Legislation that would grant the Michigan Natural Resources Commission authority to designate game species was signed by Governor Rick Snyder on Wednesday. Previously only legislators could decide which animals would be considered game species.

The bill, SB 288,  was a controversial move that angered many animal rights activists in the state, who believed the proposal would allow wolf hunting despite ongoing efforts to block the hunt. The group Keep Michigan Wolves Protected (KMWP) had raised over 250,000 signatures in an attempt to block a potential wolf hunting season. In a statement on the organization’s website, KMWP “expressed its deep disappointment in Gov. Rick Snyder, who today signed legislation (SB 288) that circumvents voter rights by allowing the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) to establish a wolf hunting and trapping season before Michigan voters can decide the issue in the November 2014 election.”

However, the state’s Department of Natural Resources asserts it has approved a wolf management season to keep the population in control. Once nearly extinct in Michigan, the gray wolf bounced back due to conservation efforts and there are now over 650 wolves in the state. The hunting season will take place in the Upper Peninsula, where the wolves are causing conflicts with residents who own pets and livestock. According to The Detroit News, the season will be limited to a quota of 43 wolves.

“This action helps ensure sound scientific and biological principles guide decisions about management of game in Michigan,” Snyder said after the signing. “Scientifically managed hunts are essential to successful wildlife management and bolstering abundant, healthy and thriving populations.”

Companion legislation with SB 288 also allotted free hunting and fishing licenses to military service members, and set in law citizens’ rights to hunt, fish, and trap.

The Natural Resources Committee will be meeting on Thursday to vote on the wolf hunting proposal. If approved, a hunt could take place this fall.

More information can be found here.

Image courtesy Office of Governor Rick Snyder

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