Groups of scientists are urging federal officials not to remove protections for gray wolves across the Lower 48 states.
In letters to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week, carnivore specialists say the wolf population has only begun to recover and is absent from most of its historical territory after being driven to near-extinction in the past century.
They say there's enough habitat and prey to support wolves in other parts of the country.
The wolf remains on the endangered species list except in the Northern Rockies and western Great Lakes, where the combined population is about 6,000.
A draft proposal to drop remaining protections except in the Southwest surfaced last month. Government attorneys said in court papers Monday a final decision has been postponed. They provided no explanation.