Wolf Population Growing
State Department of Natural Resources officials today announced results of the most recent wolf survey, which indicates at least 321 wolves now roaming Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
Wolves dispersing from Canada, Minnesota, and Wisconsin were occasionally present in the UP during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Reestablishment of wolves appears to have begun in 1989 when three animals established a territory in the Western UP. Since 1989, the wolf population has increased every year, except 1997 when a small population decline was noted.
Last winter, biologists spent more than 2,000 hours conducting the wolf survey, which used tracking, aerial observations of packs with radio-collared wolves, and other evidence to determine the number of animals. The DNR regularly monitors about 40 wolves that have been fitted with radio collars to determine their movements and survival.
DNR Biologist Dean Beyer said wolves were found in all UP counties except Keweenaw. “We have found wolves in Keweenaw County in the past,” Beyer said. “However, we were not able to document the presence of an established pack this winter.”
Although the wolf population grew nearly 15 percent from 278 animals last year, the rate of growth was much higher in the late 1990s.
“A recent change in the federal classification of wolves improves Michigan’s ability to manage the animals,” said Pat Lederle, DNR Endangered Species Program Coordinator. “In early April, the federal government reclassified wolves from ‘endangered’ status to ‘threatened’ status under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.”
Federal reclassification provides flexibility in managing the growing wolf population in Michigan and Wisconsin by allowing wildlife managers to euthanize wolves that have caused problems, especially to the livestock industry.
“Although it is doubtful such actions would be common, the DNR will use lethal control if it becomes absolutely necessary,” Lederle said. “The majority of our residents have welcomed the increasing wolf population, yet we must remain sensitive to human attitudes and not allow the animal’s natural activity to cause ill feelings with people, especially in the agricultural community.”
The DNR has established a new procedure intended to shorten the time required to respond to wolf or coyote depredation complaints. Those experiencing wolf depredation are directed to call the DNR Report All Poaching hotline at 1-800-292-7800, instead of the local DNR office. The hotline is staffed 24-hours a day, and the dispatcher will contact a local DNR Law Enforcement or Wildlife Division employees to respond quickly to complaints.
The DNR, in cooperation with the Michigan Department of Agriculture, Defenders of Wildlife, and the International Wolf Center in Minnesota, established a Michigan Wolf Compensation Program, which reimburses farmers for any livestock killed by a wolf.
The DNR encourages citizens to report any wolf sightings. People who see a wolf, find a wolf track, or other evidence of a wolf can contact any DNR office to obtain a wolf observation report form.