Last year, Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources caused quite a stir when it put wolves back onto the “fair game” list for the state’s hunters. Since the wolf has been off the menu for Michigan hunters for the better part of 40 years – largely due to efforts from the DNR to curb endangerment potential for the species – many have been surprised by the state organization’s seemingly decision to throw wolves back into the hunting season fray.
Even today, there are only some 650 wolves living in the state of Michigan, not a large number when compared with the other species that hunters flock to the state to hunt. Some farmers have suggested that wolf populations have become especially dense in the Upper Peninsula, to the point that they are now representing a common threat to livestock.
Some people in Michigan – not least the state’s division of the Humane Society of the United States – have felt something is amiss recently as the fight against Michigan wolf hunting has continued. For the most part, however, the Humane Society’s efforts have fallen on deaf ears: wolf hunting season opened on November 15th and is set to continue until New Year’s Eve or until wolf harvest quotas in all Upper Peninsula “Wolf Management Units” have been reached. Already, at least 19 wolves have been killed in the state during the open season.
The Humane Society and the other wolf hunting dissenters in Michigan aren’t giving up just yet, though. When Michigan governor Rick Snyder signed the new wolf hunting legislation into law, he claimed that it was a decision made based on purely “scientific and biological principles.” However, since the governor made wolf hunting legal in Michigan for the first time in decades, many have questioned the scientific basis of the new legislation. For one thing, it appears that claims about wolves killing Upper Peninsula livestock have mostly been perpetuated by a single farmer, with the state taking his word for it rather than launching a full biological investigation.
In short, it appears that Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources needs to spend a bit more time investigating the economic impacts of Upper Peninsula wolves before further hunting should be allowed. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that growing wolf populations have disturbed farms and had negative economic consequences in the same way that deer have all over the country.
But wolves are not the same as whitetail deer: they are not an option for hunting in many states, a factor that may be drawing out of state hunters to Michigan if they are looking for a new type of game to pursue. Furthermore, wolf meat cannot be eaten, meaning that wolf hunting is primarily done in pursuit of sport and trophy. For those reasons alone, it isn’t surprising that the Humane Society has launched such an ardent attack against Michigan wolf hunting. It is likely that the Humane Society’s petition to repeal the bill – as well as numerous other petitions, at least one of them competing for pro-wolf-hunting interests – could appear on state ballots in 2014.
Hunters, meanwhile, are still able to hunt Michigan wolves until New Year’s Eve, when the season officially closes. It could end sooner if 43 wolves are harvested, which would meet the quota.