The U.S. Court of Appeals ruled today to keep wolves in the Great Lakes on the endangered species list after U.S. Fish and Wildlife ruled enough animals lived in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota to remove them from the list in 2011. In 2014, a Federal Judge put them back on the endangered species list after state game management in all three states issued licenses to hunt wolves.
The state of Michigan had anticipated wolves would be taken off the list with today’s court ruling because the State Legislature passed laws during the 2016 lame duck session to allow wolf hunting in the state. On January 4, 2017, Rick Snyder signed a law designating the Gray Wolf a game species in the state. None of those laws cannot take effect with the ruling today that wolves are still federally protected.
Of the 3,800 wolves living in the Great Lakes region, the Michigan DNR counts 656 living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Dairy farmers and hunters insist the wolves are doing serious damage to the deer herd population and to livestock. This is a common argument used in most states where wolves struggle to make a come back in historical habitats once occupied in much larger numbers.
In their ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals cited that U.S. Fish and Wildlife based their decision to delist without considering all data, and cherry-picking results to justify the decision. What this ruling means today is U.S. Fish and Wildlife must provide more thorough and accurate data proving the wolf population is healthy enough to maintain large enough packs to survive without federal protection.
For now, it is a federal crime to shoot wolves in Michigan. This does not stop some people willing to defy the law with SSS practices in Northern Michigan, however. The Michigan DNR and local law enforcement must do more to ensure wolves are not illegally killed in Michigan.