Governor Rick Snyder has signed Senate Bill 288. That could clear the way for a wolf hunt in the Upper Peninsula.
His signature clears the way for the state's Natural Resources Commission to vote on a recommendation to hold a limited wolf hunt this fall in three parts of the UP.
The Governor told Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith that he believes the NRC will base its decision on what he called "sound scientific principles."
"If you think about it, I think sound scientific principals are how we should decide these things, to make sure we are doing the proper environmental functions that protect whatever species we're talking about, so it's sustainable for the long term," said Snyder.
More than quarter of a million Michiganders signed a petition asking to put a wolf hunt proposal on the November 2014 ballot. And the coalition called Keep Michigan Wolves Protected says Senate Bill 288 is a deliberate attempt by lawmakers to circumvent their petition effort.
Legislation that could allow a limited wolf hunt in the Upper Peninsula cleared the state House Wednesday, and is on its way to Governor Rick Snyder.
The grey wolf was recently removed from the federal endangered species list.
State Representative Jeff Irwin is a Democrat from Ann Arbor. He was one of the “no” votes.
“This is an animal that just came off the endangered species list. The populations are not even healthy or even abundant, and I don’t think it’s the right time to talk about shooting wolves in northern Michigan,” Irwin said.
Nearly a hundred years ago a small animal that most people have never heard of was wiped out of the northern forest. In the mid-1980’s, wildlife biologists reintroduced the pine marten in two locations in the Lower Peninsula. They thought the population would take off and spread but it hasn’t. And now researchers are trying to find out why.
The pine marten is the smallest predator in the northern forest. It’s a member of the weasel family… related to otters and ferrets. It weighs roughly two to two-and-a half pounds, has big furry ears, a pointed nose, a bright orange patch on its chest and a bit of a temper.
“I don’t know how big of an animal they would take on but they do have a reputation for being quite fierce.”
Jill Witt is a wildlife biologist with the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians. She has a marten caught in a wire cage tucked next to a fallen log, half buried in twigs and leaf litter.
The wolf-moose research project on Michigan's Isle Royale National Park is in its 54th year.
A big chunk of their research goes into tracking down dead moose - bones and carcasses - around the island.
From these remains the researchers can pick apart the status and overall health of the moose population. And understanding moose is important to wolf research, since the wolves eat the moose.
It's like understanding the overall quality and quantity of food available at the grocery store. If there's good, abundant food available, you'd expect things to be good. If not, well - you get the picture.
When Rebecca Williams and I arrived at the Daisy Farm campground on Isle Royale, we were met by Rolf Peterson in his boat.
He said he'd just heard of a dead moose on Caribou Island and asked whether we would like to go see it with him.
A stroke of luck. We'd traveled by plane, car, and boat to get here, and here was our chance to see Peterson in action.
Here's a video of our trip with him. Is ripping the skull off a dead moose gross? I didn't think so, but you can be the judge.
So, what did you think? Vote by typing "gross" or "not gross" in the comment section below.
For some, the magic of Isle Royale doesn't necessarily reside in the boat trip to the island.
Two days before Rebecca Williams and I left on our reporting trip, a friend and I were having lunch together.
"You're not riding on the 'Barf Barge' are you?!"
"The boat from Copper Harbor?"
"Yeah, I took that trip. We were on Isle Royale for a week. The first half of the week, all we could talk about was the boat trip over. And the second half of the week, all we could talk about was the boat trip back!"
On her trip, as the ship pulled out of Copper Harbor, the captain came on the loudspeaker.
"O.k., folks," the captain started. "We have the forecast for our crossing. And I just want to say... we're all in this together. We can get through this."
The snack bar was not open on that crossing.
But the snack bar was open for our trip.
The seas got a little rough (I saw a few eight footers roll by). And a trip to the restroom wasn't a straight walk to the door. You had to ping-pong yourself from table, to wall, to other passenger (excuse me), to the door.
Emergency cups and plastic grocery bags were deployed by some, but their "green-around-the-gills" condition didn't spread throughout the cabin.
The owners of the Isle Royale Line from Copper Harbor tell me the round-bottomed "Barf Barge" was retired in 2004. Their new boat, the Isle Royale Queen IV, rolls a lot less in heavy seas, and the new boat cut an hour off the trip.
What once took around four hours, now takes around three.
To get a sense of the crossing, I mounted a time lapse camera near the bridge. So here's the 54 mile crossing in less than two minutes.
Cell phones don't work on the island. Senses that can be overwhelmed by a connected, electric lifestyle are freed to look up, and take in the wind, waves, rock, and soil.
What makes the Isle Royale so special? We asked the Isle Royale Line's retired Captain Donald Kilpela that question:
Kilpela first made the trip to Isle Royale in 1945. And he and his family have been running the ferry service in Copper Harbor since 1971. His sons Ben and Don Jr. now run the boat. The family has been crossing Lake Superior to Isle Royale every summer since they started the business.
Two other people who know the island well have spent a good part of their lives here.
Rolf Peterson has been studying the interactions of wolves and moose on Isle Royale for more than 40 years. He and his wife Candy spend around eight months of each year on the island, and they raised their two kids on Isle Royale while living in the tiny Bangsund Cabin.
Isle Royale became a National Park in 1940, and was designated as a wilderness area in 1976. Humans are not in control here. It's an ideal laboratory for Peterson and the other researchers studying wolves and moose here.
Much of what scientists around the globe know about wolves and their behavior comes from Michigan's Isle Royale. The research project here is the longest running continuous study of any predator-prey system in the world.
All this week, we'll bring you stories about this research and about the people who make it happen - online and on-air.
Isle Royale is the least visited National Park, but as Captain Kilpela pointed out, it's the most re-visited one.
Many of you have had your own personal experiences with the island. We invite you to share your experiences about Isle Royale in the comment section below. In six words or less - tell us - what's so special about Isle Royale?
There's been a spate of black bear sightings in West Michigan over the past few days with at least one birdfeeder as a casualty.
Residents in Greenville, about 25 miles northeast of Grand Rapids, saw a bear wandering around a residential neighborhood and sightings have also been reported in nearby Lowell and Vergennes Township this week.
Wildlife authorities with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources don't know if it's the same bear being spotted, or more than one.
Bear sightings in general in many parts of the Lower Peninsula have become more common over the past few years.
[Bump] said a lot of the time, the bears are young males that get pushed out during the breeding season. They’ll head down looking for new territory.
“It’s not that we’re completely full up in the north – it can’t take one more bear – it’s just that we’re getting more taking the chance and moving south.”
He said bears like to travel along rivers and forested corridors and they appear to be finding good routes to travel...
Bump said some female bears appear to be moving south too. And some might be setting up camp... and having babies.
“We think we have an established population now as far down as Grand Rapids, possibly into Ionia County. We're getting more and more reports of bears in southern Michigan, even bears that are too young to have moved, so they had to have been produced in southern Michigan.”
This past February, Williams and producer Mark Brush got the chance to tag along with MDNR biologists in Oceana County as they tranquilized a black bear to replace a radio tracking collar.
Now that the warm weather is here, the collared bear is likely loping around in search of food.
You can see the bear in a deep sleep in the video below.
In terms of hotspots for giant, bipedal ape-men, Michigan might not come to mind, especially compared to states in the Pacific Northwest. But the mitten state is not without its share of alleged Bigfoot sightings.
According to the Detroit News, some high-profile Bigfoot hunters are paying visit to Michigan with camera crew in tow, hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive cryptid.
From the News:
Producers from the Animal Planet TV program "Finding Bigfoot" have been filming in the Houghton Lake area this week, looking for signs of Sasquatch.
Phil Shaw, a member of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, said there have been more than 130 Bigfoot sightings in almost every county in Michigan.
The episode including the Michigan investigation is set to air sometime this summer, the Detroit News reports.
So far, the research is showing a somewhat surprising result: that coyotes are a top predator of fawns in parts of the western UP.
From the Grand Rapids Press:
...what researchers found this past winter, the third year of a western U.P. deer mortality study, is that coyotes were the No. 1 predator followed by bobcats. Wolves came in fourth after a three-way tie among hunters, unknown predators and undetermined causes.
“I was somewhat surprised to see coyotes play as large a role in fawn predation as they did...,” said Jerry Belant, an associate professor of Wildlife Ecology and Management at Mississippi State University.
It may feel like it's already summer outside but that didn't stop a little piece of the arctic from visiting central Michigan.
After several days of sightings in and around the town of Portland, just northwest of Lansing, local authorities captured a loose arctic fox as he woke from a nap on a baseball diamond.
The fox's origin is unclear but aside from being about 1,000 miles south of its natural habitat, local law enforcement believes it must have been a domesticated pet based on its friendly demeanor, the Lansing State Journal writes.
From the LSJ's Tom Thelen:
“We were receiving calls about it for about a week,” said Portland police chief Bob Bauer. “People were seeing at in various parts of the city...We believe that it either escaped or was turned loose,” said Bauer. “It was not afraid of anyone. In fact, it would coming running out to people and some of them were scared by the way it ran up to them.”
Thelen reports that authorities found an owner of another arctic fox in nearby Lake Odessa who agreed to care for the captured animal.
LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan's new hunting program for children will start this year, with licenses on sale starting March 1.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced Friday that the Michigan Natural Resources Commission approved the program aimed at introducing children under the age of 10 to hunting and fishing.
A recent law eliminated the minimum hunting age, allowing kids under 10 to hunt with an adult who's at least 21 years old. Under the rules for the new youth program, the adult must have previous hunting experience and possess a valid Michigan hunting license.
A Mentored Youth Hunting license will cost $7.50. Details about hunting rules are posted on the DNR's website.
As of last Friday, wolves in Michigan are no longer a federally protected “endangered species.”
On December 21, 2011 Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced in Washington that Gray wolf populations in the Western Great Lakes states of Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin have exceeded recovery goals and are stable enough to be removed from the Endangered Species List.
Snowy owls typically live in the northern reaches of the arctic tundra.
Living year round in the arctic shows how tough these birds are.
But this year they've been traveling south in search of food.
The owls have been spotted in states such as Massachusetts, Kansas, Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
To see where they've been spotted in Michigan, click on the slides above for a Google Map.
So why are they flying down here?
Biologists think the growth in Snowy owl sightings around the U.S. is due to a drop in the owl's main prey in the Arctic - lemmings. Lemmings go through boom and bust periods, and right now, lemming numbers are probably down, so the owls are scrounging around here for rodents, rabbits, fish, or any other suitable food source.
Similar cycles occur with other birds of prey.
The Great Gray owl, which normally keeps to northern Canada forests, has been known to fly south when its food is in short supply.
Reporter David Sommerstein produced a story on Great Gray sightings in a piece he did for the Environment Report back in 2005.
It was a year the owls were flying south and was one of the biggest Great Gray owl migrations on record.