DNR chief expects big wolf hunt turnout

NEGAUNEE – As the Michigan Department of Natural Resources prepares to sell licenses for its limited November wolf hunt, opponents launched a symbolic petition drive this week aimed at registering voter opinion of the law that helped make the hunt possible.

The Michigan Natural Resources Commission recently approved provisions for the wolf hunting season, which will begin Nov. 15 and will take place in three wolf management areas, designated in the Upper Peninsula. The hunt is being offered to achieve specific wolf management goals in each of the management zones.

A total of 1,200 wolf licenses will be available for purchase beginning Sept. 28 at noon EDT (11 a.m. CDT) until Oct. 31, or earlier if the 1,200 licenses sell out before that time. Wolf licenses will cost $100 for residents and $500 for nonresidents. The bag limit will be one wolf per hunter, per season.

Trapping will not be allowed.

Late last month, the DNR backed off an Aug. 3 date to begin selling the licenses.

“We just wanted to make sure that we have staff, we have computers, we can hit demand, license packages are all set and that we’re up to speed and that we do a fair, transparent and competent job,” DNR Director Keith Creagh said Tuesday in Negaunee. “I do anticipate a big demand, if nothing else just from kind of the novelty of having the first hunt, to say you applied for it and were you successful for the first hunt.”

Creagh said the NRC and the DNR were “certainly very solid in scientific game management,” in establishing the hunt’s regulations and scope.

“Forty-three wolves, three management areas, I think that’s a reasonable approach,” Creagh said.

After the initial hunt, the DNR plans to review plans for future hunts.

“There will be an analysis, there will be surveys, we’ll input that data and we’ll adjust those quotas as to populations to make sure we have that sustainable population,” Creagh said. “Part of the public debate that gets left out is the DNR was instrumental in the protection and I’ll say the re-establishment (through natural migration) of wolves, and so we need to continue to make sure that the species is respected, protected and that it is within some parameters. In my opinion, the worse thing we can do is do nothing and then allow people to take matters in their own hands with no cause.”

Meanwhile, Keep Michigan Wolves Protected launched a second voter signature-gathering effort in Lansing this week. The group is trying to gather at least 225,000 signatures of registered voters to put the question of whether to overturn a law which allowed the NRC to designate wolves as a game species on the 2014 general election ballot.

Because the NRC is a regulatory body and not the state Legislature, the law – which was passed in May in response to a previous opponent referendum drive – blocks voter referendums from overturning the NRC’s game species designations.

“Because of a contemptuous action by the Legislature to nullify the practical effect of that ballot measure, we have launched a second referendum to maintain the rights of Michiganders to protect wolves and all wildlife,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “The Legislature is trying to hand off responsibility for opening a hunting season on any species to a handful of unelected bureaucrats.”

Licenses for the wolf hunt will be available for sale online at www.michigan.gov/huntdrawings, at any authorized license agent, and at numerous DNR offices including the Marquette DNR Customer Service Center. DNR offices will be open from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (EDT); they may close earlier if wolf licenses sell out.

For more information about regulations, see the 2013 Wolf Hunting Digest, available online at www.michigan.gov/dnrdigests or at any location DNR licenses are sold. For more information on the petition drive, visit: www.KeepWolvesProtected.com.

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