By DAVID EGGERT
The Associated Press
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Farmers could kill wolves caught in the act of attacking their livestock under a proposed management plan released Thursday that addresses Michigan's resurgent gray wolf population.
The state Department of Natural Resources' draft proposal also suggests a permitting process so livestock producers could handle wolves on their property after earlier attacks on livestock have been verified. More specific frameworks for when wolves can be killed will be developed once a final plan is adopted.
The proposal largely mirrors an earlier report from an advisory panel that agreed there should be no maximum wolf population targets and endorsed killing wolves that prey on livestock if non-lethal methods fail.
The DNR's wildlife division presented the plan to the Natural Resources Commission Thursday in Lansing, starting the clock on a 90-day period during which the public can comment on the plan. DNR Director Rebecca Humphries could sign off on a final plan in the winter.
States now have responsibility for keeping wolf numbers at healthy levels because the federal government plans to remove gray wolves from the endangered species list.
While the state's proposal does not identify the maximum number of wolves that people would find acceptable, it says there should be a minimum of 200 wolves in the state. There were 509 wolves in the Upper Peninsula last winter, according to estimates.
The plan puts off the most controversial and only issue that the panel advising the state could not agree on: whether to have recreational hunting and trapping of wolves. Instead, the DNR says it will gather and evaluate more biological and social information regarding a general wolf hunt.
Todd Hogrefe, the agency's endangered species coordinator, stressed that while the DNR can make recommendations, only the Legislature can give wolves game status.
The DNR, however, does want the option to use hunters and trappers if the number of wolves becomes a concern in certain areas. So far, that sort of situation has not arisen because conflicts often relate to small numbers of problem wolves, Hogrefe said.
"We haven't seen the need," he said. "We don't necessarily expect one. We just want to reserve that option in the event it becomes necessary."
During the DNR's presentation, natural resources Commissioner John Madigan said the wolf population will grow over time and wondered if the plan is too reactive.
"Where does the plan draw a line where we're going to do something?" asked Madigan, who is from the Upper Peninsula, where some are angry that more wolves will kill more livestock, dogs and other animals.
Pat Lederle, a supervisor in the DNR's wildlife division, said that the agency will increase its response as the potential impact from wolves grows.
"We have decided to focus on responding to the impacts of wolves rather than trying to maintain some numerical goal," he said.
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