Friday, November 14, 2014

Upper Peninsula senator: 'Regardless of whatever happens, the wolves will be dealt with'

Wolf Hunt
There will be no wolf hunt in Michigan this year, but a second hunt is possible in 2015, depending on the outcome of promised legal action. (File photo)

By John Barnes
on November 12, 2014 
An Upper Peninsula state senator is being criticized for what opponents say is his seeming support for the killing of wolves out of season.

State Sen. Tom Casperson denied the allegations. Although wolf hunting is currently on hold in Michigan, Casperson last week said "wolves will be dealt with."

Voters rejected two hunting measures in statewide referendums on Nov. 4. Wolves were hunted in 2013 -- and lawmakers have passed a law again potentially allowing wolf hunting in 2015, although opponents are planning a lawsuit to try to stop the hunt.

"Regardless of whatever happens (with the lawsuit), the wolves will be dealt with," said Casperson, R-Escanaba. "The casual attitude of some who just say, 'Deal with it when it happens,' sometimes when it happens it's too late and that's our concern," he said after last week's vote.

In a follow-up interview, Casperson re-emphasized his position.

"When you are threatened, it is not poaching. Poaching is when you are doing something illegal. ... I'm talking about people losing domestic animals over it, etc. ... Absolutely there is no doubt in my mind, we're feeling threatened. If a person feels threatened by a wolf they can shoot it," Casperson said. "I believe they have right to take it out. If we're threatened, it's going to happen."

According to the Department of Natural Resources, the presence of wolves near livestock or pets does not authorize owners to kill a wolf.

The DNR website says,"The owner of livestock or his or her designated agent may use lethal means to destroy a gray wolf that is in the act of preying (attempting to kill or injure) upon the owner's livestock."

For dogs, "The owner of a dog or his or her designated agent may use lethal means to destroy a gray wolf that is in the act of preying (attempting to kill or injure) upon the owner's dog."

The question becomes whether a gray wolf is actually preying.

casperson.jpgState Sen. Tom Casperson 
 
One farmer, who this year has suffered the most cattle losses in the state, said during an MLive.com investigation in 2013, "It's like when your wife goes shopping and she's circling around. Will she buy anything? The wolves are the same. Sometimes they're just shopping, and sometimes they're buying," said Duane Kolpack, of Ontonagon County, who has lost dozens of cattle to wolves on the 1,200 acres he manages.

Anti-hunt critics say livestock farmers already have many methods, lethal and non-lethal, to deter specific problem wolves. Human attacks are not an issue they say.

Jill Fritz, who heads the Keep Michigan Wolves Protected ballot committee and is state director of the Humane Society of the United States, said of Casperson, "It is very concerning to hear an elected official speaking in this way."

"With his quote, 'Regardless of whatever happens, the wolves will be dealt with' Senator Casperson does not seem to know -- or does know and does not want to acknowledge -- that current laws already allow problem wolves to be 'dealt with.' One would think that an elected official would be familiar with what laws are actually on the books."

"Further, by continuing with, 'I'm telling you my people that I represent are not going to put up with this. When they feel threatened -- and we do feel threatened -- action has to be taken,' Senator Casperson seems to be advocating unlawful activity."

The DNR has done non-lethal efforts under multiple grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - such as fencing projects, guard donkeys, and flashing lights - and in some cases stopped the depredation problems.

If a livestock owner has verified wolf depredation, they are typically eligible for a private-land lethal wolf control permit. This permit allows the farmer or his or her designated agent to take a wolf on private property at any time up to the number of permits issued.

A livestock owner can contact the DNR to see if he or she is eligible for permits. Each farm is treated on a case-by-case scenario and in some case permits are available before depredation as occurred..
Casperson earlier apologized on the Senate floor for introducing a resolution to hunt wolves that fabricated an incident about three of the animals being shot outside an Upper Peninsula daycare center. The resolution was written by a local judge.

Ed Golder, spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources, declined comment on Casperson's remarks.

source