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Michigan to cull UP's growing wolf population

DNR wants to avoid backlash against the animals

April 27, 2005


The state Department of Natural Resources announced plans Tuesday to trap and kill as many as 20 of the Upper Peninsula's burgeoning population of gray wolves this summer in an attempt to limit attacks on domestic livestock and pets.

DNR officials said their goal is to assure a healthy future for wolves in Michigan, which might otherwise be threatened by public backlash against wolves in backyards and farm fields.


Todd Hogrefe, DNR endangered species coordinator, said wolves have attacked three dogs in recent weeks, including one chained up in its yard near Pelkie, near the base of the Keweenaw Peninsula.

"The survival of wolves depends on public support, so we need to avoid negative public attitudes," Hogrefe said. "We'd much rather do it ourselves than have people taking it on themselves to" to kill troublesome wolves.

Wolves mostly eat large and small wild critters, but they can be opportunists. Attacks on people by healthy animals, though, are almost unheard of.

DNR employees will use lethal methods only for wolves that have preyed on livestock or pets and are a threat to continue to do so -- and then only under certain conditions. Lactating females, for instance, could only be killed after being involved in "three or more depredation events," officials said.

The state killed 10 wolves in the UP during the last two years, but it had to seek a new permit after a federal judge ruled in February that federal officials acted too hastily in removing the gray wolf from the endangered species list.

One of the 10 was euthanized after it attacked and killed the 10-year-old pet of John and Sandra Smith in Ontonagon County in August.

John Smith was still fuming about the episode -- and the DNR -- Tuesday. Smith's dog Chewy was chased into hiding below the couple's mobile home and killed by a single wolf that was still gnawing on the remains hours later when it was captured.

"As far as I'm concerned, we should have open season on them," Smith said. "Otherwise, the population is going to explode and explode."

Smith said culling only a few wolves is "like having Jeffrey Dahmer and Jack the Ripper in your backyard, and only trying to get rid of one of 'em."

State officials estimate there are about 400 wolves in the UP, a 25-percent increase in the last two years. A few wolves are believed to live in northern lower Michigan, and a separate population has been on Isle Royale in western Lake Superior for more than 40 years. As recently as the early 1970s, wolves had almost disappeared from the rest of the Upper Peninsula.

Wisconsin officials also have acquired a permit for wolf eradication this summer. The practice is also allowed in Minnesota, which has long had a stable wolf population, the DNR's Hogrefe said.

Peggy Struhsacker, wolf project leader for the National Wildlife Federation, said many organizations dedicated to the long-term survival of wolves in the wild, including hers, support the use of lethal control when "necessary to alleviate human and wolf conflict."

The wolf population in Michigan is growing strong, she said.

Contact DAWSON BELL at 313-222-6604 or dbell@freepress.com.






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