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Posted: Nov 25 2006, 11:39 PM
Member No.: 1
Joined: 10-July 06
By Howard Meyerson
Press Outdoors Editor
A citizens advisory committee looking at whether Michigan's gray wolf population might be controlled using lethal means has given the nod to holding a managed hunt, should it ever become necessary -- when and if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service takes the wolf off the federal endangered species list.
"That's the model we would use," said Todd Hogrefe, the state's endangered species coordinator with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. "But the group emphasized using non-lethal means wherever it is feasible and effective."
That group is the state's Wolf Management Roundtable, a citizens committee representing 20 different organizations across a wide political spectrum.
The groups drew from animal welfare organizations such as the Michigan Humane Society to big-game hunting groups like Safari Club International. It also included the Sierra Club, farm bureau, tribal interests and those who hunt with dogs.
The roundtable was convened last summer to develop a set of "guiding principles" for the state to use in revising its gray wolf management plan. Those principles were released this week in a report titled: Recommended Guiding Principles for Wolf Management in Michigan.
Federal officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed last March that the gray wolf be taken off the federal endangered species list for Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan along with nearby states where they may move. Final action on that proposal is expected in March.
Michigan wildlife officials say they want to be ready for that change. There are approximately 434 wolves living in the Upper Peninsula. The state's goal for the endangered wolf was to have 200 for five consecutive years. Hogrefe says that has more than been exceeded and there are 4,000 in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.
Those wolves also are expected to spread out over time. That, in turn, will mean more good and bad encounters with humans.
State officials say the new guidelines will help them with their wolf plan revisions. They are a clear indication of what stockholders will tolerate and support.
Wolves are protected by federal law. It is currently illegal to kill one in Michigan except when being attacked. The state also has that authority when a wolf proves a human safety concern or the wolf is sick or injured.
In 2005, Michigan lost its authority to kill them in the case of livestock predation after U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lost a lawsuit challenging its previous decision to de-list the wolf.
Hogrefe said 10 wolves were "euthanized" between April 2003 and January 2005 for that purpose and nearly $20,000 was paid to farmers to compensate them for livestock losses in 76 cases.
"We have no authority to use lethal control in these situations now, but we can use non-lethal harassment," Hogrefe said.
The new guidelines give the DNR the flexibility to use a managed hunt if it's needed in the future, but roundtable members could not agree about hunting of wolves for recreation and issued no recommendation.
"They agreed to disagree," said Hogrefe, who explained that opposing groups included the various tribes who value the wolf for cultural and religious reasons, the animal-welfare groups that were concerned about their suffering and the Sierra Club, which is not anti-hunting, but whose members did not want to see it hunted.
Other guidelines included in the report call for:
educating Michigan citizens about wolves
using non-lethal means wherever possible
not setting numerical population goals, but rather maintaining a sustainable population while minimizing risks to humans, dogs and livestock
giving the DNR authority to use lethal control for livestock predation problems as well as the livestock producer.
not giving dog owners authority to kill wolves unless wolf attacks on dogs become a chronic occurrence and nothing else works.
Hogrefe said the guidelines have been sent to DNR director Becky Humphries for review. A revised draft wolf management plan is expected from the DNR in March. It will get a 90-day public review before being adopted.