Animal Neglect Charges Filed Against U.P. Farmer Used by State Officials to Justify Wolf Hunt
Animal neglect charges have been filed against an Upper Peninsula farmer responsible for more than 60 percent of the state’s wolf-livestock incidents, which were used by state politicians as a major justification for a wolf hunt. According to MLive.com, Matchwood cattle farmer John Koski was charged with the neglect of two donkeys which died on his property in early 2013.
Koski’s poor animal care and allegedly negligent behavior skewed statistics used by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and state legislators to promote the hunting of wolves, including in the area of “Wolf Management Unit B” in Ontonagon and Baraga Counties. Koski received nearly $33,000 in reimbursement from the state over the past three years for the loss of 96 cattle that he alleges was caused by wolves. According to a DNR investigation, Koski failed to use nearly $4,000 of taxpayer-funded non-lethal wolf deterrence methods, including fencing and the three guard donkeys, which the DNR provided to him free of charge.
A DNR investigator and accompanying veterinarian visiting the farm in early 2013 found that Koski allegedly allowed two of the donkeys to die, and a third donkey was removed because of extremely poor health. Michigan’s animal cruelty statute mandates that an owner must provide “sufficient food, water, shelter, sanitary conditions, exercise, and veterinary medical attention in order to maintain an animal in a state of good health,” with “animal” defined as “any vertebrate other than a human being.” The DNR alleged that Koski failed to provide proper care and water for his own cattle and baited wolves using deer and cattle carcasses in violation of another state law. The violation of Michigan’s penal code regarding animal cruelty is a misdemeanor that is punishable by up to one year in prison, a fine of not more than $2,000, or up to 300 hours of community service.
The Koski matter was highlighted by an investigative series in MLive.com http://topics.mlive.com/tag/wolf%20hunt/index.html, which showed that state legislators and a DNR official embellished or invented wolf incidents to frighten the public into accepting a wolf hunting season in Michigan for the first time in decades.
“Michigan’s wolf hunt was approved through the use of falsehoods, fear-mongering and the suppression of public opinion by state officials,” said Jill Fritz, director of Keep Michigan Wolves Protected. “And one irresponsible farmer, who has allegedly violated our state’s animal cruelty law and had been baiting wolves with animal carcasses, was held up as the poster child for Michigan’s wolf hunt. We applaud officials for filing charges against John Koski, and ask that they aggressively prosecute the case and seek a strong sentence.”
Michigan law already allows farmers, ranchers and dog owners to kill wolves attacking their animals. In fact, the DNR has sanctioned the killing of 89 wolves in Michigan over the past decade, including dozens as a result of Koski’s complaints. World-renowned wolf scientists at Michigan Technological University have testified that the killing of random wolves in a trophy hunt is an ineffective and inhumane method of addressing wolf conflicts, and may even make the problem worse by dispersing packs.
In addition to reporting about the Koski farm, the MLive.com series revealed that false or incomplete data was used to justify the need for a wolf hunt. Lawmakers embellished details of a wolf sighting outside an Upper Peninsula daycare to create an incident that never occurred; the DNR’s furbearer specialist fabricated a story in a radio interview about wolves threatening people outside their homes; and the Natural Resources Commission, the unelected, politically-appointed body that formulates policy for the DNR, asked for public input about the wolf hunt and then deleted or ignored more than 10,000 email comments on the subject.
Keep Michigan Wolves Protected seeks to restore the protection of wolves enacted by the state decades ago and stop wolf hunting by overturning legislation allowing wolves to be designated as game. Michigan voters are urged to vote ‘no’ on two wolf referendums in the Nov. 4, 2014 election.
In March 2013, Keep Michigan Wolves Protected – a coalition of animal welfare groups, conservationists, veterinarians, business owners, faith leaders and Native American tribes – submitted more than 255,000 signatures of Michigan citizens allowing voters to decide in the November 2014 election if the wolf should be designated as a game animal.
Before the people even had an opportunity to vote on the issue, legislators and the governor hastily approved a second law, PA 21, allowing the Natural Resources Commission to designate the wolf and other protected animals as game species, which would no longer be subject to the voter referendum process. Keep Michigan Wolves Protected launched a second petition drive in August 2013 to overturn PA 21.
Persons interested in volunteering, donating or learning more about the issue can visit KeepWolvesProtected.com.