It took 50 years to get Michigan’s gray wolf population up to 658, and only 30 minutes to sell three-quarters of the available licenses—900 out of 1,200—when they went on sale on Saturday September 28.
Only 100 licenses were still available by 5 p.m. on Saturday for the season, which runs from November 15 through December 31, the news website MLive.com reported. State residents paid $100 per license, while nonresidents’ price was $500.
All this to kill just 43 wolves.
State wildlife officials said the hunt is necessary because of wolves’ predation on livestock, while conservation groups such as Keep Michigan Wolves Protected called it glorified trophy hunting.
The limited hunt, the state’s first ever, is relegated to three designated areas in the Upper Peninsula. Hunters must report their wolf kills daily and consult state figures before heading out in the morning to make sure the area they plan to hunt in has not reached its quota, state officials said. They also said the hunt will not hurt the animals’ overall population.
“The odds of us having an impact on the wolf population in the Upper Peninsula as a whole is close to zero,” said Tim Payne, the Department of Natural Resource’s Southeast Regional Wildlife Supervisor, to the Detroit Free Press.
But one wolf is too many, Keep Michigan Wolves Protected says on its site, which is endorsed by Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians Chairman Aaron Payment, among many others.
“It’s not right to spend decades bringing the wolf back from the brink of extinction only to turn around and allow them to be hunted and trapped for trophies,” the group’s website says.
“Their claim that a wolf hunt is needed to address livestock depredations is not telling the whole story,” said Jill Fritz, director of Keep Michigan Wolves Protected and state director of the Humane Society of the United States, to the Free Press. “The current law already allows farmers to protect their animals from predators … including wolves.”
The wolf hunt has been under fire in Wisconsin and Minnesota too. Last week actress Jessica Lange sent an open letter to Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton to call off this year's hunt.
All three states were sued last year by a number of animal-welfare groups in an effort to stop them from conducting wolf hunts.
Keep Michigan Wolves Protected has started a petition aimed at introducing a referendum next year so that voters can rule on whether to axe a law that enabled the state Natural Resources Commission to designate wolves as a game animal this past summer, according to MLive.com. That law was passed after wolf defenders last year gathered enough signatures to call for a statewide referendum on whether to allow a wolf hunt. The state legislature then put the matter under the authority of the state’s Natural Resources Commission, which approved a hunt.
“This hunt is only moving forward because the Legislature did some dirty tricks and a runaround on the first petition drive,” said Fritz. “Legislators knew that the citizens of Michigan do not want their wolves hunted.”