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August 25, 2014

False Claims About Wolves, Frightful Cruelty to Wildlife in Michigan

An Upper Peninsula farmer, John Koski – operating in the far western portion of Michigan – has played an outsize role in the debate over whether the state’s small population of wolves should be hunted. Koski’s farm was the site of more than 60 percent of all wolf attacks on livestock in Michigan, and lawmakers hell bent on opening up a hunting season on wolves regaled downstate lawmakers with their vivid stories of marauding wolves in the north. 

Gray wolf
On Wednesday, Michigan lawmakers will take up a third wolf-hunting bill, disregarding voters who stayed the first two bills by referenda. Photo: iStockphoto 

It turned out, according to a months-long investigation by John Barnes of the newspaper consortium MLive, that Koski had been baiting wolves with deer and cow parts and then bellyaching about wolf incidents – in addition to getting financial compensation for it. Barnes determined that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources was working hand in hand with Koski, and “found government half-truths, falsehoods and livestock numbers skewed by a single farmer distorted some arguments for the inaugural hunt.” Some months after the MLive series ran in papers throughout Michigan, Koski pled guilty to animal neglect for starving guard donkeys that the state gave to him to ward off wolves.

Now comes another case from the Upper Peninsula – deeply troubling in its own way – that could also influence the debate in Michigan over how to treat wolves. I wrote some weeks ago about two hunters from Gogebic County who engaged in unspeakable acts of cruelty against coyotes. This time, John Barnes reported, based on the release of a YouTube video The HSUS found, that these two men released a pack of dogs on a wounded coyote who couldn’t fend for himself. “This is going to be some live action," a man says as he aims the video camera. The two men and one of their kids watched the mauling like a spectator sport, goading the dogs to maul the defenseless animal. “There he his. There he is. Get him, Doc. Get him. ... We're going to get Cooter in here. He's a machine.” 

Today, MLive released a second videotape apparently created by the same men, in which they ran over a coyote intentionally, and wouldn’t put the animal out of his misery. Instead, they took the same gleeful approach toward the wounded coyote, killing the animal after some time elapsed—this time, allegedly witnessed by one of the men’s 12-year-old son.

In Wisconsin, where there is no ballot initiative or referendum process to check the excesses of state agencies and hunting groups intent on slaughtering wolves, it is legal to hunt wolves with dogs. If we don’t succeed with our current referenda campaigns in Michigan, we can expect that state authorities will open trapping and hounding seasons on wolves, in addition to trophy hunting of wolves with firearms – just as they have in Wisconsin. In fact, in Wisconsin, more than 250 wolves were killed during the hunting season there, including 80 percent with traps or hounds.

And the Michigan lawmakers who cooked up the case against wolves are at it again. On Wednesday, the Michigan House of Representatives is set to take up a third wolf-hunting bill – after the first two were stayed by referenda qualified by citizens.  It would be an unprecedented third try to subvert the will of Michiganders by these legislators, in their zeal to allow the killing of wolves for no good reason. 

These lawmakers, mainly from the Upper Peninsula, fear the exercise of the vote by the people of Michigan. They know that the entire case for wolf hunting has been built on a series of exaggerations and falsehoods. And they see the behavior of some of the people who want to hurt animals just for trophies or for pure hatred.  They know they’ll be drubbed at the polls, so they are making extraordinary efforts to deny the people a vote.

Just about every major newspaper in the state has called on lawmakers not to pass a third wolf-hunting bill and to let the issue be decided by voters. If they take this action, they’ll not only be opening up wolves to cruelty, they’ll be subverting the right of citizens to decide issues guaranteed to them by the Michigan constitution. 

If you live in Michigan, state House members need to hear from you now.

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