Official records show that in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, only six out of approximately 900 livestock operations, or about 0.006%, experienced a conflict with wolves in 2019. The number of farms experiencing a conflict has been consistent over the past five years. Records also confirmed that very few of the U.P.’s wolf packs are involved with livestock conflicts.
The National Wolfwatcher Coalition analyzed data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act from wolf depredation and loss compensation records maintained by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. The records indicated that of the nearly 50,000 head of cattle in the U.P. wolves were responsible for the death of five calves. In addition, 2 ducks and 10 free-ranging chickens were killed. So far, in 2020, two farms reported a problem, each losing one calf.
Michigan livestock producers are compensated the full market value for livestock killed by wolves.
“Several scientific studies suggest that hunting or lethal control of wolves, even in an area adjacent to depredations, is not effective,” said Nancy Warren, Executive Director of the National Wolfwatcher Coalition and a U.P. resident. “Instead, experts recommend the use of non-lethal tools such as donkeys, guard dogs, lights, fladry and fencing which have been proven to be effective in minimizing losses to native carnivores.“
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, respiratory, calving and digestive problems along with weather are the top killers of livestock.
“Except in the movies, wolves pose little risk to humans,” said Warren. “But even though wolves in the Great Lakes states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota remain under the protection of the federal Endangered Species Act, the lethal removal of wolves that are even perceived to be a threat to humans is still permitted.”
As scientists predicted, the Michigan wolf population has stabilized. The most recent survey conducted by MI DNR estimated the population at 695. Biologists have long established that apex native carnivores such as wolves do not “overpopulate,” and will regulate their own numbers according to available habitat and food availability. Concurrently, the Michigan DNR reports high deer hunting numbers in the region.
Wolves provide many ecological benefits and with few conflicts and a stable population, there is no demonstrated basis for conducting proactive lethal control of wolves or reducing wolf numbers.