The first wolf hunt in decades is set to start today in Michigan, but wolf advocates are fighting a last minute battle to stop it following an investigative series that has exposed the fear-mongering lies spread by politicians and state officials who now have a lot of explaining and apologizing to do.
Earlier this year Michigan residents took a new approach to saving wolves in the state by bringing the issue of wolf hunting to voters. Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, a coalition of conservation groups, animal welfare organizations, wildlife professionals, veterinarians, hunters, ranchers, several American Indian tribes and residents successfully gathered more than 255,000 signatures to get the issue on the November 2014 ballot.
The anti-wolf crowd apparently didn’t like that, so before the signatures could even be validated they fast-tracked a bill that allowed the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) to independently designate animals as a game species and cleared the way for the first hunting and trapping season for wolves in more than 50 years – a move that cannot be overturned by a referendum.
Those who supported hunting wolves claimed that they are posing a growing threat, in light of the facts that no one has ever been attacked by a wolf in the state, residents can already legally shoot wolves who are threatening livestock, pets or people, and farmers are compensated for losses.
As it turns out, a series of investigations from Mlive.com revealed that most of the information used by politicians and wildlife officials to promote wolf hunting in the state was based on lies and made up stories that have so far led to a few apologies.
Sen. Tom Casperson, a leading sponsor of the law that led to the hunt, took to the Senate floor to apologize for including a fictional account in a resolution urging Congress to strip federal protection from gray wolves.
I was mistaken, I am accountable, and I am sorry. Words matter. Accuracy matters. Especially here, with a topic that is so emotional and is so important to so many, especially those whose way of life is being changed in my district. A decision here of whether or not we use sound science to manage wolves, as with all decisions this body makes, should not be based on emotions, agendas or innuendo, but rather on facts.
Adam Bump, a Furbearer Specialist for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) also said he “misspoke” after telling Michigan Radio in May that Upper Peninsula wolves were becoming unmanageable and stating that people were seeing wolves “showing up in backyards, wolves showing up on porches, wolves staring at people through their sliding glass doors when they’re pounding on it, exhibiting no fear…”
Lies from officials were only compounded by the discovery that more than half of the depredation claims (96 animals out of 120) were made by a single farmer who, among poor husbandry and illegal practices, “failed to use $4,000 of non-lethal wolf deterrent means – including fencing and guard donkeys – provided by the DNR.” The owner, John Koski, allowed two of the donkeys to die, while a third was removed because of extremely poor health caused by of a lack of care. Meanwhile, he’s accepted $33,000 from the state in the form of compensation.
The coalition called the actions of state officials who promoted the hunt shameful and is now calling on the governor to suspend the hunt in an effort to save a few of the state’s 658 wolves from being senselessly killed, in addition to calling on lawmakers to restore the right of voters in the state to have a say in wildlife management and to investigate the deceit.
“It’s clear that two legislative actions to approve wolf hunting were based on fraudulent information and anything but sound science,” said Jill Fritz, coalition director. “This is an appalling deception by our government, and it is only right and proper that Governor Snyder take immediate action to correct their wrong and undo some of this damage. It is clear that voters, not a handful of politicians who play fast and loose with the truth, should decide this issue.”
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