Michigan Wolf Population Said Established
By JOHN FLESHER
.c The Associated Press
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - The surging gray wolf population in Michigan's Upper Peninsula has exceeded 200 for the fifth consecutive year, a milestone that likely will bump the animal from the endangered species list.
Once virtually extinct in Michigan, the wolf is continuing a remarkable comeback that began in 1989 when three of the animals established a territory in the western Upper Peninsula, the Department of Natural Resources said Thursday.
The estimated population rose during the last year from 321 to more than 360, the agency said. Department biologists produce a yearly census using techniques such as tracking, aerial observations and monitoring wolves fitted with radio collars.
Keeping the population above 200 for five years in a row means the population has reached the state recovery goal, said Pet Lederle, supervisor of the department's research and technology section.
The wolf's status already has been downgraded from ``endangered,'' meaning on the brink of extinction, to ``threatened,'' the next level of severity.
The U.S. Forest Service is expected next month to propose removing the wolf from the list, a process that would require hearings. Once it is completed, the natural resources department would do likewise on the state level, Lederle said.
Once that happens, the wolf population would be overseen by department managers.
Killing or otherwise harming wolves would remain illegal, although the department might destroy those that repeatedly attack cattle or cause other serious problems.
The agency last year killed four members of a pack in the eastern Upper Peninsula that continually went after livestock, Lederle said.
``As the population increases, the likelihood that we'd have to take that type of measure also increases,'' he said. ``But I still think it would be pretty rare.''