Traverse City Record-Eagle

November 13, 2013

Forum: Inaugural wolf hunt is wrong


Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — By Rolf Peterson

The wolf evokes a variety of emotions in people, from fear to admiration. So perhaps it is not surprising that emotion continues to range widely as Michigan approaches its inaugural wolf hunt. Some people will feel sad because they know we shouldn’t kill living things without good reason. The hunt seems pre-ordained by politicians and special interest groups who have created excuses to kill wolves. Some will feed sad because they’ve seen that hate and resentment can still be easily reignited, fueled by those who would use the wolf as a convenient scapegoat or a tool to further other agendas. We are slow to change.

Some people will feel angry about the wolf hunt. Angry because the path that we took to get to wolf hunting was rooted in the perversion of democracy and dishonesty. Angry because our elected representatives blatantly altered the right of referendum for Michigan citizens, the right to repeal the wolf hunt in a ballot initiative. A century ago Teddy Roosevelt railed at those who would undermine the right of referendum, an open public vote that could repeal legislation, which is a necessary guard against corruption and abuse of power among legislators.

Still others will feel proud that the gray wolf is firmly back in Michigan, where they have largely melted into forests that offer security and lots of wild prey. Upper Michigan feels much wilder now — ask a deer hunter. We can all feel proud that genuine conflicts between wolves and agriculture have been aggressively addressed by innovative cooperation between the United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, through a program largely unknown to the public.

Pragmatic bureaucrats hope the furor over hunting wolves in Michigan will eventually go away, that people will get used to the notion that killing wolves is no different than killing bears, deer or coyotes. They are hoping hatred of wolves will subside through sanctioned killing. However, wolves are different from these other wildlife species, in our collective consciousness and even in nature. And the assumption that hunting wolves will build tolerance for them may not prove true.

Denying Michigan citizens an opportunity to repeal specific legislation is likely to be revisited by voters in 2014. Voters may remember that legislators decided to pander to the well-heeled gun lobby rather than honestly serve the public interest. Hunt proponents are gambling that millions of Michigan citizens will have forgotten the clever methods used by state legislators to subvert democracy. They are betting voters will not be smart enough to understand complicated ballot language.

A Native American elder in the Pacific Northwest was once asked why he didn’t kill wolves more often. After a long silence, the veteran hunter shook his head and simply replied, “They’re too much like us.” From my perspective, there is little reason to be proud about the inaugural wolf hunt in Michigan, and considerable reason to be sad and angry.

About the author: Rolf Peterson is an internationally known wildlife biologist who has studied wolves for more than 40 years at Isle Royale National Park; by email at: ropeters@mtu.edu.

About the forum: The forum is a periodic column of opinion written by Record-Eagle readers in their areas of expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less may be made by emailing letters@record-eagle.com. Please include biographical information and a photo.