The Michigan House of Representatives passed on Thursday a bill that would allow the state’s Department of Natural Resources power to designate game species. The bill contains a $1 million appropriation that prevents a future wolf hunting season from being blocked by referendums, and is now headed to Governor Rick Snyder’s desk for his signature.
According to the Detroit Free Press, this could mean a wolf hunting season in the state’s Upper Peninsula as early as this fall. The recent bill has caused an uproar among animal rights activists, who have been petitioning for a wolf hunting ban since the delisting of the wolves from the Endangered Species List last year. Over 250,000 signatures mark a petition to stop the hunt by Keep Michigan Wolves Protected (KMWP), an activist group. The petition’s numbers have seen a remarkable jump since the bill was introduced, garnering tens of thousands of supporters in the past several weeks. Activists have been attending DNR and commission meetings, hoping to drum up support among wildlife officials.
“We’re still just reviewing all the options and hoping that we can continue to convince the governor that this bill goes against the will of many Michiganders who care about wildlife,” said KMWP Director Jill Fritz.
Only six known gray wolves existed in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in 1973 but as a result of conservation efforts, the population has exploded to over 650 today. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) determined that the wolf population had significantly recovered in the Great Lakes region and removed protection for the species in the area last year, with an eye towards delisting the gray wolf for the rest of the country in upcoming plans.
Upper Peninsula lawmakers added their voices to those of hunters and the DNR in approving a hunting season as a population management tool. Areas with high wolf numbers are seeing increased conflicts with humans, domestic animals, and wildlife.
“In the Upper Peninsula, we need resources and management and science to guide us in dealing with this issue, which has become a threat to our pets, our livestock,” State Representative Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) told the Detroit Free Press.