DNR Wildlife Division Chief Speaks on Wolf Hunting Season
In early November, MLive ran a series of articles about how Michigan’s wolf hunting season came to be, capped off by an editorial, “Wolf ends don’t justify means.”
Through this series of articles and the editorial MLive accused the Department of Natural Resources of misleading the public about the rationale behind the state’s first limited wolf management hunt – an accusation I can emphatically say is completely off base.
I believe the series was one-sided and sensational. The series exaggerated the impact of a few insignificant pieces of the puzzle while ignoring the bigger picture, which consists of voluminous amounts of hard evidence demonstrating how the DNR and Natural Resources Commission came to the conclusion that a wolf management hunt was both appropriate and necessary.
Here are the facts:
In January 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin from the endangered species list, after years of legal wrangling with animal rights groups opposed to delisting. Wolves in Michigan had met or exceeded population recovery goals for more than a decade when delisting occurred. However, the MLive series focused on an error in a resolution from the Michigan Legislature to Congress that called for delisting, and implied that resolution was responsible for the removal of wolves from federal protection. The fact is, Congress did not delist wolves and that resolution had no bearing on the USFWS decision to delist and place wolves under state management authority.
From 2010 to 2013, there were more than 100 complaints of fearless or bold wolf behavior from within the hunt’s three Wolf Management Units. In Wolf Management Unit A alone, there were 68 reports during that time frame. Instead of highlighting these facts, the MLive series heavily criticized DNR bear and furbearer specialist Adam Bump for a one-time misstatement in one radio interview during which he regrettably but unintentionally mischaracterized a bold wolf encounter. From this, the series implies that Bump’s error was a primary factor in the Department’s recommendation for a wolf management hunt. The fact is, his misstatement had nothing to do with the design of Michigan’s wolf hunt. Writing off the dozens of other cases of fearless wolf behavior due to one error is entirely unfair to citizens who have serious and documented issues with nuisance wolves.
Livestock farmers in the three Wolf Management Units lost animals to wolves on more than 100 occasions from 2010 to 2012 (the years examined by wildlife biologists when evaluating the need for and designing the hunt). In Wolf Management Unit B, 14 farms have experienced repeated wolf depredation losses since 2010. However, the MLive series chose to dwell on a single farmer in Ontonagon County who has a record of poor livestock management practices and high numbers of wolf depredation reports, erroneously holding up those reports as evidence that the reasons for a wolf hunt had been “distorted.” DNR wildlife biologists have been clear that issues on that one farm were not the impetus or deciding factor behind the hunt, and that even if that farm were removed from the equation, the boundaries for Unit B would not be changed.
Additionally, the issues faced by the 13 other farms in Unit B where depredation losses continue even after other lethal and non-lethal tools have been used extensively, are summarily dismissed by MLive as insignificant. Considering the fact that MLive was provided with wolf depredation statistics dating back to 1996, I question why that data was so drastically downplayed.
The MLive series also gives the impression that the idea for a wolf management hunt was rash, knee-jerk or impulsive. Rather, the DNR and NRC looked to the state’s 2008 Wolf Management Plan for guidance in deciding how to deal with wolf-human conflicts. Following the guidelines of the Wolf Management Plan – created through consensus by a group of stakeholders with incredibly diverse views on wolf management – a uniquely conservative management hunt was designed to target specific areas with ongoing wolf conflicts while minimizing any impact on the overall wolf population.
The DNR’s recommendation for and NRC approval of the hunt was made using science – both biological and social. Scientific knowledge regarding wolf management through hunting – including feedback from world-renowned wolf biologist David Mech, who called the DNR’s wolf season recommendations “well thought out” and “appropriate” – was evaluated along with the values and priorities of citizens, which were communicated to us through the use of opinion surveys, public information meetings and stakeholder roundtables. The decision-making process was transparent and conducted through the public forum of the Natural Resources Commission. There was nothing “stealthy” about it, as the MLive editorial claims.
I find it more than a bit ironic that a series of articles said to expose half-truths and lies on the part of the DNR omitted or distorted so much of the factual record. It is beyond disappointing that MLive chose to endorse and publish such narrowly focused, sensationalized news coverage of the wolf hunting issue, instead of presenting the bigger picture and letting readers make up their own minds.
Article may also be read on MLive.com