In the last month, Leo Fende submitted two letters each making claims of individuals being devoured by wolves and wolves decimating deer populations, without providing any scientific documentation. Research concludes these stories are nothing more than tall tales.
As a member of the Michigan Wolf Roundtable, we developed ground rules used during deliberations as we worked through the guiding principles for the Wolf Management Plan. One of the rules was that anyone could raise any issue or concept but it must be supported by peer-reviewed scientific research. Another rule was, “I know a person who” science was not allowed. Again, statements must be backed by sound scientific data.
Any animal is capable of an attack but it is important to put the risk of an attack in perspective. In Michigan, there are documented cases of attacks by squirrels, bears but none by wolves. According to the National Canine Institute, there have been 35 dog-bite related fatalities in Michigan since 1965.
The Michigan Deer Crash Coalition reports that there were 48,918 vehicle-deer crashes in 2012 in Michigan, resulting in eight people being killed and 1,329 suffering serious injury.
While documented wolf-human encounters have occurred, they are so rare as to warrant publication in scientific literature. Wolves are shy and generally avoid humans.
Most people will never see a wolf, let alone have a conflict with one. Wolves can, however, lose their fear of humans through habituation and may approach camping areas, homes or humans. When this happens, there is an increased possibility for conflict between wolves and humans.
According to Mark McNay, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, who compiled a case history of 80 wolf-human encounters in Alaska and Canada, most involved habituated wolves.
Things can be done to minimize the risk of a negative encounter with a wolf. Never feed a wolf either directly, by leaving food outside or indirectly through feeding deer. Wolves, like bears, can be easily habituated through food.
Section 6.1 of the Michigan Wolf Plan reads, “Controversy tends to receive attention, and the public may receive inaccurate or exaggerated impressions of the extent of wolf-related conflicts.”
Unfortunately, Mr. Fende has been deceived by misinformation. Facts and scientific data must be used when wolf management decisions not fables and undocumented stories.