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New hope for wolf hunting in Michigan thanks to bill approved by Senate

(WLUC)
Published: Dec. 12, 2016 at 4:43 PM EST
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November of 2013 marked the first-ever wolf hunting season in the state of Michigan, but thanks to court rulings and voter decision, plans were derailed for subsequent seasons. Now, a bill allowing the Natural Resources Commission to designate wolves as game species was approved by the Senate 27-10, and is headed to the House.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says they're on board with this decision.

"We feel that the Natural Resources Commission is a good forum to have that decision-making ability [for wolves] as it is for other game species in Michigan," said John Pepin, the Deputy Public Information Officer for the DNR.

However, this new proposal wouldn't immediately allow wolf hunting in Michigan. Though gray wolves were removed from the endangered species list in 2012, a federal ruling in late 2014 placed them back on the list. But Senator Tom Casperson (R - 38th District) and the DNR both say there's Congressional action being made to remove that listing, and this proposal positions Michigan to be able to enact a wolf hunt, should it be lifted.

"Looks like we're going to be successful to get [the bill] cleaned up, and all that does is get us prepared for what ultimately is going to take action from Congress, and Congress is going to have to deal with this, and make sure that they work to delist the wolf and get it off the endangered species list, much like they did out west. There's been no complaining out there, things have worked quite well."

Though wolf hunting was struck down by Michigan voters in 2014, every single county in the Upper Peninsula voted for it to continue. Senator Casperson says he believes it failed due to millions of dollars spent on political advertisements that spread misinformation to voters downstate.

"We won in the rural areas, and certainly up here [in the U.P.] it was a landslide," said Senator Casperson. "Up here are the people that actually dealt with the problem [of the wolves]. That's why I'm confident to stay on course."

In the 1974, it was estimated there were only 6 remaining gray wolves in Michigan. Now, 42 years later, a remarkable comeback has been made by the wolf population, with the latest numbers from the DNR estimating there are at least 618 wolves. The population is considered to be stable at this point, since there was only a slight decline from the 636 estimated wolves in Michigan back in 2014.

The DNR says if a wolf hunt were to be reinstated, it would have certain restrictions like where they could be hunted and how many could be killed. This was also the case back in 2013, when there was a legal wolf hunting season in Michigan. In 2013, hunting was allowed from November 15th to December 31st, with a limit of 43 wolves in 3 specific zones. In the end, only about half of the limit was reached with a total of 22 wolves killed during the 46 day hunt.

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