GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is increasing the number of “nuisance” animals that can be killed without a permit, despite opposition from some environmental advocates.

Previously, woodchucks, skunks, raccoons and coyotes could be killed or trapped year-round by landowners without a permit when they were “doing or were about to do damage.”

Now, beaver, cottontail rabbits, fox squirrels, gray squirrels, ground squirrels, muskrats, opossums, red squirrels and weasels are part of that group when they are “doing damage or physically present where it could imminently cause damage.”

“Damage” is considered physical harm to forest products, roads, dams, crops, buildings or livestock. Beavers or muskrats are only considered to be doing damage if their activities result in flooding or culvert blockages that cause damage.

The changes were approved by DNR Acting Director Shannon Lott during a Natural Resources Commission Thursday. In its proposal, the DNR said there’s been an increase in damage and nuisance complaints.

“The regulation changes that were made under the director’s authority will allow landowners to mitigate damage caused by some relatively common wildlife species in some specific situations. The removal of these species in these specific situations (and others) is already occurring under written permit. This will allow these animals to be removed without written permit for situations in which we would typically not deny a written permit. This will allow a landowner to respond more rapidly to emerging issues while also reducing administrative burden. Because these species are already being removed under written permit, and the revised order specifies the situations in which these species can be taken, we do not expect a significant increase in the number of animals taken, or any population-level impacts.”

Ed Golder, Michigan DNR Public Information Officer

Trish Marie has advocated for Michigan wildlife for years. She’s one of a group of advocates upset about the amendment.

“We know biodiversity is crashing worldwide and [there’s] increased human presence, we have to make room for animals and part of that is tolerance,” Marie said. “We are pushing animals out of their home. So when we see them in what was their home and now is our backyard, who is actually being the nuisance here, the humans or the animals?”

“The cruelest and most indiscriminate methods to catch wild animals including incidental animals and pets have just been given a blank slate to be used at will across the state,” said Molly Tamulevich, a board member with Attorneys for Animals. “So both philosophically and the practical implications of this is grossly out of touch with the values and morals of most Michiganders.”

Tamulevich said there are ways to prevent animals from damaging property that don’t involve killing them.

“If you just put a little bit of time, effort and research into it, there’s tons of resources available for how to co-exist with animals in our lives,” Tamulevich said.

Tamulevich also said by no longer requiring permits, data that could help drive future decisions won’t be available to the DNR.