Wolf bill makes progress in state Legislature
Lansing — The first legislative hurdle to a modern wolf hunting and trapping season in Michigan was cleared earlier this month when Senate Bill 1350 was passed out of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes, on a 5- 2 vote. It was sent to the full Senate. The bill was introduced in October by Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba. A similar bill in the House remains in committee.
If SB 1350 passes on the House and Senate floors, the gray wolf will become listed and a game animal in Michigan, allowing the Natural Resources Commission to establish hunting and trapping seasons in the state. The DNR will recommend bag limits, seasons, and methods of take to the commission. Michigan sportsmen might be able to apply for a tag to hunt or trap a gray wolf as early as next year. The application fee would be $4, a resident license would cost $100, and a nonresident license would cost $500.
Rep. Matt Huuki, R-Atlantic Mine, authored the bill and passed it on to Casperson. Because the western Upper Peninsula has the greatest share of Michigan’s wolf population, he said he saw this as a major issue for his constituents.
“We are trying to get dates set to bring (House Bill 5834) up on the House floor,” Huuki told Michigan Outdoor News. “Seeing this bill passed is one of the things I want to accomplish before my term is over. I would love to see a hunting and trapping season for wolves by next fall.”
Huuki originally had trouble getting the bill moving in the House; partly due to tribal opposition, which has been addressed. He gave the bill language to Casperson, who guided it through the committee.
According to Huuki, if the bill passes in the Senate, it will be much easier to pass in the House.
“It doesn’t matter to me if it passes in the House or Senate first,” he said. “I just want to see it passed. I’m afraid if it doesn’t go through, animosity for the wolf will grow rapidly.”
Huuki also hopes the DNR recommends trapping to the NRC as one of the methods of take.
“Trapping is really the only effective method we have to quickly get the population numbers down where they should be,” he said.
Hunters, ranchers, and others in the western U.P. have been frustrated because the state has had no management authority to control wolves, which prey on livestock and game, and are perceived by some to be a public safety threat.
This year, after being taken off the federal endangered species list, problem animals could be controlled, but the state cannot manage the wolf population as a whole until it’s classified as a game animal.
Michigan United Conservation Clubs is also behind the bill, and a wolf-hunting season. MUCC officials say that in managing the wolf, protection of other valuable animals in Michigan such as deer, pets, and livestock – prey for wolves – should be considered, according to Kent Wood, the group’s legislative affairs manager.
“We feel the wolf's recovery is a success story,” Wood told Michigan Outdoor News. “We should celebrate the fact that we brought the wolf back from the edge of extinction, and that it should be treated like every other valuable recovered species. We should be able to manage for what’s best for the wolf, and the other species it interacts with.”
However, not everyone supports controlling the wolves through hunting and trapping. The Humane Society of the United States opposes both bills. HSUS does not believe the state should “rush” into a hunting season, and hopes the state uses non-lethal means and education to control the population, according to Jill Fritz, the Michigan state director of the animal rights group.