BESSEMER — Gogebic County Sheriff Peter Matonich isn’t signing the downstate petition to keep wolves a protected species and prevent a hunt.
When the sheriff of Saginaw County sent Matonich a message seeking his support in signing the petition to stop the planned wolf hunt, it struck a raw nerve with Matonich.
“I would like to thank you for the laugh, I needed one today. I will make sure and pass on your letter and request to other law enforcement agencies and officers in my county. I am sure they could use a good laugh, also,” Matonich responded.
“Have you ever seen a wolf in your yard next to your children’s swing set? I have numerous times in my own yard, and I live within the city limits of our county seat. A pack was eliminated within two miles from my home with more than one (wolf) shot and killed in neighboring city of Ironwood’s downtown.
“Reports of wolf sightings, encounters with household pets, sporting dogs and livestock depredation are becoming all too common here, not to mention the decrease in our deer population,” Matonich said.
“It has gotten to the point that my deputies, along with other area law enforcement agency officers, have all been advised by the DNR to eliminate a wolf when we see them in areas where any possible conflict or potentially dangerous situation may arise. Obviously, that can lead to potentially tragic consequences should something go awry.
“I am an avid outdoorsman, along with most residents in this area, and we do not want to see them eliminated, but rather their numbers reduced and then controlled. Without a hunting and/or trapping season, I see no other means of doing so. It aggravates me when those below the Mackinaw Bridge think they know what’s best for us in the U.P. and are able to use the majority of the uninformed voting populous in the lower peninsula to influence a vote on an issue that doesn’t affect them or affect where they live,” he wrote.
“Many of the comments made at MDNR public hearing held recently at our local community college were to trap wolves and release them downstate. I am starting think that is not a bad idea and Saginaw County would be a good place for the first release,” Matonich wrote.
Matonich didn’t state it in his letter, but his brother, John, sits on the Michigan Natural Resources Commission that will make a final recommendation on a wolf hunt.
The MNRC has requested DNR staff prepare a formal recommendation regarding a wolf hunting season for April 11.
“Interest in this decision is, understandably, very high throughout Michigan,” said John Madigan, of Munising, chair of the MNRC’s Policy Committee on Wildlife and Fisheries. “We are continuing to look at various data and information and work with the DNR, other wildlife experts and the public to come to the best science- and management-based decision about the possible harvest of wolves in our state.”
Madigan said the NRC intends to bring in out-of-state wolf experts to meet with his policy committee in May.
All five of the DNR’s public and tribal wolf meetings around the state have now concluded. The final one was in Lansing on Thursday.
At its May meeting, the NRC will consider whether to authorize a wolf hunting and possibly trapping season.
“It’s early enough in the year that a wolf harvest could happen as early as this fall, if the recommendation is approved,” said MDNR furbearer specialist Adam Bump.
But it all depends on whether the ballot initiative is successful.
Jill Fritz, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the U.S. Humane Society, one of the organizers of the petition drive against a wolf hunt, told the Petoskey News Thursday the group has gathered more than the 161,305 verified signatures needed, or about 200,000 so far with a week of the drive left.
The group must deliver its petition to the Secretary of State on March 27.
“When we submit the signatures and if we qualify for the ballot, it will put the (game species) legislation on hold and the wolf will not be a game species at that point,” Fritz said.
The decision on whether to designate the wolf a game species for a hunt would then go to Michigan voters.