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 Panel Opposes Ceiling On State Wolf Population, December 06, 2006
Posted: Dec 15 2006, 04:25 PM


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A gray wolf photographed late last winter by the National Park Service.

By JOHN FLESHER, AP Environmental Writer and JOHN PEPIN, Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE ¡ª Wildlife regulators should deal with problem wolves on a case-by-case basis instead of setting regional or statewide limits on their numbers, an advisory panel said in a report issued Tuesday.

The Michigan Wolf Management Roundtable also endorsed killing wolves that attack livestock ¡ª but only after non-lethal methods have failed.

The roundtable, convened by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources earlier this year, included representation from nearly two dozen agencies and organizations.

Groups represented ranged from the Michigan Hunting Dog Federation and Upper Peninsula Sportsmen¡¯s Alliance to the Michigan Humane Society and Defenders of Wildlife.

The panel¡¯s report entitled ¡°Recommended Guiding Principles for Wolf Management in Michigan¡± makes recommendations to state officials revising the state¡¯s Gray Wolf Recovery and Management Plan, first written in the early 1990s.

¡°Although the existing state plan has been a valuable tool for recovery of the species, wolf population size and distribution have changed and understanding of wolf biology has improved significantly since it was written,¡± the roundtable report stated. ¡°To continue to manage the wolf population based on the best available scientific information, the DNR has initiated review and revision of the existing plan.¡±

State DNR officials hope the panel¡¯s consensus on several key wolf issues will ultimately help create a Michigan wolf management plan widely acceptable to the general public.

Delegates met for 10 full days from June through September 2006 to define wolf management issues, review the social and biological science and try to reach consensus. A draft of the state¡¯s revised wolf management plan, which will incorporate the roundtable recommendations, is slated for release and public comment next spring.

In its report announced Tuesday, the roundtable offers recommendations on wolf distribution and abundance, the benefits of wolves, management of wolf-related conflicts, information and education, funding, research, hybrid and captive wolves, and future plan revisions.

¡°We are very pleased with the product the roundtable has developed,¡± said Bill Moritz, DNR Wildlife Division chief.

Among the 29 directives the panel recommends, referred to as ¡°guiding principles,¡± the roundtable proposed:

¡Ü Goals for wolf management should be based on positive and negative wolf impacts, rather than wolf abundance or numbers.

¡Ü Conflicts should be managed at an appropriate scale. Whenever applicable, wolf conflicts should be resolved at the individual and pack level.

¡Ü The DNR should work with other agencies, Native American tribes and private organizations to foster benefits associated with wolves and to provide positive wolf-human interactions.

¡Ü Livestock owners should be able to kill wolves in the act of livestock depredation without a permit on private property. All such incidents must be reported immediately and investigated. Abuses should be referred for prosecution.

¡Ü The DNR should provide timely information to support education and management efforts and coordinate and evaluate the effectiveness of a comprehensive wolf education program.

¡Ü Hunters could be used by the DNR to kill wolves on a case-by-case basis involving wolf-related conflicts. The roundtable could not reach a consensus on wolf harvest for reasons other than managing wolf-related conflicts because of ¡°important differences in fundamental values¡± among panel members.

¡Ü The DNR should take an incremental approach to addressing wolf-livestock conflicts that is guided by severity and frequency of conflicts. When conflicts are low, milder methods should be applied with more aggressive methods applied as the severity and frequency of conflicts increase.

Wolf numbers in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan have exceeded recovery criteria for several years, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed removing wolves in the western Great Lakes region, including Michigan, from the federal list of threatened and endangered species.
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