Less than 2% of the 1,200 licensed wolf hunters who took to the woods from November 15 through December 31 were successful in harvesting a wolf in Michigan's first modern-day wolf hunt. After 23 wolves were taken out of the maximum quota of 43, the season is now closed in all Wolf Management Units.
Cold weather and snow may have been a factor, and deer hunters who also purchased a wolf tag may have not returned to the field to fill their wolf tag after firearm deer season ended. But anecdotally, hunters have responded that wolves were more elusive than expected once the season began. The DNR plans to survey wolf license holders to gather additional data (what was their level of hunting effort and what management units they hunted in) and are collecting data from the wolves harvested during the season. As Michigan does with every game species, this biological and hunter information will go towards developing recommendations on whether and when the wolf hunt should take place in 2014 and how it should be structured.
The number of licenses available and the maximum harvest quota was developed based on recommendations from DNR wildlife biologists, who also consulted with other states' biologists who have overseen previous wolf hunts in Wisconsin and Minnesota. In Minnesota, hunters had a 4% success rate. The management hunt was devised to address numerous complaints of fearless or bold wolf encounters and direct human-wolf conflicts such as depredation of livestock and hunting dogs. The DNR will be analyzing the impacts of this wolf hunt over the long term to determine its impact on the wolf population and its interactions with people.
Overall, MUCC believes this first wolf hunting season can be counted as a success. As we commonly say, one data point is just a snapshot in time, as is this first wolf season. We believe the new call in and notification system developed by the DNR was effective in notifying wolf hunters and the public of the daily harvest and status of the season and that the opportunity to buy a license was available to all hunters that wished to purchase one. While we wish there was more respect given to these legal hunters in the media and among certain segments of the public (the first successful Michigan wolf hunter declined to give his name to the media because of previous "death threats"), we hope that further education of the public on the critical importance of hunting and trapping to species conservation and management will help to improve this image and relationship between the hunters and trappers and non-hunting/trapping public.
MUCC will continue to advocate for the use of sound science to manage wolves and all fish and game species, whether its through hunting, fishing, trapping, habitat management, or other tools. You can get involved with this by signing and circulating a petition this winter; learn more at the website for Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management!