As the hunting seasons get into full swing in the fall there's a topic that gets discussed more and more - wolves in the Upper Peninsula. This year is no different as bird and archery deer hunters report seeing more sign of wolves in the area, as well as spotting more of the large predators.
This increase in the gray wolf's presence in the U.P. has been tempered somewhat due to the fact that many hunters are seeing more game, specifically deer.
And there certainly does appear to be a bumper crop of younger whitetails because of the mild winter the region experienced last year, which holds promise for some nice bucks in future years.
On the other hand, that strong population of 1- and 2-year-old whitetails will also help feed the growing wolf population, which the state has pegged at 650 or so and others estimate much higher.
A state wildlife biologist quoted in a recent article on wolf predation at farms in Menominee County stated there are upwards of 100 packs in the U.P. - which averages out to about 6.5 packs per county. Of course there are obviously some areas of the U.P. that have more wolves than others, but that's still a lot of wolf packs no matter how you spread them out.
One of the results of the growing wolf population is a shift in the discussions I've heard to hunters sounding more resigned to the fact that the U.P. wolf population is not only here to stay but will continue to grow, and grow, and grow.
That opinion, while undoubtedly holding some truth, is worrisome in that it starts to give the U.P. wolf an image of being an uncontrollable menace that will be overtaking everything - even attacking humans if you listen to some over-zealous anti-wolf residents of the region.
What that image will result in is control of the wolves in the least effective manner - illegal shooting of them by hunters and farmers. And, ironically, this is exactly what anti-hunters and animal rights groups want to happen so they can continue to push for complete protection of wolves across the region.
Those antis and animal rights groups will raise their voices loud and clear saying that hunters and farmers are wantonly killing wolves in the region and easing the protection status of wolves will only lead to more indiscriminate killing of them.
Instead, hunters, farmers and other level-headed residents of the Great Lakes region need to throw their full support behind the latest effort to remove protection of gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region under the federal Endangered Species Act.
That effort - the fourth - is fully under way, too, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service publishing of a notice in the Federal Register in mid-September to take the gray wolf off the list in the region, which has an estimated 4,000 wolves.
The publication started a 12-month review to determine if delisting the wolf in the region is warranted, which includes a 60-day public comment period.
The FWS received four petitions to remove ESA protection from the gray wolf in the states of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The petitions were submitted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Sportsmen's Alliance, and Safari Club International in conjunction with the National Rifle Association.
The state of Michigan has voiced support for the delisting, which is aimed at putting management of gray wolves in the hands of the states.
The federal government's three previous delisting efforts failed - blocked in courts by animal rights groups or withdrawn over procedural errors.
There's no doubt the latest effort will again be fought by animal rights and anti-hunting groups, so as much support for the delisting effort should be voiced by those who support the move.
Information on the gray wolf delisting effort in the western Great Lakes can be obtained by visiting the website www.fws.gov/midwest/wolf. Comments must be received by Nov. 15 and information on how to file them is also available at the aforementioned website.
I'm as unhappy as the next hunter about the growing wolf population in the region, but I'd much rather see a successful delisting effort and the states take over management than more and more wolves being shot illegally.
Editor's note: Dave Schneider can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 270. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.