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Local finds many challenges in first Michigan wolf hunt



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January 01, 2014 - Deep snow and a conflict with deer hunting season may be two factors that kept Michigan's first wolf hunt in more than five decades to about half the anticipated harvest.

According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, as of Dec. 31 only 22 wolves were reported harvested in the Upper Peninsula during the new 45 day season. The goal was set at 43 animals.

A Michigan wolf hunt became a possibility in 2012 when they came off the endangered species list and were placed in state control. The state House and Senate passed legislation listing wolves as a game species in Michigan. After Gov. Rick Snyder signed the law, the door was opened to a future wolf hunt. As a result, the Department of Natural Resources and the Natural Resources Commission began establishing the framework for the season. The season, from Nov. 15 to Dec. 31 was limited to 1,200 licenses costing $100 each for residents and $500 for non-residents. The total number of wolves harvested was limited to three management areas in the Upper Peninsula.

Jenny Olsen, a Goodrich resident and Michigan Out-of-Doors weekly PBS television show host, was one of the wolf hunters.

Olsen, a 1986 Brandon High School graduate, purchased a wolf license in Port Huron at noon, Sept. 28 when they first went on sale.

"I kept thinking I'd never get one— there were 1,200 statewide that went on sale," she said. "But I just walked up there and he handed me a license."

On Nov. 15, Olsen started her wolf hunt in Mackinac County in the eastern section of the Upper Peninsula.

"I was up there for a four-day hunt," said Olsen. "What I did not take into account was Nov. 15 was the first day of firearm deer season statewide. It really made the wolf hunt more of a challenge considering the number of people in the woods. From deer camps to bait piles, the state land was just full of hunters in mid-November."

Olsen said that two wolves were shot in Mackinac County by DNR officers during the time she was there.

"A farmer contacted the DNR after two of his hogs were killed by wolves," she said. "The response to the wolf hunt by the locals is a little mixed, but a lot of the 'Yoopers,' the majority I'd say, want the wolves gone. The wolves are coming into their backyards and killing their dogs and pets. Not to mention their farm animals.

People up in the U.P. understand that while the DNR did introduce the wolves to the area at one point— those animals died. It was a flop. In reality the wolves are coming in from Wisconsin and Minnesota—the animals don't know borders between states. Those states have a lot of wolves, so many there are coming into Michigan to expand their domain. In those states, where hunting is also legal, 50 percent of the wolves are trapped, not hunted and shot like Michigan. It's very difficult to hunt and kill a wolf."

After an unsuccessful hunt in November, Olsen returned to the western Upper Peninsula on Dec. 26 for one last chance at a Michigan wolf. The nine hour, 550 mile trek from Goodrich to Ironwood, Mich. on the Wisconsin border presented some unique challenges.

"It was 20 below zero when I arrived and the snow was knee deep—I needed snowshoes," laughed Olsen. "There were signs of wolves—not only tracks, but also I could see where they had urinated along the logging trails. I could see that in the snow. There were a lot of signs of wolves around, but no wolves."

"It was a great experience and very exciting to be part of the first wolf hunt in Michigan in more than five decades," she said. "It's very difficult to hunt and I'd go again. My suggestion would be to change the season to not conflict with the deer season."

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