Wolves in Peril: The Hunt has Begun

Anger, disgust, fear – those are the emotions running through me right now.

The 6-month-long wolf hunting season in Montana begins today, September 15th and runs through March 15th – six long and stress-filled months. Montana has mapped the state into 18 Wolf Management Units (WMUs) which it opens to wolf hunting. Of these 18 WMUs, only 3 have quotas. The remaining 15 have no limits on how many wolves are killed.

What makes the Montana scheduled wolf hunt all that much worse is that many of the WMUs immediately surround Yellowstone, Teton, and Glacier National Parks, where wolves are protected, and which also serve as corridors for wolves dispersing into or out of these parks. The Yellowstone wolves, especially, are more used to and tolerant of human presence. If these wolves happen to take one step over the invisible park boundary, they can be shot and killed by trophy “hunters”. How “sporting” is it to sit with a loaded rifle just outside of a National Park waiting for a wolf to step over a human-drawn border of which the wolf has no knowledge?

How lonely is the night without the howl of a wolf. ~Unknown

I realize that Yellowstone wolves are no more or less important than any other wolves, but the Yellowstone wolves are the wolves I have come to know – I know their stories. I have watched them in person, I have photographed them, I read about their lives on a daily basis. I care deeply about these wolves because I know them. Each day between now and March 15th I dread that I will read that one of the Yellowstone wolves that I have come to know has fallen victim to the wolf hunt.

Yellowstone wolves are in even greater peril, as the first wolf hunting season since 2013 begins in Wyoming on October 1st and runs through December 31st. Wyoming has designated 12 wolf hunting units surrounding Yellowstone National Park where up to 44 wolves can be shot and killed. In the remainder of the state, wolves are considered predatory animals and can be shot and killed 24/7, 365 days a year.

When I was twelve, I went hunting with my father and we shot a bird. He was laying there and something struck me. Why do we call this fun to kill this creature [who] was as happy as I was when I woke up this morning. ~Marv Levy

It seems that wolves everywhere are under attack. In my home state of Wisconsin, wolves are being used as political pawns and may soon be hunted like Montana’s and Wyoming’s wolves. What’s worse, is that in Wisconsin it is legal to use dogs when hunting wolves – pitting dogs against wolves – it doesn’t get much lower than that.

With the ever-growing movement of protecting and preserving wolves and wildlife, it appears our politicians and state wildlife agencies are doing just the opposite and keeping the recovery and future of wolves in peril.

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Court rules Michigan wolf hunt law unconstitutional

LANSING — Michigan’s 2014 wolf hunt law is unconstitutional, the Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled in an opinion released Wednesday.
In a unanimous decision, a three-judge panel of the court said the law providing for a Michigan wolf hunt violates the “title-object clause” of Michigan’s constitution, which says “no law shall embrace more than one object,” and that object “shall be expressed in its title.”
The court said a provision of the law allowing for free hunting, trapping, and fishing licenses for qualified members of the military is unconnected to the law’s object of providing for scientific management of game, fish and wildlife habitat. The entire law must be struck down, because it isn’t clear the law would have been approved if that provision had not been included, the court said.

The ruling in favor of the group Keep Michigan Wolves Protected overturns an earlier ruling by the Michigan Court of Claims. 

In 2011, the federal government removed the gray wolf from its endangered species list in Michigan, but the group that challenged the law says there are fewer than 650 gray wolves left in Michigan and they should not be hunted.

After earlier failed efforts to add wolves to the definition of “game” in Michigan, the Michigan Legislature in 2014 adopted a voter initiative backed by Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management, which gave the Michigan Natural Resources Commission joint responsibility, with the Legislature, to name new game animals. The law, which took effect in March 2015, included a $1 million appropriation, making it immune from being challenged through another referendum.
Two wolf hunt laws that were on the ballot in 2014 were rejected by voters.
Keeping Michigan Wolves Protected challenged the law, alleging misrepresentations were made by petition circulators and violations of the state constitution. But the Michigan Court of Claims rejected those arguments.
In the new Michigan Court of Appeals ruling, the panel says that Keeping Michigan Wolves Protected essentially viewed the law as “a Trojan Horse, within which the ability to hunt wolves was cleverly hidden.”
The court said that “however accurate the plaintiff may be in its assessment of why (the law) came into being, our analysis is not about policy,” but “based on an analysis of the dictates of Michigan’s constitution.”
Jill Fritz, director of Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, said the law “was a blatant power grab by politicians to take away voting rights from Michigan citizens,” and “we are delighted the court has rejected the Legislature’s outrageous attempt to subvert the will of the people.”
She said the ruling “restores the people’s decision, in two statewide votes, overwhelmingly rejecting the trophy hunting and commercial trapping of the state’s small population of wolves.”
A spokesperson for the group that pushed for the law, Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management, could not immediately be reached for comment.
The court’s panel consisted of Judges Donald Owens, Joel Hoekstra and Jane Beckering.

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Featured image by John E Marriott