Expert Voices

Wolves at Risk? Michigan Allows Hunting of Protected Species (Op-Ed)

Wolves and dogs diverged from a common ancestor at least 15,000 years ago. (Image credit: stock.xpert)

Wayne Pacelle is the president and chief executive officer of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). This Op-Ed first appeared on the blog A Humane Nation, where it ran before appearing in LiveScience's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

I went to Lansing, Mich., earlier this week to stand with leaders of Native American tribes, environmentalists and local humane organizations to announce a new referendumin Michigan to protect wolves and other wildlife. Over the weekend, we barnstormed the state and talked to HSUS supporters, Audubon society members, hunters and other concerned citizens about the state's reckless plans to allow trophy hunters, and in future years, trappers to kill wolves from the small, still recovering population of fewer than 700 animals in Michigan.

Hunters won't be targeting problem wolves , but randomly killing animals in national forests and other wilderness areas in the Upper Peninsula of the state.

Earlier this year, HSUS and other groups, under the banner of the committee coalition Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, collected 255,000 signatures for a first referendum to nullify an act of the Michigan legislature that declared wolves a game species — and just after wolves came off the federal list of "threatened species ."

In response, Lansing politicians moved a second bill to give the unelected, seven-member Natural Resources Commission all authority to declare hunting and trapping seasons on any protected species, including wolves, sandhill cranes and lynx.

That forced the coalition's hand to launch a second referendum, and to restore voting rights on these issues in Michigan.

It's already legal in the state to kill problem wolves in the rare instances when livestock or pets are threatened. People can also shoot wolves for public-safety purposes, though there has not been a documented attack on a person by a wolf anywhere in the lower 48 states in the last century.

People who are in a frenzy to kill wolves have it all backwards. Wolves are an economic and ecological boon for Michigan, promoting tourism to the Upper Peninsula and providing a healthy check on prey populations. Wolf predation will help maintain healthy deer populations, probably lowering the frequency of deer-auto collisions and the prevalence of crop losses. This has the potential to save human lives and tens of millions of dollars for the state.

And there's just no good reason to kill wolves for trophies or pelts. Responsible hunters eat what they kill, and because wolves are inedible, most hunters have no interest in killing them. Responsible hunters also don't go for the use of steel-jawed leg hold traps, hunting over bait, and even the use of dog packs to chase down and kill wolves — all of which may be in store if the Natural Resources Commission decides to allow those cruel methods.

Lansing politicians wrongly gave the unelected members of the Natural Resources Commission authority to open hunting seasons for wolves, lynx, sandhill cranes, and dozens of other species. Our referendum would restore the right of citizens to maintain their ability to influence wildlife policy, and stop this abuse of power.

Pacelle's most recent Op-Ed was As Furs Fade in the West, Popularity Grows in the East. This article was adapted from Not Giving Up the Fight for Wolves, which first appeared as on the HSUS blog A Humane Nation. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This article was originally published on