DNR Completes Public Wolf Management MeetingsMarch 22nd, 2013
The Department of Natural Resources wrapped up its series of public meetings on wolf management in Lansing last night, after earlier stops in Ironwood, Marquette and Gaylord. The meetings were designed to inform the public of the DNR’s wolf management toolbox, how a public hunt would provide another tool in that toolbox to reduce wolf-human conflicts, and respond to questions and gauge public input through a Michigan State University survey.
Adam Bump, DNR Furbearer Specialist, gave a presentation on the history of wolf management in Michigan, including the rise of wolf-human conflicts in some localized areas of the Upper Peninsula. He also went over the Michigan Wolf Management Plan, which was adopted in 2008 and authorized public hunting when other lethal and non-lethal measures failed to resolve conflicts, where the wolf population density was a cause of the conflicts, and so long as a public hunt did not threaten the long-term viability of Michigan’s wolf population.
Bump and DNR Wildlife Biologist Brian Roell also talked about the nonlethal techniques in the DNR’s wolf management toolbox, and what type of hunt is being considered. They were also very clear about what type of hunt is NOT being considered.
They explained that the Wolf Management Plan looked at two types of public harvests: conflict resolution and recreational. There was consensus on the Wolf Management Roundtable which recommended the plan on a public harvest for conflict resolution, but no consensus on a recreational hunt. The ONLY hunt now being considered is for conflict resolution, not for recreation. While some individual hunters may get an incidental recreational benefit from participating in a public harvest, the DNR will only structure a public harvest to meet conflict resolution management goals.
As to what manner and methods of take they will recommend to the Natural Resources Commission, which has final authority on the matter, Bump said they would likely recommend a limited public hunt, but had not decided yet whether to include trapping. If they do recommend trapping as part of a public harvest, they would NOT allow the use of lethal trapping devices like snares; they would only allow the same foot-hold traps that biologists use when trapping wolves to fit them with radio collars.
They were also explicit in saying that they will not allow “aerial gunning from helicopters,” poisoning, or hunting with dogs, as alleged by Humane Society of the United States spokespeople and their petition gatherers to get people to sign their petition to remove wolves from the list of game species.
The DNR is wrapping up a new wolf population survey, which estimates the minimum winter wolf population. It should be ready in April, when the DNR will present its recommendations to the Natural Resources Commission. A graph in the presentation showed that the population of wolves has been rising steadily, but that rate of growth has been decreasing, suggesting that the overall wolf population may be leveling off.
However, any public harvest would be targeted and localized to deter conflicts with problem wolves and packs, so that it would not impact the overall population of wolves in Michigan. They will also continue to use non-lethal methods and existing lethal methods alongside with public harvests, but the addition of a public harvest will give them another tool to use in areas where wolves have lost their fear of humans, where farmers are experiencing chronic depredation, and where wolves are attacking pets in homeowners’ backyards.
What became very clear while watching the presentation is that the DNR has very competent and knowledgeable professional wildlife biologists working on wolf management and they are requesting the full toolbox of wolf management tools contained in the Wolf Management Plan, including a regulated public harvest as authorized by Public Act 520 of 2012, the Wolf Management Law that HSUS is trying to repeal.
The people of Michigan passed Proposal G in 1996 to ensure that wildlife management recommendations are made by professional wildlife biologists and that the Natural Resources Commission uses their recommendations, sound science and public input in making final decisions about wildlife management. The Wolf Management Bill provides the DNR’s professional wildlife biologists with the full range of conflict management tools authorized by the Wolf Management Plan. We need to let our professional wildlife biologists do their job, and not hamper their efforts with ballot-box backyard biology.