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Wolf management plan on path to approval despite criticism from many factions

wolf in a snowy field
Michigan DNR

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is expected to finalize a Wolf Management Plan before the end of the year. The Natural Resources Commission sent it to DNR Director Dan Eichinger for his signature.

The management plan includes maintaining habitat for wolves, methods of keeping wolves from killing livestock and laying groundwork to establish a wolf hunting season. The plan was last updated in 2015. The DNR says the updated plan includes recent scientific literature and new information on wolves in Michigan.

The wolf population in Michigan was nearly eliminated by the mid-1970s. Today, there is a population of about 700 in the Upper Peninsula.

The gray wolf is currently on the Endangered Species List, but that’s changed a couple of times as courts rule differently on the listing.

There’s been plenty of criticism of the management plan from farmers in the Upper Peninsula, in addition to hunters, tribal members who have treaty rights and people who want to protect wolves.

“It’ll be very difficult to make everyone happy because there are those who want a very large-scale hunt peninsula-wide in the Upper Peninsula. And there are those who don’t want any hunt at all,” said Tom Baird, chair of the Natural Resources Commission

Hunters want the DNR to prepare regulations for a hunting season and limits to be ready to hold a hunt as soon as the wolf is delisted. But Baird doesn’t think that’s possible.

“We simply will not know what the situation is, and we can’t anticipate what it will be at the exact time the wolves come off the endangered species list, if they ever do.”

The Department of Natural Resources has been criticized for how it’s handled wolf management. Bridge Michigan, an online magazine, revealed some officials and lawmakers opposed to wolf protections exaggerated or made up stories about threats from wolves.

Wolves have killed livestock over the years. A recent survey found many Michigan citizens recognize that problem wolves might have to be killed. A majority believes a controlled hunt for proper management reasons is acceptable.

Groups that advocate protecting the wolves as much as possible believe the DNR first should do more to help farmers find non-lethal ways to protect their livestock.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report and previously hosted Stateside on Fridays. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Radio from 1998-2010.
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