Thursday, June 27, 2013

Opinion: Nearly half of wolf depredations attributed to one farm with poor animal husbandry practices

By Nancy Warren, Great Lakes Regional Director
National Wolfwatcher Coalition 

Photo of wolf courtesy Reprinted with permission.

EWEN, Mich. -- According to DNR (Department of Natural Resources) records, for the period 2010-2012, 48 percent of wolf depredations occurred on one farm. This farm, the
Koski farm, is located in Wolf Management Unit B where DNR has proposed 19 wolves be taken through a hunting season. The primary objective given by DNR for this unit is to reduce the number of chronic livestock depredations.

The justification states, "Despite the extensive management responses in this area, livestock depredations have continued."

Over time, we have argued that many of the problems at the Koski farm were due to poor animal husbandry practices.

Most recently, in our comments to the NRC (Natural Resources Commission) dated June 13, 2013, we stated, "Wolf Management Units -- We have repeatedly asked for the data to support the need for a wolf hunting season. Specifically, how many verified wolf complaints have been received since lethal measures were taken to  remove  problem wolves?  One producer, with a history of poor animal husbandry practices and nearly 50 percent of all depredations should not be used as justification for a hunting season."

According to a Feb. 4, 2013, DNR report obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, in an attempt to reduce depredations through non-lethal means, DNR provided Mr. Koski with three donkeys at a cost of $1650. Two of those donkeys died while in Mr. Koski’s care. The third donkey, removed Feb. 1, 2013, was in very poor body condition.

The report states, "This animal was very weak and likely dehydrated since there is no water provided to the livestock."

In addition, the report notes there is a $882 vet bill for the trimming of hooves. Mr. Koski was also provided $1315.73 of fencing material, which is now gone.

The Detroit Free Press in its May 19, 2013, edition published an article with the headline, "MI UP: War over wolves: U.P. residents say hunt will control a killer."  (The article has since been taken off the Free Press website along with a photo showing a pile of carcasses under a blanket which Mr. Koski claimed were the latest casualties in his ongoing war with wolves. However, this was an unsubstantiated claim, since DNR stated it was never verified that the animals were killed by wolves.)

The Free Press article mentions Koski's wolf depredation problem but does not describe his neglect of his own animals, as reported by the DNR.

The article does say, "Government-paid sharpshooters and trappers for years have killed dozens of the wolves who’ve taken a liking to Koski’s cattle."

The article also quotes John Vucetich, Michigan Tech associate professor of wildlife ecology and co-director of the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose Study, as follows: "'It’s dubious to say we’re going to take a county or a portion of a county and we’re going to remove 10, 20, 30 wolves and resolve a livestock depredation issue,' [Vucetich] said. 'These wolves are territorial, and they are going to keep other wolves away. They are like the landlords. The thing you can hope for is to train the wolves not to harm livestock in the area. But if you are shooting these wolves, the pack gets disrupted, the wolves get dispersed, and other wolves come in. There’s a good chance you can make things worse.'"

The Bodies of Dead Animals Act, Public Act 239 of 1982, as amended, establishes guidelines for the proper disposal of dead animals, to protect human, animal and environmental health.

It states, "In general, all dead animals must be disposed of within 24 hours after death."

Although the DNR report is dated Feb. 4, 2013, it is apparent the problem with dead animals was continuing when the reporter visited the Koski farm in mid-May.

Editor's Notes:

 Click here to read the minutes of the May 9, 2013, meeting of the Michigan Natural Resources Commission (NRC). The meeting includes extensive comments from the public (many opposed to the wolf hunt) and the NRC discussion and approval of the proposed wolf hunting season. The public comments include the testimony from Roger LaBine, chairman of the conservation committee of the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, who, according to the Free Press article, "traveled nearly seven hours to the Natural Resources Commission’s May 9 meeting in Roscommon, urging the commission not to approve a wolf hunt just before they did."

Nancy Warren, author of this article, also reports that the Natural Resources Commission (NRC), at their June meeting, reviewed Wildlife Conservation Order 13, which designates the wolf a game animal, and Wildlife Order 14, which outlines the rules and regulations for a wolf hunt. The NRC will vote on these two Orders at their July 11, 2013, meeting. To implement the law (in this case, PA 21), DNR needs to create a Wildlife Order giving their recommendations. Click here for Wildlife Order 14.

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