DNR recommending fall wolf hunt

MARQUETTE – The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is recommending a fall wolf hunt in three limited areas of the Upper Peninsula which would harvest a total of 47 animals in an effort to reduce the numbers of nuisance wolf complaints and chronic livestock and dog depredations.

The recommendation will be presented to the Michigan Natural Resources Commission Thursday in Lansing. The seven-member rulemaking body for the DNR could then make a decision on whether to adopt the wolf hunt recommendation at its meeting May 9.

DNR officials defined three wolf management units where public hunting could begin Nov. 1 and end Dec. 31, unless harvest quotas were reached sooner. In each unit, a different wolf management objective was set. The season limit recommendation is one wolf per licensed hunter.

“We anticipate two potential benefits resulting from a public harvest of wolves,” DNR division chiefs said in the agency recommendation.

First, over time, hunting could change the behavior of wolves, making them more wary of people, residential areas and farms. A reduction in wolves displaying fearless behavior would reduce the number of nuisance wolf complaints, the chiefs said.

Second, hunting could also reduce the abundance of wolves in the management units, which may result in fewer conflicts.

DNR officials said despite various management techniques employed in each of the management unit areas, wolf conflicts have continued.

For each wolf management unit, different objectives were identified, along with recommended harvest quotas:

  • Wolf Management Unit A: A portion of Gogebic County, including the city of Ironwood and the encompassing township. Unit quota: 21 wolves. Objective: reduce nuisance wolf complaints, which have totaled 91 since 2010. Unit size: 201,845 acres, 28 percent public lands.
  • Wolf Management Unit B: Portions of Baraga, Houghton, Ontonagon and Gogebic counties. Unit quota: 18 wolves. Objective: Reduce the number of chronic livestock depredations. Since 2010, 80 livestock depredation events have been documented from 11 farms. Unit size: 846,938 acres, with 45 percent public lands.
  • Wolf Management Unit C: Portions of Luce and Mackinac counties. Unit quota: 8 wolves. Objective: Reduce the number of chronic livestock and dog depredations. Since 2010, the DNR recorded 25 livestock depredation events from seven farms and four depredation events involving 12 dogs. Unit size: 236,856 acres, with 45 percent public lands.

“We have designed the harvest recommendations to minimize the impact to the Upper Peninsula wolf population and to limit the take of wolves to those packs that have a history of conflicts,” the chiefs said.

The DNR determined the recommended harvest targets by estimating the number of wolves expected to be in each unit during the upcoming fall harvest season and applied a 20 percent harvest rate.

Wolf abundance estimates were made based on a 2011 wolf survey, with 2013 data from this winter’s count expected to be available to the NRC before its May meeting.

Firearms, crossbows and bow and arrow would be allowed to hunt wolves. Cable restraints, snares, conibear traps and dogs would be prohibited. The DNR also recommended a prohibition on nighttime hunting with game or predator calls.

If trapping is allowed, the DNR has specific recommendations including using foothold traps only on private lands.

Within 72 hours of harvest, a hunter would have to present a wolf carcass to a DNR check station, where a tooth and other information will be collected for aging and genetic testing.

In crafting its recommendation, the DNR surveyed public opinion, consulted biologists and other experts and held several meetings, including four public meetings and three sessions with four Native American tribes, which remain opposed to wolf hunting.

Results of the public opinion survey are expected to be available to the NRC at Thursday’s meeting.

The 2008 DNR Wolf Management Plan served as a tool guiding the wolf hunting season recommendation and parameters.

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.