Finding Solutions for Wolves in the Great Lakes

By on May 6, 2015 with 22 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

There are just three wolves surviving at Isle Royale National Park, an island ecosystem and World Heritage site locked within Lake Superior in Michigan. That’s down from 50 some years ago, and the surviving three wolves show signs of inbreeding. Since the wolves have all but vanished from the island, the moose population has doubled, and an ecosystem that once had a strong balance of predator and prey has been thrown out of whack.

South of there, on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, there are approximately 600 wolves, and the state’s voters last November decided in overwhelming numbers on two referendum questions to maintain their protected status and to forbid the state Natural Resources Commission from declaring them a game species who can be hunted and trapped.

Still, though, there are some loud voices – a distinct minority given the landslide votes in favor of wolves – who want to kill wolves, scaremongering about their very infrequent killing of cattle and other farm animals, and trumping up charges against the wild canids.

The HSUS is determined to find a long-term solution to the debate. We’ve put forth two proposals -safeguarding the long-term viability of wolves at Isle Royale and on the Upper Peninsula while also protecting the interests of farmers concerned about wolves. We’ve won strong legislative support for them, including from dozens of U.S. Representatives and from U.S. Senator Gary Peters of Michigan.

First, we’ve suggested that some livestock-depredating wolves be captured and sent to Isle Royale. There are no farm animals there and no year-round human residents. There’s just a large moose population that threatens forest health. An augmented wolf population, infused with new genetic material, can help control moose numbers and also protect the forests.

We’ve also suggested that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service accept our petition to list the wolves as threatened in the entire Great Lakes Region – which includes Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. That policy would likely prevent any sport hunting or commercial trapping of wolves, while allowing state agencies to selectively remove wolves in the rare circumstance that they pose a threat to farm animals or human safety. This is the current policy in Minnesota, and it gives farmers and government officials more tools than they have now in Michigan and Wisconsin.

In a broader sense, it’s clear that wolves provide an enormous economic and ecological benefit to the Great Lakes region. People will trek to wolf-inhabited forests precisely because they are there, boosting tourism-related commerce. Wolves also limit deer and moose populations, depressing crop depredation and shrinking the number of collisions between these animals and cars. Through their killing of the weak, sick, and older deer and moose, beavers, and other animals, they have a broad, balancing, and beneficial impact on ecosystems.

We hope that the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service will accept our recommendations, which protect wolves and balance the tricky sociology of managing wolf populations in our era. These creatures, once brought to the brink of extinction, should be allowed to survive in the decades ahead and not have their packs ceaselessly battered by random and reckless killing by trophy hunters and commercial trappers. Fortunately for us, they stay away from people and help farmers and forests like no other large predator. We need to discard the myths about wolves and recognize their rightful place in the wild.

Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. Vincent A Kennard says:

    Thank you for the help in the fight for the survival of the wolves in Michigan. We are as an organization that endeavors to see the wolf back to its former wild status in the international arena supporting your efforts.
    However, putting wolves on a “threatened” level of protection is something we do not agree with. The anti wolf camp is too strong, money talks and whats more is until the Wildlife Services agency is shut down, wolves are not safe and neither is their future recovery. We believe that wolves are far from recovered and just as far from being threatened.
    Wolves are in fact still highly endangered in the USA given their numbers and the vastness of the areas. Wolves still need to populate vast areas before they can even be classified as “threatened”. Wolves do not keep increasing in numbers as many “biologists” suggest. They have a way of curbing their own numbers by various natural ways. Hunting them is detrimental when it comes to livestock as you should know already.
    The more ad hoc killings you make the more livestock killers you create.Ensuring their natural prey’s abundance, small and large will keep them from attacking livestock.
    It is our opinion that by prematurely taking this step will indicate capitulation to the anti wolf camp and they will continue to press for even more “tools” to eradicate a species they do not want around.
    Let’s face it, the ranchers do not want wolves. Not a few not 10 nor 5. They want no wolves. The presence of just one wolf near their livestock will have them up in arms. This is what we find in Europe, China,India and everywhere else.
    We suggest a strong stance by a strong majority, which you have, that will force ranchers to accept that they have to make other plans in stead of grabbing for the gun. As long as that option is there they will insist upon it and tell you that other methods just don’t work.
    Thank you
    Vincent Kennard
    The Wolf Army

  2. Renee Roth says:

    As a native of Michigan, I can say that the argument of predation on livestock by wolves is without substance since the agricultural output of the state has been rapidly been converting to factory farm practices. My grandfather was a dairy farmer for 60 years in Michigan, and in my youth there were pastures of dairy cows and beef cattle. Now there are huge, windowless barns that confine livestock – no longer to be seen grazing. Since they are not in the vulnerable position of spending time outdoors, they cannot be prey to wolves.

  3. Tamra Oscroft says:

    Why were Livestock Guardian Dogs put forth as a solution? They have been used for centuries in Europe and are still being used! I think they are a wonderful environmentally friendly solution, if they are trained well.

  4. Loreen says:

    I’m in the woods in the northern lower pen. every weekend (just about). I’ve seen wolves in my yard once, and met one once on the road while walking. The wolves in the yard were sighted almost 20 years ago, a complete surprise–didn’t even know we had wolves in Michigan. Last year we walked down our road and met a wolf on the way to the river, absolutely a thrill and no threat to my dog or myself. Our DNR denied the existence of wolves in lower Michigan, just as they deny the puma we saw. I worry about that puma, they are sneaky hunters and don’t care if you are human.

  5. Brenda M. Negri, Cinco Deseos Ranch Livestock Guardian Dogs says:

    I’m one of those ranchers who does not hate wolves and strives to co-exist with them by promoting the use of non-lethal means to defend livestock with. Both can exist side by side, but it takes work, understanding and serious commitment. And yes, losses will occur. Livestock Guardian Dogs used in the right numbers, raised up correctly and run responsibly can and do make a huge difference, but the rancher/farmer must be in this too, hands on, and participating. No one or few LGDs are a match for a wolf pack, nor should they ever be placed in that situation. Likewise, wanton killing of wolves and promoting “wolf killing dogs” is not right, either. Not all of us ranchers are ‘bad guys’ – please…many of us promote conservation efforts too.

  6. liliane marie -ange casanova says:

    i love wolves i want them free and loved

  7. liliane marie -ange casanova says:

    they all must be free

  8. sandra collins says:

    I think you have a great plan….please help the Red Wolves too. Their numbers are so few, and they are being hunted to extinction. They, and all wolves, need your amazing help and support, Thank you for all you do, to help animals everywhere.

  9. Gail Carroll says:

    I am a proud member of the International Wolf Center in Ely, MN. I love the people who have the knowledge and understanding about wolves not being trophies for hunters but magnificent predators that deserve protection and respect! How many humans value family like wolves do!

    • Gail Carroll says:

      Thank you to the knowledgeable people trying to protect our wolf population and strive to restore healthy wolf packs on the Isle of Royale.

  10. roger says:

    its a sham that we cant coexists here is a blog written by a freshman in college it gives use hope the younger generation wont let this happen

  11. david belcher says:

    it’s really to bad that people don’t seem to understand what the destruction of wolves or other top predators does to the eco system . all of a sudden your plant eaters grow in numbers that the plant and leaf eaters can not sustain. and bingo your eco system flounders .

  12. david belcher says:

    sorry in the above comment it should not read as it do . it should be “systems” instead of eaters

  13. Kathy Konrad says:

    I sent this to our Gov, Senators and Reps~~I received replies from all!

    As your constituent, I am writing to urge you to cosponsor the Refuge from Cruel Trapping Act (S. 1081). This bill, introduced by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), would ban the use of body-gripping traps on lands within the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS).

    Body-gripping traps, which include strangling snares, Conibear traps, and steel-jaw leghold traps, are inherently nonselective. These archaic devices indiscriminately injure and kill countless nontarget animals, including raptors, rabbits, endangered and threatened species, and household pets. Jawed traps slam closed with bone-crushing force on any animal that trips the device, while strangling snares tighten around the neck or body of their victims until death finally ends the torture. This cruelty should not be permitted in any place that is called a “refuge.”

    The NWRS encompasses the most comprehensive and diverse collection of fish and wildlife habitats in the world, and provides a home for more than 240 endangered species. National wildlife refuges are intended to be safe havens for wildlife, but over half of our nation’s 563 wildlife refuges allow trapping, posing a safety risk for humans and animals alike.

    Millions of Americans visit refuges each year to hike on trails and observe wildlife species in their natural habitats. All visitors should be able to enjoy our national wildlife refuges without fear that they or their pets may stumble upon a body-gripping trap or encounter an injured animal languishing in these gruesome devices. A national Decision Research public opinion poll showed that 79 percent of Americans believe trapping on national wildlife refuges should be prohibited, while 88 percent believe wildlife and habitat preservation should be the highest priority of the refuge system.

    Passing the Refuge from Cruel Trapping Act would be a crucial step toward fulfilling the wishes of the American public on this matter and reducing the suffering inflicted on our nation’s wildlife.

  14. Isabelle Roeland says:

    Magnificent work conducted among citizens and political !
    We hope that your proposals will be accepted and implemented as soon as possible !
    Thank you for giving us news about the changing situation of wolves in the Great Lakes.
    We will continue to support you !

    Isabelle Roeland for Le Clan du Loup Belgique ( Europe )

  15. Susan Wilson says:

    Am glad to hear the increasing comments that encourage the pro wolf folk to speak of working with the farmer/ranchers to come to a solution. We need the imput of all of those people on the ground in the middle of the areas of concern and not the isolated self interest groups to address these issues. Too often all we hear from is either the sugary sweet wolf “lovers” or the firebreathing antiwolf haters. And in those exchanges facts go out the window along with common sense.

  16. La Mer says:

    Thank you, HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacella and HSUS Wisconsin State Director Melissa Tedrowe for opposing wolf trophy hunts and barbaric trapping/dog pack hunting of wolves and other wild inhabitants of the Great Lakes region.

    See this blog re: recent WI state DNR authorizations of harmful cable traps:

    We all need to be aware of and defend wild animals against abuse by humans (and their dogs):

    Mistakes in animal management decisions are not inconsequential. Human activity that stresses already threatened wild animal populations cannot be permitted. (Stressors include barbaric hunting methods such as cable neck and leg traps and dog packs.) The DNR must rescind decisions to allow such activity in Wisconsin. Dog packs allowed to run down and torture prey animals throughout the year is criminal; the DNR should be working to protect wild animals from harm. Dog packs running down and torturing prey year round should be a criminal offense and the dogs’ owners should be prosecuted.

    I’m sending comments to US Senators Baldwin and Johnson, to my state legislators Tiffany and Swearingen, as well as to the WI governor and the DNR. I urge everyone to spread this message through social media: humans must speak up for the Wolves, Sandhill Cranes, Long-Eared Owls and all the fish, fowl and wild living beings without whom much of life’s wonder and balance could be gone forever.

  17. gerard kuehn says:

    the only predators on planet Earth are humans! they are the real threat
    not the wolves. wolves harm no people and are vital to our plant’s eco system. please support all efforts to help them. they are loyal to their families
    and mate for like unlike humans. wolves are wonderful and majestic animals. please make a difference in this world and help them in anyway you can.

  18. Nasif Rashid says:

    somehow, we have to save the wolves!

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