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People defending wolves need to fight fairly

Jack Lessenberry

I thought the wolf hunt last year was unnecessary and barbaric, and was forced on the public by underhanded means.

I think hunting wolves for sport should again be outlawed. But I have to say I disagree with the way those against hunting wolves want to get a proposal put on the ballot, and I hope they lose in federal court.  I’ll explain in a few moments.

But first, a little background. Those who wanted to hunt wolves for sport used one horribly irresponsible Upper Peninsula farmer as an excuse to claim wolves needed to be hunted. That farmer, John Koski, refused to install fencing, even when it was provided to him and left dead cattle lying around. The state gave him three guard donkeys, which actually keep wolves away.

But he allegedly gave them no water, and two died of thirst. Koski is now about to go on trial for animal cruelty. But those in the Legislature who were bent on their fantasy of killing wolves passed a law authorizing a hunt, after the lawmakers were presented with evidence later shown to be totally false.

Gov. Snyder signed the wolf hunting law, saying, again incorrectly, that it was scientifically sound. But it turns out the wolves have friends out there. Wolves were almost extinct in the Upper Peninsula 30 years ago, but careful conservation efforts brought the population back to a little over 600.

Opponents of the wolf hunt began collecting signatures for a ballot proposal to overturn the wolf hunting law. But in a clearly underhanded move, the lawmakers then passed a second law that shifted decision-making power to the Michigan Natural Resources Commission, where Gov. Snyder’s appointees quickly authorized a wolf hunt.

The hunt itself fell far short of expectations. The state authorized shooting 43 wolves, but hunters only killed about half that many. Now, abandoning all pretense at sportsmanship, those bent on murdering wolves for fun want to be allowed to use leghold traps. That sickens me.

By the way, it always has been legal for a farmer to shoot any wolf menacing his or her livestock. If the wolf population in the UP is too large, some of the animals should be captured and taken to Isle Royale, where the native wolf population is dying out.

Opponents of wolf hunting are now circulating petitions for a second referendum to again ban wolf hunting in Michigan. But they’ve run into a problem. Michigan only allows state residents to ask people to sign petitions. Those who want to protect wolves want to bring in their allies from other states to collect signatures.

They’ve asked U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland to throw out this law. Well, I hope he doesn’t. State residents should decide state law. If anybody can come in here to collect signatures, it will make it far easier for people like the Koch brothers to slap all sorts of anti-democratic referenda and amendments on the ballot.

Those against the wolf hunt have four weeks to get the less than 200,000 signatures they need; if they have sufficient support, they should be able to do that.

Wolves deserve a fair chance at survival. Those defending them need to fight fairly as well.

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