Ballot proposals put the future of Michigan wolves in the voter’s hands

Allison Ribick

On this year’s ballot, the only state-wide proposals that are listed deal with the topic of wolf hunting in Michigan.

Grand Valley State University hosted a forum on this issue on Oct. 25. The Keep Michigan Wolves Protected campaign brought in John Vucetich, associate professor of wildlife ecology at Michigan Technological University, and Michael Markarian, chief program and policy officer of the Humane Society of the United States to speak about the history and implications of wolf hunting.

The event began with Vucetich speaking about why people are concerned about wolves. The cultural significance of wolves and the similarities between humans and wolves, such as grouping together in familial units, were mentioned.

“When we look at wolves we see something of ourselves,” Vucetich said. “Whenever it is that we’re talking about wolves, we’re never talking just about wolves. We’re always talking about our overall relationship with nature.”

A wolf bounty was established in 1838, which was Michigan’s ninth law since it was a new state. The 1950s was the worst period for the wolf population, but in the 1960s the public adopted a new attitude toward wolves and the environment. Today, wolves have a population of fewer than 650 wolves in Michigan.

“It’s one of the greatest success stories in American conservation,” Vucetich said. “We have already decided that we’re going to live with wolves. But we still have not yet decided as to how we are going to live with wolves.”

Gray wolves got off of the endangered species list a few years ago. Now, Michigan politicians want to enforce a wolf harvest due to the threat of wolves in regard to humans, livestock and domestic animals.

State Senator Tom Casperson has led the movement for wolf hunting since it will “reduce livestock and pet depredation and enhance public safety,” according to an MLive article.

Casperson introduced a resolution within Michigan’s senate in 2011 to remove wolves from protected status, which included an exaggerated retelling of a wolf incident at a day care.

MLive conducted an investigation into the validity of the statement in the resolution and found it was false. Casperson apologized later.

Some people believe wolves present a problem for farmers because they kill livestock.

Vucetich produced a graph showing cattle losses due to wolves in his presentation. From 2010 through 2012 there was a great increase, and then the number dropped to a relatively normal number of 12 killings in 2013.

The increase was due to the fact that most of the killings occurred on a single farm. The farm owner was convicted of violating animal welfare act laws.

“It’s already legal here in the state to control problem wolves if there is a wolf that is threatening livestock or in a concern for public safety, and that wolf can be killed legally and can be done in a very selective and individual way,” Markarian said. “So why hunt them?”

The issue of wolf hunting and protection has been brought up in multiple bills recently in the Michigan legislature, including Public Act 520 in 2012 and Public Act 21 in 2013.

Both Proposals 1 and 2 are referendums of these acts, which would allow “establishing a hunting season for wolves and authorizing annual wolf hunting seasons” and, “granting the Natural Resources Commission the power to designate wolves and certain other animals as game without legislative action.”

“Now is the time to say no to the politician’s dirty tricks, to say no to this abusive power and to say no to the trophy hunting of these creatures that just came off of the endangered species list,” Markarian said.

Dominic Bongiorno, a freshman at GVSU, attended the event and signed up to volunteer for the Keep Michigan Wolves Protected campaign. The campaign seeks to protect the wolf population in Michigan and restore voters’ rights on wildlife issues.

“I’m interested in wolves and wildlife in general so I wanted to learn more about the proposals and the program,” Bongiorno said. “This presentation was definitely helpful.”

To read the MLive articles about the wolf sightings and the negligent farmer, visit

To read the full proposals or help with the Keep Michigan Wolves Protected campaign, visit