Michigan DNR appeals ruling that put grey wolves back on federal endangered species list

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By Jonathan Oosting

LANSING, MI — The Michigan Department of Natural Resources on Friday announced that it is appealing a recent federal ruling that returned the state’s grey wolves to the endangered species list.

The ruling, issued by U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell in December, reinstated federal protections for wolves in Michigan and other Great Lakes states that had been removed in 2012, effectively blocking local control efforts.

“Returning wolf management to wildlife professionals in the state of Michigan is critical to retaining a recovered, healthy, and socially-accepted wolf population in our state,” said DNR Director Keith Creagh said in a statement.

“Michigan residents who live with wolves deserve to have a full range of tools available to sustainably manage that population.”

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is home to slightly more than 600 wolves, up from just six in the 1970s. The DNR has advocated for stronger management and backed the state’s first ever wolf hunt in 2013 as a means to reduce conflicts with livestock and comfort levels around humans.

Michigan’s grey wolf population has been the subject of intense debate in recent years, with the state’s Republican-led Legislature approving two separate hunting laws that were rejected by voters. But a third wolf hunt law, initiated by a petition drive and approved by lawmakers, cannot be overturned via referendum.

Animal rights groups, energized by the December ruling that reinstated federal protections, argue that hunting seasons in Michigan and other Great Lakes states have jeopardized the wolf recovery.

Jill Fritz, state director of the Humane Society of the United States and the Keep Michigan Wolves Protected coalition, said she was not surprised by the DNR’s appeal but “baffled” by the logic.

“I’m curious how having a wolf hunt — and that’s exactly what they want to do — would help retain a quote ‘recovered, healthy, and socially-accepted wolf population,'” she said. “I cannot make any sense of any part of that sentence.”

HSUS and allies have asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to “downlist” Great Lakes wolves, reclassifying them as a threatened species rather than an endangered one, which would give the state flexibility to kill or remove nuisance wolves.

Livestock attacks have been an issue for some farmers in the U.P. As MLive previously reported, there were 35 wolf attacks on livestock or dogs in Michigan last year, up from 20 in 2013 but lower than the 41 in 2012.

DNR Wildlife Division Chief Russ Mason, in a statement, called Michigan’s wolf recovery a “great success story” but said the endangered status “leaves farmers and others with no immediate recourse when their animals are being attacked and killed.”


Feds restore protected status for Great Lakes wolves!


Associated Press 6:58 a.m. EST February 20, 2015

Traverse City — Gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region are protected by federal law once more.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is publishing a rule Friday designating wolves in Michigan and Wisconsin as “endangered” and those in Minnesota as “threatened.”

The rule complies with a federal judge’s order in December that overruled the agency’s earlier decision to revoke wolves’ protected status and hand management authority to the states.

It means sport hunting and trapping of Great Lakes wolves is no longer permissible.

A spokesman says the agency hasn’t decided whether to appeal the court ruling. Legislation to overturn it has been introduced in Congress.

More than 50 scientists this week signed a letter to Congress saying wolves occupy a small fraction of their former range and still need legal protection.

copyrighted wolf in water

Bill in Congress would remove protections for Great Lakes wolves


By Steve Karnowski
Associated Press

01/13/2015 12:01:00 AM CST | Updated:  

A gray wolf in an April 2008 photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (AP Photo/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Gary Kramer, File)

A gray wolf in an April 2008 photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (AP Photo/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Gary Kramer, File)

Several members of Congress are preparing legislation to take gray wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Wyoming off the endangered list in an attempt to undo court decisions that have blocked the states from allowing wolf hunting and trapping for sport and predator control.

U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Wis., is leading the effort, his office confirmed Tuesday. Co-sponsors include U.S. Reps. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., Dan Benishek, R-Mich., and Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo.

“I am pursuing a bipartisan legislative fix that will allow the Great Lakes states to continue the effective work they are doing in managing wolf populations without tying the hands of the Fish and Wildlife Service or undermining the Endangered Species Act,” Ribble said in a statement.

Ribble spokeswoman Katherine Mize said he hasn’t decided exactly when to introduce the bill, but the lawmakers are circulating a draft.

The legislation is in response to a ruling by a federal judge in Washington, D.C., last month that threw out an Obama administration decision to “delist” wolves in the western Great Lakes region, where the combined wolf population is estimated at around 3,700. That followed a similar decision by a different federal judge in September that stripped Wyoming of its wolf management authority and returned that state’s wolves to federal protections under the Endangered Species Act.

Ribble’s bill uses a strategy that succeeded in taking wolves in Idaho and Montana off the endangered list after court challenges by environmentalists blocked those efforts.

Congress took matters into its own hands in 2011 and lifted the federal protections for wolves in those two states, which then allowed hunting and trapping to resume.

“The language we are looking at would be narrow and would address the recent court decision. It would not seek to change the Endangered Species Act, but would be designed to meet the need in our region for responsible stewardship of the wolf population,” Benishek said in a statement.

Peterson, the most senior member of Minnesota’s congressional delegation, said he didn’t know what the prospects are for this legislation, but he said they’re probably better than they were in 2011 given that Republicans now control the Senate. He said he’s working to line up support from other lawmakers.

U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell said in her 111-page ruling that the delisting, which took effect in 2012, was no more valid than the government’s three previous attempts over more than a decade. While wildlife managers in the three western Great Lakes states say their wolf populations are no longer endangered and can sustain limited hunting and trapping, Howell criticized the states’ regulatory plans as inadequate. She also said wolves still need federal protections because they haven’t repopulated all of their historic range.

Peterson said he has asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to appeal her decision and was confident it would be overturned.

Fish and Wildlife spokesman Gavin Shire said no decision has been made on appealing Howell’s December ruling but said the agency did not appeal the Wyoming decision within the 60-day limit. He said the service wasn’t aware of any proposed legislation to delist wolves and couldn’t comment on it.

Under Howell’s ruling, wolves reverted to “threatened” status in Minnesota and “endangered” in Wisconsin and Michigan. Sport hunting and trapping is banned again in all three states, and Wisconsin and Michigan government officials can’t kill wolves for preying on livestock or pets — only to protect human life.

Doug Peterson, president of the Minnesota Farmers Union, said he believes the ruling is already affecting farms and ranches, particularly smaller family farms where the loss of a cow or calf or two puts a big dent in incomes.

“At some point people are going to do what they’re going to do to protect their livestock. That ends up being a problem,” he said.

Wolves Under Attack

From HSUS.org (it’s good to see the leading the charge on this issue):

There is an all out war on our nation’s wolves — and in Michigan, they just took another hit.

Last week, in a charade of a vote, the Michigan House passed the unconstitutional “Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act” — a misleadingly named bill that will allow a group of seven political appointees to open up a hunting season on wolves or any other protected species in the state without citizens having any say whatsoever.

This is a direct attack on citizen lawmaking and another big blow to Michigan’s fragile wolf population.

This is the third time in two years that Michigan lawmakers have voted to authorize a hunting season on Michigan’s small wolf population. It’s a slap in the face to the nearly half a million Michiganders who signed petitions to put two referendums on the ballot, and to all Michigan voters who are being told by the politicians that their votes shouldn’t count when it comes to what animals are hunted.

But we are far from backing down to these politicians. Our coalition partners at Keep Michigan Wolves Protected plan to challenge the “Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act” in court, and we are confident that Michigan courts will reject this unconstitutional Act and instead respect the voice of the people. And if citizens successfully vote down the two referendums in November, we will block a hunting season this fall and stop dozens or perhaps even hundreds of wolves from being pointlessly killed by trophy hunters.

copyrighted Hayden wolf walking

Pro-wolf hunt measure passes Michigan Senate

copyrighted wolf in river


By Jonathan Oosting

LANSING, MI — Michigan’s Republican-led Senate on Wednesday approved controversial legislation that could pave the way for future wolf hunting seasons despite two wolf protection proposals set to appear on the November ballot.

The initiated bill was sent to the state Legislature last month by Citizens For Professional Wildlife Management, a hunting and conservation coalition that collected an estimated 297,000 valid signatures in a statewide petition drive.

State senators returned from summer recess to vote on various legislation, including the wolf hunt measure. It was approved in a 23-10 vote, mostly along party lines, and now heads to the House for further consideration.

The measure is similar to — and actually seeks to re-enact — recent laws that first designated the gray wolf as a game animal and gave the Natural Resource Commission the authority to add new species to the list. Both laws were suspended pending outcome of voter referendums this fall.

Supporters say the commission, comprised of seven members appointed by the governor, is best suited to consider scientific rationale for new game species or hunts. The NRC approved the state’s first-ever wolf season last year.

“It’s not about eliminating wolves,” said state Sen. Howard Walker, R-Traverse City, whose district includes wolf habitat in the eastern Upper Peninsula. “It’s about a balanced ecosystem, and it’s about providing scientific management.”

The Senate did not have to vote on the pro-hunt bill. Rejection or inaction would send the measure to the statewide ballot, where it would compete with the two anti-wolf hunt proposals.

Approval by the state House, which is set to reconvene for voting on August 27, would render those ballot proposals moot. The initiated legislation also includes a $1 million appropriation to battle invasive species, which may make it immune from future referendum.

Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, a coalition funded primarily by the Humane Society of the United States, organized two successful petition drives in a bid to prevent wolf hunting. The group’s first effort was rebuffed by the Legislature, which passed a second law when the first was suspended.

Several Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer of East Lansing, urged Republican leadership to send the measure to the ballot, arguing that approval would disenfranchise voters who had signed the anti-hunt petitions.

“I’m not going to debate the merits of wolf hunting, because I really shouldn’t have to. There are initiatives supporting both sides of the argument that are intended to let the people decide.” Whitmer said.

“But I do think we should be debating why the desires of people who want to kill wolves outweigh those who do not. Because that’s what this is all about.”

Sen. Tom Casperson, who sponsored both wolf hunt laws facing referendum this fall, questioned why the Humane Society was focused on Michigan and suggested its true aim is to take away all hunting privileges, which the group denies.

“The sportsmen decided to do the initiative, and it’s within their right to do it,” he said, referencing the third petition drive that sent the measure to the Legislature.

Michigan’s wolf population grew dramatically in the 1990s and early 2000s, prompting removal from both state and federal endangered species lists. There are now an estimated 636 wolves in the Upper Peninsula.

Supporters say that wolf hunts are an effective population-control tool for limiting attacks on livestock and pets, arguments bolstered by recent news that wolves had killed five hunting dogs in the span of three days, along with a cow.

Twenty-two wolves were legally killed in a hunt that ran from mid-November through December in three zones of the Upper Peninsula, about half the number that the state had hoped for.

An MLive.com investigation found government half-truths, falsehoods and livestock numbers skewed by a single farmer distorted some arguments for the inaugural hunt.

Politicians “can’t be trusted on this issue, but the voters can be trusted, and should be allowed to hear the arguments from both sides and make an informed judgment this November,” said Jill Fritz of Keep Michigan Wolves Protected.

“We call on House members to end this abuse of power, and restore respect for the democratic process by letting the people vote.”

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources sold 1,200 wolf hunting licenses last year, generating roughly $120,000 for the Game and Fish Protection Fund, according to the non-partisan House Fiscal Agency.

The $1 million appropriation proposed in the new bill would be drawn from the state’s general fund. The measure would also extend a provision of the 2013 law that gave free hunting, fishing and trapping licenses to active military members.

Restore Protection to Michigan Wolves

From Keep Michigan Wolves Protected:

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Keep Michigan Wolves Protected

Great news! Today the Board of State Canvassers certified a second ballot referendum challenging the reckless trophy hunting of Michigan’s small wolf population — on Nov. 4 Michiganders will have the opportunity to vote to restore the people’s right to have a say on wildlife policy.

After we submitted signatures for our first referendum to stop the pointless wolf hunt, politicians hastily passed a second law that was an end-run around the voters, trying to put all new hunting and trapping seasons in the hands of an unelected, politically appointed commission that is aligned with the legislature’s views. But once again, Michigan voters have proven that they simply won’t be silenced, and won’t give up our rights to participate in decision-making when it comes to wildlife policy! And now we need everyone to help us get out the word. Restore protection to our wolves and protect our voting rights — vote NO on both proposals!
We truly couldn’t have gotten here without supporters like you! Every single person that collected signatures, signed a petition, made a donation, shared our messages, or volunteered their time has helped us take one more step toward protecting our majestic wolves.

Incredible Scam to Kill Inedible Wolves


 Michael Markarian: Animals & Politics

There is more fallout from the Michigan wolf hunt scandal, in which state legislators relied on and trafficked in exaggerated and even fabricated stories about wolf incidents as they went about authorizing a hunt on the state’s small population of wolves. Nearly two-thirds of all wolf incidents in the Upper Peninsula occurred on a single farm, where the individual farmer baited wolves with cattle and deer carcasses. As John Barnes of MLive.com reported yesterday, that farmer, John Koski, has agreed to plead guilty to charges of neglecting the guard donkeys provided to him by the state and funded by Michigan taxpayers. Two of the donkeys starved to death and a third was removed due to neglect.
As Barnes noted, “Koski received nearly $33,000 in cattle-loss compensation from the state. Taxpayers also footed the bill for more than $200,000 in staff time and other measures to assist the farm against wolf attacks, documents obtained by MLive.com show.” So here we have one farmer who pocketed tens of thousands of dollars, refused to use the fencing provided by the state, allowed guard donkeys to starve to death, and lured wolves to his property with a free buffet of rotting corpses. This was the poster child for Michigan’s “need” for a wolf hunt.
Politicians and state officials continue to point to wolf depredation statistics in the Upper Peninsula to justify their decision to open a wolf hunting season for the first time in four decades. But if Koski’s self-inflicted wolf incidents were removed from the statewide numbers, the true picture of wolf conflicts is miniscule at best. It’s one more example of state officials cooking the case against wolves: lawmakers and DNR staff have admitted that stories they told of wolves stalking daycare centers and staring at people through glass doors were false and never happened.
After voters demanded a say on the issue, state legislators went out of their way to end-run the people, handing off the decision on wolf hunting to seven, unelected members of the Natural Resources Commission whose collective opinion was in line with the state legislature’s view. These seven individuals are political appointees, and not accountable to voters. The sole scientist on the commission proved to be the only dissenting vote against their plan to open a trophy hunting season for wolves.

Photo by MacNeill Lyons/National Park Service/AP
It is reckless to allow trophy hunters to kill wolves from the small, still recovering population of only about 650 wolves in Michigan. Hunters aren’t targeting problem wolves, but randomly killing animals in national forests and other wilderness areas. In fact, it’s already legal to kill problem wolves in the rare instances when livestock, pets, or human safety are or may be perceived to be at risk. This system works and allows for selective control of wolves causing any problems.
Wolves are an economic and ecological boon to the state, promoting tourism to the Upper Peninsula and checking the growth of abundant deer populations. Wolves help maintain a healthy deer population and cull weak and sick animals, preventing the spread of dangerous diseases such as Chronic Wasting Disease. Wolves also lower the risk of deer-auto collisions and depredations on crops. This can save humans lives and tens of millions of dollars for the state.
Responsible hunters eat what they kill, and because wolves are inedible, most hunters have no interest in killing them. Responsible hunters also don’t go for the use of painful steel-jawed leghold traps, hunting over bait, and even using packs of dogs to chase down and kill wolves—and all of that may be in store if the Natural Resources Commission decides to allow these cruel methods.
Koski’s plea agreement provides one more example of why Michigan’s wolf hunt is based on a pack of lies. The politicians and state officials apparently cannot be trusted, but the voters can. Join Keep Michigan Wolves Protected to help set things right and stop this abuse of power.


No wolves to be added to dwindling Isle Royale wolf pack


The National Park Service has decided not to transplant any wolves to Isle Royale National Park to address the island’s declining wolf population, MPR News reports.The wolf pack living on the Lake Superior island has been dwindling over the past several years because of inbreeding, disease and a temporary decline in the moose population. There are just nine wolves compared to an average of 23 over the past couple of decades. Some researchers are concerned the wolves might die out if new animals aren’t added to the pack.

But Phyllis Green, the superintendent of Isle Royale National Park, said Wednesday the Park Service doesn’t think that step is necessary yet.

Instead, she says park officials will develop a management plan to assess the wolves’ survival longer term, as well as their interactions with the moose that live on Isle Royale, the Associated Press reports. She said it’ll take about three years to put the plan together.

Map showing the location of Isle Royale in Lake Superior.

“This is an island,” Green told MPR. “Island biogeography is a developing science, and our understanding of how islands react to change is still really being studied in a lot of ways.”

“As long as there’s a breeding population, we’re going to let these animals have a chance to live their lives without us intervening,” Green added, according to the AP.

A long-running research project has been studying the relationship between the wolves and the moose on Isle Royale for more than 50 years.  The scientists who lead that study, Rolf Peterson and John Vucetich of Michigan Technological University, are among the most vocal advocates for bringing more wolves to the island.

Vucetich declined comment about Green’s decision Wednesday but said he and Peterson would issue a statement next week, according to the Associated Press.

In a 2013 interview, Vucetich said it’s important to keep the island’s ecosystem healthy, with or without human involvement, the AP reports.

“As long as there are moose on Isle Royale there should be wolves on Isle Royale,” Vucetich said.

2013 Wolf Issues

December 29, 2013 in Outdoors

2013 outdoors: Wolf issues
Rich Landers The Spokesman-Review

The gray wolf, reintroduced to the Rockies in the mid-1990s, continued to leave its mark across the Northwest in 2013 and into the legislatures. Here are some highlights.

• Idaho and Montana report significantly lower numbers of wolves for the first time since reintroduction, owing to hunting, trapping and wildlife control. But wildlife officials say wolf numbers are still too high.

• Washington estimates up to 100 wolves in the state, double the estimate in 2012.

• The cost of managing wolves in Washington, where they are still protected, is likely to increase by more than 200 percent from the past two years to about $2.3 million in 2013-14, wildlife managers say.

• Wolf hunting and trapping become issues of national attention as a wolf hunter shoots and kills a malamute romping with its owner while cross country skiing near Lolo Pass; a Sandpoint woman’s dog is caught in a snare set along a closed forest road, and a central Idaho predator hunting derby becomes the first modern contest to target wolves in the lower 48.

• Hunting authorized outside of Yellowstone Park results in the killing of wolves popular with tourists as well as radio-collared wolves vital to research.

• The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to drop endangered species protections for the gray wolf in most of the country.

• Pro-wolf groups submit a million comments in December to the FWS favoring continued federal protection.

• Washington legislation makes it legal to kill wolves threatening pets and livestock, provides state wildlife managers more resources to prevent wolf-livestock conflict and expands criteria to compensate livestock owners for wolf-related losses.

• Idaho hires a hunter to eliminate two wolf packs in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness to take the pressure off collapsing elk herds.

• Michigan becomes sixth state with a wolf hunting season.


Michigan Wolf Hunt: Freezing Temperatures Yield Fewer Wolves Than Expected

December 26, 2013

MARQUETTE, Mich. — Michigan authorities say at least 21 wolves have been killed in the Upper Peninsula during the state’s first wolf hunt in decades.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says that’s the total as of 6 a.m. Thursday. The department has expressed doubt that the hunt will reach its quota of 43 by year’s end.

The take in the wolf hunt remained at 20 for around three weeks as frigid weather kept the killing down.

The season opened in three sections of the U.P. on Nov. 15.

Before the season, the DNR estimated that Michigan had 658 wolves

copyrighted wolf in river


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