By JOHN PEPIN
For The Daily News
MARQUETTE - A limited gray wolf hunt in the Upper Peninsula will cover three management areas, the Michigan Natural Resources Commission has determined.
The three units are located in portions of Gogebic, Baraga, Houghton, Ontonagon, Luce and Mackinac counties.
Last month, Michigan Department of Natural Resources division chiefs recommended several regulations for a wolf hunt to the NRC. Those regulations establish a harvest of 43 wolves in three areas where wolf-human conflicts - including depredation of livestock and pets and human safety concerns - have been persistent despite employing a number of non-lethal control measures.
DNR officials said Michigan's wolf population has grown significantly since 2000, with the current minimum population estimate of 658, down slightly from last winter. The DNR said the target harvest is not expected to impact the overall wolf population trajectory, based on published scientific research.
"The recovery of Michigan's wolf population has been a remarkable success story," said NRC Chairman J.R. Richardson of Ontonagon.
Prior to the NRC decision, state officials consulted with the public, a wolf advisory panel, scientists and DNR officials from Minnesota and Wisconsin, where wolf hunts were held this past winter. The state's wolf management plan was a basis for many of the provisions developed.
The DNR also completed a wolf population survey and reviewed documented wolf conflicts and the effectiveness of control measures.
"This decision was the culmination of a long and thorough process by the NRC," DNR Director Keith Creagh said. "The DNR will continue to work closely with the commission to be certain that Michigan's wolf population is managed according to the principles of sound science."
Opponents hoping to stop a wolf hunt in Michigan have said lawmakers and state officials were rushing to establish a harvest. A coalition called Keep Michigan Wolves Protected gathered more than 250,000 petition signatures in hopes of reversing a law passed in December reclassifying wolves as game species.
If the state verifies enough signatures, the measure would appear before voters in 2014. However, a bill signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder this week would make the referendum ineffective by ensuring only the Legislature can remove an animal from the list of game species.
Wolves were taken off the federal Threatened and Endangered Species List in January 2012 after population recovery goals were met. Wolf populations will be monitored and relisting the species could be considered if populations dip too low.
DNR officials said a total of 1,200 wolf hunting licenses will be available for over-the-counter purchase -starting Aug. 3. The 2013 wolf season will open Nov. 15 and run until Dec. 31, or until the target harvest for each wolf management unit is reached. Licenses will be valid for all three wolf management units until each unit is closed.
The bag limit is one wolf per person per year. Firearm, crossbow and bow-and-arrow hunting and trapping will be allowed on public and private lands.
The cost of a wolf hunting license is $100 for residents and $500 for nonresidents.
For each wolf management unit, different primary objectives were identified, along with recommended harvest quotas, including:
- Wolf Management Unit A: A portion of Gogebic County, including the city of Ironwood and the encompassing township. Unit quota: 16 wolves. Objective: reduce nuisance wolf complaints, which have totaled 91 since 2010.
- Wolf Management Unit B: Portions of Baraga, Houghton, Ontonagon and Gogebic counties. Unit quota: 19 wolves. Objective: Reduce the number of chronic livestock depredations. Since 2010, 80 livestock depredation incidents have been documented from 11 farms.
- Wolf Management Unit C: Portions of Luce and Mackinac counties. Unit quota: 8 wolves. Objective: Reduce the number of chronic livestock and dog depredations. Since 2010, the DNR recorded 25 livestock depredation incidents from seven farms and four depredation incidents involving 12 dogs.
The DNR said hunters will be required to report successful harvest over the phone on the day of harvest. Once the target harvest quota is met for a management unit, the entire unit will be closed for the season. Licensed hunters will be required to check daily by phone or online to determine whether any management units have been closed.
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