The 2013 wolf hunt is officially suspended, but some say it is only temporary. A petition from the Keep Michigan Wolves Protected campaign has gained more than 255,000 signatures from Michigan, enough to fight and suspend the law declaring the wolf as a game species.
The Keep Michigan Wolves Protected petition signatures were validated Wednesday, meaning that Public Act 520 is suspended. They only needed about 161,000 signatures to succeed. Governor Rick Snyder signed the act in December declaring the wolf as a game species. The petition removes the wolf from the game species list, therefore, suspending the hunt until the public can vote on it in November 2014.
"I think the campaign, no matter what, is moving forward through public outreach and an educational campaign with the goal of obtaining votes in 2014 that would repeal Public Act 520," said Adam Robarge of Wild Land Guardians. Robarge led the search for signatures in the U.P. for the campaign.
It may not matter, however. Earlier in May, Governor Snyder signed Public Act 21, giving the Natural Resources Commission the power to add to the game species list, not just the state, and the petition is only good against the state legislature. The NRC has the authority to completely bypass the petition if they choose.
"The petition drive, while valid, is really not going to have an impact. We're far enough out from the established wolf hunt that the new legislation will kick in, and we will have a wolf hunt regardless of this petition drive," said Terry Minzey, U.P. Regional Wildlife Supervisor with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
Minzey and the DNR support the limited wolf hunt.
"It helps us to, at least, attempt to address some of those chronic problems where we have dogs being attacked by wolves, we have wolves coming into town, and people are worried about the safety of their children, and we have livestock being killed," Minzey said.
In May, during the NRC's monthly meeting and prior to the validated petition, the NRC voted six to one to establish the wolf hunt under their new authority from Public Act 21. The May meeting was the first monthly meeting with the new authority.
On June 13 during the next monthly meeting for the NRC, they will receive information and discuss the issue on whether to rename the wolf as a game species. Then in the following July meeting they will vote yes or no, something Minzey expects to be a guaranteed vote in favor of renaming the wolf as a game species and restoring the wolf hunt based on their previous vote in May. Minzey describes the July vote to restore the hunt more as a formality and that ultimately the hunt will not be affected.
Many fighting the hunt are not discouraged.
"Certainly it's disappointing, but no matter the outcome, I think that what's happening now...remaining steadfast with the goals of the campaign is completely positive," Robarge said.
The Department of Natural Resources has more details on the wolf hunt.