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In Catron County, N.M., local authorities built wooden outhouse-sized structures called “kid cages” to protect schoolchildren at bus stops from the Mexican gray wolf.

“The wolf issue is an example, especially with the kid cages, about how you’re putting the interest of wildlife over the interests of human beings,” Mr. Spady said. “Every American should be concerned about seeing kids in cages and wolves out wandering around freely.”

There are an estimated 5,360 Canadian gray wolves in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes region. The wolf already has been delisted in the Great Lakes states of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

The latest delisting proposal would cover states where the wolves are migrating, including Oregon and Washington, which have reported seven packs or about 40 animals per state. At least one wolf has been sighted in California, while Colorado and Utah are also seen as likely destinations for the wolves.

The Fish and Wildlife proposal would also keep the Mexican gray wolf on the list as an endangered subspecies, but return management to state wildlife agencies in Arizona and New Mexico. The wolf’s population is estimated at about 75 between the two states.

At the Denver hearing, those testifying said they feared the delisting would result in an open hunting season on the wolves. In states where the species is delisted, state wildlife agencies have taken over managing the animals, and have allowed limited wolf hunting and trapping.

“I frankly am very ashamed of what we are doing to the wolf. I do not understand a nation that will bring back the wolf just to go out and hunt it to extinction again,” said Barbara Burton, a Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center volunteer. “How do we know at what point to stop the hunting and the slaughter to prevent that?”

Wildlife groups argue that the wolf occupies only 8 percent of its historic range, but federal agents counter that their job is to protect the wolf from extinction, not restore the species to 100 percent of its previous habitat.

Mike Jimenez, wolf management and science coordinator for FWS Northern Rocky Mountains, said at the hearing that the agency’s recovery programs have worked “exceptionally well.” The recovery program has exceeded the agency’s targets by as much as 300 percent.

“They’ve dramatically expanded the range of over 5,000 wolves in the Lower 48,” Mr. Jimenez said. “We believe that this recovery will ensure that wolves will no longer be endangered in the Lower 48, and it’s time to move forward.”

The agency is accepting comment on the proposals until Dec. 17. The final public hearing is scheduled for Dec. 3 in Pinetop, Ariz.