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Environment & Climate Change

Senate proposes resolution to start wolf hunts in 2021

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Tracy Brooks/Mission Wolf/USFWS
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Michigan's gray wolf population is estimated to be 687 animals. The recovery goal for the population is between 250-300 wolves.

Gray wolves were removed from the federal endangered species list officially in January. Now, state senators have proposed a resolution calling on the Natural Resources Commission to authorize and the Department of Natural Resources to organize wolf hunts as a form of management.

There are around 695 gray wolves in Michigan, all of which live in the Upper Peninsula. According to the DNR, that population has remained relatively stable over the last ten years. The resolution has no binding authority, but does encourage those state agencies to get the ball rolling on a wolf hunt.

State Senator Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) is one of the sponsors of the resolution. 

"The wolves have met and surpassed nearly four times their recovery goal of around 200 since 2004, and we're at over 700," McBroom says. 

Simply organizing wolf hunts to begin this year isn't so easy for the DNR. Ed Golder, public information officer for the DNR, says there's a lot that has to happen before they can organize any wolf hunts.

"The status of wolves shifts fairly quickly. Even with this most recent delisting decision, which took effect January 4th, there have already been two lawsuits filed in federal court opposing it. So we’re not confident that there’s legal durability to this delisting decision."

In addition, he says, the wolf management plan that serves as a guide for such activities is out of date.

"So wolf management has the returned to the state of Michigan. We’re relying on that document. It hasn’t been updated since 2015. We’re anticipating completing that plan update by June of 2022."

Golder says there's a lot of planning that goes into updating the wolf management plan. The DNR takes public attitude surveys and allows for a period of public comment, and Golder says if the 2015 update is any indicator, people have strong feelings on both sides of the issue. The DNR also would consult with Native American tribes to get their input on wolf management.

Nancy Warren is head of the group National Wolfwatcher Coalition.

"My feeling is wolves should be managed using the best available scientific data and the democratic process, and not by politicians." She also mentions the processes that need to occur before a wolf hunt, like the wolf management plan and public attitude survey, saying, "Not only does this resolution circumvent the will of the people, it circumvents science."

Warren says that 700 isn't a whole lot of wolves, and questioned the need for a hunt at all.

"Why would you need a wolf hunt? With a steady population, we don't need a hunt to reduce the wolf population, so you look at maybe conflicts. Livestock losses have been extremely low, we're talking single digits. Producers are compensated for their loss, if they lose it to a wolf." 

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