Judging by statements from state Sen. Tom Casperson and state Department of Natural Resources staff, hunters should have been able to bag the maximum 43 wolves allowed in the state’s first wolf hunt in decades just by hanging out behind an Upper Peninsula day-care or on a western U.P. cattle farm.
That’s an exaggeration, but it’s an exaggeration true to the debate that has surrounded the wolf hunt that is to end Wednesday.
As of Monday, hunters — the state sold 1,200 licenses — had killed 22 wolves since the hunt began Nov. 15 in three areas in the Upper Peninsula.
But anyone who was paying attention to comments from Casperson, an Escanaba Republican who led the pro-hunt push, or to state game officials, might have thought 1,200 hunters would take down 43 wolves in a snap.
To their discredit, wolf hunt opponents were almost as reckless with the facts; and their apparent disdain for the very real danger wolves can pose didn’t advance their cause.
All we know for sure is that state officials oversold the threat wolves represent to the public, opening the way for a hunt to reduce their numbers, and opponents undersold the danger.
Casperson eventually apologized for stretching a story of a woman sighting a wolf in her backyard into a tale of wolves showing up multiple times near a day care soon after the kids went out to play and federal agents killing three wolves there because they posed a danger.
And it took hunt opponents, not state officials, to publicize the fact that 122 of the 248 attacks on cattle attributed to wolves statewide in recent years — numbers used to support a hunt - happened on one western U.P. farm, In fact, 96 of the 120 cattle killed by wolves in a three-year period — 80 percent — were all from John Koski’s farm.
Now, hunt opponents and state officials alike say Koski has failed to keep up fencing and hasn’t buried cow carcasses, which draw more wolves. The state has paid him more than $30,000 for his dead cattle.
In short, the science used to determine that the number of Upper Peninsula wolves had risen enough to justify a hunt was poor at best and, at worst, plagued by politics. It must be revisited.
Wolves can be dangerous, and they kill deer and cattle. But does that justify making them a game animal again? Farmers can already get permits to shoot wolves endangering their cattle, so is more hunting justified?
We don’t know, mostly because we haven’t gotten an unbiased analysis. It’s time we did.