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Karl Guenther Column: Downgrading the status of gray wolves in Michigan


On a radio talk show the other day, there was discussion of the new Michigan law which, presuming Governor Rick Snyder has signed it by now, will downgrade the status of gray wolves in Michigan.  That is to say, gray wolves in Michigan are no longer considered to be among the endangered species.  The talk host asked the rhetorical question, “How many people have been killed or injured by gray wolves in Michigan?”  Following up on the response, “None.”, the second question asked, “Then why kill them?”  The program, by the way, originated here, in the Lower Peninsula - - or, “Down Below”, as the Yoopers like to describe our part of the state.

Dave Bahrman is a Yooper, who raises beef cattle, hay and potatoes near Rumely.  He told Farm Bureau’s Ernie Birchmeier, “We haven’t had many problems here in the Central U.P., but we’re fortunate.”  He went on to say that gray wolves’ taste doesn’t discriminate much between sheep and Shih Tzus.  Final disposition of this whole question will fall to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, which has verified more than a hundred livestock kills by wolves on about twenty farms, since 2009, when the gray wolf was declared endangered.  Numerous pet killings also are attributed to these predators during that period when the only permissible control methods included flashing lights, flagging, and noisemakers.

According to the DNR, wolves in Michigan eat deer, beaver, snowshoe hare, rodents, and may also eat woodchuck, muskrat, coyote, and raccoon.  They can go for a week without food, but when they do eat, a single meal might include as much as 20 pounds of meat.

I was a lunch guest of Larry Leach and Avalon Farms the other day, at the Climax Rotary Club meeting, where I heard that the Plainwell-based DNR officer will soon present the noon program.  I was assured he would be asked about the population level of cougar in Michigan, and that there would be assurances of Climax-area sightings of cougar over the last few years.  He’ll probably be asked why cougars don’t get lumped in with wolves.  My offhand guess would be that now we will get official acknowledgment of the presence of cougar in Michigan, along with assurance they haven’t become a problem - - yet.

As for the wolf story, considered officially as a “recovery success story” it is in part attributed to public support of the gray wolf recovery program.  I expect that body of “public support” would be somewhat short of livestock producers and pet lovers.

Karl Guenther is a retired farm broadcaster at WKZO and can be reached at khguenther@charter.net. He is a member of Michigan Farm Bureau and an emeritus member of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting.