Ranchers cheered by lifting of wolf protections

Western ranchers say they’re hopeful the removal of gray wolves from the federal endangered species list will make it easier to hunt the predators and stem losses of cattle and sheep.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service formally lifted federal protections for more than 1,300 wolves in Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Utah earlier in April.

That will allow hunting of the carnivores that ranchers say have taken a steady toll on their livestock since the federal government began reintroducing wolves to the region decades after they were wiped out.

The agency also intends to take gray wolves off the endangered list in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. A 60-day public comment runs through July 5. Some 4,200 wolves now roam those three states.