A third wolf attack on hunting dogs within three days in the Upper Peninsula killed a beagle in Chippewa County, a Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman said.
The attack Wednesday brought the week’s total tofive hounds since Monday in three counties, and one cow killed days earlier in a fourth county.
This is the first time since records began in 1996 that so many attacks on hounds occurred in such a short period of time in the Upper Peninsula. This is training season for hounds, and many more dogs are in the woods than earlier in the year.
“It is not uncommon for wolves to become more territorial toward other canines during this time of the year, when wolf pups are left at a ‘rendezvous site' while the adults hunt,” said DNR spokeswoman Debbie Munson Badini of the Marquette office.
“Other canines - such as hunting dogs training for bear or rabbit hunting - that inadvertently come too close to these rendezvous sites may be perceived as a threat by the pack,” she said.
To date, there have been 16 wolf attacks this year. This week’s were the first involving hunting dogs. The rest involved livestock. While cattle owners are compensated for their losses, dog owners are not.
In addition to the Chippewa County dog kill, two attacks on hounds Monday and Wednesday in Schoolcraft and Delta counties also were verified, Munson Badini said. Two hunting dogs were killed in each attack.
And days earlier, over the weekend in Dickinson County, a wolf killed one cow, totaling four attacks for the week. The landowner also killed the wolf.
"The hunters who lost dogs in Schoolcraft and Delta counties this week had taken the recommended actions for avoiding wolf-dog conflicts in the field," Munson Badini said. "Unfortunately, in these cases, those proactive measures didn't work.
"Usually, these sorts of attacks are random, one-time occurrences, so when a pack establishes a repeated pattern of attacks on dogs or livestock, and demonstrates a lack of fear of humans - the wolf in the Schoolcraft County attack came within close proximity of the hunter - that indicates a problem. It is very important that wolf depredation incidents are reported to the DNR so we can keep tabs on any problem behaviors developing with specific packs."
In Wednesday’s Chippewa attack, one beagle was killed in Trout Lake Township, in the south-central portion of the county. The dog was being trained for hare hunting. It was the seventh recorded attack on dogs in the county since records began, most of them since 2012.
There are a minimum of 636 wolves estimated in the Upper Peninsula.
Wolves were removed from the endangered species list in Michigan in 2012, opening the door to the state’s first managed hunt beginning Nov. 15, 2013.
The hunt was of limited success: Up to 43 animals could be killed; just over half that were taken, 22.
The attacks come as conflict over hunting wolves in Michigan is peaking. As many as three proposals could be on the ballot this fall, but lawmakers could make all that moot this coming Wednesday by short-cutting voter input.
Two anti-hunt referendums will be on the November ballot. The first was created to stop the hunt. Lawmakers made that question irrelevant by shifting power to the Natural Resources Commission for declaring game species. A second proposal was added by anti-hunt forces to the ballot to trump that move.
The latest pro-hunt initiative would shift the battle back to lawmakers, who could again do an end-around a statewide vote. The House and Senate are scheduled to return from summer break Wednesday.
If lawmakers approve the pro-hunt initiative, the Natural Resources Commission, with input from state wildlife biologists, would determine game hunts. The anti-hunt questions on the ballot would be moot.
If lawmakers reject the initiative, or do not act, voters will face all three questions Nov. 4.