While our new wolf pack here in southern Oregon is apparently thriving, I’d like to shift to other locations and discuss how wolves are doing elsewhere.
This post was written by Kristi Lloyd, who provides a powerful voice for wolves in her home state of Michigan. Kristi is also an advisor for Wolves of the Rockies, a Montana based advocacy group. Kristi is a wonderful individual, one I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know during a couple of trips to Yellowstone. Besides being dedicated, passionate, and well-informed about all things wolf, Kristi is a blast to hang out with!
The text will inform you on the status of wolves in Michigan. At the same time, it may surprise you as Kristi recounts some of the hard to believe details of the fight to protect Michigan’s wolves. Seems those who want wolves gone will go to extremes to win their case, no matter what it takes…
Kristi Lloyd, Kim Bean, Kc York, and myself at Trout Lake, Yellowstone National Park in June of 2013.
“Gray wolves once inhabited all of Michigan’s eighty-three counties, which include both the Upper (UP) and Lower Peninsulas. In 1838 Michigan began a bounty program for wolves. In 1922, a trapping system was implemented and the bounty program ended. But it resumed in 1935, the same year the last wolf was killed in Yellowstone National Park by government trappers. By 1960 the only wolves in the lower 48 were in Minnesota and Isle Royale National Park. Only one wolf was reported in Michigan in 1959.
In 1965, Michigan gave the gray wolf protection under state law. They were then added to the Federal Endangered Species List in 1974. Also that year there was an attempt to reintroduce wolves to the UP of Michigan, but the four wolves brought from MN were illegally killed and the decision was made to let wolves migrate and colonize on their own.
Michigan’s wolves were removed from the Federal Endangered List in January 2012. On December 27, 2012, Michigan governor Rick Snyder signed the bill that approved a wolf hunt in Michigan. This hunt went from November 15 through December 31, 2013 and was held in 3 separate areas in the UP. Twenty-two wolves being killed out of a quota of forty-three. Trapping was not allowed but trappers are pushing for a trapping season in 2014. The hunt was said to make wolves more wary of humans (a typical, nonsensical excuse) and to reduce livestock conflicts.
Shortly after wolves the hunt was approved, an organization called Keep Michigan Wolves Protected (KMWP) was created to fight the wolf hunt that was politically motivated, as it is in all of the wolf-hunting states.
KMWP put together a petition drive for a ballot initiative to repeal the designation of wolves as a game species which opened the door to a hunt. A minimum of 225,000 signatures from MI registered voters had to be collected and submitted within ninety days from December 27, 2012. The petition drive began in January of 2013. Throughout the winter MI residents were circulating and signing the petition. (I was one of them, brrrrr!!)
Some of us took abuse from those in favor of the wolf hunt. It seems just the mere mention of the word “wolf” makes some people think they can talk to others in any fashion they like. Of course we heard the usual UNscientific, UNdocumented “facts”…wait ‘til they eat one of your kids, they are killing all the deer, they are taking babies from strollers (yes, this was actually said), as was, kill ‘em all! But, before March 27, 2013 there were enough signatures to qualify the initiative for the ballot which would repeal the designation of wolves as a game species. Over 256,000 signatures were collected in two months and submitted to the Board of Canvassers (BOC) office. KMWP had also garnered support from residents and organizations from across the state.
While awaiting the signatures to be verified through the BOC, the GOP-dominated legislature came up with a way to keep the ballot proposal from being voted on. A new bill, created by Senator Tom Casperson to intentionally head off the proposal, was introduced and passed. This bill gave the unelected, appointed Natural Resources Commission (NRC) the authority to designate game species and they promptly took action.
The MI Constitution gives MI residents the right to referendum laws so what the legislature did was cut off the voices of 256,000 registered voters. The new bill would deflect the ballot proposal since the NRC is not an elected body. The goal was to ensure that there was no public support against the wolf hunt.
KMWP again went to work and created another petition for yet another ballot proposal. This one would repeal the law in which the unelected NRC is given the authority to designate game species. Originally, the authority was granted to the Senate in 1996 with the passing of Proposal G.
Once again, this petition drive took place during one the coldest, snowiest winters on record. 160,000 signatures were needed to repeal the law, and once again that goal was attained and exceeded with 183,000 signatures collected. There will be two ballot proposals for MI residents to vote on in November, 2014. One is to repeal the wolf being designated a game species and the other to repeal the law of giving the NRC authority to designate game species.
A coalition of “conservationists” called Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management (CPWM), consisting of hunters, hounders and trappers was created and drew up its own ballot initiative. This organization is backed by state legislators, out-of-state organizations like the Safari Club International, Rocky Mt. Elk Foundation (even though ALL the wolves are in the UP and ALL the elk are in the LP), as well as the National Turkey Federation.
Professional and scientific evidence demonstrating that wolf hunts are not effective to minimize conflicts between wolves and livestock was offered by Michigan Technological University’s Dr. John Vucetich and Dr. Rolf Peterson (both of the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose study and have studied wolves for decades) to the NRC and to the legislature in the spring of 2013. This information went out the window. The wolf hunt was based on lies, MISinformation and fabrications—and one particular cattle farmer in the UP.
Out of nine hundred working livestock farms in the UP, this farm, owned by John Koski, was the site of 80% of all of the livestock depredations. Koski was in violation of the law by leaving cow carcasses on his property and using deer legs to attract wolves onto his (uninhabited) farm. He was given kill permits by the DNR (Dept. of Natural Resources) and he used them to give to friends to kill wolves on his property. Twenty-two wolves were killed on this property.
One of the agents involved with this lethal removal was a judge who had written (along with Senator Tom Casperson) the resolution to delist MI’s wolves…which was based on a fabricated incident regarding wolves and a day care center. The judge, Anders Tingstad, called the resolution one of his best writings. Senator Casperson said in a news article in November, 2013 that if the information was found to be inaccurate he would rescind the resolution. But in December, when he apologized for lying about the information in the resolution, he said he would not rescind the resolution. In his apology for lying, Casperson pointed fingers and laid blame at others, further spewing MISinformation saying that wolves can and will attack people (there are no recorded wolf attacks on humans in MI). How sincere is that apology? He also says wolves live in “herds” and called Dr. Rolf Peterson Dr. Wolf.
John Koski was finally charged with animal neglect after an investigative news series revealed the carcasses and deer legs. Mr. Koski made a plea bargain and pleaded no contest to a charge of attempted animal neglect regarding the deaths of two guard donkeys and the removal of another one. He was found guilty and ordered to pay approximately $1,900 in court costs/fees. Koski had received over $30,000 in compensation for livestock losses and the DNR/Wildlife Services used another $200,000 in resources (tax payer $$) to work with Mr. Koski.
Since then, Mr. Koski has sold his cows and is in the process of selling his farm property. 70% of the wolves killed for his benefit were not involved in livestock attacks within five miles of where they were killed, and some had not been involved in a livestock depredation in one, two or three years.
An employee within the DNR, Adam Bump the fur bearer specialist, fabricated a story saying that wolves were peering into homeowners’ sliding glass doors and not being scared off when the owners banged on the doors. Through a FOIA request it was found this never happened and Mr. Bump apologized for his statement where he “misspoke”. The apology also came out after the investigative news story. He “misspoke” in May but it was not addressed by the DNR or corrected until November of 2013. One of the NRC Commissioners, JR Richardson, tossed thousands of public comments and a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity (that were solicited by the DNR/NRC but never opened) into a dump file.
Over 2,000 comments were against the wolf hunt, only thirteen were for the wolf hunt. And yet this organization, Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management, swears up and down that the wolf hunt is based on science. And why are they now asking for “professional” wildlife management? Why is their initiative being called the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act? They collected over 300,000 signatures for their initiative, which will NOT go to the voters of MI. It will go to the very same legislature that rammed the wolf hunt through in the first place. The legislature will have forty days after signature verification to take up this proposal or reject it. The signatures were turned in toward the end of last month and might take six weeks or so to be verified.
Those who circulated this petition used the “your hunting rights are being taken away!” line as well as “protect your right to hunt!” and mostly everything was against KMWP and/or the Humane Society of the United States. This organization also wants $1 million to fight the invasive Asian carp, which is really an appropriation. Appropriations attached to a citizens initiative make it referendum proof…there will be no recourse if this bill is not rejected by the legislature. They also want free hunting and fishing licenses for military members and while they do deserve that perk, it will result in the loss of millions of dollars in grants for conservation, preservation via Pittman-Robertson and Johnson-Dingall funding. There will be no taxes paid on those licenses.
Wolf hunts are based on science, eh? They are if you ask Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Wisconsin and Minnesota and now Michigan. Where is this science? I have asked that question many, many times and I get the same answer….silence. Sometimes I get insults and personal attacks. I’d rather have the silence. One more time…where is the science? “
Kristi at the Lamar River, YNP. Photo courtesy of Wolves of the Rockies.