US

Scientists say lifting of wolf protections across most of US based on unproven genetic claims

File - This May 8, 2012 file photo provided by the California Department of Fish and Game shows OR-7, the Oregon wolf that has trekked across two states looking for a mate, on a sagebrush hillside in Modoc County, Calif. Chuck Bonham, the director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said Wednesday that the scientific evidence suggests some protections are needed for the gray wolf, but not a listing on the endangered species list, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. Bonham said his decision was reached after a yearlong department study spurred by conservationists, who filed a petition seeking protections after a lone gray wolf, called OR-7, wandered into California from Oregon. (AP Photo/California Department of Fish and Game, Richard Shinn, File)

File - This May 8, 2012 file photo provided by the California Department of Fish and Game shows OR-7, the Oregon wolf that has trekked across two states looking for a mate, on a sagebrush hillside in Modoc County, Calif. Chuck Bonham, the director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said Wednesday that the scientific evidence suggests some protections are needed for the gray wolf, but not a listing on the endangered species list, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. Bonham said his decision was reached after a yearlong department study spurred by conservationists, who filed a petition seeking protections after a lone gray wolf, called OR-7, wandered into California from Oregon. (AP Photo/California Department of Fish and Game, Richard Shinn, File)  (The Associated Press)

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.

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Associated Press Writer Jeff Barnard in Grants Pass, Ore. contributed to this report.