In an action which is expected to be signed into law by the Governor’s office, a bill designating the wolf as a game animal in Michigan has now cleared its final legislative hurdle. In addition to being added to Michigan’s list of game species, the bill authorizes the Michigan Natural Resources Commission to study and give consideration to the implementation of a potential regulated wolf hunting and trapping season.
Most who have followed the issue on this site and elsewhere will understand why, from a wildlife restoration standpoint, this news should be viewed as a significant and positive achievement. As we first discussed here in July, Michigan’s 1997 Gray Wolf Recovery and Management Plan concluded that a sustainable population would require at least 200 animals. This, as compared to Michigan’s summer 2012 wolf population which is now likely in excess of 700. This plan was updated in 2008 and the full draft can be reviewed here:WolfManagementPlan2008
As this debate ensued, unfortunately there were some who were either poorly informed or elected to exploit the emotional elements of this issue for personal or organizational gain. For those who were sincerely concerned about lethal means of wolf management for personal or spiritual reasons, we hope they will find some level of assurance through the success of the inaugural Wisconsin and Minnesota seasons.
The district quota harvest systems employed in both states exceeded the expectations of most wildlife management professionals who were charged with their oversight. Most hunters did so in a manner which was respectful to the animals, sensitive to those who held differing views, and the internet was not clogged with “trophy wolf” photos which could be used for political or legal advantage by those in opposition to the new season.
This legislative action should also be viewed positively by sportsmen and conservationists on both sides of the bridge who have unfortunately become increasingly fragmented in recent years. In addition to this being a wildlife recovery success story, we hope this effort will help illustrate why our collective voice is far more effective when our geographic and recreational-pursuit differences are not being emphasized.
Although the details of the implementation effort will likely result in another round of debate, given the fact that the DNR possesses wildlife management professionals who have historically been viewed by their peers as being among the nation’s finest, Michigan is well positioned to be able to tell its own success story in the coming year.