TRAVERSE CITY — The head of Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources supports hunting wolves in the state, along with a proposed law that would try to circumvent a statewide vote on the topic.
The DNR’s Keith Creagh contends the issuance of hunting permits for wolves is warranted, given repeated human conflicts with the animal in the Upper Peninsula. He believes hunters should be allowed to kill 43 wolves every year.
“We are now having conflict with wolves in the Upper Peninsula, that’s a fact,” Creagh said. “I’ve been on farms. I’ve seen the damage. I’ve seen the carcasses. People say there is no conflict. That’s not a true and accurate statement.”
Creagh also supports contentious Senate Bill 288, which could be voted on in the Michigan House of Representatives today. The proposed law could impede a coalition’s effort to ban wolf hunting in Michigan by allowing the non-elected members of the Michigan Natural Resources Commission to designate wolves a game species.
Creagh said he supports the legislation because it dictates that wildlife management decisions on animals like wolves would be based on science.
“We reintroduced turkeys, we got them established, and now we hunt some turkeys; we have a very healthy turkey population,” Creagh said. “We reintroduced elk, we manage through a permit system. We shoot a few elk, we reduce damage, and we have a successful system.
“That’s how we ought to do wolves,” Creagh said.
But wolf hunt critics said Creagh is wrong about the need for hunters to manage wolves. Jill Fritz, Michigan state director for the Humane Society of the United States, said wolves were removed from the endangered species list just a year ago. State law, she said, already allows farmers and dog owners to shoot wolves if they are having a problem with the animal. Farmers and ranchers can also get a separate permit from the DNR to shoot wolves “on the rare occasions when wolves are a problem.”
“Nobody said there were not any conflicts, but when it occurs, it is rare,” Fritz said. “The DNR keeps track of all of these incidents and reports that fewer than 8 percent of the 900 farms (in the Upper Peninsula) have experienced any type of wolf depredation.”
The Humane Society is part of a coalition that gathered more than 255,000 signatures statewide to ban wolf hunting. Shortly after the signatures were submitted to the Secretary of State in March, Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, proposed Senate Bill 288, which would defer the game designation of wolves to the governor-appointed NRC. The legislation moved quickly through the Republican-controlled Senate in April and was expected to be heard by House committee Tuesday night.
On an unrelated topic, Creagh said there is significant potential for economic growth in northern Michigan through natural resources management and the connecting of trails throughout the region. He emphasizes a regional approach and collaboration to such endeavors.
“How do you get in and out of town if you are cross country skier or a snowmobiler?” Creagh said. “Have we thoughtfully thought about how we connect our trails in this state?”