Cheboygan, Mich. – State and federal wildlife officials continue
to investigate recent sign of multiple wolves in a wooded, remote
section of northern Cheboygan County.
Officials confirmed last month at least two sets of wolf tracks
and other possible evidence on private property in Cheboygan County
as part of a gray wolf survey of public sightings in the northern
Department of Natural Resources and Environment officials
believe the recently found tracks may be the first confirmation of
a pack in the northern Lower, and further evidence of the need to
remove the animals from the federal endangered species list.
“It’s inevitable that wolves establish … in the northern Lower,
and it’s part of our wolf plan,” DNRE Wildlife Chief Russ Mason
said. “But we cannot manage wolves in the state of Michigan because
they are fully listed (as endangered).
“These wolves in the northern Lower are more likely to get into
trouble than wolves in the Upper Peninsula, and we recognize that.
This only complicates our efforts and adds additional urgency to
getting them off the list and back under state control,” Mason
The Endangered Species Act makes it unlawful to kill a wolf
under any circumstances except in the defense of a human life.
Michigan’s wolf management plan is more liberal, with provisions to
protect private property from wayward wolves.
Under federal protections, the gray wolf began returning to
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula through Wisconsin and Canada roughly 20
years ago. A 2009 DNRE wolf census estimates the animals now number
at least 577 in the Upper Peninsula. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service delisted gray wolves as an endangered species in Michigan,
Wisconsin, and Minnesota early last year, but a lawsuit over the
decision – by the Humane Society of the United States and other
animal rights groups – quickly put the animals back under federal
Gray wolves first showed up in the northern mitt in 2004, when a
trapper accidentally trapped and killed a wolf in Presque Isle
County. The DNRE also has confirmed wolf video taken by two
different people in the northern Lower Peninsula last fall. Since
2004, wolves or wolf sign have been spotted in Emmett, Cheboygan,
Presque Isle, and Alpena counties, according to Tim Reis, DNRE
wildlife supervisor at Gaylord.
“Counties that border northern Lake Huron seem to be where we
are getting most of these reports,” Reis said, adding that the
animals typically have a 50- to 100-mile range, and officials are
uncertain if any sightings are the same wolves.
“What we have in (Cheboygan County) are smaller-sized tracks,
which would be indicative of younger animals or females,” Reis
DNRE biologist Jennifer Kleitch helped officials with the U.S.
Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services identify at least two
sets of wolf tracks in Cheboygan County, and possible scat and deer
kill site nearby. She said the department continues to analyze that
evidence. Officials remain uncertain whether the recent wolf sign
is related to previous reports or if the animals are breeding below
the bridge, she said.
“We don’t know if it’s a male and a female, or two males. We are
at the very beginning of this,” Kleitch said. “So what it means, I
think, is a question that still needs to be answered.”
In the meantime, the USFWS is starting the wolf delisting
process over again and is expected to take public comment on the
issue sometime this year.
For more information on wolves in Michigan log on to www.michigan.gov and search “gray