State Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, and Rep. Matt Huuki, R-Atlantic Mine, have introduced legislation now under consideration to designate gray wolves as game animals in Michigan. This is the first step necessary on the road to establishing a wolf hunt.
Casperson's bill recently reported out of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes, with a recommendation to pass the bill. The Senate may decide to take up the measure later this month.
Casperson's legislation designates wolves as game species, authorizes establishment of the first open season for wolf and allows the Michigan Natural Resources Commission to issue orders establishing wolf hunting seasons throughout the state.
"The sound management of wolf populations in this state is necessary, including the use of hunting as a management tool, to minimize negative human and wolf encounters and to prevent wolves from threatening or harming humans, livestock and pets," Casperson said in the bill.
Casperson's legislation would establish a $100 fee for a resident wolf hunting license and $500 for a non-resident license. The bill also allows the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to establish a $4 application fee for wolf hunting licenses.
In the past, we have supported taking wolves off the Endangered Species List to allow management of the species by state officials who have developed a wolf management plan, which was created with a diverse group of interests offering input.
We still believe the management plan is the most effective way to address wolves in Michigan. On the issue of establishing a hunt, we think with Minnesota and Wisconsin having already created wolf hunts, a hunt in Michigan is a likely eventuality.
While we think concerns over wolves being a threat to attacking humans or having a tremendous negative impact on local deer herds are overblown, we think Casperson and Huuki have the right idea in getting the question of whether a hunt should take place, and under what provisions, answered by the Natural Resources Commission.
While Casperson's bill details hunting license fees, the NRC would dictate methods of take, bag limits and other provisions of wolf hunting or trapping seasons. Quotas for kill tags would be important, to keep wolf numbers at levels that would not jeopardize the population or force relisting the animal as a threatened or endangered species.
The commission would decide quotas or may also decide a hunt is not acceptable at this time. There are state provisions in place to address wolf predation on pets and livestock.
With the state's wolf management plan in effect for only a relatively short time, some wolf advocates opposing Casperson's legislation suggest there's no reason to hurry to establish a wolf hunt.
However, designating wolves as game species and passing the issue to the NRC does not necessarily establish a hunt. We also do not believe that if the commission does decide to allow wolves to be hunted, it will do so recklessly.
We have faith in the NRC to arrive at the best conclusions for Michigan, including whether a hunt of one of the region's most spectacular animal species -the gray wolf- will go forward.