Less than two years after Congress stripped wolves of their Endangered Species protection, 1,000 of them have been tragically slaughtered. Now, residents in Michigan are taking a new approach to saving the lives of these important predators by bringing the issue of wolf hunting to voters.
After 50 years of existing as a protected species in the state, Governor Rick Snyder signed a bill in December that designated the wolf as a game animal and handed management over to the state’s Natural Resources Commission (NRC).
Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, a coalition of conservation groups, animal welfare organizations, wildlife professionals, veterinarians, hunters, ranchers, several American Indian tribes and other residents, are now fighting to save the state’s population of fewer than 700 wolves from being senselessly killed.
Their goal is to collect 225,000 signatures by late March to qualify for the November 2014 ballot. If they succeed, the measure and any hunts will be put off until there is a vote and residents will be the ones to decide whether wolves will be subjected to hunting and trapping.
The coalition is arguing that wolves are only beginning to recover after decades spent on efforts to recover them and keep them protected and points out that Michigan already has a management plan that allows farmers and property owners to shoot wolves to protect livestock and pets, in addition to the fact that livestock owners are reimbursed for losses.
“Some want to hunt wolves because they kill livestock. Wolves killed just 11 head of cattle per year, on average, between 2001 and 2010. Less than 10% of the wolf population is involved with livestock losses,” said John Vucetich, Associate Professor, co-director of the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose Project.
Unfortunately, hunters are ready to get out there and start killing and are gearing up for a fight on this one. Some are arguing that no one should be allowed to bring this issue to voters because voters gave the NRC sole authority to set wildlife management policies in 1996.
The DNR believes decisions about hunting should be based on scientific data and a management plan it developed in consultation with a variety of interests, including environmentalists. The plan says hunts could be justified if necessary to reduce wolf-human conflicts in limited areas where the problems are severe and other control methods aren’t working, spokeswoman Debbie Munson Badini told Detroit News.
Biologists for the department are conducting a wolf census and gathering statistics on livestock deaths and are expected to submit a report to the NRC in the spring.
“History has demonstrated that wolves can be severely impacted by predator control. Because people do not eat wolves and donít use the animal in any way, wolves would be hunted only for trophies Ė meaning that these rare animals would be killed for no good purpose. Allowing wolf hunting could mean especially inhumane and unfair practices, such as painful steel-jawed leghold traps, hunting over bait, and even using packs of dogs to chase down and kill wolves. This not science-based wildlife management Ė itís cruel and unsporting, and just pointless trophy hunting,” according to the coalition.
To find out more, or to help collect signatures if you’re a Michigan resident, visit Keep Michigan Wolves Protected.
Photo credit: Thinkstock
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