Federal court action to stop wolf hunting validates Michigan's indisputable election results
The November elections results are indisputable. Voters repealed Proposal 1 (moving the wolf to the game species list) with a 55 percent “no” vote, and they defeated Proposal 2 (giving the NRC the authority to decide which species can be hunted), with a 64 percent “no” vote. Proposal 2 was defeated in 69 of 83 counties, in a landslide rejection of NRC decision-making power.
And now, a federal District Court has just ruled that sport hunting and trapping of wolves in the Great Lakes region must stop for the foreseeable future. Wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin are federally protected – the way these precious and iconic creatures were for decades.
In the short time since federal protections have been removed, trophy hunters and trappers have killed more than 1,500 Great Lakes wolves under hostile state management programs that encourage dramatic reductions in wolf populations. The federal court recognized that the basis for removal of the wolves from protective status was flawed, and would stop wolf recovery in its tracks.
This ruling restores the wolf management policies that all parties operated under for four decades. The judge’s decision is also a rebuke of the overreaching trophy hunting programs authorized by the state authorities – both lawmakers and DNR officials – right after the wolves were taken off the list of federally protected species. Wisconsin's wolf hunt ended this year after killing 154 wolves – 80 percent of them in leghold traps. And in Minnesota, 272 gray wolves were killed – 84 percent of the wolves in this year's late season in cruel and indiscriminate traps. The trapping of wolves in Michigan was sure to happen had not the federal court and the voters of Michigan made their views crystal clear on that issue.
The states and the Federal government still have ample tools for depredation – including non-lethal actions in Michigan and Wisconsin, lethal methods in Minnesota, and of course lethal actions to protect human safety everywhere – as they have had over the last four decades.
A recent study out of Washington State University, which used more than 25 years of data, demonstrated that lethal control of depredating wolves doesn't work anyway, and in fact may make it worse for livestock (as well as wolves). That's because when disrupted, wolf families adapt, move, split up, increase reproduction – and then kill even more livestock.
With that in mind, it is no surprise that following Michigan’s first wolf hunt after delisting in November 2013, confirmed wolf attacks on livestock reportedly increased. The irresponsible use of wolf hunting by the DNR as justification for “conflict management” backfired, so there is no use in lamenting the loss of a tool that proved counterproductive in the first place.
In the meantime, Keep Michigan Wolves Protected is reviewing its legal options regarding the possible challenge to a law passed by the state legislature that would take away the citizens' right to have a say on important wildlife decisions. The people of Michigan don’t want trophy hunting or trapping of wolves, they don’t want more legislative tricks, and they don’t want to cede authority to an unelected group of political appointees.
Lansing politicians have passed three separate laws in their zeal to allow wolf hunting, but it’s time for all parties to heed the wishes of the voters and this latest court ruling and find the right balance on the issue of wolf management.
By Jill Fritz, Director Keep Michigan Wolves Protected