The Wolves of Michigan
Who’s afraid of wolves?
Many people are, but even a good number of the skittish want to make sure they are protected.
True, wolves who live in the Michigan wilderness can be vicious and attack in packs; but over the centuries they have gotten a worse reputation than they deserve. Stories like “The Three Little Pigs”, “Little Red Riding Hood”, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”, etc. They are also shown in a negative light in movies like “The Wolf Man”, “Werewolf Of London”, “I Was A Teenage Werewolf”, etc. The man-into-wolf films and tales, even though we know they’re fiction, possibly could have done extra damage to the wolf’s rep.
Forget bears, cougars, coyotes…even though the wolf population may be smaller, wolves are considered by many to be Michigan’s top predators. News stories about wolves attacking people have been reported (although very rare), and their howls heard in the distance during late night/early morning hours can be quite unsettling. Michigan has a huge number of gray wolves, and is only one of four states that have timber wolves; the other three are Alaska, Montana, and Wisconsin.
Northern Michigan wolves lead a hard life, especially up on Isle Royale. The pups have slim chances of making it to adulthood and those that do, only live up to four years. However, pack leaders can make it up to nine years. A litter of wolves can be up to five but not all survive.
The Michigan wolf’s main dinner entrée is white-tailed deer, not rabbits, possums, cats, or squirrels like coyotes; beaver is their second choice. Livestock? Yep, they get them too, but so do bears, cougars, and coyotes.
1956: U.P. wolf population, 100.
1965: Wolves become legally protected.
1973: U.P. wolf population, 6.
1976: Listed as a Michigan Endangered Species.
1980s: Wolf population grows.
1989: Wolf reproduction verified and documented.
2004: Taken off the Endangered Species list.
In the 2010s, DNR wildlife biologists reported no less than 662 wolves among 139 packs and remain federally protected in Michigan…..the only legal way to kill a wolf is if a human life is in danger.
If you camp or hunt in the U.P., it’s possible you may have come across a wolf on a road or trail, checking out its territory and patrolling for food. I have never seen a wolf in the wild, but I have come across a bear, lumbering across one of the one-lane dirt backroads.
For those who think wolves are cute, yes, they definitely can be…if you aren’t around. They can be vicious, they can be frightened by you, and a pack of them may surround you if you’re hiking out in the middle of nowhere. Always plan ahead and use your common sense if you pay a visit to the wolf’s domain in the dense forest regions of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
The Wolves of Michigan
MORE MICHIGAN OUTDOORS:
Vintage Isle Royale
Tornadoes in Michigan, Early 1900s
Michigan Fishing: 1900-1943