(Reuters) - Gray wolves in western Great Lakes states and Wyoming were returned to endangered or threatened species lists on Friday, giving them protection against hunting and trapping, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said.
The decision complies with orders by federal judges that restored protections to gray wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Wyoming that had been removed in 2012 along with the delisting of the wolves from protections in other states.
The Humane Society of the United States had argued in a federal lawsuit that the department's 2012 decision to allow states to regulate gray wolves could lead to excessive hunting and trapping and put their populations at risk.
U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell of Washington D.C. ordered gray wolves to be relisted as endangered in Wisconsin and Michigan and threatened in Minnesota.
The wildlife service is still considering whether to appeal that ruling, spokesman Gavin Shire said on Friday.
Separately, a judge in September had restored federal protections to gray wolves in Wyoming, finding that a state wolf-management plan failed to ensure the long-term survival of the population.
(Reporting by Kevin Murphy in Kansas City)