(WXYZ) — Two Michigan senators are looking for the state to allow wolf hunts this year.
State Sens. Ed McBroom and Jon Bumstead proposed a Senate resolution that urges the Natural Resources Commission to authorize the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to organize wolf hunting this year.
Gray wolves in Michigan have been protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1974, but they were officially removed from the list in 1974.
According to the DNR, there are several things that should happen before a wolf hunt should be considered.
One of them, a DNR spokesperson said, is that the legal status of the wolves endangered status should be more permanently settled.
While wolves are currently off the list, there are two lawsuits already ongoing in federal court.
The DNR also said its wolf management plan should be updated after completing a public attitude survey, which they expect to have done by June 2022, and the DNR said it wants to have conversations with tribal governments in Michigan.
According to most recent estimates, the DNR said there are about 695 wolves among 143 packs in the Upper Peninsula. The most recent numbers came from a survey conducted in the winter of 2020. The count is taken in the winter when populations are at their lowest point.
According to the DNR, the pack size has remained stable and averages just under five wolves.
McBroom and Bumstead believe the wolf hunt will help maintain stable numbers and keep them at levels for low interaction rates.
"A managed wolf hunt in the state is a viable means of ensuring stable wolf population numbers. Wolf hunting allows the wolf population to be kept at levels that ensure the overall survival of the animal but limit potential wolf and human conflicts," the resolution reads.
The state does have two laws that help address wolf-human conflicts – Public Act 290 of 2008 and Public Act 318 of 2008. When wolves became delisted, those laws became effective.
"These laws allow residents to use lethal control on wolves that are in the act of killing or wounding livestock or a dog," the DNR said.
Both McBroom and Bumstead said in the resolution that while they commend the DNR for beginning the process of updating the wolf management plan, there is no reason to delay a 2021 wolf hunt while the plan is updated.
Michigan's history with gray wolves
At one point, according to the DNR, wolves were once present in all 83 Michigan counties and they are native to the state, but persecution and predator control programs during the 20th century nearly eliminated wolves.
According to the DNR, there were no wolves in the southern portion of the Lower Peninsula by 1840, and they completely disappeared from the Lower Peninsula by 1935.
There was a state bounty on wolves, which was repealed in 1960, and didn't get legal protection until 1965. They were then given federal protection in 1973, and there were only six gray wolves in the Upper Peninsula.
In the 1980s, natural emigration of wolves from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ontario to the U.P. was documented, when a pair of wolves showed up in the Central U.P.
The DNR said the pair had wolf pups in 1990, and two years later, the number of gray wolves was around 21.