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August 12, 2013

Not Giving Up the Fight for Wolves

I’m in Lansing today—with leaders of Native American tribes, environmentalist, and local humane organizations—to announce a new referendum in Michigan to protect wolves and other wildlife. This weekend, we barnstormed the state and talked to HSUS supporters, Audubon society members, hunters, and other concerned citizens about the reckless plans of the state to allow trophy hunters, and in future years trappers, to kill wolves from the small, still recovering population of fewer than 700 animals in Michigan. Hunters won’t be targeting problem wolves, but randomly killing animals in national forests and other wilderness areas in the Upper Peninsula.

Keep Michigan Wolves Protected
Wayne with Aaron Payment, the tribal chairman
of the Sault Tribe of the Chippewa Indians.
photo: Julie Baker

Earlier this year, HSUS and other groups—under the banner of the committee coalition, Keep Michigan Wolves Protected—collected 255,000 signatures for a first referendum to nullify the act of the Legislature to declare wolves a game species, just after they got off the federal list of “threatened species.” In response, Lansing politicians then moved a second bill to give all authority to the unelected, seven-member Natural Resources Commission to declare hunting and trapping seasons on any protected species, including wolves, sandhill cranes, and lynx. That forced our hand to launch a second referendum, and to restore voting rights here in Michigan.

It’s already legal in Michigan to kill problem wolves in the rare instances when livestock or pets are threatened. They can also be shot for public safety purposes, though there has not been a documented attack on a person by a wolf anywhere in the lower 48 states in the last century.

Those people who are in a frenzy to kill wolves have it all backwards. Wolves are an economic and ecological boon to the state, promoting tourism to the Upper Peninsula and providing a healthy check on prey populations. Wolf predation will help maintain healthy deer population, probably lowering the frequency of deer-auto collisions and the prevalence of crop losses. This has the potential to save humans lives and tens of millions of dollars for the state.

And there’s just no good reason to kill wolves for trophies or pelts. Responsible hunters eat what they kill, and because wolves are inedible, most hunters have no interest in killing them. Responsible hunters also don’t go for the use of steel-jawed leghold traps, hunting over bait, and even using packs of dogs to chase down and kill wolves—and all of that may be in store if the Natural Resources Commission decides to allow these cruel methods.

Lansing politicians wrongly gave the unelected members of the Natural Resources Commission authority to open hunting seasons for wolves, lynx, sandhill cranes, and dozens of other species. Our referendum would restore the right of citizens to maintain their ability to influence wildlife policy, and stop this abuse of power.

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