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Weather, altered behavior could be reasons few wolves killed in state hunt

The federal government wants to turn management of gray wolves in the western Great Lakes over to the states.

The state Department of Natural Resources says hunters are unlikely to bag the limit of 43 wolves before the season ends on December 31. In fact, it’s been two and a half weeks since the last wolf was taken on December 5.        

State wildlife officials say an extreme cold snap in the Upper Peninsula may be responsible. They say it’s also possible wolves have learned to avoid hunters.

“Talking to some of these wolf hunters, they say the wolves have definitely changed their behavior and have become very difficult to get once they were hunted,” said Brian Roell, wildlife biologist for the state Department of Natural Resources.

Roell says it’s too soon to tell whether that means wolves will stay clear of areas populated by humans and livestock.

“Even if we reach our goal of 43, it would still be way too early to say, if we saw lower depredation rates this coming summer, is that the reason why,” he said. “I just wouldn’t go there yet.”

State wildlife officials say the wolf season will help reduce attacks on pets and livestock. A total of 20 wolves have been killed in the season that began in late November.

Opponents of the wolf season say it’s not necessary so soon after the species was taken off the endangered list. They’ve launched a ballot drive to challenge the law that allows the wolf season. 

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.