Michigan wolves need population control, hunt supporters say

LANSING, MI – Michigan Senate Republicans have advanced a resolution that urges wildlife officials to hold a gray wolf hunting and trapping season on the Upper Peninsula this year following the loss of endangered species protection. of disappearance.

The non-binding resolution, SR 15is sponsored by Sen. Ed McBroom, a western UP lawmaker who presided over a Wednesday, Feb. 24, hearing in which he criticized state officials for delaying another hunt until mid-2022.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said it would take at least until next June to update the state’s 2015 wolf management plan and organize a public opinion survey. The DNR wants to finish them before deciding on another hunt.

McBroom, who compiled pro-hunting testimony from several UP hunting groups, repeatedly questioned why the state’s plan needed to be updated before a new hunt and called an investigation a opinion of “stupid and useless”.

“We are not suspending the deer hunt in the third year pending the replacement of the three-year plan,” he said, while arguing with one of several hunt opponents who summoned the hearing via Zoom. . “I mean, that’s just not how plans work.”

McBroom, chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, spoke for most of Wednesday’s hearing, which follows the introduction of his resolution last week.

The resolution urges the DNR and the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) to use a hunt to control the UP wolf population, which the DNR estimates has been stable in recent years at around 700 wolves in 143 packs.

McBroom and proponents of the hunt argue that wolves, coupled with harsh winters, are causing a decline in UP’s deer herd and problems for ranches. They claim other states, especially Wisconsinare already organizing hunts and that UP residents should be able to hunt wolves legally, as the animals are illegally poached anyway.

The hearing did not include testimony from state officials or experts. UP’s Hunt supporters questioned the state’s official population estimates, and one even suggested that wolves should be considered invasive for Michigan.

According to the DNRwolves are native to Michigan and the current UP population outside of Isle Royale originated from the natural emigration of wolves from Minnesota, Ontario and Wisconsin after reaching a low of six animals in the 1970s.

“The animals should be considered exotic,” Dale McNamee said, alleging that Canadian gray wolves were introduced by wildlife authorities and that helped drive out native eastern wolves. “At least they’re an invasive species.”

“People with little or no scientific training, as well as some scientists, find the wolf to be a romantic and lovable creature to admire and protect. The assumption is obviously wrong. The wolf is a predator, a carnivore. C He’s a meat eater,” McNamee said. “Hunting isn’t a very effective method of control, really. Trapping is much more efficient.

Another hunting proponent, Gary Gorniak of the Upper Peninsula Sportsmen Alliance, claimed without presenting evidence that the “actual average number” of wolves is “probably north of 1,200” and argued that the population had “essentially exceeded the bio-carrying capacity of PU”

“I live on Lake Brevort and for the past few years wolves have been hunting deer in our backyards in the middle of the day,” Gorniak said. “We have pictures of wolves within the city limits of Saint-Ignace. Last month, a young woman jogging in the national park encountered a wolf. The wolf was by no means aggressive, but the girl was scared and climbed a tree to safety.

Rory Mattson, director of the Delta County Conservation District, urged the state to stage a hunt over objections from the national wildlife agency in Wisconsin and ensure trapping is part of wildlife regulations. harvest, as wolves quickly learn to avoid people once filming begins.

Mattson said an overall decline in hunting in UP is hurting the region economically and he suggested wolves were to blame for the declining deer population.

“Our local economic income, which is basically a hunting season, has dropped dramatically with the deer population decreasing and the wolf population increasing,” he said.

Proponents of the wolf hunt received few, if any, questions from senators — but that was not the case from opponents, who were aggressively challenged and interrogated.

McBroom argued with several female Zoom callers who opposed the resolution, including a lengthy back-and-forth with Molly Tamulevich, Michigan director of the Humane Society of the United States, during which the two argued, among other things, about the merits of the research. on the impact of hunting on pack structure and stability, the cascading impact on ecosystems of the loss of top predators, and the need for a hunting season in 2021.

“With a stable population for 10 years and no threat to human life and with minimal predation from livestock, what would be the incentive to hunt when there do not appear to be any objective problems with the wolf population as ‘She is?” said Tamulevich.

McBroom suggested that the data doesn’t tell the whole story.

“Just because predation reports are down doesn’t mean predation is actually down,” he said. “The DNR don’t come now when you call to see dead wolves. Farmers don’t get compensated for that so there’s no point in calling. Guys who shoot wolves who have gone before are just in trouble, so it’s hard to believe the numbers because people don’t want to give guys a legit way to deal with it.

At times, the audience clearly illustrated a cultural divide between Upper and Lower Michigan that has long been a feature of the gray wolf debate. McBroom delved into that on Wednesday, asking every person who testified (other than those he was familiar with or who were obviously calling from the Upper Peninsula) if they were from UP

“That’s what you ask everyone. No I’m not. I am a Michigan voter and I have a voice,” Karol Miller of Rochester responded to the question. McBroom then asked if she “would support transporting a significant amount of the wolf population down the state?”

Miller, who argued wolves likely helped reduce the prevalence of chronic wasting disease (CWD) among the UP deer herd, said if she was a hunter and wolves could help reduce the prevalence of CWD in the Lower Peninsula where the transmissible pathogen is a serious and growing problem among the deer population, so “yes, I do.”

“It’s awesome,” McBroom said. “I’ve been saying that for years. I’ll be more than happy to drop them with me.

Jeff Towner, a former American fish and wildlife biologist from Negaunee, broke the chain of UP support versus downstate opposition by calling the actions pushed in McBroom’s resolution a “totally useless for the effective management of the gray wolf population”.

Towner said human conflict with wolves is not a significant issue and that the language in McBroom’s resolution suggesting the wolf population should be culled to limit potential conflict is “wrong” and “without any scientific merit”. .

“There is simply no scientific data or analysis to support this premise,” he said. “It’s just an excuse to justify a wolf hunt.”

“The DNR director and wildlife professionals should be allowed to perform their work and revise Michigan’s current wolf management plan in the manner and within the time frame set by the director,” he said. “It’s the legitimate approach I expect, as a Michigan taxpayer and former Gray Wolves manager.”

If Michigan were to stage another wolf hunt, it would be the second in state history. Michigan previously held a hunt in 2013 when wolves were temporarily delisted.

Wolves were officially removed from the endangered species list for the lower 48 states on January 4. However, this decision by the US Fish and Wildlife Service has been postponed. in the study by President Joe Biden last month and environmental groups have already filed several lawsuits challenging the delisting.

Wolves were wiped out in most of the United States in the 1930s through government-sponsored poisoning and trapping campaigns. A remnant population in the western Great Lakes region has expanded to about 4,400 animals in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin since wolves were listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1973.

The Michigan DNR decided last month to relaunch a wolf management advisory board, which will include members from conservation, game and fish, agriculture and animal advocacy groups, and tribal government. .

The DNR has indicated that it is on hold while federal protected status is being worked out. Ahead of another hunt in Michigan, “the legal status of wolves should be settled more permanently, especially given the long history of legal challenges to delisting decisions and the resulting changing status of wolves,” the official said. DNR spokesman Ed Golder last week.

In the meantime, state law now allows the use of lethal force against wolves to prevent them from killing dogs or livestock. While federally listed, wolves could previously only be legally killed in defense of human life in Michigan.

Related stories:

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DNR calls Michigan’s first wolf hunt a ‘success’

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