By KURT HAUGLIE
For the Daily News
HOUGHTON - Although the take for the first wolf hunt in Michigan in decades was fewer than Department of Natural Resources officials anticipated, one DNR official still considers it a success.
Brian Roell, DNR wildlife biologist, said there was a quota of 43 wolf kills set for the hunt, which ran from Nov. 15 to Dec. 31, but only 23 wolves were killed.
Roell said a decision by state officials about continuing the wolf hunt hasn't been made yet. There are many factors involved with the issue. The Natural Resources Commission may make the decision about another wolf hunt. The Michigan Legislature may reenforce the NRC's authority to make the wolf an official game species in Michigan. There will be questions on the November ballot by pro- and anti-hunting groups about continuing wolf hunting in Michigan.
"It's going to get complicated, and it's probably going to get fairly nasty," he said of the wolf hunt issue.
Wolves had been a protected species in Michigan since the 1970s. In 2012, the federal government removed their protected status in the Great Lakes region, and left any decisions about hunting them to the individual states.
Roell said in wolf hunt Unit B, which includes parts of Baraga, Gogebic, Houghton and Ontonagon counties, the wolf quota was 19 animals, and 14 were killed. In Unit A in Gogebic County, five wolves were killed, and in Unit C, which includes parts of Luce, Mackinac and Schoolcraft counties, four wolves were killed.
Exactly why the take of wolves was so low will have to be studied, Roell said.
The quota of 43 wolves was based on the experiences of hunters in Minnesota and Wisconsin, Roell said.
Roell said he thinks a combination of things led to the low take of wolves in Michigan: The hunting units are smaller than in Minnesota and Wisconsin; The heavy snowfall and cold temperatures; Many hunters were "opportunistic," meaning they were mainly hunting deer, but had wolf licenses, and if they saw a wolf, they would try to take it; Most of the 1,200 wolf licenses were sold in the Lower Peninsula, and it's possible many hunters decided not to make the drive to the Upper Peninsula because of the weather.
"We won't know exactly why we didn't reach our goal," he said.
A post-hunt survey is planned by the DNR Roell said.
"We will gain more information about hunter efforts and methods," he said.
Despite the low number of wolves killed, Roell said he still considers the hunt a success because of the information gained.
The November firearm deer take was low compared to last year, also, Roell said.
"We're down somewhere between 20 and 25 percent," he said.
The deer take this year is down 10 to 15 percent compared to the previous three seasons, also, Roell said. The reason for the low numbers is probably due to harsh winters, especially last year.
"It was very hard on the fawn crop," he said. "We're not replacing animals."
He expects the 2014 deer season will be affected by this winter, also, Roell said.
Data on the December bow and muzzle-loading firearm deer hunts haven't been collected yet, Roell said, so it's unknown if the deep snow and cold temperatures affected those hunters.