Green Right Now Reports

Hunters opened fire on Michigan’s wolves today, the first day of the first wolf hunt in the state since the animals were delisted from the Endangered Species Act protections.

Michigan Wolves huntedMichigan is following Minnesota and Wisconsin in setting up trophy hunting of wolves, following their delisting across the Upper Midwest, a traditional stronghold for gray wolves. Wolves also have been delisted and are being bounty hunted in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, where their population was restored over the past two decades.

The hunting of wolves, which led to their virtual extinction in the U.S. in the mid-20th Century (a small population remained in the Northern woods of Minnesota), has been controversial in both the Rocky Mountain and Midwest regions, and not the least in Michigan.

In Michigan, wolf advocates say that the high livestock predation figures that were used in one region to justify the wolf hunt were the result of problems at a single ranch where caretakers failed to properly dispose of livestock carcasses. The situation invited scavenging and predation by the wolves; they were essentially baited.

Here’s how Nancy Warren of the National Wolfwatcher Coalition explained the situation in a guest column in Michigan Live:

The stated goal of Management Unit B is “to reduce chronic livestock depredations” and DNR [Department of Natural Resources] used statistics from 2010 to defend the hunt. But, close examination of the records show that from 2010 through the present, livestock depredations were confined to 10 farms within Unit B with a total of 113 individual livestock animals were killed by wolves during this period.

One farm, with known poor animal husbandry practices and a record of not properly disposing of carcasses accounted for 87 of those losses (77%). Only one other farm recorded losses in double digits with 10 verified livestock deaths (9%). Two producers each lost three animals the rest lost one or two animals over the 3 ½ year period. When livestock losses are put in perspective, it is evident that a wide scale hunt spread across Unit B is not warranted.

Warren and many other wildlife advocates say that remedying predation of livestock by inaugurating recreational hunting is overkill because livestock operators have always had rights under the law to shoot predators. This protection for ranchers has been virtually universal, across the Midwest and Mountain states, with ranchers given the right under the law to shoot known predators on their property.

Still, the US Fish & Wildlife Service has determined that the wolves’ rising population requires their removal from special protection under the ESA, and has returned authority for managing the wolves to the states. In essence, the wolves’ rebound has been their undoing.

Last night in the Michigan peninsula, members of the Saginaw Indian Chippewa Tribe gathered to honor the wolves with a candlelight vigil. As reported in Michigan Livetribe members recalled their shared history with the wolves and retold stories about how wolves and humans once hunted together.

“Wolves are a part of our creation story and an intrinsic part of our culture,” said Frank Cloutier, a spokesman for the tribe.

Michigan’s trophy hunters can kill or “harvest” 43 wolves this season across three regions, where a cumulative estimated 650 wolves reside. A license is $100 for residents, $500 for non-residents.