Gray Wolf (Canis lupus)
Archived Information - Management of Wolf Conflicts and Depredating Wolves in Michigan
Questions and Answers about the Draft Environmental Assessment
Q: Why is this action necessary?
A: There are problems with gray wolf predation on livestock and pets. Based on experience from other areas with increasing gray wolf populations, these problems and concerns are anticipated to increase as the gray wolf population increases. Gray wolves in Michigan are listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. They are protected from "take" which includes harming, harassing or killing. There is currently no system to adequately address increasing wolf depredation problems with livestock or other domestic animals. The agencies are concerned that, in the absence of a prompt, professional wolf damage management program, negative attitudes by landowners and illegal actions by frustrated individuals will increase, and impair wolf recovery efforts.
Q: How many wolves are there now in Michigan?
A: In late winter of 2004-05, there were an estimated 405 wolves in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. There were an additional 30 wolves on Isle Royale at that time. These late-winter estimates are made when wolf packs are easiest to count and are made at the low point in their annual cycle because most winter mortality has already occurred and pups have not yet been born.
Q: What is the extent of wolf damage in Michigan?
A: Data gathered by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources estimates that from 1996 through 2004, there were 67 instances of depredation by wolves on livestock and pets in Michigan. The frequency of verified wolf depredations has dramatically increased, from about one per year during the 1990s to five to six per year in 2000-2001, and an average of 18 depredations annually in 2003-2004. Wolf attacks on livestock and dogs are increasing much faster than the growth of the Michigan wolf population.
Q: How were wolf depredations problems resolved in the past?
A: Over the years, U.S. Department of Agriculture-Wildlife Services has worked cooperatively with the Michigan DNR to investigate wolf depredation complaints and use non-lethal methods to address problem wolves. Beginning in 2003, the DNR and Wildlife Services were able to use lethal methods as well. In 2005, however, a court prohibited these activities, ruling that there had been inadequate public notification and input into the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's issuance of the permit to the DNR. Currently, assistance with wolf depredation problems is limited to providing technical advice on non-lethal methods including animal husbandry practices such as fencing, use of guard dogs and other measures.
Q: How can a program like the Integrated Wolf Damage Management plan proposed in the draft EA - one that allows killing of wolves - contribute to wolf recovery?
A: Gray wolves were once completely gone from the state of Michigan and from almost the entire lower 48 states. The recovery of the gray wolf in Michigan and adjacent states is a conservation success story. However, with that success comes the added challenge of conflicts with wolves when they use areas with livestock or pets. Without a mechanism to address situations where wolves prey on livestock or pets, public tolerance of recovery and acceptance of wolves is jeopardized. The result would be a decline in public support of wolf recovery and probably an increase in illegal killing of wolves, each of which can threaten the overall recovery of the species. Illegal killing of "problem wolves" is likely to target the wrong wolves and result in an excessive number of wolves being killed. In contrast, a program that uses trained and experienced professionals to identify wolf depredation cases and that targets only the involved wolves will efficiently resolve the problem with minimal impact on the local wolf population.
Q: How is public input incorporated into this process?
A: There will be a 30-day comment period on the draft Environmental Assessment during which the public is invited to submit written comments. These comments will all be reviewed and considered, and changes made to the EA as appropriate. All comments will be collated and summarized in a chapter of the final EA along with the agency response to each group of comments. This process will be completed before a final decision is made.
Q: Under the preferred alternative, who could take steps to control problem wolves?
A: While wolves are federally protected as a threatened or endangered species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could issue permits or other forms of authorization to the State of Michigan to address wolf problems. Wildlife Services, acting as an agent of the state, would carry out any measures - lethal or non-lethal needed to control problem wolves. If wolves are no longer federally listed, wolves would be managed in accordance with the state Gray Wolf Recovery and Management Plan.
Q: When will a decision be made on this proposed action?
A: After the public comment period closes, the comments will be considered and addressed by staff from the involved agencies. A final EA is produced and provided to the decision makers for the two federal agencies. Each will select an alternative from the final EA and issue a decision document. The decision makers will also make a determination whether the proposed action has significant impacts meriting the preparation of a more detailed Environmental Impact Statement. This process will probably take two to four weeks after the comment period closes on February 21. The public will be notified of the decision and copies of the final EA and the decision document will be made available.
Q: Would this proposed action change the status of wolves in Michigan?
A: No. Gray wolves in Michigan would remain classified as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act, and all other protections of the Endangered Species Act will continue to apply.
Q: What is the recovery status of the gray wolf?
A: Gray wolves in the Upper Midwest have exceeded numerical goals for recovery for several years, and acceptable plans are in place for states to assume management responsibility for wolves. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently developing a proposal to remove gray wolves in Michigan and other areas of the Midwest from the endangered species list.