-4245; unless 
otherwise noted.

0
2. Amend Sec.  17.11(h) in the List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife under Mammals by:
0
a. Removing both entries for ``Wolf, gray (Canis lupus)''; and
0
b. Adding two entries for ``Wolf, Mexican (Canis lupus baileyi)'' in 
alphabetic order to read as follows:


Sec.  17.11  Endangered and threatened wildlife.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                        Species                                                    Vertebrate
--------------------------------------------------------                        population where                                  Critical     Special
                                                            Historic range       endangered or         Status      When listed    habitat       rules
           Common name                Scientific name                              threatened
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Mammals..........................
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
Wolf, Mexican....................  Canis lupus baileyi.  Southwestern United  Entire, except       E               ...........           NA           NA
                                                          States and Mexico.   where included in
                                                                               an experimental
                                                                               population as set
                                                                               forth in 17.84(k).
Wolf, Mexican....................  Canis lupus baileyi.  Southwestern United  U.S.A. (portions of  XN              ...........           NA     17.84(k)
                                                          States and Mexico.   AZ and NM)--see
                                                                               17.84(k).
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

* * * * *

    Dated: May 29, 2013.
Daniel M. Ashe,
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-13982 Filed 6-12-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P