MINNEAPOLIS (WWJ/AP) - The Humane Society of the United States and other groups are suing to restore federal protections for wolves in the western Great Lakes region.
The groups filed the lawsuit in federal court in the District of Columbia on Tuesday against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Wolf advocates who accepted the idea of farmers protecting livestock, which is already allowed, recoil at talk of hunting and trapping — which they fear will slash wolf numbers drastically. They say taking wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan off the endangered list last year threatens the recovery of wolves throughout most of their historic range.
Hunters and trappers in Minnesota and Wisconsin killed over 500 wolves during those states’ recently concluded seasons.
Lawmakers and Gov. Rick Snyder approved a bill in December that designated the wolf as a game animal – a first step toward allowing Michigan hunts. The Natural Resources Commission, a panel appointed by the governor that regulates hunting, fishing and trapping, has the final say. The commission could schedule a hunt as early as this fall in the rural, woodsy Upper Peninsula, where the wolf population is estimated at around 700.
The Humane Society of the United States provided a copy of the lawsuit to The Associated Press ahead of a public announcement.
Tony Hansen, a spokesman for Michigan United Conservation Clubs, called the Humane Society, “just another out-of-state interest group trying to hijack Michigan’s ballot to push its radical animal rights agenda.”
Meantime, opposition groups in favor of protecting the wolves are campaigning for a statewide referendum on the new law. If they gather enough petition signatures to get the issue on the November 2014 election ballot, the measure – and any potential hunt – would be put on hold until after the vote. Organizers need at least 161,300 signatures but have a goal of 225,000 in case some are ruled invalid.
An informal CBSDetroit.com poll showed over 90 percent of respondents were opposed to wolf hunting in Michigan.
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