Wednesday, May 8 saw Michigan Governor Rick Snyder's signing of a bill that might allow for the gray wolf to be hunted in his state. This would be the first time gray wolf hunting would be permitted in Michigan in 50 years.
The bill would also make Michigan the sixth state in the U.S. to allow wolves to be hunted within its boundaries.
The gray wolf was nearly driven to extinction in the lower 48 states a half-century ago, hence why hunting of them has not been permitted in states such as Michigan. However, some believe the gray wolf is a formidable "menace to farm animals," according to the Associated Press, which also notes there are those who believe the wolves are "a symbol of untamed wildness."
The reason the bill is not certain to allow the hunting of the gray wolf in Michigan is because the power to permit hunting does not lie with the state itself but it grants power to the Natural Resources Commission as to which animals can be hunted within the state. Prior to the bill's signing, that power rested with the Legislature.
On Thursday, May 9, the commission, comprised of seven members, will likely vote on a proposal from state wildlife authorities that would allow for up to 43 wolves to be killed. This number of wolves represents approximately 7 percent of the 658 gray wolves said to be inhabiting Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
"This action helps ensure sound scientific and biological principles guide decisions about management of game in Michigan," Snyder said. "Scientifically managed hunts are essential to successful wildlife management and bolstering abundant, healthy and thriving populations."
Opposition to the hunting of the gray wolf in the state is coming strongly from a coalition called Keep Michigan Wolves Protected. The group believes that voters should have more say in the matter and that leaving the decision up to the Natural Resources Commission is neither humane to the animals nor democratic.
"Michigan's 7.4 million registered voters would be discounted if the NRC doesn't respect the will of the people," said Jill Fritz, the group's director. "Legislative chicanery must not allow democratic principles to be circumvented and place Michigan's fragile wolf population at risk."
Sponsored by Escanaba Republican Sen. Tom Casperson, the new law is said by Casperson to help abate the problems of "marauding wolf packs [that are] a growing nuisance in Michigan's far north, preying on livestock, hunting dogs and household pets."
Casperson also believes that the bill indeed carries out voter opinion, as state constituents voted for a 1996 ballot initiative that gave the NRC the power to establish hunting protocol based on scientific data in Michigan.
The members of the NRC are appointed by the governor and serve terms that are staggered, according to the Associated Press.
"We're happy to see that the DNR will finally have the management tools it needs to help limit wolf conflicts up here and that decisions about how it manages wildlife will be made based on sound science, not television commercials," said Joe Hudson, president of the Upper Peninsula Bear Houndsmen Association.
Opponents still remain passionate about keeping the gray wolf safe.
"Hunting would unavoidably break up packs, the vast majority of which are not in conflict with farmers," Living With Wolves Program Director Garrick Dutcher told Snyder in a letter imploring the governor to veto the bill.
Dutcher explained in the letter that the wolf pack is "the social unit that defines the wolf and provides the collaboration they rely upon for survival."
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