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 State Weighs Wolf Hunt Before Taking Oversight, November 27. 2006 3:00AM
Posted: Nov 28 2006, 09:37 AM


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November 27, 2006

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GAYLORD -- Michigan's federally protected population of gray wolves could be under state oversight by spring, and a group charged with developing a management plan is divided between allowing the reclusive animal to be hunted or keeping it safeguarded.

The Michigan Wolf Management Roundtable will offer advice to update the state's management plan, which was developed in 1997. Gray wolves will become the responsibility of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources if the federal government delists the animal as an endangered species in four months.

The impending switch to state oversight is being driven by an increasing population in the Upper Peninsula, where possibly more than 400 wolves exist. Interior Secretary Gale Norton announced a proposal earlier this year to remove the wolf from the endangered species list in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, where a combined 3,800 are estimated to live.

But the farmers, hunters, scientists, conservationists, environmentalists and tribal representatives who make up the advisory panel are split over the issue of sport or recreational hunting of the animal. Some support hunting, while others vehemently oppose it.

"Our perspective is that the wolf is a game animal and it should be managed the same way as other animals, just like deer, bear or elk," Merle Shepard, a spokesman for the Michigan Chapters of Safari Club International told the Traverse City Record-Eagle on Sunday.

But Marvin Roberson of the Sierra Club said Michigan was home to only a dozen wolves just over a decade ago, so talk of hunting them is premature.

"The Sierra Club is not an anti-hunting group. However, we certainly oppose the hunting of wolves in Michigan," he said.

Brian Roell, wolf coordinator for the DNR, said a potential recreational hunting season for gray wolves is years away. Both federal and state governments would have to delist the animal as a threatened species, followed by a five-year waiting period, and state officials would have to reclassify wolves as a game species, likely followed by a voter referendum and legal challenges, he said.
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