The Michigan Natural Resources Commission voted Thursday to designate gray wolves as a game species in the state and establish regulations for a November 2013 limited wolf hunt in the Upper Peninsula.
We think both of these actions were sound moves and should be welcomed by those truly concered about scientific management of wolves in Michigan.
The panel made the decisions under provisions of Public Act 21, which was signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder May 8. The decisions were also made with a good deal of input through public meetings, surveys and input, a recommendation from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and varied interests who helped produce the state's Wolf Management Plan.
The wolf hunt provisions approved by the NRC include taking a total of 43 wolves from three designated wolf management units. The season limit recommendation is for one wolf per licensed hunter.
The DNR reviewed available data on negative wolf-human interactions throughout the U.P., primarily livestock and dog depredations and nuisance wolf complaints. Management actions to address those issues were also analyzed.
"Based on these reviews we identified persistent conflicts through time, despite the application of a number of non-lethal and lethal control measures," DNR division chiefs told the NRC in a memo. "The combination of chronic problems despite the application of both non-lethal and targeted lethal control measures suggests that the use of public harvest as an additional management tool may be beneficial."
The conditions also meet the criteria for using public harvest as a tool to address wolf-human conflicts, outlined in the Wolf Management Plan and Wolf Roundtable Report, the DNR said.
The DNR division chiefs said they anticipate two potential benefits resulting from a game status being approved for wolves.
"First, through time, hunting could change the behavior of wolves making them more wary of people, residential areas and farms," the memo stated. "A reduction in wolves displaying fearless behavior would reduce the number of nuisance wolf complaints. Second, hunting could also reduce the abundance of wolves, which may result in fewer conflicts."
Recently, wolf hunt opponents began a petition drive to put a voter referendum on the ballot seeking to overturn the public act which gave the NRC its authority to designate game species and authorize hunts.
We don't think this most recent ballot proposal -or a previous effort to allow Michigan voters decide whether hunting wolves should be allowed and which helped spawn the Public Act 21 legislation- are really concerned with the science and management of gray wolves.
Rather, these moves are politically motivated by out-of-state animal rights organizations hoping for a victory in Michigan to spread elsewhere across the country.
What the NRC did is no wolf eradication effort of days gone by, pushing the species to the brink of extinction. This was thoughtful action, taken with the aid of science and data.
As far as letting the voters speak, we did that in 1996 when Proposal G was passed, which gives exclusive authority to the NRC to regulate the taking of game. We think the panel, with input from the public and several constituencies, made the right choice in its actions Thursday on Michigan's gray wolves.