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Michigan : The War Over Wolves: U.P. Residents Say Hunt Will Control a Killer

Animals  (tags: Michigan, Wolves, Slaughter, habitat, cruelty, animals, animalrights, sadness, killing, extinction, animalcruelty, abuse, protection, wildanimals, wildlife, slaughter, ethics, death, conservation, environment, society, suffering, animalwelfare, animaladvoc )

- 2130 days ago -
Lifelong Ironwood resident Al Clemens said the wolves have "decimated" the local deer population, affecting the popular -- and economically important -- local deer hunt. In recent years, hunters at his deer camp south of town have seen only about one-sixth


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Candy L (473)
Monday May 20, 2013, 8:49 pm
The only killer here, is MAN!!!!!!!!!!!!

roxy H (350)
Monday May 20, 2013, 9:27 pm
IRONWOOD — John Koski grips the old blanket in knobby hands weathered from a lifetime of farming. He pulls it back to reveal the carcasses of two cows, or what’s left of them. More than half of each is picked clean, the spine and rib bones almost a polished white, with no traces of flesh. Some of the rib bones are snapped and show evidence of being gnawed upon.

The mutilated cattle, found this spring on Koski’s 1,000-acre farm in the tiny community of Matchwood in Ontonogan County, are the latest casualties in his ongoing war with wolves. The 68-year-old farmer has had more cattle killed or injured by wolves than any farmer in the state, 119 in the past three years, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Government-paid sharpshooters and trappers for years have killed dozens of the wolves who’ve taken a liking to Koski’s cattle.

“I think this is the last year I’m going to keep cattle here because I’m losing so many,” Koski said, adding that he may move them to his other farmland in Bessemer, about 35 miles away.

There are no records of a human ever being killed by a wolf in the wild in Michigan. But Koski thinks that could change.

“Sooner or later, those wolves are going to kill a person, or a kid waiting for a school bus,” he said.

The far western U.P. is a 600-mile drive from Detroit, farther away than Nashville, Tenn. Here, the wolf debate is not an abstract one. These are the people who’ve lost cattle, lost pets, who’ve encountered wolves in their backyards.

It’s uncertain what will result from Michigan’s controversial, first-ever wolf hunt, set by state officials for November and December after a series of meetings statewide that featured dozens of hunt opponents. But nowhere does the future of the wolf and the hunt have more relevance than here, among those living sometimes uncomfortably close to them.

Over the last few years, the city of Ironwood, about an hour west of Koski’s farm, has seen the nearby wolf population increase, as well as encounters between wolves and people, city manager Scott Erickson said.

“There’s a wolf problem in the area — I think everybody understands that,” he said. “I’ve never heard anybody say they want to eliminate wolves, but just manage them in an appropriate manner.”

Some in town, however, are less measured in their view.

“If folks in Detroit want to vote to protect the wolves, we’ll send them down below the bridge to them,” said a man getting his hair cut in a barbershop downtown, who asked that his name not be used.

David Bolen ate breakfast at the Breakwater Family Restaurant in town, recalling his wolf encounter from last fall.

“I live in a senior apartment complex by a Little League baseball field,” he said. “I watched a wolf come from an area we call The Caves right across the field — on Vaughn Street, right in town. It was probably 20, 30 yards from the senior apartments.”

The 73-year-old has lived in the Ironwood area his entire life. “That was no coyote,” he said.

Bolen supports the wolf hunt.

“If they are impacting the local deer herd or endangering local people here in Ironwood, I think it’s proper for the DNR to regulate it,” he said.

Robert Lynn lives with his wife, Clara May Lynn, in a residential neighborhood on Sunset Road. He recounted seeing a mangled deer carcass in his backyard on the morning of Feb. 11, 2011, then that evening looking out the back window of his home to see two wolves eating from it. They were less than 15 yards from his house.

“I was rather astounded to see wolves this close to a residential area,” he said.

The DNR hired a local hunter to capture and destroy the wolves.

Lifelong Ironwood resident Al Clemens said the wolves have “decimated” the local deer population, affecting the popular — and economically important — local deer hunt. In recent years, hunters at his deer camp south of town have seen only about one-sixth of the deer they used to see, he said.

“We had wolves there; they weren’t afraid of you,” he said. “You could walk into camp and see a wolf maybe 35-40 yards away. He didn’t run or anything, just walked off.”

Ironwood hunter Jim Mildren noted wolves are opportunistic huntersthat will kill deer in the dead of winter and store their bodies in snow almost like a refrigerator.

“If they can kill all of the deer in a deer yard, they will,” he said.

“I love to hear the wolf’s howl; I love to see their tracks. But I want there to be a better balance, and I want them to be afraid of people.”

Myth and fear

Wolves have been a part of Michigan since at least when the last glacier melted over the land mass that would one day become the state, about 15,000 years ago.

No other apex predator, a hunting animal at the top of the food chain, elicits the fearful emotional reaction wolves do. There are no fairy tales featuring the Big Bad Black Bear threatening a small girl. There is no cautionary tale about the Boy Who Cried Cougar. Horror stories feature werewolves, as no other man-animal combination fills a reader or movie-watcher with the same dread.

Wolves are an integral part of Native American culture. In the Anishinaabe, or Ojibwa First People, creation story, when Gzhemnidoo, the Creator, put Nanaboozhoo, original man, on Mother Earth, he asked for a companion. Gzhemnidoo gave him Ma’iingan, the wolf. The pair were tasked with naming all of the plants and creatures and places of the Earth. When their task was finished, Gzhemnidoo directed that they had to travel separate paths, but that they would remain linked.

“The wolf’s mournful howling and bark, that is because of that sorrow. He wishes he still had that communication and partnership with Anishinaabe,” said Roger LaBine, chairman of the conservation committee of the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians.

When wolves were reviled, nearly wiped out and hunted for their fur by white settlers, the tribes lost much of their land to the same settlers, LaBine said. Their fates were again linked, he said.

Wolves were all but eradicated in much of the U.S. by the 1930s. Michigan and other Great Lakes states lost almost all of their wolves by the end of the 1950s.

In 1973, Congress enacted the Endangered Species Act and officially protected the wolf that same year. It sparked a resurgence in the wolf population. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula was known to have three wolves as recently as 1989. The population today stands at 653 wolves. The wolves have made an even more substantial recovery in Wisconsin (834) and Minnesota (3,000).

“The reason they became able to thrive were the protections they were given,” said Nancy Warren, a resident of the small western Upper Peninsula community of Ewen and the Great Lakes regional director for the National Wolfwatcher Coalition, a nonprofit dedicated to wolf conservation. She opposes the wolf hunt.

“Yes, they’ve done well. But the reason they’ve done well is we’ve stopped killing them.”

Hunt is one tool among many

Wolves were officially delisted as an endangered species in January 2012. Minnesota and Wisconsin quickly established hunts for that fall. Gov. Rick Snyder last December signed into law a bill designating wolves as a game species, leading the way for the Natural Resources Commission’s May 9 approval of a hunt for later this year.

“We’re looking at a targeted harvest in areas where we’ve had continuing problems — depredation of cattle, people encountering wolves,” said Adam Bump, the DNR’s bear and furbearer specialist.

“The department’s recommendation is not based on providing recreational opportunities; it’s to resolve conflicts.”

But John Vucetich, an associate professor of wildlife ecology at Michigan Technological University, questioned whether a hunt will accomplish the DNR’s goals.

“It’s dubious to say we’re going to take a county or a portion of a county and we’re going to remove 10, 20, 30 wolves and resolve a livestock depredation issue,” he said.

“These wolves are territorial, and they are going to keep other wolves away. They are like the landlords. The thing you can hope for is to train the wolves not to harm livestock in the area. But if you are shooting these wolves, the pack gets disrupted, the wolves get dispersed, and other wolves come in. There’s a good chance you can make things worse.”

Many biologists say a wolf pack can be discouraged from preying on livestock through nonlethal methods such as fencing, guard animals such as barking dogs, loud noises or flashing lights. When those methods do not work, killing problem wolves may act to deter others from the behavior.

The DNR has killed 89 wolves since 2003 — 62 related to a livestock concern; 27 to a human safety concern. Bump said the agency will not stop using lethal and nonlethal means to deal with problematic wolves in a timely manner.

“Hunting is another tool we can add to that whole suite of options that we have,” Bump said.

LaBine said the Anishinaabee have welcomed the recovery and return of their “wolf brother.” He traveled nearly seven hours to the Natural Resources Commission’s May 9 meeting in Roscommon, urging the commission not to approve a wolf hunt just before they did.

Fear has a lot to do with the misunderstanding of the wolf, and with the desire some have for a hunt, LaBine said.

“We believe that if there was a respect for Ma’iingan, once you respect and honor that spirit, once you understood Ma’iingan, it would eliminate that fear,” he said.

Contact Keith Matheny: 313-222-5021 or Follow on Twitter @keithmatheny

Danuta W (1251)
Tuesday May 21, 2013, 3:55 am

Past Member (0)
Tuesday May 21, 2013, 5:51 pm

Leslene Dunn (84)
Tuesday May 21, 2013, 11:16 pm
Noted - evil bastard rubbishes - they are talking through their a....hole! It is humans who are the killers, not the wolves - everything has been taken from them, food, land, water - how are they supposed to survive. I stand by the wolves and hope these bastards get their day in hell.

TOM T (247)
Wednesday May 22, 2013, 6:13 am
This is outrageous!
No animal abuse is acceptable !!
Signed, Noted & Shared

Lydia Weissmuller Price (181)
Wednesday May 22, 2013, 8:40 am
Poor wolves. Man has taken everything from them, and now he wants their lives.
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