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Maine at a glance

Wolves once existed throughout Maine but removal began shortly after European settlement. Currently no established wolf populations live in this state. However, due to close proximity of a viable wolf population in Canada, wolves could move into this state. Private groups have promoted and studied the possibility of reintroducing wolves to Maine, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has no official plans to undertake a reintroduction project here.

Human Relationships

Attitudes and Issues

Will Wolves Find a Home in Maine?

by Debi Davidson – Former IWC Speakers Bureau Representative

In the fall of 1998, Maine Governor Angus King rescinded a proclamation for “Wolf Awareness Week that his staff mistakenly processed. It was the first time in Maine history that such a document was repealed. The media grabbed the opportunity to label it “Wolf UN-Awareness Week. Reporters wrote detailed stories on wolves, local columnists voiced their opinions, and Maine citizens wrote impassioned letters to the editor. Strong feelings about wolves are common in the northeast. In 1997, a survey showed that 79 percent of Maine residents polled favored wolf recovery on some level. The results also revealed that 30 percent of hunters and 60 percent of non-hunters did not know it is illegal to kill wolves in the state. Bounties, over-harvest and loss of habitat resulted in wolves disappearing in Maine by the turn of the century. Wolves are currently protected as an endangered species. In June 1998, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt announced that wolves would be delisted and downlisted throughout the U.S., with management of the species gradually passing from the federal government to the states.

Federal and state wildlife officials from the northeast met with interested organizations to discuss the implications of moving the wolf from endangered to threatened status. Paul Nickerson, Head of the federal endangered species program in the northeast, said he will propose downlisting in the spring of 1999. A federal recovery plan would be written for the northeast, and each state would decide whether it wants wolf recovery to occur within its boundaries. In rescinding the wolf awareness proclamation in Maine, Governor King said he could not support federal or state wolf reintroduction efforts. He pointed to conflict between those who “believe that wolves can live in harmony with people and other wildlife species, and those who are “concerned that wolves will dramatically affect the status of other, more highly regarded, wildlife populations, such as moose and deer. He also noted that the state would be obligated to protect wolves if they establish themselves naturally.

In Maine, researchers are trying to learn whether wolves are recovering naturally by dispersing and traveling south from packs in Canada. A 67-pound female killed in Maine in 1993 was verified to be a wolf. In 1996 a male wolf-like canid weighing 85 1/2 pounds was trapped and killed there. Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is seeking funds to conduct its fourth winter of track surveys. The Maine Wolf Coalition does howling surveys and follows up on credible sightings called in on an 800-number Wolf Sighting Hotline.

If wolves do return, naturally or through reintroduction, favorable habitat is waiting. Researchers using Geographical Information Systems and measurements of road density have indicated that Maine has 18,000 square miles of suitable wolf territory. Throughout New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, they estimate that sufficient prey and habitat on 29,722 square miles of available land could support 1,312 wolves.

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