Residents want wolf hunt
ALPENA — Wolves and deer are on the minds of many Michiganders concerned about wildlife conservation issues, according to Carol Rose, a Hillman resident appointed last year as chairwoman of the Michigan Natural Resources Commission.
About 20 Michiganders — none from Northeast Michigan — spoke up during the public comment portion of the commission’s Thursday meeting, Rose said.
No substantial decisions were made at the meeting, but commissioners discussed tightening disease-testing requirements for fisheries, heard an update on recent elk hunts, and considered next steps after wolves were taken off the endangered species list on Jan. 4.
Resident input mostly revolved around deer hunting concerns and plans for managing Michigan’s wolf population, Rose said.
While the commission has to consider the science behind conservation efforts in making its decisions, it also needs to hear from people who regularly observe and are impacted by the animals of Michigan every day, Rose said.
“We’re all in this together,” Rose said, “to manage our resources and protect the livelihood of our neighbors.”
A discussion of wolf management sparked concern about the species’ impact on the Upper Peninsula, Rose said.
Commenters said wolves are decimating the U.P. deer population.
On Friday, Alpena business owner Henry Kreger said that, lately, he only gets one U.P. deer a year at his taxidermy shop, instead of the 20 hunters used to bring in.
Wolves are as welcome in Michigan as the next species, but they need to be managed, Kreger said.
In his work with hunters, he regularly hears about wolves attacking mass gatherings of deer in their wintering grounds and reducing the deer population enough to hurt the hunting seasons that are part of the U.P. culture.
Wolves kill elk, too, and will clear an area of small game used by residents as food and income. Kreger worries about farmers and ranchers who have to protect their herds from strong and intelligent wolves.
He hears horror stories about hunting dogs torn to pieces by wolves and pets snatched from back yards.
“It’s the killingest thing you can think of on land in North America,” said Mark Miller, a customer in Kreger’s shop who hopes the Natural Resources Commission will listen to the residents urging the commission to institute an annual wolf hunt.
Such a hunt is not currently being considered by the commission, Rose said.
Within the next few months, a wolf advisory council will develop a plan for wolf management with the help of a carnivore specialist. The council will consider public attitude surveys to decide how best to manage the animal that’s a beautiful but deadly part of the Michigan landscape, Rose said.
An estimated 662 wolves lived in Michigan in 2018, far exceeding the wolf management plan established in 2008 that called for a minimum population of 200 wolves in the U.P., Rose said.
Rose said she supports the management plan.
“One can love a wildlife species and at the same time recognize that its population needs to be managed,” Rose said.
Comments at Thursday’s meeting also included concerns about universal antlerless deer hunting permits — which some hunters believe should be limited to specific deer management areas — and questions about what guns can be used during designated deer hunting seasons.
Rose also offered a reminder that deer heads are still needed for bovine tuberculosis testing.
The next Natural Resources Commission meeting will be Feb. 11 and will be held virtually. Information about the meeting can be found at michigan.gov.nrc. Public comment is welcome.