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Wolf Management: What’s Going On (or Not)?

May 14th, 2012

A group of stakeholders called the “Wolf Forum” met together with the DNR back in June 2011; this group was similar in make up to the original Wolf Roundtable who helped develop recommendations for the 2008 Michigan Wolf Management Plan.  At that time, the DNR shared data and information, while committing to bringing us together again following the federal delisting to provide updates and input on the implementation of the state management plan.

Wolves were officially delisted on January 27, 2012. Inquiries have been made since that time as to the status of the Wolf Forum, and basically the DNR’s response has been that the Wildlife Division is undergoing staffing realignment so it is yet unclear where wolves will fall in the new job descriptions.

So whose job is it anyway?

Since the federal delisting, the state has assumed management authority over wolves. Unfortunately, also during that time, Wildlife Division staff have left the DNR and moved positions leaving major holes throughout; many people are performing in acting capacities, and responsibilities are growing and shifting for those staff members who remain. Funding is and will always remain an issue. Yes, managing wildlife with a declining budget is difficult, but it’s a changing and challenging world we live in.

But that does not give the DNR the ability to put off a major actions related to implementing the wolf management plan, especially since MUCC and so many organizations and individuals committed years of work and advocacy to remove wolves from the federal endangered species list and create this model plan for wolf management.

The Wolf Forum or a similar group of stakeholders MUST be brought together soon, very soon in fact, to continue the conversation about wolf management in Michigan.

MUCC is frustrated at the lack of communications from the DNR on the implementation of the management plan to-date. This plan has been in place for the last 4 years and (now that wolves are officially off the list) calls on the DNR to be the leader to:

  • Coordinate with management partners to develop and implement a wolf-based information and education program;
  • Collect data, in collaboration with other state agencies and other partners, to closely evaluate the status of wolves in the western Great Lakes;
  • Minimize and manage wolf-related conflicts; and the big one
  • “If biologically defensible, legally feasible, and supported by the public, develop a program to offer opportunities for the public to harvest wolves for recreational or utilitarian purposes.”

We want clear communications and a timeline for achieving these actions outlined in the management plan.

Until hunters and trappers can help assist with sustainably managing this wolf population in Michigan, its critical to have SOMEONE available to call on to manage wolf-related conflicts in the meantime.

Can we count on anyone responding?

  • Knee deep

    The State of Michigan dropped the ball on wolf management. they took a backseat to a more aggressive management program like Wisconsin and Minnesota has done. Now, as they scramble to right a wrong its bit them in the backside…Meanwhile, the people who have to deal with wolves are stuck wondering who really runs the wolf program. Sound familiar? I thought so…

  • Don Jarrard

    I hope the DNR will let the sportsmen in Michigan keep the wolves in check…They say the coyotes are killing more wildlife now..but if the wolves are not kept under control, all wildlife in time will be gone…I really hope the wolves don’t get to our elk herds…All someone needs to do to understand this, is just go to Yellowstone…

  • Cory Merryman

    Michigan wolf management plan…..waste more money and do nothing.

  • Clearcutter

    The more wolves, the better for our forests in the northern LP and UP. We have a number of areas where forest regeneration (germination of natural seed, planting of seedlings) doesn’t result in recruitment of new trees because of excessive deer browse damage. Wolves will hunt everything from rabbits to elk and they won’t turn their noses up at a small rack (or none at all), unlike a lot of bipedal hunters.

    Stop by a Michigan Society of American Foresters meeting and we’ll be happy to tell you all about it.

  • Rork

    You are asking for hunting and trapping seasons on wolves, which is the knee-jerk thing to do, but is it smart?
    I don’t think so.
    Only a few hunters will benefit (and probably not the right ones), it will cost more to administer than it’s worth unless licenses cost some ridiculous amount ($5000/license may not cover the costs), it will be hard to target the wolves most in need of removal, and it will make enemies of much of the public as we fly our “typical greedy hunter” colors and kill some wolves that are the darlings of the public.
    We could avoid all that, by letting the managers do the killing, when and where needed. Maybe we could get a new hunting opportunity but it is at an unacceptable cost.

  • Mbraun6000

    A controlled wolf harvest would be in the best interest of everyone. The population MUST be kept in check. Talk to people that hunt in the UP about what the wolves have done to the deer population there. Since wolves hunt in packs there is no such thing as a deer or moose that is to big for wolves. The over population of coyotes is bad enough, but nothing compared to an over population of wolves.

  • Bpinffam

    Not so fast Jarrard! Yellowstone wolfs have helped the herd in Yellowstone! The wolfs biologist have found wolfs help balance all of nature. Elk can no longer just stay put in the river valleys now that the predator they evolved with is there to patrol those river valleys-the result cottonwood trees now grow along the river again because the elk are not there to eat them before they grow, beaver are coming back now that they have cottonwood to feed on for a living, thus helping the habitat for fish & other wildlife. Organizations like The Greater Yellowstone Coalition, a very pro-hunting organization support a wolf population in Yellowstone. Sportsman in Michigan should also support a wolf population. Surly we must manage them, probably have a hunting season if that is needed as a management tool. Do you know we have virtually no young cedar trees growing in northern Michigan. We have plenty of cedars that are 30 ,40 years or older but no young cedar trees unless they are planted by humans & fenced from the deer until they are tall enough to survive. There is an organization that implements such a cedar tree program called “Cedars for the AuSable”. Otherwise our deer herd eats the cedars before they can grow a foot. I do not think we should wish for wolfs in the LP but we must realize that predators are part of the landscape. Nature has her way of balancing things-even with wolfs.

    • Kwakabuck

      In regards to the Yellowstone Comments. They are the typical BS that is still being spread around to justify the terrible mistake that was made by bringing in those Canadian wolves. I have been going to Yellowstone for the last 45 years. Both spring and fall. I’ve been hunting the greater Yellowstone area since before those wolves were in the area. They have totally decimated the Yellowstone big game. It breaks my heart to drive through the park that used to be a great place to watch elk and see miles and miles of empty space devoid of any game except bison, bears and wolves. The game trails are all grown over and the meadows are ungrazed. What was once the greatest park in America is now a great place to watch willows growing up along the rivers. Which by the way ruins the access and safety for the fishermen trying to avoid the bears and enjoy the views in the park. It is no longer the wild west, people live all over. Our game animals now only have limited areas to survive. When you through in a bunch of uncontrolled killers. “Who yes do kill for fun” contrary to the Disney perspective. The game animals which were one of conservations greatest successes have now become a sad testiment to the stupidity of politics and lawyers making money off of our tax dollars.

      • Rork

        So you are against a more balanced ecosystem there? If predator/prey relations should be left natural anywhere, it is Yellowstone. It’s not a goal to try to maximize hunter’s harvest there. Maybe that is your complaint.

      • Gerryg_rc

        A lot must have changed in Yellowstone since I was there 2 years ago. We saw elk and deer everywhere. What we did not see were wolves and bears.

  • Gerryg_rc

    “If biologically defensible, legally feasible, and supported by the public, develop a program to offer opportunities for the public to harvest wolves for recreational or utilitarian purposes.”
    The first criteria for establishing ANY hunting season is “if biologically necessary” for the welfare of wildlife.There are two types of animals, predators and prey. Wolves are predators, man is a predator; what give one predator more of a right to the prey than another? It seems to me that the facts are that our deer herd is still out of balance with the habitat. It is this balance that must be sought, not the opportunity for hunters to harvest more deer at the expense of habitat. Let all predators do their part to balance nature. This worked very well until man entered the picture and screwed everything up.

  • Adam Bump

    You asked for a response; as the recently assigned Program Leader for wolves, I am providing it.

    You acknowledged that the DNR held a Wolf Forum meeting in June of last year. The Wolf Plan calls for annual meetings of this group or as needed. Delisting was a major change but, for what seems to be your most important topic- a harvest season- we have not had any functional changes. The legislature must act before the opportunity for a season is in the hands of the Department.
    Otherwise, the plan calls for a number of actions under 4 main goals that are within our control. We have made progress on all of them despite workforce and funding limitations. We look forward to proactive cooperation from our partners on all fronts.

    The Wolf Plan as 4 major goals. Here are some accomplishments under each goal that the Division has worked on in the past year:

    Maintain a Viable Population
    Michigan has moved to an every other year wolf monitoring system as a cost saving measure. In the winter of 2010-11, we estimated the minimum winter wolf population to be 687 wolves, located entirely in the Upper Peninsula. The Department is committed to maintaining a viable Michigan wolf population above a level that would warrant its classification as threatened or endangered at either the State or Federal level. Wolves are an integral part of the natural resources of the State and have improved the natural functioning of Michigan ecosystems. The most-recent public-attitude research shows most (73%) Michigan residents support the presence of a wolf population in the State. In the context of the Department’s mission and its implicit public trust responsibilities for the State’s wildlife, natural communities and ecosystems, the maintenance of a viable wolf population is an appropriate and necessary goal.

    The Department continues to be an active participant in the Midwest Wolf Stewards Conference. This gives us an opportunity to exchange information with Wisconsin, Minnesota, Native American Tribes, Ontario and other agencies. This meeting facilitates the exchange of knowledge, research results, and management strategies among wolf managers in the Great Lakes region. Topics of discussion include population monitoring, depredation, human safety, genetics of Great Lakes wolves, as well as habitat concerns. This annual meeting was held this past April in Minnesota and the 2013 meeting will be hosted by Michigan.

    Facilitate Wolf-related Benefits
    Michigan continues to look to provide our many stakeholders with a variety of ways to enjoy wolves. Just having wolves on the landscape is one way to do that. We also provide educational opportunities through our website and through presentations offered by field staff, as well as going so far as to use teleconferencing equipment to introduce staff from the UP into classrooms around the State. We continue to actively facilitate the salvage of wolf pelts and skulls to meet educational and cultural/religious needs.

    Michigan is also an active member in the Timber Wolf Alliance a wolf education organization committed to investigating the facts, by relying on the growing body of scientific research to dispel myths and unfounded fears associated with wolves. This allows us to exchange information and collaborate with other states and managing agencies and to learn more about interests in wolves and creative ways to continue to promote acceptance of wolves and enjoyment of wolves by the public.
    In addition, we have scheduled the next meeting of the Wolf Forum for June 28th. The Forum is a direct link between stakeholders and the Division to help discuss the Wolf Plan and future activities related to wolves and wolf management as well as discussions on how to continue to move forward with ways to facilitate wolf-related benefits.

    Minimize Wolf-related Conflicts
    Michigan has been very active in trying to minimize and mitigate wolf-related conflicts. The delisting of wolves from the Federal Endangered Species Act has increased our ability to implement aspects of the Wolf Plan that fall under this goal. We continue to take wolf activity reports where conflict resolution techniques are discussed and when the situation warrants a site visit is performed. In additional Michigan residents are now able to use lethal control for management of some wolf related conflicts. Legislative changes in 2008 allowed the Department to implement an action item from the Wolf Plan to allow livestock owners to kill wolves in the act of livestock depredation. These laws allow livestock owners the ability to use lethal control when wolves are in the act of preying upon livestock (PA 290 of 2008) and dog owners as well are now able to use lethal control when wolves are in the act of attacking dogs (PA 318 of 2008).

    The Wolf Plan also calls for the development of a permitting process to allow livestock producers to control wolves on their property, as necessary, following a verified wolf depredation event. Seventy-eight percent of surveyed livestock producers indicated they would be ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ satisfied with a management program that, among other things, empowered them to remove problem wolves from their own property. The Department has developed a private depredation control permit and criteria for using those permits. Currently, 9 farms in the UP have been issued these permits and to date, 7 wolves have been killed. We have also had 5 wolves taken under PA 290 and working as an agent of the State the United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services (USDA-WS) has taken 8 wolves due to human safety concerns, with one additional taken by USDA-WS for livestock depredation resolution. So far, in the first 5 months of 2012, 21 wolves have been killed for livestock depredation resolution or human safety concerns. Lethal wolf control as occurred more times in 2012 than any other year since 1960 when the collection of bounties on wolves was lifted.

    Lethal control is not the only thing we are doing to reduce wolf conflicts, we continue to explore non-lethal methods to resolve wolf-livestock conflicts include improving animal husbandry practices by using best management practices (BMPs), exclusion, frightening devices and harssment (e.g., fladry, flashing lights, strobe light/siren devices, shell crackers, rubber ammunition) and protection of livestock (e.g., livestock guarding animals). We partnered with USDA-WS to provide staff to help us resolve wolf conflicts through non lethal means in additional to using our own staff (The Department has provided $20,000 to USDA-WS for this purpose for 2012). Also for the past two years the Department was the recipient of a grant to aid in proactive, non-lethal activities to reduce the risk of livestock loss due to predation by wolves. That grant is still active and we continue to assist livestock producers in reducing the likelihood of wolf depredation. We continue to keep track of areas of the state that are receiving wolf-dog related conflicts and provide information to interested hunters to help them avoid areas with high conflict potential.

    Conduct Science-based and Socially Acceptable Management
    The Wolf Roundtable (stakeholder group convened to assist in developing the Wolf Plan) was not able to reach consensus on a recreational harvest of wolves. The Roundtable (and Plan) did offer support for targeted public harvest in areas of high conflict or other issues, as long as they were issues that could be resolved through population reduction. Recreational harvest clearly needed much more discussion before it could be “supported by the public” as required by the Plan. Harvest through public harvest seasons requires Legislative action. Discussions on public harvest will occur when wolves are a designated game species and should follow under the direction of the Wolf Plan. That includes discussions on several different options for wolf harvest that are geared toward resolving wolf conflicts.

    We appreciate your request to have us respond to your comments.

    Adam Bump
    Bear and Furbearer Specialist
    DNR- Wildlife Division

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