Mich. House designates gray wolf as game animal, state moves closer to hunt

Bill awaits governor's signature in step allowing once-endangered wolves to be hunted in Mich.

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LANSING, Mich. -

The Michigan House has taken a step toward allowing once-endangered gray wolves to be hunted.
A bill designating wolves as a game species was approved Thursday on a vote of 66-43.

The Senate approved the measure in November and will consider a minor House amendment before sending the bill to Gov. Rick Snyder for his signature.

The hunted:

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said they are closing the state's smallest wolf hunting and trapping zone effective Friday evening.

The DNR says nine wolves have been taken in the east-central zone, where the quota is 10 for the late season, which opened Nov. 24.

They says late-season hunters and trappers have now taken 48 wolves in the northeast zone, which is coming close to the zone's maximum of 56.

That raises the possibility that officials may close the northeast zone before the season sends Jan. 31.

However, the harvest in the less forested northwest zone now stands at 57, well below the target of 187.

This season is Minnesota's first managed wolf hunt since the animals in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan came off the endangered list in January.

The issue:

Wolves were removed from the endangered list earlier this year after rebounding from near-extinction in the upper Great Lakes region.

About 700 are believed to live in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
Supporters of the bill say it's time to allow hunters and trappers to thin the population.

They say wolves are killing livestock and venturing too close to towns.

The Humane Society of the United States has said it may sue to restore federal protections.

Environmental groups and Indian tribes say more time is needed to make sure the population is secure before hunting is permitted.

"They're part of our creation story, and they're also one of those cultural indicators that are inherent in our teachings," said Jimmie Mitchell, natural resources director for the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians.

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