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State Senate passes bill that could lead to gray wolf hunting season

The federal government wants to turn management of gray wolves in the western Great Lakes over to the states.
The federal government wants to turn management of gray wolves in the western Great Lakes over to the states.

A controversial piece of legislation that would make the gray wolf a game species has passed the Michigan Senate.

The bill, introduced by Escanaba Republican Tom Casperson, paves the way for a possible hunting and trapping seasons for wolves.

If the bill becomes law, the state’s Natural Resources Commission would be allowed to determine if a hunt were needed.

There are nearly 700 wolves in Michigan today, up from under 300 just a decade ago. The wolves, removed from the endangered species list this past January, are concentrated in the western Upper Peninsula.

As Michigan Radio’s Rebecca Williams reported, supporters say the bill gives the Department of Natural Resources an effective management tool.

Kent Wood is the Legislative Affairs Manager with the Michigan United Conservation Clubs. “I would firmly believe that a regulated hunting and trapping season for wolves would be just that – it would be regulated. And it would be the same thing: it would be looked at every year. You know, I think it’s also just sort of the same sort of false mindset that hunters want to get rid of these species. We don’t. First and foremost the goal is conservation.”

Opponents say that tools are already in place for the management of the wolves.

After the animal was delisted in January, the DNR began issuing permits to landowners to kill wolves that historically had preyed on livestock.

This is in addition to a Michigan law that allows wolves to be killed if caught in the act of attacking livestock or pets.

Critics of the new hunting law say the state's wolf management plan, drafted in 2008, needs time to take effect.

Rebecca Williams spoke to Nancy Warren with the National Wolfwatcher Coalition:

“And we think we should allow the plan to run its course, allow the plan to be effective. Wolves were just delisted back in January so we’ve only been working with this plan for 10 months.”

The bill now goes to the state House for consideration.

- Jordan Wyant, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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