IRONWOOD — If Michigan conducts a wolf hunt, it won’t be Upper Peninsula-wide.
That’s what 272 people attending a Department of Natural Resources meeting on wolf management learned Tuesday at Gogebic Community College. Heavy snow throughout the day held the crowd down somewhat.
Adam Bump, a DNR bear and furbearer specialist, said another certainty regarding a potential hunt is dogs wouldn’t be allowed, but trapping would be a possibility.
It was a relatively quiet two-hour meeting in the gymnasium as the only applause that resulted occurred when at least four people suggested wolves be trapped and released in the lower peninsula, where a petition drive has been initiated to get the wolf hunt on the statewide ballot in the fall of 2014. That would preclude any hunt until at least 2015.
DNR officials attending the meeting were criticized for “dragging their feet” by the public and lagging behind both Wisconsin and Minnesota, which already have had wolf hunting-trapping seasons.
Wolves are no longer listed as endangered in the three states, allowing for state management of the species. They were delisted on Jan. 27, 2012, and 14 months later the MDNR is just beginning to gauge public sentiment in a series of wolf meetings, with Tuesday’s the first one on the list.
Bump denied that Michigan has been slow to respond, noting the law allowing a hunt was only signed a few months ago. “I don’t feel we’re dragging our feet,” he said, but wolves were delisted in all three states at the same time, indicating Michigan has been slow to respond to a hunt.
Not much new information came out of the meeting and the format, which required people to ask questions on three-by-five-inch cards, didn’t allow for any vocal comments from the public. The questions were answered by DNR officials.
None knew how many wolves are in Gogebic County, although they said the Ironwood area has been the hotspot for conflicts between wolves and humans.
There were at least 687 wolves in the U.P. in 2011 and a new estimate will be available in April.
The MDNR counts wolves only every other year as a cost-savings measure.
The MDNR has killed 85 problem wolves in the past 10 years, many in the western U.P. Of that total, 27 animals were killed because of threats to human safety, although there is no U.P. record of a wolf attack on a human.
Since 2010, there have been 97 wolf complaints to the DNR from the Ironwood area.
The Michigan Natural Resources Commission, chaired by J.R. Richardson, of Ontonagon, will eventually decide if there will be a wolf hunt.
Bump said a DNR recommendation won’t be made to the NRC until mid-May, with NRC action possible in June. By then, he conceded, the petition drive to get the issue on the ballot, if successful, would delay a possible wolf hunt through 2014.
Under previous legislation, wolves can be killed in Michigan if they are in the act of preying on livestock or dogs.
Brian Roell, of the DNR’s Marquette office, noted the feds will continue to monitor wolves in the states for the next four years and they would again be declared endangered if their populations drop too low.
The results of a questionnaire handed out Tuesday will eventually be included on the website at michigan.gov/wolves.