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Amid steady populations, advocates hope support for Michigan wolves grows

Gray wolf in Marquette County
Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Gray wolf in Marquette County

Gray wolves have been a source of tension between farmers, hunters, tribal members, and wolf lovers in the Upper Peninsula. But a recent state survey shows wolf populations have been stable at around 600 for the last decade, and advocates hope support for wolves continues to grow.

As a wolf advocate with the National Wolfwatcher Coalition, Nancy Warren often leads educational programs to encourage appreciation for the animals. She said she hopes education can play a role in debunking misconceptions on the animals.

“When I say [to students], ‘I've got some wolf poop,’ and you’ll hear, ‘oh, yuck!’" Warren said. "And I’ll say, ‘oh, no, this one's really cool. It has a deer hoof in it.’ And once, a little fifth grader picked it up and said, ‘well, now I know why wolves howl.’”

Warren said federal protections on wolves haven’t always been a guarantee, but Michigan’s newest 2022 management plan - which is focused on reducing conflict as opposed to population control - is a step in the right direction. The plan doesn't set a maximum cap on wolf populations and instead focuses on reducing human-wolf conflict.

"If we have 50 wolves in an area, and they're not causing any problems, well, then that’s 50 wolves aside," Warren said. "But we might have an area with only a small pack, but they're causing problems. Well, then let's deal with that conflict. That's a sensible approach that avoids an all-out wolf hunt.”

Teresa Homsi is an environmental reporter and Report for America Corps Member based in northern Michigan for WCMU. She covers rural environmental issues, focused on contamination, conservation, and climate change.