Jill Fritz,director of the Humane Society of Michigan since 2009, provided WMEAC with information about the current situation concerning a wolf hunt in Michigan. Jill is behind a campaign to stop the possibility of wolf hunts in Michigan, which is now being considered since Governor Snyder signed a bill on Friday December 28th 2013, putting the Gray Wolf on the game species list. This does not necessarily give the wolf a hunting season but allows for the possibility of creating one once more is known about the wolf population in Michigan.
The Gray Wolf went under state protection in 1965 and under federal protection in 1973. The Gray Wolf was delisted from protection in 2012. There are currently 687 wolves in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and occupy only 5% of their historic range.
To understand why is a wolf hunt being considered it is important to consider the wolf as a predatory animal: A wolf hunt would supposedly control the wolf populations in the U.P. and prevent wolves from killing livestock. However, Michigan law already allows farmers to shoot individual wolves who are attacking or killing their livestock or pets. The state government and private funding compensates for the loss of livestock. Most who support the protection of wolves and more research on wolves in Michigan think it’s best to deal with wolves on an individual basis, as a wolf hunt won’t stop individual wolves from attacking livestock in the area.
Wolves are also an important part of the ecosystem in Michigan. They help reduce the deer population and aid in preventing deer-car accidents. They also keep deer and moose populations healthy by killing and eating sick or unhealthy animals. In general wolves naturally benefit the forests they inhabit by filling their niche as a predatory animal and keeping the ecosystem healthy.
A similar situation is seen in Wisconsin and Minnesota, where a wolf hunting season began last fall. Wolves are allowed to be hunted to a certain quota, depending on how large the wolf population is that season. Wolves in Minnesota and Wisconsin are being hunted using techniques such as legholds, neck snares, firearms, archery, bait, night hunting, and dogs. In Minnesota 75% of quota was killed in traps, and in Wisconsin 53% of the quota was killed in traps. Scientists are researching these hunts and previous hunts in other states in order to decide what this number should be, but there is much more research needed on the subject to make a sound decision.
The DNR Wolf Management Roundtable in Michigan has suggested that dealing with wolves on an individual basis (farmers addressing wolves attacking livestock) would be the best way to deal with the Gray Wolf. They also suggested that a wolf quota hunt was not a scientifically sound method of managing the wolf population.
The Ballot Referendum in progress that is in opposition of a wolf hunt in Michigan must be completed by March 27. The goal is 225,000; 161,000 signatures are still needed. If it is qualified it will put legislation of this particular issue on hold until November 2014.
Learn more about the campaign to prevent wolf hunts in Michigan:
Frequently Asked Questions about wolves in MIchigan: