NRC approves limited U.P. wolf hunt, again

Lansing — For the second time in two months, the state Natural Resources Commission has approved a wolf hunt for Michigan. The most recent approval follows a flurry of activity regarding the state’s wolf population.
In May, the NRC approved a limited management wolf hunt in three areas of the Upper Peninsula where wolf conflicts have been high. Approval came after the state Legislature, through Public Act 250 of 2012, moved wolves to the list of game animals – something only the Legislature could do at the time.

Backed by the largest anti-hunting organization in the world – the Humane Society of the United States – a  local group called Keep Michigan Wolves Protected gathered enough signatures to force a public vote in an effort to overturn the Legislature’s action to make wolves a game animal. That vote will take place in 2014, and the wolf hunt was put on hold until then.

The Legislature immediately went back to work and passed Public Act 21, which gave the NRC the authority, as well as the Legislature, to name game animals. At the July NRC meeting in Lansing, the commission voted to move wolves to the game list and to hold a limited management hunt this fall.

“Public Act 21 affirms the critical importance of managing natural resources in Michigan on the firm foundation of science,” said Natural Resources Commission chair J.R. Richardson, in a release. “Today’s decision supports ongoing scientific management of wolves, just as voters intended when by an overwhelming margin they approved Proposal G in 1996. Managing wildlife through science is far better than managing wildlife through ballot questions, which some organizations support for Michigan. The conservative public harvest proposal approved by the NRC ensures the long-term presence of wolves while providing a valuable tool for managing conflicts between wolves and human populations.”

The NRC approved 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 non-lethal and lethal control measures. A total of 43 wolves could be culled from the population during the hunt, which will run Nov. 15 through Dec. 31. The hunt will end early if the quota has been met.

Hunters will be allowed to kill 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 was a minimum of 658 wolves in the U.P. heading into spring, when pups were born.

“We anticipate that this limited public harvest could both change wolf behavior over time – making them more wary of people, residential areas, and farms – and reduce the abundance of wolves in these management areas that have experienced chronic problems,” said Russ Mason, DNR Wildlife Division chief. “We’re aiming to decrease the number of conflicts and complaints while maintaining the long-term viability of the wolf population.”

The bag limit is one wolf per person, per year. Firearms, bows, and crossbows will be permitted, and hunting hours are one-half hour before sunset to one-half hour after sunset. Traping will not be allowed.

Up to 1,200 licenses will be issued from Aug. 3 to Oct. 31. Licenses cost $100 for residents and $500 for nonresidents.

Hunters are responsible for contacting the DNR every day during the season to confirm that a WMU remains open to hunting and that the designated quota has not been met.

Meanwhile, Keep Michigan Wolves Protected is again in the process of gathering signatures, this time in an attempt to overturn PA 21.

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