The conflict over wolf hunting continues to rage, with anti-hunting groups becoming more aggressive.
Ever since last December, when U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell, Washington, D.C., effectively took wolf management away from the states, the battle between wolf-centric anti-hunting groups and state wildlife management agencies and hunters has continued to escalate.
States where wolf populations continue to grow unabated have been seeking ways to counter the federal ruling that returned wolves to endangered species status across the country, even though their numbers far exceed ‘endangered’ status in states like Wisconsin and Michigan.
At the same time that states are trying to regain control of managing their own wildlife, groups that oppose hunting and favor total wolf protection have, in turn, been battling states’ efforts to overturn the federal ruling.
In Michigan recently, a state anti-hunting group, Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, filed a lawsuit against the state of Michigan in an attempt to thwart, what it sees as, a potential threat to the federal ruling.
The lawsuit opposes Michigan’s ‘Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act,’ which authorizes the Michigan Natural Resources Commission to designate all future game species – including wolves – that can be hunted.
Keep Michigan Wolves Protected argues that the act transfers “decision-making authority on important wildlife management issues to a panel of bureaucrats that is not accountable to the public.”
They claim that the law is unconstitutional, as its alleged real purpose – to open the door for wolf hunting – was withheld from the public.
The federal ruling that took away Michigan’s right to manage its own wildlife has, of course, rankled the Michigan DNR, as well as hunting and conservation organizations. Those groups understand that sound management of a state’s wildlife and environmental resources are often best undertaken by the state, rather than by the federal government.
“We are frustrated with that ruling,” said Kevin Swanson, a DNR wildlife biologist and head of the Michigan wolf program.
Hunting and conservation groups echo Swanson’s sentiment. Such groups have joined the Michigan DNR, along with other states and agencies, in filing their own lawsuit against the federal government to overturn the Howell decision.
Drew Youngedyke, spokesman for the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, declared, “You have basically one lone federal judge who bought the Humane Society of the United States’ very misleading brief. HSUS’s (Humane Society of the United States) misuse of the Endangered Species Act is not about maintaining this wolf population; it’s about eliminating a very specific management tool – a public hunt – that they oppose.”
While anti-hunting groups are hard-pressed to offer any sound wildlife management reasons for their opposition to hunting as an effective management tool, wolf hunting and trapping supporters say that managing the wolf population with hunting and trapping would reduce wolf depredation on domestic livestock and pet dogs.
A 2014 Michigan wolf count determined the U.P.’s wolf population to be at 636 animals. The Michigan wolf population has risen steadily and almost without interruption since the early 1990s. From 1998 to 2014, 249 confirmed wolf attacks occurred on 84 U.P. farms, along with 72 cases of wolves preying on dogs.
However, irrespective of the issue of wolf and human conflict, or wolf depredation on livestock and dogs, it seems that a more salient point can be made for simply allowing the states to effectively manage wolves in the same manner that they have other species, with hunting and trapping as effective wildlife management tools.
Clearly this model has worked across the country in example after example, where wildlife populations are managed effectively and sustainably with hunting. This model of wildlife management has also been largely responsible for successfully reintroducing several wildlife species into areas they once inhabited, and in bringing their populations to levels consistent with long-term sustainable numbers.
It is unfortunate that the efforts of anti-hunting groups fail to take into account that the very management tool they reject may, in the long run, be the tool most likely to ensure the long-term viability of the species they claim to want to protect.