The Tuesday U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. ruling protects wolves in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota.
The ruling comes after years of debate, as well as decades of disagreements over the size and management of the wolf population.
In the early 1900s, Wisconsin instituted a bounty to keep the number of wolves down, in hopes of bolstering a dwindling deer population. By 1960, wolves were declared extirpated from Wisconsin.
Then, in 1974, wolves were given protection under the Endangered Species Act. The Wisconsin DNR launched intense monitoring in 1979, and employed methods including radio collaring, snow-tracking and howl surveys. In 1980 the DNR counted just 25 wolves in the state. By 2011, the number rose to 800. One year later, federal protections were removed, allowing people to hunt wolves.
The state held three subsequent hunts. Two weeks after the 2014 hunt, a federal judge put a stop to the hunts by returning wolves in Great Lakes states to the endangered species list. It’s that ruling that the federal Court of Appeals upheld Tuesday.
Today, an estimated 3,800 wolves live throughout the Western Great Lakes region. Some citizens say wolves are critical to a healthy ecosystem, while others are concerned about protecting their livestock and pets from the predators.