The following is additional information about the Western Great Lakes wolf DPS, continued from “On Point” (page 16) of the December/January 2013 issue of North American Hunter.
Michigan DNR officials supported the move to delist the Western Great Lakes DPS (distinct population segment). Its wolf population goal met recovery criteria in 1999, and has been increasing consistently for 2 decades. In a letter to USFWS Acting Director Rowan Gould, Michigan DNR Director Rodney A. Stokes applauded the delisting of Michigan wolves and assured that this will not mean a lapse in conservation or management but will give the state more latitude in controlling its burgeoning wolf population—including lethal control.
“Treating an abundant and increasing population [of wolves] as if it were endangered is causing many of Michigan’s citizens significant hardship,” Stokes wrote. “Since 2009, when wolves in the Western Great Lakes were relisted as endangered, we have recorded 204 nuisance wolf complaints, verified 106 livestock killed by wolves on 16 farms and documented 12 cases were wolves killed someone’s pet.
Michigan’s current wolf management plan (2008) provides for a hunting season on wolves: “If biologically defensible, legally feasible and supported by the public, the state could develop a program to offer opportunities for the public to harvest wolves for recreational or utilitarian purposes.” Although lethal control methods are now legal in certain circumstances, wolves remain a protected species in Michigan and no hunting or trapping season is in place but are considering one for 2013.
Wisconsin’s situation is similar. In a letter to the USFWS, Wisconsin DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp supported the Service’s delisting. “There is strong support by Wisconsin residents for wolf delisting,” she wrote. “In Spring Conservation Rules hearings held across the state in all 72 counties, 89 percent of the 4,928 people commenting supported the delisting of wolves. The count of over-winter wolf populations in 2011 was 782-824 wolves spread across the central and northern portions of Wisconsin, far exceeding the population goal of 350 wolves in the Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan.”
Soon after the delisting, Wisconsin wildlife officials put the wheels in motion to implement a wolf season which included the use of dogs. The Badger State’s 2012 wolf hunting and trapping season began October 15, and will continue through February 2013, or until the statewide quota of 201 wolves is met. Any zone could be closed early if the DNR determines it’s necessary to avoid exceeding its quota.
The anti’s were successful, however, in keeping the houndsmen out of the woods. The request for an injunction was brought in a lawsuit by a coalition of Wisconsin humane societies and individuals. The lawsuit argued the Department of Natural Resources did not have adequate protections in place to prevent violent confrontations between dogs and wolves during the training and hunting seasons. The ruling by Dane County Circuit Judge Peter Anderson prevents the DNR from issuing licenses that allow the use of dogs to hunt wolves. It also prevents the training of dogs to hunt wolves.
With the largest population of wolves (3,000 and counting) in the Lower 48 states, Minnesota has the most to gain from the delisting—and resident hunters and trappers will do their best to cull 400 wolves from the population during this fall’s inaugural season, which began on November 3.
Hunters were selected by lottery for one of three wolf hunting/trapping season—the first coinciding with the firearms deer season, which began Nov. 3. The late hunting and trapping seasons began on November 24.
Stark says that the state’s management plan must maintain a population of at least 1,600 and that the removal of 400 wolves will have a minimal impact of the overall population. “The goal of our management plan is to solve problems, to reduce conflicts between wolves and people—not to make big cuts in the wolf population.”