Michigan Voices Support for Removal of Wolves From Endangered Species List
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources voiced its support for a federal proposal to remove wolves in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota from the endangered species list and return wolf management to the state.
"Returning wolves to state management will allow us to manage this recovered species under Michigan's highly regarded Wolf Management Plan, which was created through a roundtable process involving stakeholders from all sides of the wolf issue," said DNR Wildlife Division Chief Russ Mason. "State management will give us greater flexibility in how we can respond to problem wolves on the landscape, while maintaining sound management practices and increasing social acceptance of the species as a whole."
Wolves were added to the federal endangered species list in 1973, after nearly disappearing from the state in the early 1960s. Natural emigration of wolves from Minnesota and Ontario to Michigan's Upper Peninsula was documented in the 1980s, and the most recent estimate of Michigan's minimum winter wolf population completed in April indicates a new high of 687 animals ? a number that far exceeds federal recovery goals.
"Maintaining endangered species status for a recovered species like wolves is not beneficial to the animals, and erodes public support for the Endangered Species Act," said DNR Endangered Species Coordinator Chris Hoving. "Delisting is a positive step for wolves, and will help free up time and funding essential to the recovery of other species that are truly endangered or threatened."
The proposed rule to delist wolves in the Western Great Lakes states was published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today in the Federal Register, opening a 60-day public comment period and putting the delisting process into action. Instructions for submitting public comment can be found at www.regulations.gov, using docket number FWS-R3-ES-2011-0029.
In addition to the public comment period, the USFWS will host a public meeting and hearing in Ashland, Wis., on May 18. Other public meetings may be scheduled in the future by the USFWS for locations in Michigan and Minnesota. Following the close of the comment period, the USFWS will consider all available information and make a final decision on the proposal.
If the proposed rule is approved and finalized, management of wolves in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota could return to state authority before the end of the year. After the transition from endangered to recovered status, the USFWS will continue to monitor population numbers for five years to ensure recovery is stable.
In accordance with the Wolf Management Plan, wolves in Michigan will be classified as a nongame protected species. Any future decision to reclassify wolves as a game species would be at the discretion of the state Legislature.
In addition to proposing the delisting of wolves in the Western Great Lakes states, the USFWS has announced that scientific evidence shows the Great Lakes region is home to two separate species of wolves: the gray wolf and the eastern wolf. This determination was made through DNA analysis, and historical specimens indicate both species were present in Michigan prior to European settlement.
The two species appear very similar and usually cannot be differentiated except on the genetic level. When the USFWS proposal to delist wolves is finalized, all provisions of the Wolf Management Plan will apply to both gray and eastern wolves in Michigan.
For more information regarding the federal proposal to remove wolves from the endangered species list, contact Chris Hoving at 517-373-3337. Questions regarding management of wolves in Michigan can be referred to DNR wolf specialist Brian Roell at 906-228-6561.
To learn more about the history of wolves in Michigan and view the Wolf Management Plan, go online to www.michigan.gov/wolves.