In largely symbolic referendums, Michigan voters have rejected two state laws that allow hunting of gray wolves.
One measure removed the wolf from the state endangered list and classified it as a game species. The other empowered the appointed Natural Resources Commission to decide whether wolves should be hunted.
The outcome of Tuesday's election voids both laws. But the Legislature passed yet another pro-hunting bill this summer that will remain in effect.
Opponents say trophy hunting of wolves is inappropriate and the predator is still fragile after all but disappearing from Michigan in the last century.
Supporters say it's a necessary step to prevent conflicts with humans in some parts of the Upper Peninsula, where the wolf population is estimated at 636. The state held its first wolf hunt last year in three designated zones in the Upper Peninsula.
In 2012, the federal government removed the gray wolf from the endangered species list and the same year hunting returned to Wisconsin. Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho also now allow wolf hunting. Minnesota state's department of natural resources reported that a total of 3,800 hunting and trapping licenses will be available, 500 more licenses than last year’s seasons. The statewide target harvest of wolves is 250, 30 more than last year.
The early season begins in Minnesota Saturday, Nov. 8.
The latest population survey results estimate that 470 wolf packs and 2,423 wolves lived in Minnesota’s wolf range this past winter, 212 more wolves than estimated on the survey conducted in winter 2013.
The Christian Science Monitor reported that after gray wolves were placed under state protection in 1957 and federal protection in 1974. Afterwards, the wolf populations enjoyed a remarkable resurgence in Minnesota and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. There are nearly three times more wolves in the Midwest than in the Rocky Mountain states.
This return of wolves to Wisconsin has brought them increasingly into conflict with farmers and hunters of other game. As packs have spread south into more populated agricultural areas, they have preyed on livestock and even on family pets. Hunters also blame wolves for reducing the size of the deer herd.
“They’re as thick as hair on a dog,” says Al Lobner, a hunter from the central Wisconsin town of Milladore, adding that “our ecosystem is out of whack.”