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DNR seeks public input on draft of updated wolf plan

Those who live in the Upper Peninsula tend to have an opinion — often quite strong — about gray wolves.

The U.P. is, after all, home to virtually all of Michigan’s wolves, with only a few verified reports in the northern Lower Peninsula and no indication of a breeding population there.

In contrast, the U.P. is thought to have nearly 700 wolves, a remarkable comeback for a species almost eradicated in Michigan by the mid-1970s.

But with that rebound comes questions about what comes next.

Now the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is offering the public the chance to weigh in on that topic.

The DNR will take feedback, via an online questionnaire, through Aug. 4 on a new draft of the state’s wolf management plan.

Michigan’s wolf management plan — created in 2008 and updated in 2015 — is being revised again this year, using public input to identify prominent issues, assess public attitudes and review the biological and social science surrounding wolves, according to the DNR. The 2022 update will include recent scientific literature, input from the Wolf Management Advisory Council and results of a new public survey about wolves in Michigan.

The draft 2022 plan has four main goals —

— Maintain a viable wolf population;

— Facilitate wolf-related benefits;

— Minimize wolf-related conflicts;

–Conduct science-based and socially responsible management of wolves.

Michigan’s wolf management plan has guided oversight of this iconic species in the state for the past 13 years, the DNR stated in a news release.

“Now that we have written a draft of the updated 2022 wolf management plan, it’s important that we gather feedback from the public to ensure the changes we’re proposing will support the long-term presence of a viable wolf population in Michigan, while addressing the needs of those with an interest in the health and viability of the state’s wolf population,” said Cody Norton, DNR large carnivore specialist.

Wolf management goals have been hotly debated in the region, especially after the species briefly came off the Endangered Species List.

Gray wolves first came under federal protection in 1973. The Trump Administration in late 2020 delisted the wolves, but a federal judge in February reversed that order for all but northern Rocky Mountain population.

While Michigan did not have a wolf hunt when protections were lifted, Wisconsin did in February 2021, killing 216 wolves — twice as many as the state-set quota — in less than three days, drawing substantial criticism. Most of those wolves were taken in northern Wisconsin.

The matter of what to do about U.P. wolves will likely draw a range of views and emotions as well. So don’t miss the chance to weigh in — remember, the online questionnaire will accept comment only through Aug. 4.

For more information about wolves in Michigan, go online to Michigan.gov/Wolves.

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