Wolves in the U.P.
Should wolves be hunted and/or trapped in the U.P. to control their numbers? The answer to that is absolutely, yes. The MDNR seems to believe that there isn’t enough science to make intelligent decisions on harvest regulations. They would rather make harvest decisions by bringing together stake holder groups and use that body to make management decisions based on opinion (wolf lovers vs non-lovers). There is plenty of science and/or harvest data from other states or countries to prove exactly what should be done.
Wisconsin has the best data available on the internet for easy access (DNR). Other states include Minnesota, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Alaska, and our neighbor where the wolves in the Lake States originated from – Canada. Interested individuals shouldn’t only look at harvest data but should also research each state or country to determine what that data is based on.
Wisconsin’s data shows that wolves are responsible for more than 31% of deer killed in 17 northern counties. Also, they kill more than gun-deer hunters in the four-county area of Iron, Ashlund, Douglas and Forest. Wisconsin state law sets a wolf season to begin the first Saturday in November through the last day of February except if the wolf is listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.
On January 3, 2021 wolves were delisted again in the Lake States turning management control over to the states. Michigan (really the U.P.) reached its goal of a viable population of 200 wolves for five consecutive years in 2004. In 2012 Michigan’s legislature enacted Public Act 520 which designated the wolf as a game species. In 2013 Public Act 20 was signed into law which gave the NRC the authority to designate the wolf a game species and regulate the hunting and trapping of wolves. Currently according to the MDNR the minimum winter population (lowest during the year) is 695 divided among 143 packs.
Wolves do have an impact on deer and moose populations, and this impact, in combination with factors such as severe winters have reduced U.P. populations to historic low levels. Michigan (DNR-NRC) now has the ability to influence this system by reducing the wolf population and allowing the deer and moose populations to recover from multiple severe winters.
Reproduction rates, immigration and emigration are the factors in a wolf populations ability to compensate for human-induced mortality. Harvest studies conducted in Canada, Alaska, Minnesota, Montana, Wisconsin and Idaho have set the benchmark for wolf management. Social and biological science relevant to wolf harvest is generally agreed that a 30% harvest will have no impact on a free-ranging wolf population. Studies also show historically in the Great Lakes area declining numbers of prey (bison, elk, deer, caribou and beaver) caused wolf populations to decline prior to bounties being established in the 1800s, not regular hunting or trapping.
Wolves need to be managed for other reasons which included, but not limited to: local economic revenue (hunting seasons), property values (camps), wildlife viewing (tourism), livestock/pet predation predation.
Delta Conservation District
Natural Resource Specialist