Wolf management issues


Two recent news articles about wolf management are relevant to Michigan.

The first in April, from the Associated Press entitled, Rockies gray wolf numbers steady despite hunting, points out that they are showing resilience as states adopt increasingly aggressive tactics to drive their numbers down through hunting, trapping and government-sponsored pack removals.

In recent months, Idaho put wildlife agents in helicopters to shoot entire packs preying on big game herds. Montana officials last year lifted wolf hunting and trapping quotas, increased the bag limit to five wolves per hunter and lowered the fees for out-of-state hunters.

“Wolves are very tenacious, they’re very prolific,” said Mike Jimenez, federal wolf recovery coordinator for the Rockies and a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “The population is very secure, but it doesn’t remove the controversy.”

According to an article in the March, 2014 issue of Fur-Fish-Game Magazine, after public hunting and trapping seasons failed to remove enough wolves from the Frank Church River-Of-No-Return Wilderness, Idaho wildlife officials hired an experienced tracker to go in and remove enough to reduce predation on local elk herds. No political correctness here.

Predictably, anti-hunters filed suit to stop this paid hunting.

“There is nothing illegal about this management activity,” a release quoted David Allen, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation President. “It clearly falls within the guidelines of Idaho’s federally-approved wolf management plan.”

So, how does this relate to Michigan?

We had two tough winters in a row that killed a lot of deer. Weather conditions by far the leading cause of deer losses. Instead of compensatory mortality where game animals replace annual losses, we have additive mortality where losses exceed natural reproduction. The last thing we need is a robust wolf population stressing deer further.

Like in Idaho, big game hunting in Michigan is worth tens of millions dollars annually to rural communities. While wolf predation is only one of many factors, the cumulative impact of wolves, bobcats, coyotes and bears is significant. When their numbers are down, it makes it difficult for the deer herd to recover. The question is what to do about it.

First, the DNR should scrap the Wolf Plan. It doesn’t work. Second, stop catering to some undefined social factors. Third, they must concentrate on what works and respect the rule of law as defined in Proposal G.

John Hongisto