BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - A scientific review says the U.S. government's bid to lift federal protections for gray wolves across most of the Lower 48 states is based on unproven claims about their genetics.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service peer review panel released its report Friday. It represents a significant setback for the pending proposal to take gray wolves off the endangered species list except in the desert Southwest.
The scientists determined there was insufficient evidence to support government claims that the Northeast and Midwest were home to a different species than the gray wolf found in the Rockies and Great Lakes.
The historical absence of gray wolves would make its recovery unnecessary in those areas.
Protections were previously lifted and wolf hunting is allowed in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes, where the predators have rebounded from near-total extermination last century.
Associated Press Writer Jeff Barnard in Grants Pass, Ore. contributed to this report.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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