Critics Say Third Wolf Hunt Petition Circumvents Court of Public Opinion

If the Legislature approves a citizen-initiated petition to let the Natural Resources Commission decide wolf hunts. ballot initiatives by citizens who want to protect the wolves would be moot.

In November, Michigan voters decide three ballot initiatives on gray wolf hunting on the state's Upper Peninsula. (Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
In November, Michigan voters decide three ballot initiatives on gray wolf hunting on the state's Upper Peninsula. (Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
When voters go to the polls in November, they may have trouble sorting out some of the ballot questions relating to wolf hunting on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Or, the whole matter of wolf hunting may be decided by the Legislature, the Detroit Free Press reports.

A group that would defer to the Department of Natural Resources and the Legislature to decide whether a wolf hunting season should be declared turned in 374,000 signatures Tuesday to get the issue on the ballot alongside two other wolf-hunting questions.

Because it’s citizen-initiated legislation, the state Legislature could take it up within 40 days, rendering the ballot initiatives moot.

The third petition doesn’t guarantee a wolf hunt, but leaves the decision on whether to declare a wolf season – and all other fish and game seasons in Michigan – up to the Natural Resources Commission and its professional staff.

Merle Shephard, chairman of Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management, the group that circulated the petition, said decisions about hunting and fishing seasons should be based on scientific data and the recommendations of professional biologists.

Last year, 23 of the estimated 650 wolves on the Upper Peninsula were killed in November and December. The limit was set at 43.

Proponents of wolf hunting argue out-of-state interests opposing the wolf hunt don’t understand the reality faced by residents in some parts of the U.P., where “wolves are killingpets and livestock and entering our communities, without fear,” said Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, who sponsored legislation allowing last winter’s wolf hunt.

Wildlife advocates say wolves were only taken off the U.S. endangered species list in 2012 and it’s too early to begin culling their numbers.

The Keep Michigan Wolves Protected group gathered enough signatures to put a proposal before voters to overturn a state law allowing gray wolf hunting on the state’s Upper Peninsula.

The ballot proposal is the second that will appear on the Nov. 5 ballot, The Detroit Free Press reports. The group backing the proposal collected 182,732 valid signatures to get the issue on the ballot, more than 21,000 beyond the 161,305 needed.

The question before voters will be whether a law allowing wolf hunting passed by the Legislature in 2012 should be repealed. Voters will be asked to decide another and possibly a third question regarding the controversial sport, which can involve using steel-jawed leghold traps.

In early 2013, the Keep Michigan Wolves Protected group presented a signature with nearly 230,000 signatures for a Nov. 5 referendum to overturn Public Act 250, a bill designating  wolves as a game species and authorizing the  Natural Resources Commission to establish an open season. The legislation was approved in a lame duck session of the 2012 Michigan Legislature.

After the signatures were gathered, the Legislature passed Public Act 21 of 2013, which allows the Natural Resources Commission to add animals to list of game species that can be hunted. Michigan voters are unable to reverse those decisions because they are made by a regulatory agency instead of a legislative body.

That angered the opponents to the wolf hunt, and they circulated petitions and gathered signatures for a ballot question that asks voters if they want to repeal Public Act 21.

Both initiatives have been approved for the November ballot, but if the Legislature acts, the questions will be moot.

Jill Fritz, executive director of Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, said she thinks Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management’s goal is to circumvent the court of public opinion.

“We certainly hope the legislators, who were fooled by this back last May won’t be fooled again,” she told the Free Press. “We ask them to reject this and let Michigan residents have their say.”

Tell Us:
  • Do you support or oppose the repeal or Michigan laws authorizing gray wolf hunts on the Upper Peninsula? Or do you favor allowing the Natural Resources Commission to determine seasons for wolves and all other fish and game seasons?

Carol Maynard May 29, 2014 at 10:33 PM
But, Bob, will the wolf let the other animals Live??
saya2up May 31, 2014 at 01:18 AM
Would like to see the general public in areas where wolves are living vote on wether another hunt is needed.Having suburbanites living lower Michigan chime in is ludicrous.Just like having yoopers push for change in Detroit, listen to the people affected by this, not the ones that need a new water cooler conversation.
Michael O'Kelly May 31, 2014 at 10:21 AM
This is not about if there should be a hunt or not this is about should the DNR have the authority to use hunting to control wolf numbers if they deem it necessary. The average citizen, my self included does not have the time or resources to know how many wolves we have or to track every wolf human conflict. I cannot make an informed decision and that is why I expect the Biologists at the DNR to make those decisions. Voting on this is like having a vote on weather you should have surgery or not.
Elizabeth Tigue June 03, 2014 at 10:04 AM
I Millan, the data I have on wolf populations shows a steady increase every year. What study did your numbers come from? Mine are just from the DNR.


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