By Michele Bourdieu, with information from a Mar. 27, 2013, Keep Michigan Wolves Protected press release and from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Upper Peninsula coordinator for Keep Michigan Wolves Protected Adam Robarge gives instructions as Northern Michigan University students and others line up at NMU on Feb. 27, 2013, to help protect Michigan wolves by forcing a referendum in the fall of 2014 that could at least temporarily halt a proposed Michigan wolf hunt. (File photo © and courtesy Greg Peterson)
LANSING -- Keep Michigan Wolves Protected submitted 253,705 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office, that, when certified, will place any plans for a wolf hunting season on hold until Michigan voters decide the issue at the ballot box in November 2014. During a short 67-day period, the coalition far surpassed the 161,305 valid signatures needed to qualify for the ballot.
"The public response over the past few months has been tremendous, and it demonstrates that Michigan voters in every corner of the state oppose the pointless trophy hunting of wolves," said Jill Fritz, director of Keep Michigan Wolves Protected. "Mounting a petition drive in the dead of winter and collecting a quarter of a million signatures in 67 days has been a monumental feat. We look forward to giving Michigan voters -- not the politicians -- the opportunity to decide whether to keep wolves protected or to allow sport hunting and trapping of these rare creatures just beginning to recover from the brink of extinction."
Across the entire state, hundreds of thousands of Michiganders have spoken with their pens to tell legislators that they were wrong in approving a wolf hunting bill (Public Act 520, the wolf hunting law) last December.*
Natural Resources Commission to consider wolf hunt issue at Apr. 11, 2013, meeting
Meanwhile the agenda for the Michigan Natural Resources Commission meeting this Thursday, April 11, in Lansing includes presentations from two external experts on wolf management: Chris Smith, western representative of the Wildlife Management Institute and former policy advisor to the governor of Montana on wolf and grizzly bear management; and Jim Hammill, a member of the board of directors of Safari Club International and former member of the International Wolf Center board.
State law authorizes that the Natural Resource Commission to determine the method and manner of take for all game species in Michigan. A Department of Natural Resources (DNR) proposal for a public harvest of wolves will be presented to the committee. The proposal is for discussion only and will not be acted upon at the April meeting.**
Adam Robarge, Upper Peninsula coordinator for Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, says his organization will be represented at the NRC meeting. Robarge organized several UP petition signings, including those in Marquette and Houghton reported on Keweenaw Now.***
Nancy Warren, Great Lakes Regional director of the National Wolfwatcher Coalition, who spoke about the wolf hunt issue in Houghton on Feb. 9, 2013, has already testified before the Natural Resources Commission. For this April 11 NRC meeting, she submitted a letter to the commission on Apr. 8, 2013, listing serious concerns with Wildlife Conservation Order Amendment 6 of 2013, Wolf Regulations.****
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 her home near Ewen, Mich. (File photo by Keweenaw Now)
"At the March 14th NRC meeting it was decided to step up the timeline regarding a public wolf hunting season," Warren writes in her letter. "The National Wolfwatcher Coalition serves on the Wolf Management Advisory Council (WMAC) and although we have met three times since June 2012, we never had the opportunity to discuss or even review this proposal, leaving the WMAC out of the process.
"Questions raised during the March public meetings were to be answered and posted to the DNR website along with the most current depredation and conflict information. As of this writing, this has not been done. A survey was conducted at each of the meetings; however survey results have not yet been tabulated or shared with the public."
Warren notes her disappointment that the NRC has ignored scientific evidence that questions the need for a wolf hunt in Michigan.
"It is disappointing that the April NRC agenda did not include two leading Michigan wolf researchers, Rolf Peterson and John Vucetich," Warren adds. "It seems apparent that the NRC is only interested in input from those who support a hunting season."*****
During the Feb. 9, 2013, presentation on wolves and petition signing event at Portage Lake District Library in Houghton, wildlife biologist Leah Vucetich reads a message from her husband, John Vucetich, Michigan Tech professor and co-director of the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose Study, 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. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)
In her letter to NRC, Warren cites scientific studies in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota -- refuting claims that wolves have caused a decline in deer populations.
"Data compiled by Mississippi State University, over a three year period, in Menominee County [Michigan] shows the coyote as the leading predator of deer, including fawns and adult females, followed by the bobcat," Warren notes as one example.
Warren also notes that Michigan's Wolf Management Plan states wolf-related conflicts should be handled on an individual basis.
She writes, "The recommending guidelines approved by the Michigan wolf roundtable states, 'In recent years, Michigan wolves have been killed on a case-by-case basis by government personnel for the purpose of addressing wolf-related conflicts. All reason suggests wolves will continue to be killed for this purpose. The DNR can use hunters for this [emphasis added] management need. Satisfying, in part, the interest to recreationally hunt would be an outcome of killing wolves to address wolf-related conflicts.' This was the only use of hunters that was agreed upon by the Roundtable."
Warren adds that the proposed regulations conflict with the Wolf Management Plan because they expand the use of hunters and trappers as a management tool.
She gives the following summary of points she wishes the NRC will consider:
- "The proposed wolf regulations have been submitted without the input of the WMAC
- The Wolf Management Units are too large and must be reduced to target the few packs that may be responsible for depredation
- This proposal essentially creates a recreational hunting/trapping season because it includes wolf packs not directly responsible for livestock depredation
- We do not support baiting, trapping or night hunting
- DNR has not provided the data to support this proposal and has not established that a hunting /trapping season will reduce conflicts."
Petition could suspend implementation of wolf hunting law
More than 2,000 Michigan residents volunteered for Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, a coalition of animal welfare groups, conservationists, veterinarians, Native American tribes and faith leaders -- to gather signatures during sub-freezing temperatures. The volunteers participated in more than 700 events statewide, most of them outdoors.
By the time Keep Michigan Wolves Protected received approval for the wording by the Board of State Canvassers and printed petitions, the 90-day petition period prescribed by law had dwindled down to only 67 days to complete the task. The most common response heard by signature gatherers -- whether they were in Houghton, Marquette, Detroit, Kalamazoo, Petoskey or Lansing -- was "Thank you for being here and speaking up for our wolves."
Once submitted, the Board of State Canvassers has 60 days, with an option of 15 additional days, to determine if the petitions contain enough valid signatures. If so, implementation of Public Act 520, the wolf hunting law, will be suspended pending the outcome of the November 2014 vote.
Wolves have been protected in Michigan for almost 50 years after being hunted to the brink of extinction. After more than four decades of protection, there are fewer than 700 wolves in Michigan. Despite the wolf population's fragile status, the Michigan legislature rushed a bill through last year’s session authorizing a sport hunting season for wolves -- opening the door to the same practices that virtually eradicated their population in the first place.
It’s already legal in Michigan to kill wolves in order to protect livestock or dogs, making a sport hunting and trapping season unnecessary. People don’t eat wolves, and it’s just pointless trophy hunting for no good purpose. Wolf hunting may involve especially cruel and unfair practices, such as painful steel-jawed leghold traps, hunting over bait, and even using packs of dogs to chase down and kill wolves.
Michigan residents interested in volunteering, donating or learning more about the issue can visit KeepWolvesProtected.com.
* Click here for PA 520, the wolf hunt bill, introduced by Michigan Sen. Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba).
** Click here for the Natural Resources Commission agenda for their Apr. 11, 2013, meeting.
*** See our Feb. 15, 2013, article, "Video report: Presentation on wolves offers facts, petition signing opportunity" and the March 10, 2013, article, "Petition signing to protect wolves continues in Marquette," by Greg Peterson. See also our Jan. 29, 2013, article, "KBIC Elder speaks against wolf hunt at DNR Citizens' Advisory Council meeting."
**** Click here for the DNR Memorandum to the Natural Resources Commission, proposing a public harvest of wolves, to be presented to the NRC at their Apr. 11 meeting.
***** Click here to read a statement by John Vucetich, "Some Reasons to Oppose Wolf Hunting in Michigan."