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Monday, May 23, 2022

Michigan Lore #1: Did The DNR Reintroduce Wolves into Michigan?

Claim: At some point in the past several decades, the Michigan DNR engaged in a program of reintroducing wolves to the upper or lower peninsula mainland. Wolves were brought in from out of state and released into Michigan to increase the number of wolves here. I hear this one a lot and it is often cited as a reason that the DNR is incompetent and that they are to blame for the current population of wolves in our state.

What Really Happened: This claim does have some truth to it, but not in the way that people commonly believe. The grey wolf was almost brought to extinction in Michigan by the 1960s. A century of bounties and extermination had decimated the wolf population across the United States. Just a handful of wolves remained in the Upper Peninsula and on Isle Royale. 1965 saw wolves protected under state legislation and the ensuing federal endangered species act of 1974 cemented these protections. The wolf population in Michigan slowly began to recover. In 1974 the DNR did bring in a pack of four from Minnesota and introduced them into the UP to help the recovery efforts, however, these wolves were quickly killed by humans and were not able to establish a population. No further efforts were undertaken by the DNR to introduce wolves into Michigan. In the 1980s, several wolves did naturally travel here from neighboring states which, over time, led to an increase in the number of wolves. Our current population of wolves sits at approximately 700. Of this 700, all can be traced back to the small surviving populations from the 1960s or wolves who immigrated to Michigan naturally. So, while the DNR did introduce 4 wolves here in 1974, they did not in any way contribute to an increase in the wolf population of Michigan.

Sidenote: Wolves were reintroduced to Isle Royale in 2018 by the U.S. park service in an effort to control the moose population on the island. Currently, 14 remain. There is no evidence that any of these Isle Royale wolves have migrated to mainland Michigan or contributed to our wolf population in any way. 


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