Six-week wolf hunt approved
Roscommon, Mich. — By a 6-1 vote, the state Natural Resources Commission on May 9 approved a DNR plan for a limited six-week wolf hunt in designated areas of the western and eastern Upper Peninsula.
The commission approved the plan to cull up to 43 wolves from the minimum number of 658 the DNR estimates are in the U.P. Commissioner Annoesjka Steinman, of Norton Shores in western Michigan, was the lone vote against the hunt.
The vote came following public comment during which three people spoke in favor of the plan, and 12, including two representing Native Americans, spoke against it.
The vote to approve a hunt came one day after Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law Senate Bill 288, which became Public Act 21. That law gives the NRC the power to determine game species and hunting seasons.
His signature put into motion the NRC’s action, which took place at a crowded commission meeting.
The action cleared the way for Michigan to become the nation’s seventh state to authorize a wolf hunting season, the others being Colorado, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. Gray wolves in the Great Lakes region were removed from the federal endangered species list in January 2012, and plans to have a management hunt have been in the works since. In December, the Michigan Legislature passed a law designating the wolf as a game species.
Under the NRC’s order, the wolf season would run Nov. 15-Dec. 31. However, it could end prior to Dec. 31 if the 43-wolf quota is met. Up to 1,200 licenses will be issued from Aug. 3-Oct. 31 for three wolf management units. Those WMUs fall within parts of Gogebic, Ontonagon, Houghton, Baraga, Mackinac, and Luce counties, where complaints of wolves preying on both livestock and pets, and becoming habituated to humans, are heaviest.
Hunters would be responsible for contacting the DNR during the season to confirm that a WMU remains open to hunting and that the designated quota, ranging from 16 to eight wolves for each WMU, had not been met. Trapping also would be allowed under the law.
According to the DNR, Michigan’s wolf population has grown from approximately three in 1989 to at least 658 now, and is currently 62 percent larger than in 2005.
“We are using scientific management principles to manage wolves. There is no intention to reduce the population to the point where wolves would again be in danger of being threatened,” said NRC
Commissioner John Madigan of Munising. Madigan is chairman of the NRC’s Fish and Wildlife Subcommittee, and presented the recommendation for the hunt to the full Commission.
“Hunting is a viable scientific way to manage wolves, and we’re being very conservative compared with Colorado, Minnesota, or Wisconsin. Other states started with a bigger percentage of animals to be killed.
We’ve taken testimony from three states, the federal government, two professors from Michigan Technological University and Dr. David Mech.” Mech is senior research scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey and adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota.
“The (sub)committee believes that an appropriately limited harvest of wolves will not change the overall size or trajectory of the Michigan wolf population. We’re using Proposal G and sound science to manage wolves,” Madigan said. Proposal G was the 1996 referendum that Michigan voters overwhelmingly voted into law to mandate using sound science to manage the state’s wildlife resources.
Despite the NRC’s action, the fight between those who want to see wolves protected from hunting, and those who advocate a hunt, could continue.
“We are keeping all our options open,” said Lansing resident Ellie Hayes, campaign manager for Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, the main group opposing a hunt.
“We’re very disappointed that the NRC ignored Rolf Peterson (a professor of wildlife ecology at Michigan Tech noted for his studies of wolf behavior at Isle Royale National Park) and John Vucetich (associate professor of wildlife ecology at Michigan Tech), the two most prominent wolf scientists in the country, other experts on wolves and the voices of 255,000 voters who signed our petition,” Hayes said.
Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, backed by the Humane Society of the United States, undertook a petition drive to place the question of the Legislature’s passage of Public Act 520 authorizing a hunt on the November 2014 ballot.
The group said it gathered 255,000 signatures to force a public vote. Those signatures are still being validated.
“We plan to continue with the referendum about Public Act 520, and we’re continuing to explore all our options in relation to Senate Bill 288,” Hayes said. She did not rule out a separate ballot drive to repeal the law allowing the NRC to set a wolf hunt.
“I disagree that they used the best science available. The reasons they’re putting forth are public safety and depredation, neither of which would be addressed by an indiscriminate season. If wolves are a threat, they need to be dealt with immediately, not months down the road,” she said.