LANSING (WWJ/AP) - Michigan’s election board on Wednesday certified the signatures of a group seeking to ban wolf hunting and a referendum will be placed on the November 2014 ballot, but the outcome of the vote could be meaningless.
The Board of State Canvassers agreed that Keep Michigan Wolves Protected gathered the more than 250,000 signatures needed to seek a vote on a measure lawmakers approved in December that designated the wolf as a game species.
But a new law makes the referendum a toothless gesture regardless of the outcome.
A separate measure signed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder earlier this month lets the Natural Resources Commission decide which types of animals can be hunted. That authority previously rested entirely with the Legislature. Despite what happens with a vote, the commission will have the power to allow wolf hunting.
Earlier this month, the commission approved a limited wolf hunting and trapping season in three areas in the Upper Peninsula in November and December.
Jill Fritz, director of Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, said they are still pushing forward with the ballot initiative to “demonstrate the overwhelming response from Michigan voters who oppose the hunting and trapping of wolves in our state.”
Fritz said the wolf population, which is important for the ecosystem of the U.P., is still trying to recover from near extinction in the state.
“Our concern is that this very fragile population of this iconic species is going to be subjected to cruel practices like steel jaw leg hold traps,” Fritz told WWJ Newsradio 950. “[That's] where the animals feet are caught in metal traps, and they have to wait until the trapper comes along to shoot them or beat them to death.”
While some farmers say the wolves prey on their animals, Fritz, who serves as Michigan Director for the Humane Society of the U.S., says that’s not true.
“That is a rare case when wolves do attack livestock,” Fritz said. “Fewer than 8 percent of the farms in the Upper Peninsula have experienced any kind of wolf depredation — and that’s just the DNR’s own statics.
“So there’s no reason to initiate a random wolf hunting and trapping season,” she said, adding farmers already have the right, under current law, to shoot any predator threatening their animals.
Fritz said Keep Michigan Wolves Protected is still considering its options for how to continue fighting against wolf hunting, including possible legal challenges and another referendum campaign to place the new law on the ballot.
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