DNR confirms presence of Gray wolf on tribe reservation

Tom Greenwood
The Detroit News

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has confirmed the presence of a gray wolf living in the northern section of the Lower Peninsula.

According to the DNR, this marks only the second time a wolf has been present in the Lower Peninsula since 1910.

The confirmation came one day after the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indiana announced that trail camera photos, paw prints and wolf scat showed that the wolf was living on their reservation in the northwestern section of the LP during the winter of 2014.

The tribe sent samples of the scat to Trent University in Petersboro, Ontario, which last week confirmed that the droppings were from an adult male gray wolf.

“We have had some tracks and potential sightings, but genetic testing gives us a definitive confirmation,” said Kevin Swanson, DNR bear and wolf specialist in Marquette.

Swanson said wolves dispersed from Upper Peninsula packs might travel to the northern reaches of the Lower Peninsula during cold winters that produce ice bridges between the two peninsulas.

While a thriving gray wolf population has been established in the Upper Peninsula for decades, there has been little evidence of them in the Lower Peninsula.

According to the tribe’s Natural Resource Department, an image of the wolf had been recorded on a bait station trail camera during the winter of 2014.

Wolf-sized paw prints and scat were also found at the location with the prints measuring 4 3/4 inches by 3 3/4 inches and with the stride ranging from 45 inches to 53 inches.

The confirmation came as no surprise to Doug Craven, director of the tribe’s Natural Resource Department.

“We’ve had anecdotal reports and have investigated a number of tracks,” Craven said. “We’ve been anticipating that we would have wolves coming down to the reservation. It’s most likely that they came across the ice in the straights.

“It’s only five miles from the U.P. and we’ve had very cold, severe winters over the past two years which have provided ice coverage.”

According to Craven, at this point, there is no evidence of more than one wolf on the 300-square-mile reservation located in the northwest portion of the Lower Peninsula.

According to the DNR, wolves began returning to the Upper Peninsula through Canada and Wisconsin in the early 1990s. Since then, their populations have increased and their range continues to expand.

Swanson outlined some of the previous evidence reported.

In 2004, a gray wolf that had been previously captured and collared in the UP’s Mackinac County was caught and accidentally killed by a coyote trapper in Presque Isle County in the Lower Peninsula.

Between Feb. 16 and March 13, the DNR — working in cooperation with the USDA Wildlife Services and the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians — conducted a wolf track survey to detect the presence of gray wolves in the northern LP.

A 2014 survey by the DNR showed there were 623 wolves living in the Upper Peninsula.

In 2012, the Obama administration removed the Great Lakes wolf population from the Federal Endangered Species list, which then led to a controversial first-ever wolf hunt in November and December 2013.

In February, the U.S. District court overturned the 2012 decision and re-entered the wolves to the federal endangered species list. The decision was decried by the Michigan DNR, which protested that the relisting was no longer necessary.

“Regardless of changes in legal status...wolves in Michigan have surpassed state and federal population recovery goals for 15 years,” said the DNR in a press release.

Culturally the gray wolf (“Ma’iingan”) is an important representation of family, cooperation, loyalty and intelligence and is revered in the Odawa, Ojibway and Potawatomi clan system.

The Associated Press contributed.

TGreenwood@detroitnews.com

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