Gray wolves are left vulnerable after the Trump administration removed their protections. The species has been listed as endangered for over 45 years; this listing has been instrumental in protecting the animals from hunting and helping to recover dwindling population numbers. But last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to have the gray wolf removed from the Endangered Species Act. Following that proposal, the government took action in delisting the gray wolf as an endangered species last week.

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“Today’s action reflects the Trump Administration’s continued commitment to species conservation based on the parameters of the law and the best scientific and commercial data available,” Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt said. But the move has been sharply criticized by conservationists. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there are about 6,000 gray wolves in the wild in the U.S. This number is alarming to scientists, who say that the wolves are still in great danger of extinction if they are not protected.

Related: Washington’s wolf population is down to 122 after a pack is shot by state hunters

Gray wolves were once driven close to extinction because of conflicts with farmers and a decline in their prey. Due to such constraints, the once-robust population of the wolves in the northern U.S. shrank abruptly, forcing the government to offer them protection by law. While listed under the Endangered Species Act, the gray wolf population has experienced growth in the Great Lakes and Rocky Mountains.

But as populations grow, some states have been demanding to have the wolves delisted. Case in point, Wyoming successfully filed a petition that has allowed for the hunting of gray wolves in the state.

With the delisting happening just days before the presidential election, the move is seen as a strategy to attract voters from areas where the wolves live. In a statement released by the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund, chief political strategist Brett Hartl said that President Trump’s push for reelection is putting more wolves at risk.

“Wolves will be shot and killed because Donald Trump is desperate to gin up his voters in the Midwest,” Hartl said. “Secretary Bernhardt’s nakedly political theater announcing the end to wolf protections in a battleground state days before the election shows just how corrupt and self-serving the Trump administration is.”

Via CNN

Image via Christel S.