Wolves have made huge comeback in U.P.
MARQUETTE, Mich. It's Wolf Awareness Week in Michigan, and the state is hoping to clear up misinformation about the animals.
Nearly exterminated from the state during the 1970s, wolves began to return to the Upper Peninsula through Wisconsin and Ontario in the late 1980s. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says as of last winter, there were 436 wolves in the U-P and 30 more on Isle Royale.
While many fear wolves, D-N-R wolf coordinator Brian Roell says no wolf attacks against humans have ever been documented in the lower 48 states.
Roell says the state is updating its wolf management plan to reflect that wolves have moved beyond recovery in Michigan.
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DNR looks to debunk wolf myths
By SCOTT SWANSON Journal Staff Writer
MARQUETTE — Today marks the beginning of Wolf Awareness Week in Michigan, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is hoping to clear up some misinformation about the animals.
“We want to bring people into the mindset that wolves are here, and to educate them with the facts,” said Brian Roell, DNR wolf coordinator. “We try to dispel some of the myths that are out there.”After nearing being exterminated from the state in the 1970s, wolves began returning to the Upper Peninsula via Wisconsin and Canada in the late 1980s. As of last winter, there were 436 wolves in the U.P. mainland, as well as 30 on Isle Royale, according to a DNR count.
According to Roell, the first myth is that the DNR brought wolves back to the U.P. While the department relocated four wolves to Michigan in 1974, all those animals died within 8 months, without reproducing.
The second myth is that wolves are prone to attacking humans, Roell said. While any wild animal has the potential to strike humans, one has a better chance of being struck by lightning that being attacked by a wolf, he said.
“‘The ‘Big Bad Wolf’ syndrome, I call it,” Roell said. “Everybody was brought up with Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs, and wolves are kind of given a bad rap as far as being aggressive toward humans.”
A wolf attack has never been documented in the lower 48 states, Roell said.Because wolves in Michigan and several other Great Lakes states have exceeded recovery goals for several years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed removing them from the federal endangered species list. With a decision expected by March, the DNR last year began updating its wolf management plan.“Our management plan was last updated in 1997 and focused more on recovery,” Roell said. “We felt we were beyond the recovery point and we really wanted to take into consideration that social aspect ... of how many wolves are residents of Michigan willing to tolerate.”After holding 10 public meetings and focus groups with several interested parties, a 22-member roundtable was formed. The roundtable’s last meeting is scheduled for Nov. 2, after which it will set guiding principles for the DNR as it writes its new management plan.
A draft of the plan should be ready for public consumption by next spring, Roell said.Earlier this year, Michigan and Wisconsin were issued damage control permits by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to use lethal measures to remove problem wolves depredating livestock.
But an August federal court decision, granting a preliminary injunction to stop Wisconsin’s lethal control, has resulted in the Fish and Wildlife Service removing Michigan’s ability as well.Roell said he wasn’t sure if the decision would be appealed.“Right now, I don’t know what the plan is,” he said. “They may be waiting to see what’s going to happen with the delisting, because that would make it a moot point.”
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