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NRE, USDA confirm wolf tracks in Cheboygan County

The Department of Natural Resources and Environment and the US Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services Division today announced they have confirmed the presence of wolves in northern Cheboygan County.

First spotted by area residents, the state and federal officials were about to confirm at least two wolves in one location; however, the landowner who made the report stated he has seen three separate sets of tracks. This is the first verification of multiple animals together in what may be described as a pack.

In early February, DNRE officials requested citizens provide wolf observation information to help conduct a survey to detect the presence of gray wolves in the Northern Lower Peninsula from February 16 through March 12.

“The purpose of the survey effort was to both verify the presence of wolves where we have previously confirmed individual animals and to detect new occurrences in other areas,” said DNRE Wildlife Biologist Jennifer Kleitch. “We need to monitor the wolf population in order to make good management recommendations and this is part of that monitoring. Given the low probability of observing a wolf or tracks in the Lower Peninsula due to the small number of animals here, it is helpful to have as many eyes looking as possible. That’s why public reports are important, and in this case we were able to respond to this report and confirm tracks and other signs that there have been wolves in the area.”

The DNRE is asking the public to report additional wolf sightings to the Gaylord Operations Service Center at 989-732-3541, ext. 5901. Observation reports can also be submitted online year-round at www.michigan.gov/wolves. The Web site also contains identification information for wolves.

“It’s imperative that observations are reported in a timely manner so we can work with fresh evidence. If people find what appear to be wolf tracks, they should preserve the physical evidence and disturb it as little as possible or take a photo of the tracks alongside a ruler,” Kleitch said. “If someone has a photo or video of a wolf in the Lower Peninsula, we’re interested in that as well.”

Wolves began naturally returning to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula via Canada and Wisconsin in the early 1990s. Since that time, the population has increased and continues to expand its range. Evidence of range expansion into the Lower Peninsula came when a gray wolf was accidentally killed in Presque Isle County in 2004. More recently, the DNRE verified two wolf observations in 2009 in the Northern Lower Peninsula as a result of a video taken by Michigan citizens.

Michigan wolves are currently listed as endangered under federal law even though recovery goals have been exceeded for many years. Wolves are widely distributed across the Upper Peninsula and state officials have called for de-listing of the Great Lakes wolf population and complete management authority. The state has an approved wolf management plan that was developed after extensive public input.

The DNRE appreciates the cooperation of USDA Wildlife Services personnel in confirming the occurrence of wolves in Cheboygan County. The DNRE and USDA Wildlife Services have been working together in wolf conservation for many years. In addition, the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, and Central Michigan University have been partners in the wolf detection surveys in the Northern Lower Peninsula.

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