Michigan voters rejected a pair of referenda on state laws authorizing a wolf hunt in the Upper Peninsula.
Wolf hunt opponents celebrated tonight.
“The people of Michigan have shown that they don’t want the trophy hunting and trapping of wolves,” says Jill Fritz with the group Keep Michigan Wolves Protected.
But this may just be a pyrrhic victory for wolf hunting opponents. The results of Tuesday’s vote amount to a non-binding referendum.
A state law passed in August gives the Natural Resources Commission the authority to designate game species and schedule hunting seasons. The state law was pushed by state hunting clubs, which collected enough signatures to put the legislation before lawmakers before Tuesday’s vote.
“The results of the referendums are expected,” says Drew Younge-Dyke, with the Michigan United Conservation Clubs. “However, I don’t think they are a true reflection of what people really think about wolf hunting.”
Younge-Dyle says the state’s various hunting groups did not put up a fight because they already had the new state law in place that superseded the results of Tuesday’s vote.
Wolf hunt opponents are not giving up.
Spokeswoman Jill Fritz says she hopes state wildlife officials will “respect” the results of referenda and not schedule future wolf hunts, and says wolf hunting opponents plan to challenge the new state law in court.
Wolf hunting supporters doubt a legal challenge to the law would be successful.
A wolf hunt in 2013 killed 22 wolves in the Upper Peninsula, or roughly half the number targeted by state wildlife officials.
There are more than 600 wolves in the U.P.