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What life off of the Endangered Species List could mean for Michigan wolves

The wolf population in Michigan is now being controlled by the state. In Minnesota, officials are considering a hunting season.
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The wolf population in Michigan is now being controlled by the state. In Minnesota, officials are considering a hunting season.

As of last Friday, wolves in Michigan are no longer a federally protected “endangered species.”

On December 21, 2011 Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced in Washington that Gray wolf populations in the Western Great Lakes states of Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin have exceeded recovery goals and are stable enough to be removed from the Endangered Species List.

The current populations in each state are:

  • Minnesota - 2,921 wolves
  • Wisconsin - 782 wolves
  • Michigan's Upper Peninsula - 687 wolves

Even though the de-listing announcement was made last December, protection of the species didn’t officially transfer to the states until January 27, 2012.
Today, wolves in Michigan are a state "protected species."

Wolves of the Western Great Lakes will now be governed by their individual state's Wolf Management Plans.

Under the Michigan Wolf Management Plan, state officials will have the authority to use lethal methods to remove problem wolves, and livestock owners will be permitted to kill wolves that are in the act of preying on their livestock or dogs.

Hunting wolves in Michigan, is not part of the state's management plan.

But with a proposal to implement a wolf hunting season in Minnesota pending, some in Michigan wonder if wolves in Michigan might be next to be hunted legally.

Following the de-listing, Minnesota lawmakers are considering creating a legal wolf hunting season in their state. This would allow 6,000 residents to purchase hunting permits to kill a maximum of 400 wolves.

In Michigan, emotions can run high on both sides of the wolf hunting issue.

“It’s a hot button topic that is linked to a lot of other issues like hunting and animal rights, or rural identity: the way people living in rural areas connect to the land vs. people living in urban areas,” says Chris Hoving, an adaptation specialist for the DNR .

In order to allow for a wolf hunting season in Michigan, legislation would need to designate wolves as a game species. The Natural Resources Commission would then determine the timing, manner and method of the wolf hunt, as well as how many animals could be killed without threatening the health of the population.

According to Ed Golder of the Michigan DNR, “The wolf situation in Minnesota is very different from the wolf situation in Michigan.”

There are nearly 3,000 wolves living in Minnesota, compared to 687 wolves in Michigan. And prior to last week’s de-listing, Minnesota wolves were only listed asthreatened, rather than endangered.

Michigan DNR officials say they have not heard of any proposed legislation to implement a wolf hunting season in Michigan

And officials do not anticipate that hunting wolves in Minnesota will have a biological impact on Michigan’s wolf population. They say populations are strong in both states.

-Nell Gable, The Michigan Radio Newsroom

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