Friday, February 15, 2013

Video report: Presentation on wolves offers facts, petition signing opportunity

By Michele Bourdieu

HOUGHTON -- For Nancy Warren, wolves are part of the ecosystem where she lives in the Upper Peninsula. Cameras on her property capture images of wolves passing through the woods or even along the road nearby. She believes that humans can co-exist with wolves, just as they do with deer, birds, coyotes, bears and other wildlife. Thus, the title of her recent presentation at the Portage Lake District Library, "Co-Existing with Wolves," reflects her own experience and perception of the wolf as a fellow creature to be understood, not an enemy to be feared and hunted for sport.

Nancy Warren, Volunteer Speakers Bureau coordinator for the Timber Wolf Alliance (TWA) and National Wolfwatcher Coalition Great Lakes Regional director, presents "Co-Existing with Wolves" at the Portage Lake District Library on Feb. 9, 2013. She is projecting here a photo of a wolf taken near her driveway at home. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

"I live with my husband and two dogs near Ewen and have welcomed and adapted to having wolves and other wild animals frequent our property," Warren says.

Recent Michigan legislation, Public Act 520, which designates the wolf as a game animal, gives the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) the authority to schedule a hunting season for wolves. Several groups and individuals are now supporting a petition campaign to place a Referendum on PA 520 on the 2014 ballot in the hope of reversing the game animal status of wolves. A petition signing followed Warren's presentation.

Warren is National Wolfwatcher Coalition Great Lakes Regional director, but also serves as Volunteer Speakers Bureau coordinator for the Timber Wolf Alliance (TWA), based in Manitowish Waters, Wis. Her presentation at the Portage Library on Feb. 9, 2013, was offered as part of TWA's educational mission.

TWA is committed to investigating the facts and relies on the growing body of scientific research to dispel myths and unfounded fears associated with wolves, Warren says. She noted at the beginning of her presentation that TWA neither supports nor opposes a hunting season, but it does support "management decisions based on sound scientific
data."

In her introduction, Warren pointed out some of the myths and fears about wolves -- propagated through the media and signs:

Nancy Warren, Timber Wolf Alliance Volunteer Speakers Bureau coordinator and National Wolfwatcher Coalition Great Lakes Regional director, presents "Co-Existing
with Wolves" at the Portage Lake District Library in Houghton, Mich., Feb. 9, 2013. In this introduction, Warren talks about negative perceptions about wolves. (Video clips by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

Warren explained that spreading these negative perceptions of wolves helps instill fear and leads to illegal killings. She gave statistics on livestock depredations by wolves, noting there were only 34 of these in the U.P. in 2012. She explained that farmers are compensated for loss of livestock and the present law allows farmers to use lethal means on a wolf that is attacking their animals.

Evald Salmi, a trapper and former farmer from Toivola, questioned the actual value of the state compensation for livestock depredation by wolves. (Photos by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now, unless otherwise indicated)

In this video clip, Warren gives examples showing that human deaths caused by other animals -- from dogs to mosquitoes -- are more numerous than human deaths caused by wolves:

During her presentation, "Co-Existing with Wolves," at the Portage Lake District Library in Houghton, Mich., Nancy Warren shows statistics indicating wolf attacks on humans are extremely rare, compared to attacks by other animals -- including the mosquito -- that result in human deaths. She also explains how the present law helps farmers whose animals are killed by wolves.

Warren also spoke about the benefits from wolves, including improved vegetation in areas where wolves limit the deer population.

"Wolves can help deer become more healthy because they pick the sick animals," she added.

In this video clip Warren gives examples of ecotourism based on wolves that has helped not only Yellowstone National Park but a small town like Ely, Minn., home of the International Wolf Center that attracts tourists and provides jobs:

During her presentation at Portage Library, Nancy Warren talks about ecotourism and wolves, as well as non-lethal measures to help farmers keep wolves away from their property and their animals.

Warren continued with examples of simple rules to co-exist with wolves, such as vigilance to avoid pet deaths -- not letting dogs out loose at night where wolves are known to be present and not feeding wolves either directly or indirectly. Since wolves eat deer, it is not wise to feed deer near your property, she added.

"Do everything you can to avoid habituating wolves to humans," she said.

Warren also pointed out the current status of wolves in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan (including numbers killed in Minnesota and Wisconsin hunting seasons) and existing management plans for wolves that presently can resolve conflict without the need of a hunting season.

"What we have is management by legislation, not science," Warren said, concerning the legislation making the wolf a game animal:

In her conclusion Nancy Warren gives statistics on wolves in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, noting human values will determine how people decide to manage wolves and whether they can co-exist with them.

Message from John Vucetich

Following Warren's presentation, Leah Vucetich, wildlife biologist, read a message from her husband, John Vucetich, Michigan Tech associate professor and co-director, with Rolf Peterson, of the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose study -- an argument for science in our co-existence with wolves.

"John tells us that scientific evidence does not suggest that wolves should be hunted in Michigan," Leah Vucetich said.

In this video clip, she reads the message from John, who was not able to be present because he is now on Isle Royale doing winter research:

Wildlife biologist Leah Vucetich reads a message from her husband, John Vucetich, in which he gives reasons why a general wolf hunt does not target an offending animal and is not based on scientific knowledge about wolves.

Petition signing follows presentation

Finally, Adam Robarge, Upper Peninsula coordinator for Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, explained the reason for the petition to request a Referendum on Michigan Public Act 520, which makes the wolf a game animal in Michigan. He invited the audience at the presentation on wolves to sign the petition.

In this video clip, Robarge explains the reason for the petition:

Adam Robarge, Upper Peninsula coordinator for Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, explains the group has until March 27, 2013, to collect a minimum of 161,000 signatures on a petition to put a Referendum on PA 520 on the 2014 ballot, though they are hoping to collect more than 220,000 signatures. 

Robarge noted signing the petition does not mean taking a position for or against a wolf hunting season. The purpose of the petition is merely to allow a Referendum for the people of Michigan to decide whether or not a wolf should be designated a game animal as it is in PA 520.

Robarge, who founded the Upper Peninsula Animal Liberation Defense in Marquette, says his group is assisting the Keep Michigan Wolves Protected petition campaign as the first in a number of projects they have planned concerning wildlife and domestic animal issues throughout the U.P.

Members of the audience at the Feb. 9 presentation on wolves at Portage Library sign the petition for a Referendum on PA 520.

Charlotte Loonsfoot, chairperson of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) Natural Resources Committee, has also been collecting signatures for the petition in Baraga County. She said she found the "Co-Existing with Wolves" presentation very informative.

"I thought it was great," Loonsfoot said. "Very informative. I learned a lot of things I didn't know -- for example, the statistics on wolves."

Loonsfoot will also be collecting signatures at the Lac Vieux Desert Pow wow March 9 and 10. Anyone who wishes to contact her about signing the petition can call her at (906) 235-4220.

Carolyn Peterson, wife of Rolf Peterson, who assists her husband with his research for the Wolf-Moose study on Isle Royale, decided to sign the petition after the presentation.

"It was great," she said. "I think it's a huge opportunity for education about wolves and what they do to and for their prey."

KBIC member John Loonsfoot said he once had a dog that he believed was a wolf.

"His name was Ranger. We never had to feed him when he became an adult," John Loonsfoot said. "I never had any problems with him. He was very good with kids. It was kind of like our family was his pack and he protected us."

John Loonsfoot is helping Charlotte Loonsfoot, his cousin, to collect signatures for the petition in Baraga County.

Nancie Lamb, also from KBIC, said there are wolves near her house but she is not afraid of them.

"KBIC people are culturally connected to the wolf," Lamb said. "In our culture the deer sacrifice their lives for the wolf."

Lamb said she had done a research paper on the wolf for one of her classes at Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College but this was the first informational session on the wolf that she has attended.

"I think it's important to have these to create awareness," she said.

Editor's Notes:

UPDATE:Volunteers will be at Babycakes Muffin Company in downtown Marquette Every Monday through the end of March from 4 p.m. - 6 p.m, to answer questions and will have petitions available to sign. For more information go here: http://www.facebook.com/events/568055889871693/.

For more information about Keep Michigan Wolves Protected and their petition campaign, visit their Web site.

See our Jan. 19, 2013, article, "KBIC Elder speaks against wolf hunt at DNR Citizens' Advisory Council meeting."

For more scientific information about wolves, especially in the Western U.S., see "What real public information about wolves looks like," posted Feb. 10, 2013, in The Wildlife News.

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