Sunday, December 04, 2016

Letter: Proposed SB 1187 to undo wolf protection is attempt to undermine will of Michigan voters

Michigan Wolf. (Photo courtesy Wolfwatchers)

Dear Editor:

Senator Tom Casperson has just introduced a new bill, SB 1187, which authorizes the unelected Natural Resources Commission to designate wolves as a game species and open a trophy hunting and commercial trapping season on them, should their federal Endangered Species Act protections be removed. But, as readers will remember, Michigan voters already voted on almost precisely the same measure just two years ago (Proposal 2), and rejected it in a landslide, with every single county in the Lower Peninsula voting against it (along with Chippewa County in the U.P.). The Michigan legislature should honor the expression of the will of the people and not countermand their very explicit judgment (64 percent opposed the Proposal 2).*

Please contact your Michigan legislators (find them at www.humanesociety.org/stateleglookup) and ask them to vote NO on SB 1187. In your correspondence with legislators feel free to use any of the following points:
  • In the November 2014 general election, in addition to rejecting the idea of turning over a wolf hunting decision to the Natural Resources Commission, voters also rejected wolf hunting as authorized directly by legislators. Michiganders opposed that measure by a double digit margin. In short, Michigan voters rejected, by wide margins, two wolf hunting laws that were submitted as referendum Proposal 1 and Proposal 2. These were the first two public votes on the issue of wolf hunting in the nation, and as a result, Michigan lawmakers have the best data set to support the argument that the public does not support sport hunting and trapping of wolves.

  • Wolves in the Great Lakes region (Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan) are currently under the protection of the federal Endangered Species Act, and cannot be hunted or trapped for recreation. However, if wolves were delisted in the Great Lakes again, two Michigan laws, PA 290 and PA 318 of 2008, authorizing the removal or killing of wolves attacking livestock or pets, would go back into effect. In addition, even while wolves remain under Endangered Species Act protection, the U.S. Code does authorize the killing of wolves that are even perceived to be a threat to humans. In short, ample protections already exist for any wolf conflicts. There is no reason for Michigan to authorize wolf hunting while federal law forbids that activity.

  • The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) already provides the state’s ranchers with fencing, fladry, and guard animals to protect livestock from native carnivores, and has stated that these methods are highly effective.** Michigan livestock owners are also compensated for confirmed or even suspected losses to wolves. Still, cases of wolves killing livestock in Michigan are extremely rare, amounting to just .0005 percent of livestock deaths in 2015. This percentage is even lower than the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) nationwide statistics, which put wolves at the very bottom, at .2 percent, of the list of hazards to livestock that include respiratory, digestive, and calving problems, weather, disease, lameness, injury, theft, even vultures. Moreover, scientific studies have amply demonstrated that indiscriminate killing of wolves by hunting is not only ineffective at mitigating conflicts with livestock, it could even make those few problems worse by dispersing packs and sending inexperienced juvenile wolves out on their own.

  • Wolves are shy and avoid humans as much as possible. On the rare occasion when wolves have been spotted in populated areas of the U.P., it was typically the result of humans drawing them into town by feeding deer, wolves’ preferred prey. But even in those instances, wolves did not threaten or harm humans. Even when wolves are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, they can still be killed by officials if they are even perceived to be a threat. Further, recent stories of wolf sightings on private property in some U.P. towns have not been substantiated, nor were official reports of those incidents filed with the Michigan DNR as is required.

  • Nor have accounts of negative impacts on Michigan’s deer population by wolves been substantiated. The Michigan DNR recently reported that even after years of harsh winters, its 2015 deer hunt showed that "Hunter satisfaction was up this year across all categories measured -- number of deer seen, number of bucks seen, overall hunting experience and deer harvested."

  • The recovery of wolves also provides essential benefits to Michigan’s ecosystem. As recently underscored by a Michigan DNR/University of Notre Dame study, wolves play a significant role in the Great Lakes ecosystem by reducing densities of deer, beavers, and other species, even protecting timber stocks and agriculture crops by reducing deer overbrowse. And by controlling deer populations, wolves can also help to mitigate the risk of car-deer collisions. Thus, wolves can benefit agriculture, public safety, water quality, and ecosystem health.

  • A virtual flood of scientific studies in the past few years have made it abundantly clear: there is no justification for killing wolves simply for trophies, out of hatred, to protect livestock, or in a misguided attempt to boost prey species for hunters.***
With all of this in mind, Michigan legislators should respect the mandate from the people of the state of Michigan that was rendered in the 2014 general election, and reject SB 1187, which tramples on that public sentiment.

Jill Fritz
Director, Wildlife Protection
The Humane Society of the United States


Editor's Notes:

* Click here to read the proposed SB 1187. Sen. Casperson introduced this bill on Dec. 1, 2016. This bill is in the Senate Calendar posted for this Tuesday, Dec. 6. Click here and scroll down to p. 11, Item 129. It could possibly be moved to the top of the agenda. Click here for the Humane Society's action alert to help you with a phone call or message to legislators.
UPDATE: You can also call Governor Snyder at (517) 373-3400 and urge him to veto any wolf hunting bill.

** According to Wikipedia, "Fladry is a line of rope mounted along the top of a fence, from which are suspended strips of fabric or colored flags that will flap in a breeze, intended to deter wolves from crossing the fence-line."

***  See our Oct. 27, 2014, article, "Wildlife Expert John Vucetich: Why he is voting 'no' on Proposals 1 and 2."
See also our Nov. 2, 2014, article, "Video report: Wolf hunt based on politics, not science -- why vote 'NO' on Proposals 1 and 2."

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