Justifications for wolf control unfounded
The decision to delist wolves should be based on the best available scientific evidence and research, not unfounded claims or politics.
In his recent guest opinion, state Rep. Greg Markkanen argued for the federal delisting of wolves because, “Pet owners and livestock farmers from nearly every U.P. county have horror stories of dogs and cattle falling prey to wolves.” This is a gross misrepresentation of the facts.
The U.P. has approximately 900 working farms with about 50,000 head of cattle and more than 18,000 chickens. In 2019, six farms experienced a conflict. This is similar to past years — 2017, five farms; 2018, four farms.
Of the recorded 17 livestock animals mentioned by Rep. Markkanen as being killed by wolves, five were calves, 10 were free-ranging chickens and two were ducks. Each producer was paid the fair market value for their loss.
The three dogs killed and five injured by wolves were hunting dogs, each released into known wolf pack territories.
Rep. Markkanen also stated, “Without management, its (wolf) population could reach numbers that will be detrimental to other species.” There is simply no scientific evidence to support his claim. Weather, not wolves, has the greatest impact on deer populations.
Further, the wolf population has remained steady for the last seven years. This is consistent with research that suggests wolf populations stabilize as prime habitat becomes occupied. The current population, 662, is roughly half the carrying capacity for the U.P., using models based on habitat and prey availability.
To delist a species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must evaluate more than just its population. They must also determine if there are adequate existing regulatory mechanisms in place, taking into account the initiatives by states and other organizations, to protect the species or habitat. The agency can consider delisting or downlisting if it is determined that the threats have been eliminated or sufficiently reduced.
Records show the Michigan Department of Natural Resources misled the public regarding the need for a wolf hunt and now, Attorney General Nessel is investigating whether state officials improperly blocked or delayed the release of public records relating to their efforts to have three protected gray wolves killed in 2016.
Fear-mongering, illegal wolf killing and political interference should be considered by the USFWS as threats still facing Michigan wolves.