Wolf Management Update: DNR Responds

Three weeks ago, I posted a blog venting MUCC’s frustrations at the lack of communications from the DNR on the implementation of the management plan to-date.

Well, we asked and they answered.

Below is the full communication we received from the newly assigned program leader for wolves, Adam Bump, the DNR’s Bear and Furbearer Specialist, who informed us that the Wolf Forum now has a date set to meet again at the end of June.

As always, MUCC will keep you posted on the outcomes from that meeting as well as any future wolf management updates.

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Amy,
You asked for a response; as the recently assigned Program Leader for wolves, I am providing it.

You acknowledged that the DNR held a Wolf Forum meeting in June of last year. The Wolf Plan calls for annual meetings of this group or as needed. Delisting was a major change but, for what seems to be your most important topic- a harvest season- we have not had any functional changes. The legislature must act before the opportunity for a season is in the hands of the Department.
Otherwise, the plan calls for a number of actions under 4 main goals that are within our control. We have made progress on all of them despite workforce and funding limitations. We look forward to proactive cooperation from our partners on all fronts.

The Wolf Plan as 4 major goals. Here are some accomplishments under each goal that the Division has worked on in the past year:

Maintain a Viable Population
Michigan has moved to an every other year wolf monitoring system as a cost saving measure. In the winter of 2010-11, we estimated the minimum winter wolf population to be 687 wolves, located entirely in the Upper Peninsula. The Department is committed to maintaining a viable Michigan wolf population above a level that would warrant its classification as threatened or endangered at either the State or Federal level. Wolves are an integral part of the natural resources of the State and have improved the natural functioning of Michigan ecosystems. The most-recent public-attitude research shows most (73%) Michigan residents support the presence of a wolf population in the State. In the context of the Department’s mission and its implicit public trust responsibilities for the State’s wildlife, natural communities and ecosystems, the maintenance of a viable wolf population is an appropriate and necessary goal.

The Department continues to be an active participant in the Midwest Wolf Stewards Conference. This gives us an opportunity to exchange information with Wisconsin, Minnesota, Native American Tribes, Ontario and other agencies. This meeting facilitates the exchange of knowledge, research results, and management strategies among wolf managers in the Great Lakes region. Topics of discussion include population monitoring, depredation, human safety, genetics of Great Lakes wolves, as well as habitat concerns. This annual meeting was held this past April in Minnesota and the 2013 meeting will be hosted by Michigan.

Facilitate Wolf-related Benefits
Michigan continues to look to provide our many stakeholders with a variety of ways to enjoy wolves. Just having wolves on the landscape is one way to do that. We also provide educational opportunities through our website and through presentations offered by field staff, as well as going so far as to use teleconferencing equipment to introduce staff from the UP into classrooms around the State. We continue to actively facilitate the salvage of wolf pelts and skulls to meet educational and cultural/religious needs.

Michigan is also an active member in the Timber Wolf Alliance a wolf education organization committed to investigating the facts, by relying on the growing body of scientific research to dispel myths and unfounded fears associated with wolves. This allows us to exchange information and collaborate with other states and managing agencies and to learn more about interests in wolves and creative ways to continue to promote acceptance of wolves and enjoyment of wolves by the public.

In addition, we have scheduled the next meeting of the Wolf Forum for June 28th. The Forum is a direct link between stakeholders and the Division to help discuss the Wolf Plan and future activities related to wolves and wolf management as well as discussions on how to continue to move forward with ways to facilitate wolf-related benefits.

Minimize Wolf-related Conflicts
Michigan has been very active in trying to minimize and mitigate wolf-related conflicts. The delisting of wolves from the Federal Endangered Species Act has increased our ability to implement aspects of the Wolf Plan that fall under this goal. We continue to take wolf activity reports where conflict resolution techniques are discussed and when the situation warrants a site visit is performed. In additional Michigan residents are now able to use lethal control for management of some wolf related conflicts. Legislative changes in 2008 allowed the Department to implement an action item from the Wolf Plan to allow livestock owners to kill wolves in the act of livestock depredation. These laws allow livestock owners the ability to use lethal control when wolves are in the act of preying upon livestock (PA 290 of 2008) and dog owners as well are now able to use lethal control when wolves are in the act of attacking dogs (PA 318 of 2008).

The Wolf Plan also calls for the development of a permitting process to allow livestock producers to control wolves on their property, as necessary, following a verified wolf depredation event. Seventy-eight percent of surveyed livestock producers indicated they would be ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ satisfied with a management program that, among other things, empowered them to remove problem wolves from their own property. The Department has developed a private depredation control permit and criteria for using those permits. Currently, 9 farms in the UP have been issued these permits and to date, 7 wolves have been killed. We have also had 5 wolves taken under PA 290 and working as an agent of the State the United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services (USDA-WS) has taken 8 wolves due to human safety concerns, with one additional taken by USDA-WS for livestock depredation resolution. So far, in the first 5 months of 2012, 21 wolves have been killed for livestock depredation resolution or human safety concerns. Lethal wolf control as occurred more times in 2012 than any other year since 1960 when the collection of bounties on wolves was lifted.

Lethal control is not the only thing we are doing to reduce wolf conflicts, we continue to explore non-lethal methods to resolve wolf-livestock conflicts include improving animal husbandry practices by using best management practices (BMPs), exclusion, frightening devices and harssment (e.g., fladry, flashing lights, strobe light/siren devices, shell crackers, rubber ammunition) and protection of livestock (e.g., livestock guarding animals). We partnered with USDA-WS to provide staff to help us resolve wolf conflicts through non lethal means in additional to using our own staff (The Department has provided $20,000 to USDA-WS for this purpose for 2012). Also for the past two years the Department was the recipient of a grant to aid in proactive, non-lethal activities to reduce the risk of livestock loss due to predation by wolves. That grant is still active and we continue to assist livestock producers in reducing the likelihood of wolf depredation. We continue to keep track of areas of the state that are receiving wolf-dog related conflicts and provide information to interested hunters to help them avoid areas with high conflict potential.

Conduct Science-based and Socially Acceptable Management
The Wolf Roundtable (stakeholder group convened to assist in developing the Wolf Plan) was not able to reach consensus on a recreational harvest of wolves. The Roundtable (and Plan) did offer support for targeted public harvest in areas of high conflict or other issues, as long as they were issues that could be resolved through population reduction. Recreational harvest clearly needed much more discussion before it could be “supported by the public” as required by the Plan. Harvest through public harvest seasons requires Legislative action. Discussions on public harvest will occur when wolves are a designated game species and should follow under the direction of the Wolf Plan. That includes discussions on several different options for wolf harvest that are geared toward resolving wolf conflicts.

We appreciate your request to have us respond to your comments.

Adam Bump
Bear and Furbearer Specialist
DNR- Wildlife Division

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