GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is set to update its management plan for the gray wolf. But before they do, they want your feedback: If federal protections get rolled back, should a limited number of hunting permits be allowed?
Michigan’s wolf management plan was created in 2008 and updated in 2015. According to the DNR, the 2022 update is focused on four main goals: maintain a viable population, reap the benefits of a wolf population, decrease the number of wolf-related conflicts and manage the species in a socially responsible way.
Cody Norton, a large carnivore specialist with the DNR, believes it is important for the agency to follow a plan that has the public’s support.
“Now that we have written a draft of the updates 2022 wolf management plan, it’s important that we gather feedback from the public to ensure the changes we’re proposing will support the long-term presence of a viable wolf population in Michigan, while addressing the needs of those with an interest in the health and viability of the state’s wolf population,” Norton said in a release.
The concern is no longer directly about the health of the gray wolf population, but about whether the DNR should allow wolf hunting if the species is once again removed from federal protections.
Hunting gray wolves has been a heavily debated topic over the years in Michigan. The state’s gray wolf population has varied heavily over the last several decades and was nearly eliminated by the 1970s. Now, the DNR estimates there are close to 700 gray wolves in the Upper Peninsula.
The gray wolf was removed from federal protections in 2021, only to be re-added to the list by a federal judge this past February. Many wildlife advocates and tribal officials praised the move, while some conservative groups and farmers were disappointed.
State Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, is one of several lawmakers who pushed for a wolf hunt resolution last year but is now a moot point with the federal protections in place. A proposal for a limited wolf hunt was put on the statewide ballot in 2014 but was voted down.
Farmers are frustrated because they believe their cattle and other animals are being held in a lower regard. With the federal protections, the only legal exception to killing a gray wolf is for saving a human life. Those protections supersede two state laws that legally allow wolves to be killed to save the lives of pets, hunting dogs or cattle.
Cattle farmers that lose livestock to wolf attacks are compensated for their losses by the state.
The DNR has an online questionnaire on its website. The agency is accepting comments through Aug. 4.