The onset of 2021 finds Michigan residents acting fast on a number of wildlife conservation issues. At the forefront? Wolves. The species’ growing population has seen them removed from the endangered species list in the United States. Months on from the Trump Administration’s decision to do so in the Fall of 2020, Michigan saw their state’s removal from the list follow through on January 4th.
Chairwoman of the Michigan Natural Resources Commission, Carol Rose, is wasting no time in dealing with the potential problems this creates head-on. Roughly 20 other Michiganders joined Rose in voicing their concerns over the predator’s increased presence at the commission’s meeting this past Thursday. None, however, were from Northeast Michigan, where nearly all of the state’s wolves live in the Upper Peninsula.
Regardless, the commission moves to nail down the state’s next steps on managing Michigan’s wolf population. The apex predator’s increasing presence is, after all, of great concern to many: from livestock farmers to game hunters and park tourists.
Michigan Moves on Wolves: “We’re All in This Together”
“We’re all in this together,” Rose tells local Alpena News. “To manage our resources and protect the livelihood of our neighbors.”
Rose notes that, in these early stages, the commission’s discussion mostly centers on wolf management in the Upper Peninsula. The group is careful to take the science of conservation into account, but residents are already riled up and ready to move fast in controlling the wolves’ territory.
“Commenters said wolves are decimating the U.P. deer population,” Alpena notes. Local business owner Henry Kreger was one vocal critic of the predators’ presence. For him, wolves are already decimating his taxidermy shop. Instead of the 20 Upper Peninsula deer that hunters would bring to him per year, Kreger says that number has dwindled to a single specimen the past year.
Kreger notes the wolves’ importance but says that management is crucial. “In his work with hunters, he regularly hears about wolves attacking mass gatherings of deer in their wintering grounds and reducing the deer population enough to hurt the hunting seasons that are part of the U.P. culture,” Alpena cites.
Wolves kill the state’s beloved elk, as well. For Kreger, his worry extends to the small game used by residents for food and income. Moreover, he spoke on behalf of “farmers and ranchers who have to protect their herds from strong and intelligent wolves.” Horror stories flood his social circle of outdoorsmen, too: of “hunting dogs torn to pieces and pets snatched from back yards.”
“It’s the killingest thing you can think of“
“It’s the killingest thing you can think of on land in North America,” adds Mark Miller to the proceedings. Miller, a customer in Kreger’s shop, hopes the Natural Resources Commission will hear resident’s pleas. He hopes they’ll institute an annual wolf hunt soon.
The commission, however, currently has no plans for state-sanctioned wolf hunts, says Chairman Rose.
Instead, the upcoming months will see the finalizing of a “wolf advisory council.” Together, they’ll develop countermeasures for managing the species within Michigan’s borders. Leading the pack will be a carnivore specialist. Public opinion will play into the council’s decision-making process, as well, with public attitude surveys on the agenda.
Kreger & Miller’s concern is warranted, too, according to Rose. Past conservation efforts for North America’s gray wolves have been a huge success. So much so, that the gray wolf population in Michigan has surged to nearly 700 individuals. Rose cites an estimated 662 wolves present in the state in 2018. This far exceeds the states’ management plan established in 2008. The plan called for a “minimum population of 200 wolves” in the Upper Peninsula.
Wolf management is a tricky topic, too, no matter the state. These beautiful, revered predators are a natural part of Michigan’s landscape, but have long served as humanity’s main competition for territory and game. As such, Rose notes that she is in support of a management plan
“One can love a wildlife species and at the same time recognize that its population needs to be managed,” Rose notes.
Michigan’s movement towards wolf hunting comes just days after Wisconsin moved to begin hunting wolves for the first time in 7 years. Colorado, meanwhile, continues to reinstate wolves into habitats they’ve long been absent from.
[Source: The Alpena News]