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Michigan Wolves

We have argued for some time that the wolf hunt is not based on scientific data, rather it is based on fear, hatred and politics. It has now been exposed through a series of articles published by investigative reporter John Barnes, that the foundation upon which the wolf hunt was built, is based on deceptions, misinformation and outright lies.

The Misinformation Exposed

MLive a link for all wolf hunt-related stories:

In a story aired on MI Radio a DNR official recants his story:

Even in this interview yesterday he said it was a “misquote”. He was not misquoted. Here is the original audio where you can hear:

Adam Bump is the point man on wolves for the DNR. Bump says the wolves have become very accustomed to life in Ironwood.

“So you have wolves showing up in backyards, wolves showing up on porches, wolves staring at people through their sliding glass doors…while they’re pounding on it…exhibiting no fear.”

State Senator Casperson lied about an incident at the Ironwood day care center – but now says he was misinformed and acts shocked that the incident never happened. However, he was informed and chose to ignore the facts. Senator Casperson was shamed into admitting the information was false. We know DNR did nothing to correct the record regarding the day care center, and never issued a corrected press release about, the dog presumably killed in a fenced in area (the original press release said the dog was killed while in a fenced yard which was not true). We know that Adam Bump lied to the public regarding an incident in Ironwood (people pounding on doors) and failed to issue a correction even after it was brought to his attention, after NWC submitted a FOIA request asking for the incident report and learned it didn’t exist and only recanted his statement after he was caught. DNR misled the public regarding the number of conflicts in the U.P.

Through October 2012, 62 individual animals were verified to have been killed by wolves. Through October 2013, 12 individual animals were verified to have been killed by wolves – an 81% reduction. According to Michigan DNR, the purpose of the wolf hunt is to reduce conflicts, yet we believe the evidence is clear. There is no need for a wolf hunt, rather the combination of non-lethal measures and individually directed lethal control has been effective in reducing conflicts.

Public Comments ignored

We will never know how many individuals from across the U.P. submitted personal comments since we now have confirmed that thousands of comments were destroyed by the Chair of the Natural Resources Commission (NRC), who didn’t admit he did until presented with the proof. There is also an email from Mr. Bump telling a DNR employee to place the comments in a “shred” folder, which is a type of file that deletes files in such a way they cannot be recovered.

Click to hear the story: (if you search wolf hunt, you can also read three other stories exposed by this station)

We often hear that the wolf should be treated the same as any other game animal. However, for the Deer Management Plan, 615 comments were received, 123 specifically addressed the plan. The draft goals, that used sound scientific data, were never accepted as operational because of the significant controversy over the proposal.

Recently, the NRC approved antler point restrictions for the Northwest Lower Peninsula because 69 percent of hunters approved of the regulation.

Yet, when asked for the total number of written comments submitted to the NRC regarding the proposed wolf hunt and a breakout of those in support of a wolf hunt and those opposed, we were told the information was not available. Why weren’t the comments summarized and shared with the Director and the entire Commission? After several back and forth FOIA requests, DNR agreed to load all the comments onto a flash drive but not without further delay and payment of $58.

We received approximately 6900 comments. With the volume of comments, it is clear the proposed wolf hunt is far more controversial than the deer management plan; yet, the comments were discounted and thousands destroyed, while 615 comments addressing deer quotas were valued. Wolves are a public trust, they utilize our National Forests and state lands that belong to all of us. The comments were never summarized or shared with the NRC. NWC volunteers (Louise Kane, Rebecca Mullin, Jennifer Hane, Oliver Starr) sorted through the comments, categorized them and deleted all duplicates. Only 15 people wrote to support the wolf hunt, compared to 4882 who opposed the hunt. The results were:

Comment Category
# of Comments
Category 1: No Wolf Hunt, MI resident 1206 24.59%
Category 2: No Wolf Hunt, not MI resident 3637 74.16%
Category 3: No Wolf Hunt, residency unknown 39 0.80%
Category 4: Yes Wolf Hunt, MI resident 13 0.27%
Category 5: Yes Wolf Hunt, not MI resident 0 0.00%
Category 6: Yes Wolf Hunt, residency unknown 2 0.04%
Category 7: Other 7 0.14%
4904 100%

While decisions should be based on scientific data, public opinion should play a role. 255,000 Michigan voters believe PA 520 (which established the wolf as a game animal) should be put before a vote. The signatures have been certified and the issue will appear on the November 2014 ballot. But, instead of allowing the vote to take place, legislators passed PA 21, though immediate effect and then DNR and NRC acted upon the law (the law did not mandate a hunt), totally ignoring public opinion. Michigan voters are being asked to sign petitions to place repeal of PA 21 on the ballot also, but now, a pro-wolf hunting group has organized their own petition. See, for more details.


Wolves Relisted on Technicality

The gray wolf is once again listed as endangered in Michigan. The USFWS did not gather public comment before the delisting in May 2009. They are beginning the delisting process again, and anticipate opening public comment in winter or spring 2010. The frequent changes in status are confusing, and we are hopeful that a final, carefully considered decision, based on the best available science, will be made in the near future. In a period of just 20 years, the number of wolves in Michigan has increased from one pair to nearly 580 wolves. For the past 12 years, the wolf population has increased every year. They are approaching three times the minimum population that biologists consider to be viable in this state. This has been a conservation success that should make the people of Michigan proud.
Is Removing Protection Good for Conservation?

With success in conservation comes change. State and federal endangered species laws were written to protect species that are in danger of going extinct in the foreseeable future. Wolves clearly do not meet this definition; managing wolves as though they are endangered and about to go extinct causes conflict. Different management tools are necessary for abundant species, compared to endangered species. Ultimately and over the long term, wolf conservation will require that managers use a variety of tools to manage problem wolves. If delisting is good for wolves, it is also good for other species. Keeping abundant species listed diverts precious tax dollars from truly endangered species to abundant species. The conservation of all endangered species demands that we celebrate success and remove endangered species protections from species like wolves that no longer need those protections. We hope that the US Fish and Wildlife Service will move quickly and deliberately to delist wolves in the near future, while following carefully the administrative rules and laws regarding federal actions. For more information on how Michigan manages wolves, see Michigan Wolf Management Plan (2008). click here
Life History

Gray wolves (a.k.a. timber wolves and eastern timber wolves) are the largest member of the Canid family (wild dogs), which also includes coyotes, and red and gray foxes. The sub-species found in Michigan is Canis lupus lycaon. As adults, gray wolves average 30 inches in height at the shoulder and 65 pounds. Their feet are generally 3 1/2 inches wide and 4 1/2 inches long, and provide an easy way of differentiating wolves from coyotes, whose feet are only 1 1/2 inches wide and 2 1/2 inches long.

In Michigan wolves eat deer, beaver, snowshoe hare, rodents and other small mammals, and may also eat woodchuck, muskrat, coyote, raccoon, insects, nuts, berries and grasses. They are the only Canid species in Michigan that hunts in a social unit (the pack). While wolves can go for a week without eating, when they do eat, their meal may include 20 pounds of meat at a time.

Although wolves do not need “wilderness” (i.e. non-managed, roadless areas), they do need large areas of contiguous forest in which to range. They also need stable populations of their preferred prey. Wolf habitat is enhanced by timber cutting, wildlife habitat management and other practices that create more diverse and productive forests. Generally, a pack of gray wolves will roam an area of at least 100 square miles.

Wolves have a very strict dominance/sub-ordinate social structure that is constantly being maintained and reinforced. A typical pack consists of one alpha male, one alpha female, the young of the year, and a few others that may or may not be related to the alpha pair. New packs are often formed by lone wolves who have broken from a pack, but have been able to find a mate and new territory in which to hunt. In Michigan, the average pack size is expected to be around six members, but may be as small as two members. Pack size is dependent on the amount of prey available.

Breeding (between the alpha male and female only) generally occurs in February, with six to ten (average seven) pups born in April in a den prepared by the alpha female. While the pups are still nursing, the alpha female remains with them and is fed by the rest of the pack. After the pups are weaned, the alpha female will again join the pack in hunting and all members of the pack aid in providing the pups with nourishment through regurgitation of meat. When the pups are old enough, they are moved out of the den and often to a nursery area, called a “rendezvous site”, where they remain while the adult members of the pack go out to hunt. This area is often located in rank vegetation near water, such as a beaver flooding that has since become a wild grass meadow. Although they are still tended by the adults, who bring them meat, this is where the young learn hunting skills by practicing with shrews, mice and other small animals.

Communication occurs between wolves in many ways, such as scent marking, but howling may be the most fascinating. Wolves are believed to howl in order to reconvene the family, announce a kill and for the simple joy of communication.
Michigan History

Wolves were once present in all 83 counties in the state of Michigan. Persecution and active predator control programs throughout the 20th century virtually eliminated the gray wolf from Michigan: by 1840, they could no longer be found in the southern portion of the Lower Peninsula; by around 1910 they had completely disappeared from the Lower Peninsula; and by 1960, when the state-paid bounty on wolves was repealed, they had nearly vanished from the Upper Peninsula. The last known pups born, before the 1990s resurgence of wolves in the state, were produced in what is now the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in 1954-56.

The species remained unprotected in Michigan until it was given full legal protection in 1965. The federal government listed the gray wolf as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1973.

An attempt to translocate four animals from Minnesota to northern Marquette County in 1974 failed. All four animals were killed within several months.

Through the 1980s the only verified sightings of wolves, other than on Isle Royale, were of individual animals, but in 1989, the tracks of two wolves traveling together were verified. In the spring of 1991, this pair produced pups, the first to be documented on the mainland of Michigan in 35 years. By this time, the majority of Michigan residents were ready for the gray wolf to return to their state. Survey results indicated that 64 percent of Upper Peninsula respondents and 57 percent of Lower Peninsula respondents supported wolf recovery.

The current Michigan population is believed to be descendants of animals that immigrated to the Upper Peninsula from populations in Wisconsin, Minnesota or Ontario.

The current Michigan population is believed to be descendants of lone animals that immigrated to the Upper Peninsula from populations in Wisconsin, Minnesota or Ontario.

The comeback of the gray wolf in Michigan is a remarkable wildlife success story. Estimated at 20 animals in 1992, Michigan’s gray wolf population has grown to at least 520 animals in 2008, and the 2008-2009 winter count is expected to be even higher. While state and federal endangered species laws have helped make this comeback a reality, the most important factor has been the willingness of Michigan’s citizens to accept the gray wolf as part of our natural heritage. This continued public support for wolf recovery is critical as our wolf population continues to grow.

The state of Michigan has made a commitment to the ongoing protection and management of its wolves. An annual “Michigan Wolf Awareness Week” for the month of October was initiated in 1992. In July of 1992, DNR Director Roland Harmes appointed a 10-member Michigan Gray Wolf Recovery Team, which he charged with the task of developing a wolf recovery plan for Michigan. The “Michigan Gray Wolf Recovery and Management Plan” was completed and signed by the Director on December 15, 1997.

Michigan Gray Wolf Population, 1989-2004

Click on image for larger version
Gray Wolf Recovery

Not so long ago, Michigan did not have a sustainable wolf population. Years of predator control and bounties had all but eliminated wolves from Michigan. In 1973, it was estimated that no more than 6 animals lived in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. These individuals were maintained by immigration of wolves from Ontario and Minnesota, where their populations were more stable.

Gray WolfFederal delisting criteria (developed in 1992) include a combined MI/WI population of 100 wolves for 5 consecutive years. The combined population has exceeded 100 wolves every year since 1994 and currently includes more than 1,000 wolves. The Michigan Wolf Recovery and Management Plan (1997) defined a viable population as 200 animals for 5 consecutive years. We have exceeded 200 animals for 10 years. Because recovery goals have been met, the DNR and US Fish and Wildlife Service have begun steps to remove this species from state and federal endangered species lists.

Recovery from endangered status is not the end of the story for wolves, but only a new beginning for management. The recently completed Michigan Wolf Management Plan (link) (2008) outlines future directions for management, and a wolf management advisory group will be established to discuss wolf management and conservation in Michigan.

Non-DNR Links International Wolf Center
> “Was that a wolf?
> “Living with Wolves: Tips for avoiding conflicts

Canis lupus (University of Michigan, Museum of Zoology)

Gray Wolves in the Western Great Lakes(U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

Wolves in the Upper Great Lakes(Northern Michigan University, Seaborg Center)

Wildlife Species: Canis lupus (USFS Fire Effects Information System)

Gray Wolf(The Wild Ones)

Wolf(Canadian Wildlife Service)

Timber Wolf(Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources)

Gray Wolf(National Wildlife Federation)

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