Michigan’s first gray wolf hunt in four decades ended on Tuesday in what the state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is calling a success. One last wolf was harvested on the final day of the season, bringing up the total to 23 wolves. Although the number of animals bagged fell short of the quota of 43, the DNR will now wait and see if the season had an impact on the wolf population.
“It’s hard to make any declarative statement with one year’s worth of data,” DNR biologist Brian Roell told MLive.com.
Before the hunt, experts estimated there were about 658 wolves in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where the season took place across three different hunting units. The demand from hunters was high. The DNR nearly sold out of the available 1,200 licenses in the first 24 hours, but DNR officials say that cold weather and small hunting zones limited hunter success. Many hunters were also unfamiliar with wolves, which have not been a game animal in Michigan for more than 40 years. Before efforts were undertaken by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to restore the species, biologists believed only six gray wolves existed in Michigan in the 1970s. The wolves quickly grew beyond the recovery goals set by the DNR, and now reportedly remain a concern for farmers and other residents who live near wolf territory.
The DNR, hunters, and many Upper Peninsula residents support the controversial wolf hunt, which is opposed by some animal rights organizations such as Keep Michigan Wolves Protected. Critics said that the season would be detrimental to the full recovery of the gray wolf in Michigan, and that wolves were not a significant threat to animals or people in their environment.
Currently there are petitions in Michigan by animal rights groups to prevent a wolf season in 2014. A separate petition by hunters and farmers seeks to protect the season.
According to the DNR, hunters took a total harvest of five wolves in Wolf Management Unit A in the western Upper Peninsula, four from Unit C in the east, and 14 in the central regions of Unit B.
Image courtesy John and Karen Hollingsworth/US Fish and Wildlife Service