Saturday, May 25, 2013
Two people went to a wolf meeting held by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department on Wednesday night in Sheridan. Dozens of people went to the Sheridan meeting last year to discuss the first wolf-hunting season, said Mark Bruscino, large-carnivore section supervisor for Game and Fish.
The Pinedale meeting in early May had two attendees. Eleven people went to Dubois and four to Laramie. The upcoming meetings in Cody and Jackson may see larger crowds, said Dan Thompson, large-carnivore biologist with Game and Fish.
“Maybe people think (Game and Fish) has it under control,” said Ron Crispin, one of the two Sheridan meeting attendees.
Game and Fish officials are proposing cutting the wolf quota in northwest Wyoming from 52 to 26 this year. Wyoming’s first hunting season since wolves were delisted ended in December. Hunters killed 42 wolves, filling the quota in six of the 12 hunt areas.
The new quota will reduce Wyoming’s wolf population slightly, but also keep it above 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs outside of Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Indian Reservation, a requirement when they were removed from the endangered-species list.
Crispin thinks the new number is conservative. But he also thinks Game and Fish should probably be conservative to avoid wolves going back on the list for protection, he said.
The Jackson Hole Outfitters and Guides Association publicly supported the new quotas in early May, citing the same concern that wolves not return to the list, according to The Associated Press.
Thompson said lower public participation compared to last year may also be because the first hunting season went smoothly and with little controversy.
“People didn’t lose interest, but there was more of a normalization of it,” he said.
Public participation, whether high or low, won’t change how wolves are managed in Wyoming, he added.
At the end of 2012, wildlife officials estimated there were at least 169 wolves, 25 packs and 15 breeding pairs in the trophy game and seasonal trophy game management area, which is most of the northwest corner of Wyoming outside of federal lands. In all of Wyoming, including federal lands, wildlife officials estimated there were 277 wolves, 43 packs and 21 breeding pairs.
That’s about 16 percent fewer wolves in Wyoming than the end of 2011, Bruscino said.
Wildlife officials need to keep about 140 wolves in Wyoming outside of the Yellowstone and the Wind River Reservation to be sure it also has at least 10 breeding pairs. If the number of individual wolves drops closer to 100, breeding pairs could fall below 10, which could eventually trigger relisting, Bruscino said.
The hunting quota is decided by taking the number of wolves at the end of a hunting season, adding an estimate of the number of pups that are born and survive, and removing an estimate of the number of human-caused deaths such as removal for livestock depredation and car wrecks.
Slightly more wolves were killed last year because of livestock issues than biologists planned, and a slightly lower number of pups were brought into the population, Bruscino said. As a result, this year’s hunting-season quota was lower than anticipated.
Wyoming should probably expect a future hunting quota to stabilize between 15 and 25 wolves.
Posted by Lin Kerns at 7:54 AM
The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife confirmed the predators killed three lambs and one ewe in a small penned pasture on the property, finding large tracks at the scene and bite wounds on the sheep indicating a wolf attack.
One ram was also injured, and another lamb missing. It is unknown if the ram will survive.
A GPS-collared wolf was recorded within a mile of the dead sheep at 3 a.m. that morning, according to the official ODFW investigation. Mark Kirsch, district wildlife biologist in Pendleton, said the combined evidence pointed clearly to wolf depredation.
“In this case, it took a little time to close up some small details, but we were able to close it down to a large canid fairly quickly,” Kirsch said.
This is the first confirmed case of wolf depredation in Umatilla County in 2013. Coincidentally, it came on the same day the county’s Wolf Depredation Advisory Committee approved $6,370 in state compensation for sheep killed on Weston Mountain almost exactly one year ago.
On May 2, 2012, wolves killed four sheep on separate private land east of Weston. Just 10 days later, a third landowner lost three more rams to wolves on their property six miles away.
All three incidents were within six miles of each other, Kirsch said.
Local ranchers can receive state compensation for wolf depredation of livestock through the county depredation advisory committee, which receives annual grants from the Oregon Department of Agriculture. The program was established by the 2011 Legislature.
Umatilla County paid out $600 for confirmed depredation in 2012, $3,375 for missing livestock and $1,575 for nonlethal deterrents to keep wolves away from sheep and cattle.
The landowner this week had a half mile of fladry fencing on his property to keep wolves away, Kirsch said, though it was drooping in spots.
“There were some things that had to be adjusted, for sure,” he said. “Hopefully, this will keep things at bay.”
Farther east in Wallowa County, the Imnaha pack remains active after killing a yearling cow May 15 in the Hayden Creek area. Another small calf was attacked five days earlier, but was expected to survive.
The Imnaha pack already has four confirmed depredations this year.
Wallowa County receives the bulk of state funding for dealing with the Imnaha pack, which consists of eight animals covering a wide range of 1,000 square miles.
The Umatilla River pack had four wolves at the end of last year, according to ODFW.
Posted by Lin Kerns at 7:52 AM
By JEFF BARNARD, Associated Press
Friday, May 24, 2013
The agreement announced Friday by the governor's office creates a new rulebook for wolf management in Oregon that makes killing the ones that prey on cattle and sheep a last resort after nonlethal protections have been tried and livestock attacks have become chronic. It also gives ranchers greater authority to kill wolves that attack or chase their herds as long as certain conditions are met.
Brett Brownscombe, the governor's natural resources adviser, said the agreement will help bring peace to a longstanding and bitter conflict.
"Before, there had always been a lot of rhetoric about, 'We can't tolerate wolves here, and all this nonlethal stuff won't work,'" Brownscombe said. "Now the reality is wolves are here, and we have to be able to protect our property through reasonable means. Nonlethal techniques are going to be part of the expected approach forward. People are going to have assurances that if there are problems, they will have some recourse and things won't be stuck in the courts."
Oregon Wild, Cascandia Wildlands, and the Center for Biological Diversity sued the state in October 2011 after the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife issued a kill order for two wolves in the Imnaha Pack, the first pack to form in Oregon from wolves crossing the Snake River from Idaho, and the one blamed for more livestock kills than any other. The lawsuit claimed the kill order violated the state Endangered Species Act and would doom the pack.
Saying conservation groups were likely to win, the Oregon Court of Appeals barred the state from killing wolves until the lawsuit was resolved, making Oregon the only state with wolves where authorities could not kill those that preyed on livestock. During the course of that court order, the numbers of wolves went up in Oregon, while the number of livestock killed went down. In neighboring Idaho, hunting brought down the numbers of wolves, but livestock attacks went up.
The Center for Biological Diversity dropped out of the settlement because it allowed wolves to be killed.
"This is going to become the most progressive management plan in the country for avoiding these conflicts before they happen," said Steve Pedery, conservation director for Oregon Wild.
"If everybody stays true to the agreement, I think you will see lethal control very rarely," said Rob Klavins of Oregon Wild. "It will be an option of last resort."
Wallowa County cattle rancher Rod Childers, a longtime hardliner on wolves and chairman of the wolf committee for the Oregon Cattlemen's Association, said the agreement formalizes standards that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife had already been following.
He added that the numbers of wolf attacks had been rising in May, and cattlemen agreed to the settlement to bring back the ability of state biologists to manage wolves. Ranchers also get new authority to shoot wolves that chase their herds.
"This does not bring resolution to everybody," he said. "But it does get management back."
The settlement was filed with the court Thursday night, Brownscombe said. The original kill order on the Imnaha Pack has been lifted, but if the pack is blamed for one more livestock attack, members of the pack will be eligible for a kill order under the new rules.
The new rules update a wolf management plan adopted in 2005. Under the new rules, a pack would have to be linked by hard evidence to four separate attacks on livestock over six months before becoming eligible for lethal control. For an attack to count, ranchers must have used basic nonlethal protections, such as alarm boxes and low strings of plastic flags known as fladdery. The state must conduct an open and thorough investigation.
Ranchers would get statutory authority to kill wolves attacking their livestock. They could shoot wolves seen chasing livestock if they have taken nonlethal steps to protect herds and they are the victims of chronic attacks.
The department has adopted a temporary rule putting the new lethal control standards into effect, but they must still be adopted permanently by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission, Brownscombe said. The Legislature still has to enact a law to put the authority to kill wolves attack and chasing herds into effect.
Posted by Lin Kerns at 7:50 AM
Perhaps the 112,295 (and counting) email messages our wolf supporters have sent to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell haven’t fallen on deaf ears. Or maybe it was convincing letters from independent biologists, the American Society of Mammalogists and Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) sent to agency officials in the past week that made the difference. Whatever it was, we need to keep the pressure up to ensure that this isn’t just a temporary reprieve. Wolves still need federal protection to recover in vast areas with excellent habitat, such as the Pacific Northwest, northern California and the southern Rockies.
You can help us secure a brighter future for wolves by supporting our latest outreach efforts, including an advertising campaign that launched today in the Washington Post Express! Meanwhile, our colleagues at Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility filed a lawsuit demanding information from 2010 meetings between state and federal agencies regarding wolf biology and management. Their efforts may help reveal the motivation behind the premature delisting of gray wolves in the Northern Rockies and shed light on current plans to abandon wolf recovery nationwide.
As PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch said, “By law, Endangered Species Act decisions are supposed to be governed by the best available science, not the best available deal.” We couldn’t agree more, and Defenders Executive Vice President Don Barry emphasized that point on the air recently when he had the chance to discuss the importance of maintaining the integrity of the ESA and protections for gray wolves. Listen to his interview with KTVA near Los Angeles: (click here)
Gov. Inslee signs wolf funding bill — Washington ranchers will soon have more resources at their disposal to help wolves and livestock coexist, thanks to the state legislature.
Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill this week
that is expected to raise more than one million dollars for nonlethal wolf conservation management efforts and compensation for livestock producers. Champions of the bill included Representatives Hans Dunshee and Kristine Lytton and Senators Kevin Ranker and Christine Rolfes. Defenders regional wolf conservationist Suzanne Stone was present at signing and added, “This is a great example of the benefit of working collaboratively to tackle conflicts instead of just fighting over them. This legislation is a win for wolves and for ranchers.” Thanks to all our colleagues and supporters in Washington and across the country who helped get this key piece of legislation passed and signed!
Oregon livestock losses highlight need for nonlethal deterrents – According to the latest update
from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the state’s wolves have been getting into more trouble with livestock. Last week, OR-4 of the Imnaha pack was implicated in the death of a yearling cow, and at least one Umatilla wolf was involved with the death of four sheep. Overall livestock losses to wolves are still extremely low in Oregon, as well as across the rest of the West. But these incidents provide an important wake-up call for ranchers in the region who are turning their animals out on pasture this spring and summer. Using proactive strategies and nonlethal deterrents is essential to minimizing livestock losses in wolf country. Often all it takes is a few guard dogs, a range rider or portable fencing to ensure that livestock and wildlife can safely coexist. Such measures will be vitally important as wolves continue to expand into areas where they have been absent for nearly 80 years.
Discover wolves in North America – A new series called “North America” premiered on the Discovery Channel on Sunday, and of course wolves were featured prominently. Watch these incredible clips of wild wolves chasing bison and caribou, engaged in the perennial showdown between predator and prey: This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now
Posted by Lin Kerns at 7:46 AM
Friday, May 24, 2013
By BEN NEARY, Associated Press
Thursday, May 23, 2013
The coalition, led by WildEarth Guardians, last week moved to dismiss its lawsuit pending before U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson of Cheyenne. A lawyer for the coalition said recently it's putting its support behind a similar lawsuit that other environmental groups are pushing in Washington, D.C. Wyoming officials accused the environmentalists of forum shopping.
Environmental groups in both the Wyoming and Washington lawsuits have challenged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife's move last year to turn over Wyoming wolf management to the state government. The groups say the state's management plan, which classifies wolves as unprotected predators that can be shot on sight in most of the state, fails to afford them adequate protection.
Hunters have killed scores of wolves in Wyoming since the state took over management in October. State officials now say they intend to reduce regulated trophy hunting quotas for wolves this fall to prevent populations from possibly falling low enough to trigger a return to federal management.
Colorado lawyer Jay Tutchton represents WildEarth Guardians and other environmental groups in the Wyoming suit. He said last week the groups were dismissing their case because they decided it wasn't an efficient use of resources to have two lawsuits over the same thing going on in two different places. An attempt to reach him for comment Thursday wasn't successful.
The Wyoming Attorney General's Office on Monday asked Johnson not to allow WildEarth Guardians and the others to drop their lawsuit, accusing them of forum-shopping.
Cheyenne lawyer Harriet Hageman represents the Wyoming Wolf Coalition, which includes several Wyoming county governments along with agricultural and sportsmen groups. She filed papers on Tuesday also asking Johnson not to dismiss the case.
"This court's involvement in this matter is simply too important to allow for the type of shenanigans that are evident in the petitioners' efforts to 'dismiss' this action," Hageman wrote.
Safari Club International, a pro-hunting group, and the National Rifle Association both have intervened in both the Wyoming and Washington, D.C., wolf lawsuits to support Wyoming's continued wolf management. The groups this week also asked Johnson not to dismiss the Wyoming lawsuit.
Lawyer Jay Jerde with the Wyoming AG's Office wrote to Johnson this week noting that WildEarth Guardians had originally filed its lawsuit in Colorado after the Washington lawsuit was filed. He said WildEarth Guardians apparently were not worried then about any inefficiency in having two parallel lawsuits running on the same issue until a federal judge in Colorado transferred the case to Johnson's court early this year.
Johnson ruled in 2010 in an earlier lawsuit that the federal government had been wrong to insist that the state rewrite an earlier version of its wolf management plan to give wolves more protection.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who's presiding over the Washington D.C. case, last month declined a request from Wyoming and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to transfer it to Wyoming. She stated that the issue of ending federal protections for wolves in the state is one of great national significance.
On Thursday, Hageman said it's apparent to her that WildEarth Guardians and the other groups don't want Johnson to hear the case. "It is important," she said. "Judge Johnson previously upheld the Wyoming plan, and we believe he should be given an opportunity to evaluate it again."
Anna Seidman, is director of litigation for Safari Club International in Washington, D.C. She said Thursday that her group believes WildEarth Guardians and the other groups should be required to continue the lawsuit they started.
"The district court in D.C. called this an issue of national concern, but it's also an issue of Wyoming concern," Seidman said. "So we would like to see that the case remains open to be litigated in a Wyoming court."
Posted by Lin Kerns at 7:56 PM
Hundreds of you wrote me after I asked your opinion about the road ahead in Michigan, where the state legislature is hell bent on allowing trophy hunters and pelt trappers to kill wolves. All but two of you urged The HSUS to pursue a second referendum campaign to block hunting of wolves.
The HSUS and pro-wolf organizations, part of a broad coalition that also included Indian tribes in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, launched a referendum drive, and within 67 days those petitioners collected more than a quarter million signatures of registered voters who believe it is cruel and premature to open a season. Yesterday, the Michigan secretary of state certified the petition and approved the referendum for the November 2014 ballot, staying the December 2012 law and allowing voters to nullify it by voting against a wolf season 18 months from now.
But in between the signature submission date of March 27th and yesterday’s certification, state lawmakers rammed through a second law in an attempt to subvert the referendum and make it moot. Their second measure, SB 288, gives authority to the NRC to open hunting and trapping seasons on any protected species, except mourning doves.
We believe the vote of the people on the original referendum in November 2014 should be binding, and that the NRC and the Michigan legislature should heed the will of the state’s citizenry. But, as a legal matter, they may not be bound to follow the vote. Thus, we are faced with the idea of launching a second referendum, to send an unmistakable signal about the legislature’s abuse of power and the people’s wish to keep Michigan wolves protected.
Posted by Lin Kerns at 7:53 PM
Conservation scientists oppose efforts to remove federal protections for wolves across the lower 48 states
Signatories include several scientists who conducted the research the government relied upon in the draft rule. According to these scientists, the draft rule does not reflect “the conclusions of our work or the best available science concerning the recovery of wolves.” Interestingly, the letter comes on the heels of an announcement that the proposed delisting is being held up indefinitely due to an “unexpected delay.”
As one of the signatories, I was particularly disappointed by the Fish & Wildlife Service’s (FWS) analysis of the threats faced by wolves. Despite acknowledging that, in areas with higher human densities “the primary determinant of the long-term conservation of gray wolves will likely be human attitudes toward this predator”, the FWS did not cite any of the scientific (or commercial) data available to address this threat, as required by law; rather, the FWS relied upon the conjecture of biologists involved in wolf recovery efforts. Though the opinions of these professionals carry considerable weight, they do not reflect “the best available science” on tolerance for wolves.
See the Center for Biological Diversity’s press release.
Scientists: Don’t drop federal protections
Scientists call on Obama administration to keep gray wolves protected
Posted by Lin Kerns at 7:19 PM
May 22, 2013
A wolf hunting season in three areas of the Upper Peninsula will not be affected by a statewide vote next year. / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
By Kathleen Gray
Detroit Free Press Lansing Bureau
The Board of State Canvassers certified more than 250,000 petition signatures Wednesday that sought to ban the hunt. But the law the hunt opponents were seeking to repeal was passed last year and is now superseded by a new law passed this year.
So even though the wolf hunt proposal will be on the November 2014 ballot, it’s merely a symbolic gesture.
The new law, which took effect May 8, allows the state Natural Resources Commission, in addition to the Legislature, to designate game species in the state and establish hunting seasons for those species.
On May 9, the NRC, with its new powers in place because of the new law, established a Nov. 15 to Dec. 31 hunting season for 43 gray wolves in three sections of the western Upper Peninsula where the animals have been posing threats to livestock and pets.
The commission still has to vote in June to designate the gray wolf — and all the other species already hunted in Michigan, like deer and grouse — as game species, said Russ Mason, wildlife chief for the Department of Natural Resources.
In July, the NRC will reaffirm their vote on establishing the hunting season for the wolves, Mason said.
“We won’t be taking testimony; it’s just an administrative type of thing,” he said.
The Keep Michigan Wolves Protected group, which spearheaded the petition drive to ban the hunt, is considering all of its options to stop the hunt, including the possibility of another petition drive to get the new law repealed.
Posted by Lin Kerns at 7:17 PM
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
OLYMPIA -- Gov. Jay Inslee has signed into law a measure that compensates livestock owners for wolf-related losses.
The signing came on May 21, the final day for the governor to act on measures adopted during the regular session of the Legislature.
Sen. John Smith, R-Colville, introduced Senate Bill 5193 to establish a wildlife account and a new wolf-livestock conflict account. As the state Department of Fish and Wildlife continues to support wolf recovery, he said, a funding source will now be in place to help offset damages from inevitable conflicts.
Specifically, the new law:
* Increases the state's personalized license plate fee by $10, effective Oct. 1, with the proceeds to support WDFW's efforts to monitor wolf recovery and prevent wolf-livestock conflict in collaboration with farmers, ranchers and local governments, and to compensate livestock owners. The Department of Licensing estimates the fee will raise more than $1.5 million during the upcoming two-year budget cycle.
* Allows WDFW to compensate livestock owners for their losses at the current market value of the animals.
* Permits compensation regardless of whether livestock owners were raising the animals for commercial purposes.
* Revises other elements of state law to make it more consistent with the state's 2011 Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.
"As a whole, ranchers are committed to using non-lethal methods to deter wolves and other predators," Smith said. "However, it has been proven time and time again that wolves are persistent, unpredictable and often unfazed by fladry or fencing when they set their sights on livestock. This gives ranchers protection when their livelihoods are at stake."
Fladry consists of red flags or pennants attached to a piece of twine or thin rope at regular intervals, whose movement in the wind is intended to frighten the wolves away.
"The gray wolf population is recovering quickly in Washington," Inslee said. "This bill received bipartisan support from legislators across the state because it represents a practical, realistic approach to minimizing wolf-livestock conflict while recognizing the need for fair compensation to ranchers and farmers."
SB5193 was the only wolf-related legislation to clear the Legislature, passing in the House of Representatives by a vote of 96-2 and the Senate by a vote of 43-1.
However, on April 26, a few days before the Legislature adjourned, the state Fish and Wildlife Commission issued an emergency ruling that allows farmers and ranchers to kill wolves attacking their livestock.
SB5187, which had proposed that permission, received public hearings but died in the House, prompting a bipartisan group of legislators to request action from the commission. The emergency rule is in effect for 120 days and can be reinstated once. The department plans to use the time it is in effect to develop a permanent rule identical or similar to the rule.
Also on May 21, Inslee signed House Bill 1552, sponsored by Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, which aims to reduce metal theft by expanding criminal penalties, creating a database to determine if a potential sell has a criminal conviction and prohibiting cash transactions without specific documentation.
Farmers and ranchers supported the bill because they have had to deal with the added expense and work of replacing stolen irrigation pipe.
On May 20, Inslee signed into law SB5767, which requires the state Department of Agriculture, upon request by a licensed milk producer, to issue an official individual identification tag (green tag) for bull calves and free-martins under 30 days of age. That bill, sponsored by Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, passed the House 96-0 and the Senate 46-2.
Posted by Lin Kerns at 7:15 PM
on May 19, 2013
That’s when she heard the growling, gnashing and nipping of three or four animals disturbing the quiet near the heart of Wakefield – a town of roughly 1,850 in Michigan’s western Upper Peninsula.
Lutz rustled her dogs back inside, hopped in her car and drove around the block toward the noise. Roughly half a football field from her house, she came upon wolves making a meal of a whitetail deer.
“You could see them ripping and tearing, and the deer was still kicking,” Lutz said. “The gory, gruesome details.”
And another sign that wolves are coming too close for comfort for some U.P. residents.
Attacks killing livestock and pets – along with residents’ safety concerns -- are among the issues prompting Michigan wildlife officials to approve a gray wolf hunt for this fall.
The Department of Natural Resources plans to limit the hunt to the killing of 43 wolves – a limited, targeted taking designed to thin out numbers specifically in three areas of the U.P. where animals are causing problems.
Will it work? The DNR says it should help the situation, but some question the rationale behind allowing the hunt, scheduled to begin in November. And the prospect of a public wolf hunt has sparked fiery debate over the role of democracy in Michigan wildlife management.
The Upper Peninsula wolf population is estimated at a minimum of 658 – down from 687 a couple of years ago, but up from roughly 500 in 2008 and roughly 200 in 2000. The state counted just three wolves in 1989.
Michigan is becoming the sixth state to authorize a wolf hunt since federal protections were removed over the past two years in the western Great Lakes and the Northern Rockies, according to The Associated Press. Minnesota, Wisconsin, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming are the others.
Patience is wearing thin in Lutz’s neighborhood and in other U.P. locations where close encounters are leaving residents on edge.
‘In amongst houses’
Lutz, 35, doesn’t live in the middle of nowhere. She lives in a residential neighborhood near the center of Wakefield, and she’s nervous about wolves encroaching closer to where her 6-year-old daughter plays with other neighborhood kids.
“You can hear them outside howling at night,” Lutz said of the wolves. “You can’t let your pets outside, you can’t leave your kids outside, because you never know where these animals are going to be.”
Snow and flooding forced deer into Wakefield early this spring. It appears wolves followed them in.
“These wolves are going through probably three-quarters of a mile to a mile worth of populated area. They are walking right through town,” says John Siira, Wakefield’s city manager. “They are in amongst houses. … It’s sorta scary.”
A DNR memo outlines some of the issues in a portion of Gogebic County including the city of Ironwood: “Since 2010, we have recorded 91 complaints of nuisance wolf behavior including wolves traveling within the city limits, wolves chasing dogs in residential areas, and wolves traveling in close proximity to children waiting for buses or at day care facilities.”
Several local governments in the western U.P. have approved resolutions that say “overpopulation of wolves is threatening the tourism, recreation and business industries in the Western U.P.” and “this situation has become a public safety issue for our citizens.”
There haven’t been any documented wolf attacks on people in Michigan. But some U.P. residents say they should be proactive and not take the chance that there might be one someday, particularly if the wolf population grows.
“I don’t want to see on TV the first person that gets attacked by a wolf,” said Duane Kolpack, 44, a farmer from Ontonagon County. “So far we’ve been lucky that it’s been limited to animals.”
Kolpack says the DNR has documented 10 to 15 livestock lost on farmland that he manages through wolf attacks in the past couple of years. The actual number of livestock taken might be closer to 50 to 80, he said, but in most cases there’s no evidence left behind for documentation.
In other cases, Kolpack has come upon wolves eating newborn calves on the farm of nearly 2,000 acres. And in one particularly bold attack, a wolf walked into his barn – located roughly 100 feet from his house – and snatched a goat out of a pen. It happened in broad daylight last spring.
“My wife chased that wolf with a goat hanging out of its mouth for almost a quarter-mile through the field,” Kolpack said. “It would run a little bit, turn around and look at her, then run a little bit more.”
Framing the debate
Kolpack was able to get permits to shoot nuisance wolves, and five were killed. The last two were the toughest to get, Kolpack said, as it appeared wolves became more wary after the first few were shot.
In Ironwood, city manager Scott Erickson says “wolves were becoming more comfortable around people” and creating potentially dangerous situations. Things improved last year after permits were obtained and six wolves were killed in the area. But some problems persist, Erickson said, and more needs to be done in the long term to keep wolves afraid of people.
The Natural Resources Commission voted this month to allow a hunt. Chairman J.R. Richardson called the wolf’s population recovery a “remarkable success story” – but added that “ongoing scientific management” of the species is needed.
Eliminating 43 wolves, the NRC says, “is not expected to impact the overall wolf population trajectory.”
Critics say the wolf hunt isn’t needed – at best it’s premature, and at worst an affront to democracy.
Gov. Rick Snyder this month signed Senate Bill 288 – a bill that critics say sidesteps an effort from a coalition called Keep Michigan Wolves Protected to block a hunt. The coalition, backed by the Humane Society of the United States, was formed to overturn an earlier state law that designated the wolf as a game species. The group collected more than 250,000 signatures aimed at qualifying a wolf hunt referendum for the November 2014 ballot, but the effort may be moot or largely symbolic now that Snyder has signed the new law giving the Natural Resources Commission power to designate game species on its own.
The Humane Society of the United States says Senate Bill 288 “nullifies the voice of voters” both on the wolf hunting issue and on future wildlife debates.
Jill Fritz – Michigan’s director of the Humane Society of the United States and the leader of Keep Michigan Wolves Protected – said the coalition plans to move forward with its ballot referendum and is “still considering other options” related to the newer law, Senate Bill 288.
The coalition opposing the hunt says there’s no reason to hold one, and some question whether the wolf population could handle it.
Some critics also argue that wildlife is held in the public trust, so all citizens – hunters and non-hunters alike -- are stakeholders in its management.
Rolf Peterson and John Vucetich, wolf researchers from Michigan Technological University, oppose the public wolf hunt in part because of the issues related to democracy. The researchers wrote to the NRC that “the best available scholarship clearly indicates that good wildlife management is a judicious balance between science and democracy.”
The researchers added: “Advocates of wolf hunting claim that wolf hunting is supported by the best-available science. This misrepresents the role of science. The best-available science clearly indicates that we have the technical ability to manage a wolf hunt without endangering the population viability of Michigan wolves. But there is no science that concludes it is necessary to hunt wolves in Michigan.”
The researchers argue that in some instances, depending on which wolves are killed and which ones move in afterward, livestock losses could be exacerbated. As for human safety: Those issues should be dealt with immediately if they arise. “Protecting human safety cannot wait until the upcoming hunting season, with the subsequent hope that some hunter has the good fortune to kill the offending wolf,” the researchers wrote.
The hunt is opposed by some of Michigan’s Native American tribes. Aaron Payment, chairperson of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, has said the tribe opposes the wolf hunt for cultural reasons and that there is “no rational justification for killing the wolf.”
Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, and others supporting Senate Bill 288 argue it is consistent with voter intent. They say it is in line with Proposal G approved by Michigan voters in 1996, a measure giving the Natural Resources Commission authority to regulate hunting in the state based on scientific management.
And wolf hunt supporters say there also are issues of proportional representation.
The Upper Peninsula has just 3 percent of the state’s human population but virtually all of its wolves. The Lower Peninsula has the vast majority of Michigan voters but none of the problems associated with wolves. Rep. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, has said Upper Peninsula residents would be “disenfranchised” if wolf hunting were left up to a statewide vote alone.
“It’s a lot easier to like wolves with your whole heart and soul if they’re 500 miles away from you, 400 miles away from you,” said Andy Tingstad, 68, of Bessemer. “They’re very pretty. If they’re sneaking through town in the alleys at night, it’s not so cool anymore.”
Posted by Lin Kerns at 7:12 PM