Forty-three Michigan wolves will be targeted by 1,200 licensed hunters this weekend. One of the biggest catalysts for the hunt was the growing number of livestock depredations over the past three years.
But, as ABC 10’s Rick Tarsitano tells us, one farm in particular is the driving force behind the rising trend.
When Nancy and Al Warren’s FOIA request was finally granted, after months of emailing back and forth, they studied each individual depredation dating back to 1996. The locations of those incidents were scattered across the U.P., but one farm in particular stuck out. It ended up being just a few miles down the road.
Since 2010, 96 of the 149 head of cattle that have been attacked by wolves has taken place on a farm owned by John Koski. But, there typically isn’t a human presence, as no one lives on the property; which could be one of the biggest causes of the depredations.
“Nobody living there with the normal day-to-day, in-and-out, lights going on, farm dog barking, and all the other things that going along with somebody living there, it does make it difficult to control wolf issues because nobody’s there,” noted Brian Roell, Michigan DNR Wolf Coordinator.
The DNR did their best to fill the gap with non-lethal and lethal remedies found in the Wolf Management Plan.
“I’ve hung flashing lights there myself,” Roell added. “We’ve used cracker shells. We’ve used Range Guards there. We’ve used donkeys. We’ve used electric fence. We’ve used a whole suite of non-lethal and lethal things. We still got the depredations.”
They also used temporary fencing.
“However, that fencing, which cost over $1,300, has disappeared,” remarked Nancy Warren, a member of the National WolfWatcher Coalition.
“They don’t even know what the fence was really for,” retorted Roell. “This was a fence, actually, that was used in the springtime; right when he was calving. It was a temporary fence. It wasn’t meant to be a permanent fence. Far as I know, he could have it wrapped up and be willing to use it again.”
But, each remedy came with a clause.
“Whatever non-lethal technique we put in place, they’re responsible to maintain it for three years. Otherwise, in the agreement they sign there’s a step down where they have to reimburse the state,” said Roell.
While the $1315 in fencing was only a temporary measure for calving periods and subject to use, the donkeys, whose cost and vet fees totaled more than $2,500, went neglected; compromising their intended effect.
“According to the report that I saw, it appears they may have died from dehydration,” remembered Warren. “He also has been known to have dead cattle laying around his farm. Dead cattle is an attractant for wolves.”
“I don’t want to defend him. I’m not going to say what he did there was perfect. But, the more important thing is what he did there wasn’t breaking the law,” noted Roell. “Until we were notified of actual carcasses being left laying (violations of the Dead Bodies Act), that’s when he crossed the line. That’s when we called MDA, Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development. They moved in and corrective action was taken. Those animals were cleaned up. The donkeys aside, that’s a totally separate issue. That’s up to Ontonogan County prosecutors. What they may do with that information, I don’t know.”
It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that they started to do anything.
“It all came down to whether there was enough evidence to take it to court and have a chance at winning. The consensus amon the County officials was that there was not,” stated Janet Wolfe of Ontonogan County Animal Protection in an email to Nancy Warren on July 13th of this year.
But, it’s interesting to note that Koski has received close to $33,000 in compensation for all of his lost live stock, 82% of all compensation paid out in the state.
“You know what I liken it to – a perfect storm,” Roell added. “We had wolves for many years where we could do no lethal control. We had his farming practices that yeah, weren’t best conducive for when you have large predators that eat livestock. There were years when, probably, generations of wolves learned to use livestock as a food source.”
But with little to no presence on the farm, it was difficult to correct the problem wolves promptly.
“When there is a problem, we need to direct the problem toward the offending wolf, and remove that wolf from the population,” said Warren. “In many cases, most cases, the depredations stop.”
We’ll examine those cases and the reports of the contrary that led to the hunt in our next installment.