CSF Continues to Fight for Wolf Hunting and Trapping in the Great Lakes

Contact: Nick Buggia, Upper Midwestern States Manager

  • Gray wolves were delisted as an endangered species in 2021 after meeting and exceeding recovery goals established under the Endangered Species Act.
  • However, a recent court ruling placed the gray wolf back under federal protection.
  • The Great Lakes States have exceeded target gray wolf population goals for the past 25 years.
  • Hunting and trapping are effective management tools that generate the vast majority of conservation funding through the American System of Conservation Funding.

Why it Matters: The Endangered Species Act was created to help species at risk of extinction and whose future is uncertain in the United States. Species on the list are provided with protections and funding for conservation efforts to ensure their recovery. Since its inception, 54 species have been delisted due to recovery, while another 56 species have been down-listed from endangered to threatened. In recent years, attempts by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to delist species like grizzly bears and gray wolves have been met with litigation by environmental groups, and many of their decisions have been reversed despite these species reaching preestablished recovery goals. If the best available research suggests that a species has met its population goal, it should be delisted and management authority over the species should be returned to state fish and wildlife agencies who have a long history of successfully managing fish and wildlife populations. There are many species on the list that need our attention, and we should not be wasting our time, effort, and money on species that, according to the best available science, have recovered.  

On February 23, The Michigan Wolf Management Advisory Council (Council) adopted a recommendation that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) institute a wolf hunting and trapping season as part of their wolf management plan. However, a recent court ruling that returned the gray wolf back to the endangered species list in the Great Lakes Region has, at least temporarily, slowed the process of formally establishing a hunting and trapping season. The Council is tasked by law to recommend management strategies for Michigan’s wolf population, including management techniques such as hunting and trapping. Earlier in the day, the DNR gave a presentation on wolf depredation and reviewed the state’s 2013 wolf hunt where 22 wolves were harvested. The DNR stated that the most effective way to deter depredation is a combination of non-lethal deterrents and harvest in select areas of the state’s Upper Peninsula.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) testified in favor of the recommendation and pointed to The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation (Model) which charges state fish and wildlife agencies with the management of fish and wildlife populations as public trust resources for the benefit of all citizens. This Model serves as the foundation for arguably the most successful wildlife management system in the world and has contributed to successful restoration of numerous species once in danger of extinction.

State fish and wildlife agencies must be able to use all available management techniques, including consumptive harvest through legal, regulated hunting and trapping opportunities. These tools, when combined with the American System of Conservation Funding, a “user pays – public benefits” program that provides the bulk of state-based fish and wildlife conservation funding in the U.S., allow sportsmen and women to harvest an appropriate number of animals to ensure overall population health while supporting further conservation efforts tough the purchase of licenses, that when combined with the excise tax from the sale of hunting and fishing equipment. 

CSF believes that, when delisted, the Michigan DNR is the entity best equipped to manage the state’s wolf population and that hunting and trapping are tools that can effectively balance both social and ecological carrying capacity of the species. Doing so is necessary to ensure that the population remains healthy while reducing the risk of wolf-human conflict and ensuring the health of other wildlife populations.

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Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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