Okay, I’ll concede that Michigan Senate Bill 288 and House Bill 4552 would likely not be up for discussion were it not for the organized opposition to legislation resulting in wolves being added to the list of Michigan game species signed into law last December (Public Act 520 of 2012 – Senate Bill 1350). Whether or not you like the circumstances or the politics that have made all of this necessary, the reality is that those past participants who have now distanced themselves from Michigan’s 2008 Wolf Management plan are offering no alternatives or credible solutions of their own.
Question #1 – What is a YOUR wolf population goal?
Some may attempt to argue that “nature” will seek its own balance. That may be true for a biological community which is devoid of human considerations, but that is not the world in which Michigan’s wolf population exists. The original wolf recovery goal of 200 now seems but a distant memory to those who now oppose public management options. Many of these groups and individuals now seem to be basing their opposition on what is likely a near-term flattening of the population growth curve which has been increasing at a compounded rate of 12.5% annually since 1996 (100 to 658).
Based upon the views of the vast majority of Michigan’s upper peninsula residents, the social carrying capacity has long been exceeded. So the point is, what is your number?
Question #2 – What is an acceptable means of wolf population control if not through science-based management?
Assuming that some population level exists that would cause plan opponents to acknowledge that some level of management is appropriate, what is your preferred methodology to achieve those goals? Is it more of the same reactionary process made necessary only as a result of loss of domestic animals or a threat to human safety? In 2012 alone and after exhausting all non-lethal alternatives, 23 wolves required lethal means of control in response to these conflicts. Abundant data exist to suggest that as wolf population levels increase, human-caused mortality also rises, with or without a plan.
It would seem that even the most ardent defender of the species would recognize that it would be far better to sustainably harvest some 40 wolves (as has been proposed), in three small zones, and in accordance with a public, transparent and scientific strategy. This, as opposed to a steadily increasing trend-line of nuisance control permits, P.A. 290 and Human Health and Safety kills of wolves who otherwise continue to become more comfortable habituating farms, homesteads and human population centers. As we have also discussed in previous posts, an agency-managed public harvest is the best way to ensure that Michigan’s wolf population remains viable, acceptably distributed, and retaining their natural aversion to human interaction.
Question #3 – If a controlled and limited public hunt is unacceptable, then how would you propose to fund an alternative means of management?
The cost of the reactionary means of management which currently exists is not cheap. It is also clearly unreasonable to expect sportsmen’s restricted fund dollars to be used for such measures if they are denied a role in wolf management. One of the best advantages of a public harvest alternative is that it would allow wolf management to become less dependent on ever-deceasing sources of funding. Over $100,000 has already been paid in the form of animal indemnification and represents but a fraction of what is spent by state and federal agencies in response to calls and conflicts involving wolves.
In the absence of a plan similar to that which has been proposed, costs will continue to rise. It is unfortunate that some have elected to spend considerable financial resources in the effort to secure a ballot proposal which will do nothing to ensure a healthy and viable wolf community at socially acceptable levels.
While we don’t expect any answers to these questions, if nothing else we do encourage an end to the passive-aggressive behavior demonstrated in recent years by some of those previously-engaged, wildlife stakeholder groups. Being obstructionist and spreading false and misleading information in an effort to drive membership and fund-raising is not in the best interest of overall wildlife management, and certainly not in the best interest of Michigan wolves.