MINNEAPOLIS — Gray wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan could again find themselves in hunters’ crosshairs — possibly as soon as this fall if federal protections are removed for the predators.
A ruling is expected soon from an appeals court that recently lifted protections for wolves in Wyoming.
In Congress, wolf-hunting supporters aren’t giving up even though a Minnesota representative was instrumental in killing an effort that would have allowed the three western Great Lakes states to resume wolf hunting.
Gray wolves were once hunted to the brink of extinction in most of the country, but they recovered under Endangered Species Act protections and reintroduction programs. They now number more than 5,500 in the lower 48 states, including nearly 3,800 in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service has repeatedly tried to remove wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan from the endangered species list, but courts have stymied those efforts.
Now, a panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is looking at the issue. The same appeals court in March took wolves off the list in Wyoming.
Backed by farm groups upset about depredation of livestock, and hunters who would like the chance to bag a wolf, lawmakers from the region have tried to attach riders to various bills in Congress that would ‘‘delist’’ wolves, return management responsibilities to the states, and bar further court challenges.