Michigan Wolf Hunt Proposed

With wolf hunts slated to launch in Wisconsin and Minnesota this fall, a third Great Lakes state could soon open a season on wolves as well.

Michigan House Bill 5834, introduced Wednesday by Rep. Matt Huuki, proposes Michigan’s first modern-day hunting season for gray wolves. The proposed hunt would occur in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, which is the only part of the state with a wolf population.

It is estimated that there are between 700 and 1,000 wolves in Michigan, according to a Lansing State Journal story written by Louise Knott Ahern. That is up from a low of six in 1973, when the species was put on the endangered species list. The wolves were removed from the endangered list about eight months ago.

If the bill passes, Michigan’s Natural Resources Commission would set the rules for the hunt. Like in Minnesota and Wisconsin, however, the debate leading up to any hunting season is sure to be polarizing and could potentially involve lawsuits. We’ll post updates as they become available.

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3 thoughts on “Michigan Wolf Hunt Proposed

  1. Pingback: Another State Planning On Opening Wolf Hunts | allaboutdeerhunting.com

  2. Assuming that the question at hand is managing the growth of the wolf population, random hunting of wolves is never going to be the best choice.

    A fair example scenario:

    The wolf population has a numeric target, determined by what is decided is the appropriate science. Right now you have to remove one third of the wolves to reach it, and minimize overall population growth afterwards. It is also desired that the food they eat be minimized, they aren’t being used for a natural control.

    You have to remove problem wolves if any first. This is the first problem a traditional hunting season will not solve, the problem-causing wolves should not be left around causing problems until the start of the hunting season, then there is only a one in three chance that a particular problem wolf will be taken.

    After that consideration (and prompt action), you might have 27 wolves in a particular area. The two largest packs average nine members, the three smallest average 3 wolves each.

    How do you manage them towards the goal?

    Ideally the wolves may take care of wolf population control themselves. If so, all the better. The first manipulation method tried might be improving deer habitat enough that wolves cannot control them, running into other intolerant rival wolf packs. Would need a lot of extra deer tags for the experiment’s yearly cleanup.

    But, if decided a population reduction in an area is really needed:

    You remove the three smallest packs, end up with two packs of nine each, two litters born in spring. 18 adults, 4 out of 18 breeding, and only two litters of pups to feed.

    Removing one of the packs averaging nine would be foolish. The remaining four packs meet your numeric target for the population they have four litters. You are feeding 18 wolves and four packs of wolf pups, 8 of 18 wolves are breeding, and the maximum of pups per adult are born, adding to a maximum food budget? Not quite, just a moment.

    What happens if you use a hunting season? Assuming the distribution is even, you would have 3 packs averaging 2 surviving members, and two packs of six. There may still be 4 or 5 litters born, either 8 or 10 breeding wolves. Congratulations, you’ve achieved maximum failure at limiting the reproductive rate and ongoing resource usage.

    Ok, use a smaller hunting season with something else besides for management? One sixth hunted, one sixth directed removals: You’ve still lost nonbreeding pack members. They were valuable, they come out of the management plan’s goal number, you can only do half the manipulation now, it only helps half as much.

    But back in that first case you have possibly, just possibly, lowered the average reproductive rate for your 18 adults enough that after natural mortality you might break even on population next year, even if larger packs are more successful raising pups than small ones.

    This is just an example. the management goals might be vastly different, the number of members in the packs will be. The point is, randomly removing a fraction of the wolves is never optimal management, except to raise the wolf population growth.

    There is a kicker, however. By accident you have created a situation in which you have 18 wolves in two packs each happily raising two or three pups surviving to adulthood. It’s just a coincidence that this happens to be at minimum resource cost for whatever number of wolves the best scientific data says should be kept. So what?

    So, now when a sportsman wants something reasonable, he gets it. Why? Because a portion of the rest of the population that might consider him evil because he kills what he eats, can be persuaded by the fact of the remaining wolves under the hunters’ now manifestly charitable and generous, game management being performed exactly the same as before for all the wolf prey, and you pay for that (the trappers pay for beavers the wolves eat). Just someone else manages wolves, so that the canines could have maximum resources for their pups and themselves, long happy wolf lives etc. It’ll be an argument-stopper.

    Is the art of Doity Politics dead? It’s all broad clumsy brushstrokes now. That smell. Well, they smelled before, but still.

    That will tip the balance at the polls and elsewhere. You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but it still works better if you use the truth.

    And it would be true. It would. Sportsmen wouldn’t have to persuade anyone that wolves are evil any more either and would not want to. No, not your wolves (they were too useful for getting you that whatever-it-is-you-needed). This is also somewhat true for the human residents where the wolves are, and their adaptive legislators.

    Oh, the tribes may want rights up to 50% of the wolves under reserved treaty rights. But not to kill them. If at least 50% of the habitat’s carrying capacity of wolves are still maintained, assigning them to a tribe means they have their unharassed wolf packs performing natural functions. The alternative almost all the packs being impacted by losses from a hunt or rampant poaching – will the tribes be reasonable and think of them versus the other option?

    But it might be cruel to someone still rabidly anti-hunting. I imagine a picture of one of those happy wolf families raising their single litter would feel like a brand upon their cheek. Not making brutal and short canine lives nastier, more brutal and short, that will assist the anti-hunting cause and make them feel good about themselves. The iron is hot, and that has two meanings.

    Technology might develop so a hunter could pick out that 9 of 27 in the small packs. Then the sportsmen can probably be the ones hunting them again. If they think it smart. Now, some are reacting like a raccoon in the headlights, acting on instinct instead of wits.

    But for now, a wolf season, even a Wisconsin-numbers season without a snowball’s chance in Hades of fewer wolves next year, and there will be no chance for that. You make any chosen wolf population more prolific, require more food, and lawsuits against both the season and any other management program are likely based on their combined effect instead of the above serendipitous PR result.

    Maybe I’m getting too old, mumble mumble take the worms and leave the gold mumble mumble birthright mumble mess of pottage mumble… bah. Wake up.

    The money? A bunch of $4 application fees, a relative handful of $100 actual hunting permits. Probably not enough to pay for the hunt’s administration, certainly not enough to cover the cost of managing the wolves. The hunters get an ongoing public relations nightmare. As Walter Matthau said in _Hopscotch_, money is too expensive to be made that way.

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