MICHIGAN'S WOLF POPULATION CONTINUES TO RISE|
LANSING--Results of the most recent wolf survey conducted by
the Michigan Department of Natural Resources indicate there
are at least 278 wolves now roaming Michigan's Upper
DNR Wildlife Biologist Jim Hammill said public
support, an excellent prey base boosted by recent mild
winters and room to roam are key factors in the recovery of
wolves. Wolves dispersing from Canada, Minnesota and
Wisconsin were occasionally present in the Upper Peninsula
during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Reestablishment of wolves
appears to have begun in 1989 when three animals established
a territory in the western Upper Peninsula. Since 1989, the
wolf population has shown steady growth, reaching 249
animals last year and increasing again to this year's
estimate of almost 280 wolves.
During the last winter, more than 2,000 person hours
were spent conducting the wolf estimate, which used
tracking, aerial observations of packs with radio-collared
wolves and other evidence to determine the number of
animals. The DNR regularly monitors about 40 wolves that
have been fitted with radio collars to determine their
movements and survival.
"During the winter survey we found clear evidence that
wolves are present in all Upper Peninsula counties," Hammill
said, "and if we have a normal year of pup production, we
expect to see another increase in the 2003 winter survey."
This good news also bodes well for Michigan's ability
to manage the animals, according to
Pat Lederle, DNR Endangered Species Program Coordinator.
Federal law provides for a reclassification
of the wolf from endangered to threatened under the U.S.
Endangered Species Act.
Reclassification can be accomplished when combined
populations in Michigan and Wisconsin reach 100 wolves for a
five-year period. That population goal has been met and
reclassification is currently pending final Federal
approval. Reclassification under Michigan's endangered
species law is also in progress, an action that parallels
Federal reclassification provides flexibility in
managing the growing wolf population in Michigan and
Wisconsin by allowing managers to euthanize wolves that have
caused problems, especially to the livestock industry. The
current federal "endangered" status does not permit lethal
"Although it is doubtful such actions would be common, the
DNR will use lethal control if it becomes necessary,"
Lederle said. "The majority of our residents have welcomed
the increasing wolf population, yet we must remain sensitive
to human attitudes and not allow the animal's natural
activity to cause ill feelings with people, especially in
the agricultural community."
The DNR, in cooperation with the Michigan Department
of Agriculture, Defenders of Wildlife and the International
Wolf Center in Minnesota, established a Michigan Wolf
Compensation Program, which reimburses farmers for any
livestock killed by a wolf.
The gray wolf is native to Michigan and was once
relatively abundant across the state. Numbers declined
because of persecution by people who viewed wolves as
dangerous to humans, game populations and the needs of the
agricultural community. Protection measures at both the
federal and state levels for many years have allowed the
wolf population to rebound. All wolves now in Michigan
either came here through natural immigration from Canada,
Wisconsin and Minnesota, or were born here.
"The recent wolf recovery in Michigan is a remarkable
story of natural recovery," Hammill said. "It's an amazing
renewal of a native species regaining its historic place in
the forest. The return of the wolf is a benefit to the
entire ecosystem and a conservation success story for
The DNR encourages citizens to report any wolf
sightings. People who see a wolf, find a wolf track or other evidence
of a wolf can contact any DNR office to obtain a
wolf observation report form. The form and more information
also can be found on the DNR Web site, www.midnr.com.