Saturday, July 27, 2013

Michigan's first wolf hunt will no longer include trapping

July 26, 2013   |  
A gray wolf is shown on Isle Royale National Park in northern Michigan in 2006. / Michigan Technological University via Associated P

By Keith Matheny

Detroit Free Press staff writer
Michigan’s first-ever wolf hunt this fall and winter will no longer include trapping, after the state Natural Resources Commission rejected the use of steel-jaw leg traps on private and public land as part of the hunt.

The commission, for the second time in two months, approved a wolf hunt on July 11 for three zones of the Upper Peninsula. The second approval came in light of the passage of Public Act 21, a bill by Republican state Sen. Tom Casperson of Escanaba allowing the commission to designate animals as game species — a bill critics say was designed specifically to circumvent a petition drive to put the wolf hunt to a public vote.

The hunt approved in May allowed steel-jaw leg traps. But trapping was removed in the second approved hunt.

“The primary reason was just looking at starting conservatively with our approach in how we move forward with implementing public harvest of wolves as a management tool,” said Adam Bump, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ fur-bearing animal specialist.

But Jill Fritz, state director of the Humane Society of the United States, which is spearheading a second petition drive to try to repeal Casperson’s bill, suspects a different motive for dropping trapping from the hunt.

“It’s to make it more public-friendly, because they know Michiganders are horrified by the thought of this still-recovering species writhing and dying in traps,” she said.

Wolves were all but eradicated in much of the country by the 1930s. Michigan and other Great Lakes states lost almost all of their wolves by the end of the 1950s.

In 1973, Congress enacted the Endangered Species Act and officially protected the wolf that same year, sparking a resurgence in the wolf population. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula was known to have three wolves as recently as 1989. The population today stands at 653 wolves. The wolves have made an even more substantial recovery in Wisconsin (834 wolves) and Minnesota (3,000).

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed wolves from the federal endangered species list in January 2012, and several states, including Michigan, began planning for wolf hunting seasons.
Wisconsin and Minnesota established their initial wolf hunts last year, and trapping proved by far a more effective means of harvesting wolves than firearms hunting. In Minnesota, wolf takes by rifle were about 4% successful, compared with about 25% through trapping.

Michigan’s season will begin Nov. 15 and run through December, or until 43 wolves are harvested. Bump said the number was established with firearm hunting in mind.

“Our expectation is even with just hunting we will be able to achieve our targeted harvest,” he said.
Tony Hansen, spokesman for the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, said the coalition is disappointed that trapping was removed.

“It’s a viable, effective and scientific method to control wildlife populations,” he said.
Bump said the DNR will continue to use traps as necessary to take problem wolves throughout the year, and trapping will be reconsidered as part of the hunt in future years.

“The department’s position is trapping is a humane and effective wildlife management tool,” he said.
Nancy Warren, an Ontonagon County resident and Great Lakes regional director of the nonprofit National Wolfwatcher Coalition, is opposed to trapping — and the hunt in general.

The state is establishing the hunt to reduce conflicts between wolves and humans, such as wolves coming into towns or preying on cattle or pets. But Warren said the state’s own data on wolf depredations show the vast majority are occurring on one farm in her county, whose owner, John Koski, has been criticized for his actions and inaction that may contribute to wolf attacks on his livestock.

“When you take that farm out of the equation, there is no need for a wolf hunting season in this unit,” she said. “The truth is, some people want a hunting season; they want to kill wolves out of hatred, and they are using this as an excuse.”

Wolf hunting licenses go on sale starting Aug. 3 until Oct. 31, or when 1,200 licenses are sold. The licenses are $100 for Michigan residents and $500 for nonresidents and are available at authorized license agents, a number of DNR offices statewide or online at