Written by Louise Knott Ahern
Michigan hunters may get their first shot at a gray wolf some time this year, according to a plan revealed Thursday by the Department of Natural Resources.
DNR biologist Adam Bump presented a timeline for creating the state’s first public wolf hunt at the monthly meeting of the Natural Resources Commission — an appointed public body that oversees the DNR and the management of game animals.
A new law passed in late December put the NRC in charge of crafting the wolf hunting season, including the dates of the season, the location of the hunt and the number of hunting permits issued.
The DNR’s plan calls for several public meetings starting this month — including opportunities for the public to voice their opinions and ask questions — and for the parameters of a hunting season to be ready by June.
“We’re going to reach out to the different stakeholders,” said J.R. Richardson, commission chairman. “We’re going to make sure everybody gets the input they need to have.”
Michigan’s gray wolves were removed from the federal endangered species list last year after four decades as a protected animal.
Some Upper Peninsula lawmakers immediately began calling for wolves to be listed as a game species because they said the wolf population had become too large and was creating problems for U.P. farmers and residents.
The DNR estimates there are between 700 and 1,000 wolves in Michigan today, the vast majority in the U.P.
The legislature passed a bill designating wolves as a game species in December during its lame-duck session. Gov. Rick Snyder signed the bill into law on Dec. 28.
Opponents say there is no need to rush into a wolf hunt so soon after the animals were taken off the endangered species list and that a hastily crafted season could destroy the long-term wolf population.
One group paying close attention is the state’s Indian population, which consider the wolf a sacred animal.
The DNR is meeting with several tribal leaders this month. Jimmie Mitchell, natural resources director of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, said Thursday that Michigan’s native people want to make sure a wolf hunt is designed with science and biology in mind, not just recreation.
“We’ve managed a lot of different animals in this state, and this is going to be one of them,” said Richardson. “We’ll do what’s best for the wolf and what’s best for the citizens.”