Tuesday, Jan. 22 — A coalition seeking to protect Michigan wolves has launched a referendum campaign in response to legislation passed in the lame duck session that makes the state’s small wolf population open to hunting.
Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, a statewide coalition of animal welfare organizations, conservation groups and Native American tribes announced today a referendum campaign to put the law to a ballot vote in 2014.
The goal of the coalition is “to maintain protection of wolves in Michigan,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO for The Humane Society of the United States.
Other members of the Keep Michigan Wolves Protected coalition joined Pacelle in speaking out against hunting wolves at a Capitol press conference.
Legislation was passed in December that allows for a wolf-hunting season in Michigan. Because of the law, wolves are now on the hunting approved “game list,” Pacelle said. An official hunting season still needs to be established by the Natural Resources Commission.
Pacelle said because of over hunting, Michigan wolves were nearly driven to extinction. Wolves have been a protected species in Michigan for almost 50 years and have just recently come off of the federal endangered species list. Pacelle said the wolf population is now fewer than 700. He said it’s way too early and the population is still too fragile to even begin talking about a hunting season.
He added that no one eats wolf meat — therefore hunting wolves would be specifically for “trophies” and “commercial hunting.”
Aaron Payment, chairman of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians said wolves are part of Native American culture and hunting them is unacceptable.
“In our tradition, in our culture, we believe the wolf is our brother,” Payment said. “We believe what happens to the wolf, happens to us.
The coalition even boasts hunters amongst its ranks. George F. Schultz spoke at the press conference on behalf of his fellow hunters.
“I’ve been hunting deer, ducks, geese, and pheasants here in Michigan for over 50 years,” he said. “Traditional hunters hunt for food and do not waste what we take. But no one eats a wolf and that’s just not right. It doesn’t respect or represent our traditional hunting heritage here in Michigan.”
Pacelle said it’s already legal in Michigan to kill wolves to protect livestock, dogs and people. He said there are even insurance policies in place to help farmers who have lost livestock to wolves. There has never been a recorded wolf attack on a person in Michigan.
Many wolf-hunting techniques are cruel and inhumane, Pacelle added. He said steel-jawed leg traps are a common hunting practice that can have wolves suffering for days before a hunter puts them down.
The coalition has until March 27 to collect 161,000 more signatures to get on the 2014 November general election ballot. If the group gets enough signatures, voters would get to choose whether or not Michigan has a wolf-hunting season.