Last month the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) called for a delay in the start of wolf hunting licenses sales, but this has not stopped ongoing efforts by animal rights groups to halt the upcoming season. The licenses were originally scheduled to go on sale on August 3, but the first sale of licenses was later pushed to September 28.

While this delay gives the DNR more time to prepare for the high demand of hunters looking to purchase a license, it also gives opponents of the hunt time to gather support. Earlier in July the group Keep Michigan Wolves Protected (KMWP) filed a second petition to ban wolf hunting in Michigan. The group, which is backed by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), gathered 250,000 signatures already on a petition seeking a referendum to stop the hunt. However, legislation was passed by lawmakers that gave additional power to the state’s National Resources Commission (NRC), rendering the petition useless. Subsequently, the NRC was free to designate game species and hunting seasons. According to MLive.com, the NRC voted to approve a fall wolf hunt in sections of the Upper Peninsula.

“That bill was deliberately introduced and passed to scuttle our first referendum effort to remove wolves from the valid species list for hunting,” said Jill Fritz, Director of the KMWP and state director for the Humane Society of the United States. “We just want Michigan voters to be able to have a say in protecting wildlife, and that was taken away from them. They’re going to go out there, collect signatures, and get their voice back.”

Forty years ago, only six known gray wolves existed in Michigan. A national recovery program was initiated by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to bring the species back to their native range. There are more than 650 wolves currently living in Michigan. a number which DNR officials say far exceeds their recovery goal. Similarly, farmers and residents who live near wolf territory are increasingly worried about coexistence with their new neighbors. Hunters are also concerned that more wolves will mean less deer.

Animal rights groups, on the other hand, are worried that the Michigan wolf population will plummet with the introduction of hunting. They point to the fact that Minnesota, which also hosts a wolf hunt, has this year cut their quota in half due to falling wolf numbers.

“Minnesota’s rush to a hunt is now causing them to backpedal,” Fritz told the Detroit Free Press. “And that’s something we can’t afford to do here in Michigan because we have so many fewer wolves.”

Michigan DNR furbearer expert Adam Bump disagrees, saying that Michigan’s fall quota of 43 wolves will have little impact.

“We’re pretty confident the hunt will not affect the trend of the wolf population in the U.P.,” he said.

On a national scale , the USFWS proposed in June to return management of gray wolves to state wildlife agencies. With the possibility of wolf hunts opening up across America, hunters, conservationists, and animal rights activists are looking to Michigan as a battleground state for the issue. The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, an organization devoted to protecting the rights of hunters and anglers, claims that the majority of the funds raised by KMWP have come from out-of-state sources.

“There is very little that is home grown about the attempt to overturn the management of wolves in Michigan,” said Evan Heusinkveld, director of government affairs for the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance. “The money financing this campaign isn’t from Michigan, and neither is the company being paid to place this issue before the voters.”

By late July KMWP had already raised $558,000, funds which will go towards paying consultants, staff salaries, and other organizational needs. Although experts say it is unlikely–if not out of the question–for naysayers to stop the 2013 fall wolf hunt, Michigan is now at the forefront of the national wolf debate.

Image from Retron on the Wikimedia Commons

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7 thoughts on “Michigan a Battleground in National Wolf Hunting Debate

  1. Yes, one more battleground to save the wolf from extermination. One more state who refuses to listen to sound science. Another state caving to the NRA, gun owners, Big Food and Big Ag. In the end I believe this is all about money and who tries to protect who.

  2. Only the ignorant would work so hard to bring a species back from extinction and then take that same animal to a hunt. And this Gov of ours to go against the system while this was defeated through the proper channels. His mentality that the voters are smart enough to vote him into office but not smart enough to make any sound decisions is ludicrous. Our Governor has been bought.
    I had a conversation while gathering signatures recently with a pro-wolf hunt supporter and he told me that the wolves are “killing his deer”. I asked him if there were a shortage of deer and he said indeed there was. Record low numbers. Apparently he’s in some alternative universe. I constantly hear we “must” kill the deer because there is such a surplus that it’s doing them some kind of favor to have them killed by a bow or bullet rather than to starve in the winter. I wonder if his mentality is the same as we have to kill all the dolphins because they’re “killing all our fish”.

  3. There was out-of-state support for the wolf hunt from the NRA, Safari Club, and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. They’ve got no right to complain. I believe a court order may be the only option that can stop this in the meantime.

  4. Lots of money is coming from out of state for both sides of this debate. The bottom line is only Michigan voters will have a say if people like Sen. Casperson will allow that to happen and stop trying to legislate around it. The delisting of Wolves in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana was done via a ryder attached to a must pass budget bill. That legislation never would have passed on it’s own and if the Feds delist Wolves on a national basis there will be alot more lawsuits and a national movement like that taking place in Michigan. Most people in the US believe that the only reasons you kill an animal is to eat or to protect yourself or your property. Those that kill for fun, for enjoyment or recreation (sport and trophy hunters) are part of a very small minority with an inordinate amount of political clout. It’s way past time to send all of those white males, with their big guns and bigger egos, back into the stone age where they belong. The “trophy room” needs to go the way of shag carpet, mullets and afros.

  5. None of you idiots have to live with these animals, including the overwhelming majority of Michigan voters. I promise, if the vote was limited to counties in which wolves exist, approval of a wolf hunt would be near 100 percent.

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