Eight wolves killed in city of Ironwood
Marquette, Mich. — Working as an agent for the state of Michigan, U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services personnel killed eight gray wolves in Ironwood between March 5 and April 5. The wolves belonged to two packs that had become habituated to people, and were being seen inside city limits at an increasing rate. The DNR deemed them a threat to human safety.
“This has been an ongoing issue over the past few years, and wolves were coming into residential areas,” Brian Roell, the DNR’s wolf specialist, told Michigan Outdoor News.
According to Roell, the department began receiving complaints in early January that people were seeing wolves inside the city limits. One report stated that a wolf was seen in a resident’s driveway.
“Deer were coming in to feed on bushes and at bird feeders, and the wolves were following their prey into town and also feeding on garbage,” Roell said. “In early March, the complaints picked up.”
Ironwood Daily Globe outdoor writer Ralph Ansami said the problem was particularly bad in some areas such as Sunset Road, where one resident would see wolves while walking his dog and others would see them within feet of their doors.
According to Sunset Road resident Clara May Lynn, her husband Robert turned on the back porch light one evening and saw two wolves approximately 10 yards from their door. The wolves ran away when the light was turned on. The next morning he investigated and found the carcass of a deer the wolves had killed. Before he had a chance to move the deer carcass, wolves came back and devoured it.
“They came back into the yard the next day,” Lynn told Michigan Outdoor News. “It was pretty scary.”
Ironwood City Manager Scott Erickson said he’s been hearing about wolves in local urbanized areas more frequently than in the past, and he discussed the issue with USDA Wildlife Services personnel.
“We plan on working with legislators to make sure that the funding to manage these wolves in our area continues,” Erickson said. “We are concerned that they are getting too populated, and these problem animals need to be dealt with.”
In previous years, the DNR tried to haze the wolves with non-lethal methods such as cracker shells and rubber bullets. Some wolves were caught and collared and then tracked back to the packs where further hazing was done. These tactics were only short-term solutions, and the wolves kept coming back into town. The problems increased toward the end of each winter.
Although no people were threatened and no dogs were killed, the DNR determined the wolves were becoming increasingly habituated to town and decided to take action for safety reasons.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took the gray wolf off the endangered species list in the Great Lakes region in January. This gave the state more authority to manage problem animals. It also allowed the DNR to issue permits to farmers to dispatch wolves on their property, and made it legal for a person to kill a wolf in the act of attacking livestock or pets.
According to Roell, permits have been issued to two farmers so far this year. On a farm in Ontonagon County, a farmer or his agent killed a wolf April 16, which was not in the act of preying on livestock. This was the first wolf killed under the new permit system. At the same farm, another wolf was killed April 17 while it was attacking cattle.
If a wolf is killed under a permit, the farmer cannot move the carcass without taking photographs of it and the surrounding area and must contact the DNR as soon as practical, but no later than 12 hours after the wolf was killed. If a wolf is shot while attacking a dog, the carcass cannot be moved at all.
To report a wolf that is shot, call the DNR’s RAP Hotline at (800) 292-7800.
“The best thing to do if someone kills a wolf in the act of preying on livestock or a dog is to leave the carcass where it is until DNR personnel arrives,” Roell said.
Wolf carcasses are sent to the Rose Lake Laboratory where officials check for diseases and foot damage, the skull is measured, and the animal is aged. If the pelt is salvageable, it is either tanned or mounted for educational institutions such as schools, universities, or nature centers, according to Roell.
To date, 69 wolves have been killed either by the DNR or USDA since wolves returned to Michigan. Fifty were causing livestock damage and 19 were deemed human safety threats.