NRC looks into its wolf hunt options

Lansing — Michigan hunters could shoot a total of 43 wolves during a management hunt in selected areas of the Upper Peninsula under a proposal being considered by the state Natural Resources Commission.

The DNR Wildlife Division presented its recommendations for a wolf-hunting season to the NRC at its April meeting in Lansing. The commission is  expected to act on the proposal at its May 9 meeting in Roscommon.

The recommendation calls for a limited, management hunt in three areas of the U.P. where wolf/human conflicts and depredation of livestock and pets persists despite the use of both nonlethal and lethal control measures. The proposal calls for allowing hunters to take 16 wolves in western Gogebic County (Wolf Management Unit A) where the DNR has received 91 wolf complaints since 2010; 19 wolves in WMU B, which encompasses parts of Houghton, Baraga, Ontonagon, and Gogebic counties; and eight wolves in WMU C in the eastern U.P. in parts of Luce and Mackinac counties. According to a survey conducted earlier this year, there is a minimum of 658 wolves in the U.P. heading into spring, when pups are born.

“We’re not recommending that public harvest replace other activities, but to use hunting as an additional tool,” Adam Bump, the DNR’s wolf specialist, told the commission. In these areas, “We have used all the techniques available and still have problems.

“Our first goal is to maintain long-term viability of the wolf population,” Bump said. “We do not anticipate public harvest to offset the overall wolf population. Our main objective in each area is to reduce conflicts where we have had problems.”

If approved by the NRC, Michigan’s first wolf hunt in modern history would take place Nov. 1 through Dec 31 or until the harvest goal has been reached. Hunting and trapping (foot-hold traps on private land) would be permitted, and the bag limit would be one wolf per person, per year. Firearms, bows, and crossbows would be permitted, and hunting hours would be one-half hour before sunset to one-half hour after sunset.

Two options are being offered for license sales: over-the counter sales or a random lottery drawing. A call-in system would be used to record the harvest and announce the end of the season. Hunters and trappers would be required to call in daily to see if the season remains open and to  report a kill on the day of the harvest.

Backed by the Humane Society of the United States, the local group Keep Michigan Wolves Protected has gathered nearly 250,000 signatures in an effort to force a public vote on wolf management in Michigan. The group hopes to remove wolves from the list of game species in Michigan, reducing wildlife managers’ options for managing the state’s largest predator through regulated management hunts.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, and state Rep. Jon Bumstead, R-Newaygo, have introduced legislation that would pre-empt a vote and reaffirm the voter-mandated use of sound scientific principals in making wildlife management decisions (Proposal G, 1996). Senate Bills 288 and 289 and House Bills 4552 and 4553 also would protect Michigan citizens’ right to hunt, fish and take game; provide free hunting and fishing licenses to active members of the military; authorize the NRC in addition to the Legislature to designate a species as a game animal; grant the NRC exclusive authority to regulate the taking of fish in Michigan (presently that authority rests with the DNR director); and appropriate $1 million to the DNR for fiscal year 2012-13 to implement management practices for fish and game animals and perform research, education, and outreach related to hunting and fishing. Inclusion of the appropriation in this legislation makes it referendum-proof.

As of press time, the bills were in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes, and the House Committee on Natural Resources.

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