By JOHN FLESHER , AP Environmental Writer

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) – A federal appeals court is keeping gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region on the endangered species list.

A panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday upheld a district judge’s 2014 ruling that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had acted prematurely by removing federal protections from wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Wolves had nearly disappeared from the region when they were designated as endangered in the 1970s. They now total about 3,800.

Federal and state regulators say they’ve recovered and should be returned to state management, which could include allowing wolf hunting.

Environmental groups say they’re still vulnerable.

The appeals panel said the government hadn’t reasonably considered factors including loss of the wolf’s historical range.

 © Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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