ONTONAGON - The U.S. government paid more than $200,000 to help an Upper Peninsula farmer protect his cattle from wolves, according to a news report published Wednesday by an online news outlet.
MLive.com said it made the estimate based on documents it reviewed. Much of the expense was in administrative time and field work, besides about $38,000 in cash for cattle-loss claims by Ontonagon County farmer John Koski and other assistance, the news report said.
"The amount of effort ... provided is significant," Brian Roell, wildlife biologist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources in Marquette, wrote in the documents.
John Koski, a cattle farmer whose herd near Matchwood in Ontonagon County has drawn repeated wolf attacks in recent years, looks over his herd in this October 2008 file photo. Federal officials have spent more than $200,000 to keep wolves from the cows, according to an online news report this week. (Associated Press photo)
Opponents to wolf hunting - including the ballot proposal group Keep Michigan Wolves Protected - have said the DNR used the losses on the Koski farm to justify a hunt in Michigan.
In November, MLive.com produced a series critical of the state's rationale and justification for the hunt.
The DNR has said Koski's heavy livestock losses weren't the primary reason for last year's first wolf hunt in Michigan. DNR officials said the hunt was conducted to minimize animal and human conflicts with wolves in three specific hunting zones where non-lethal measures had failed.
A total of 1,200 wolf hunting licenses were sold. The hunt began Nov. 15 and ran through Dec. 31. No trapping was allowed in the Michigan hunt. A total of 23 wolves were killed. A quota from the three zones of 43 had been set.
The Associated Press left a message Wednesday seeking comment with Koski's attorney, Matthew Tingstad. Last year, Koski was charged with animal cruelty involving donkeys the state supplied to protect his cattle from wolves.
Koski has taken few if any steps to deal with losses to wolves, despite the government aid, Roell said.
"Nothing has changed on the farm over the years except one of the barns collapsed a few years ago," the biologist wrote. "The fences are still in horrible need of repair, portions of the large pasture are forest or shrub-lands, and husbandry practices have not changed. Yet he has done nothing to help himself.
"In recent years, (the U.S. government) has really become cattle guards for Mr. Koski given the amount of time they have spent on this farm."