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In two recent stories, The Detroit News has claimed the Michigan Department of Natural Resources deliberately misled federal officials to affect the killing of three gray wolves on a farm in Ontonagon County in 2016.

The stories theorize this was done to reduce the amount of money being paid by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to the farm to compensate for livestock losses caused by wolf predation.

Those allegations are simply untrue.

The department did not attempt to “skirt” the Endangered Species Act to remove wolves on the farm, much less to reduce livestock compensation costs. The Endangered Species Act allows for authorization to kill wolves when the animals “pose a threat, although not immediate, to human safety.”

The DNR acted in accordance with that provision.

What’s more, this single instance of wolf behavior was just one factor among many the DNR considered in seeking federal authorization to have the wolves killed. Among the other reasons were the ineffective use of non-lethal means employed to control the wolves, and a history of persistent — and increasing — depredation problems at the farm that showed the animals were becoming habituated to human presence.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed that the difference in detail between the initial and subsequent DNR account of wolf-calf interaction would not have changed its decision to authorize removal of the wolves.

In authorizing the killing of the wolves by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services, the Fish and Wildlife Service wrote “action should be taken before the human safety risks become more serious or immediate.” The Service’s support for the DNR’s recommendation that the wolves be killed has not changed.

The DNR made its decision out of a concern for human safety based on factors unique to the situation, as it has in other instances where wolves were taken in accord with provisions of the Endangered Species Act.

The DNR’s action to request removal of these problem wolves was warranted given the circumstances, was undertaken with the unchanged approval of federal authorities in charge of wolf management and was supported by provisions allowable under the Endangered Species Act.

Russ Mason 

chief, Wildlife Division

Michigan Department of Natural Resources

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