As of today, January 4, 2021, the gray wolf is no longer protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

In a press release, the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks (GFP) announced that under its authority in state law, wolves will now be treated as a predator or varmint and may be hunted with a predator/varmint license or a small game license.

This means what was previously a federal crime to take a wolf is now part of the hunting scene in the state, sort of. There is no wolf population in South Dakota although they are spotted from time to time. But if anyone does take a wolf, GFP requests that they are notified of it within 24 hours for inspection and sampling.

“Over the past several decades, South Dakota has had a handful of gray wolves killed on both sides of the Missouri River,” said Keith Fisk, program administrator with GFP in a statement. “The department suspects the gray wolves that have been present in South Dakota are likely transient animals that have dispersed from populations east and west of the state.”

The gray wolf has been under ESA protection since 1973. In 2013 the South Dakota legislature passed Senate Bill 205 which added the wolf to the list of predators and varmints managed by the GFP, but also added that "Wolves may only be hunted, taken, or killed in any area of the state in which the State of South Dakota has preeminent authority over the management of wolves." This move paved the way for a simple transition when the wolf was delisted.

The idea of wolves reclaiming former native range in South Dakota is not a popular one. Farmers and ranchers generally oppose introductions to the state as the habitat that once existed no longer does and the presence of wolves would lead to conflict and loss in cattle herds.

GFP also said in today's press release: "GFP does not support gray wolf expansion in South Dakota."

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