Future hunting of wolves may be possible, an advisory group says
Capital News Service
LANSING – The gray wolf could be treated as an ordinary game animal in Michigan if it is removed from the federal endangered and threatened species list.
That was one recommendation of the Wolf Management Roundtable, an advisory group of 20 organizations that worked to recommend guiding principles for managing wolves and wolf related issues to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
The other alternative the roundtable discussed would be to keep the animal protected.
“Our position is that we see wildlife as a renewable resource,” said Tim Hauck, president of the mid-Michigan Chapter of the Safari Club based in Mount Pleasant. “If they recover in sufficient numbers and the population would support hunting, then we would be in favor of it.”
The Safari Club is a member of the roundtable.
According to the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy in Bath, an organization dedicated to the restoration of a variety of wildlife habitats, wolves could withstand limited hunting as long as the minimum genetic diversity is ensured.
“There is an assumption that wolves are wilderness animals that live in heavily forested areas. They have evolved most efficiently in relatively open fields and lightly timbered areas so they tend to thrive the most in farmlands,” said Patrick Rusz, director of wildlife programs for the conservancy. “So wolf and human conflicts grow as the wolf population grows.
“Some hunting, somewhere down the road probably could be done. It just depends on the intensity in which the population is hunted, so that they’re not hitting one pack too hard. The question is, do we have the ability to carry out and carefully monitor that hunting or not,” he said.
The gray wolf was first listed as an endangered species by the federal government in 1965. It was reclassified in 2003 as threatened.
If the gray wolf is removed from the list then the state might allow the killing of wolves that attack or kill domestic animals if there were a likelihood of repeated attack.
The DNR is expecting a final published rule from the federal government in the spring on whether wolves will be removed from the endangered and threatened species list.
As of late 2006, according to the DNR, there were at least 434 wolves in Michigan, all in the Upper Peninsula. The animals were most densely populated in the western UP.
“The reason that wolves are not in the Lower Peninsula is because of the limited dispersal corridor,” said Todd Hogrefe, endangered species coordinator for the DNR. “The Straits of Mackinac separate the Upper and Lower peninsulas.
“It is possible that wolves could cross the ice, and we do have evidence that some wolves have done that. But we have no evidence that there are wolf populations in the Lower Peninsula,” he said.
The DNR will review the roundtable’s recommendations as it revises its wolf management plan. A draft of the state’s plan will be released for a 90-day public comment period in late March.
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