Researchers weigh in on wolf management in Michigan

Researchers from Michigan State University and Michigan Technological University published a report this week detailing the results of a 2010 telephone survey of Michigan residents. In total, the study contacted 973 residents (95% confidence level +/- 3.2% margin of error). Eighty-two percent of residents agreed that wolves have value; only 16% disagreed with the statement, “I enjoy knowing that wolves exist in Michigan.” Fifteen percent indicated that they would be likely to purchase a license to hunt or trap wolves. The majority of residents (78%) believed that “Wolves should only be hunted if biologists believe the wolf population can sustain a hunt.” Perhaps most interesting, 56% agreed that the decision to hunt wolves should be “by public vote”, though the researchers did not ask which way residents would vote.  Still, this could signal conflict if interested groups or individuals push for a ballot initiative.

Lute, M.L., Gore, M.L., Nelson, M.P., & J.A. Vucetich. 2012. Toward improving the effectiveness of wolf management approaches in Michigan: Insights from a 2010 statewide survey.







  1. Mike Avatar

    Politicians in Washington and across the local levels have severely damaged the democratic process. They’ll only listen if you are a “stakeholder”, and of course you can only be a stakeholder if you’re in a particular industry. The 99 percenters don’t matter in wildlife management. Trust me, as someone who voted for the goof known as Obama, I know this.

    If wildlife management was based off voting, most types of hunting would be banned.

  2. aves Avatar

    Any one other than me notice anything odd about the black and white line drawing on the title page? It’s actually a 1994 drawing of a red wolf and a coyote by Robert Savannah of the USFWS for the Endangered Species Biologue Series. It’s obviously not intended to be used for a paper on Michigan gray wolves!

  3. Doryfun Avatar


    When it comes to ballot measures applied to wildlife management, the study also said:

    “Scientific commitment coupled with a lack of strong response to public votes (except among UP residents) suggests that if decision makers engage citizens throughout decision – making processes, public votes many not be needed.

    Findings from this project can inform other current MDNR wildlife management priority areas, including human – wildlife conflict, urban deer management, or policy evaluation. “

    While it is hard enough to get people to vote for human elections, how many would turn out for wildlife decisions? Most people are so busy making a living, how much time do they have (or willing to take) to become informed enough to make wise decisions to anything human or wildlife?

    Isn’t that part of the reason for hiring professional people to do the science and implement policy based on such? The general public basically putting their trust in the professionals to employ good science , yet still being able to participate at public input hearings, so agencies can gauge the pulse of interest (at least from those that show up), for helping determine direction of management. Of course, most likely the general populace won’t participate much, while interested groups will, thereby skewing a bias towards special interest. Which is also why legal challenges to policy directions are born. The important thing being that we get the science right to begin with, to help engage wise use of natural resources.

    1. JB Avatar

      Dory: My comment reflects only my surprise at the proportion of people that think the issue should be resolved via a vote. Based upon previous experience, my *guess* is that people who trust the MiDNR are less likely to desire to resolve the issue via vote. So I find it interesting that there were pretty dramatic differences between UP and LP residents in terms of their support for a vote.

  4. somsai Avatar

    When asked the right way you can produce a poll that shows most mothers prefer to eat babies alive. The important part is if you really want to find out how mothers feel about eating babies of if you want to support your already made up opinion about eating babies.

    Imagine the response if the researchers had asked, “should decisions about the scientific management of wolves be made by expert wildlife biologists or any other method?”. Amazing!! Gadzooks! 95% of the public thinks wolf management should be made by biologists rather than any other method.

    For me the tell was their complaint over the legislative fix. All those scientists at US Fish and Wildlife decide to do something after years of research, then it is over turned by a bunch of lawyers arguing in front of one judge, then fixed legislatively. So the opinion researchers call the legislative fix a triumph of politics over science.

    Some truisms that seem to show through this “research” and seems to happen wherever they bring wolves. The people who live in the areas with the wolves harbor the highest negative opinion. That opinion becomes more negative over time.

  5. JB Avatar


    Your first “truism” is essentially correct–people who live in wolf territory generally harbor more negative attitudes toward wolves than those who don’t. Of course, the people who live in wolf territory also live in rural areas, where attitudes toward endangered species conservation (and any policy viewed as “progressive”) are generally more negative. My colleagues and I found attitudes toward wolves in Utah were more negative in rural areas despite the fact that no wolves had been present for 70 years.

    Your second “truism” likewise oversimplifies research in this area. Existing studies have come to mixed conclusions regarding how attitudes toward wolves change in the presence of the species. A Minnesota study by Kellert found some views that reflected more positively on wolves, while at the same time finding more support for controlling problem wolves. Similarly, a recent study from Croatia found that attitudes became less extreme with time, while a study from Wisconsin (not yet published) found people in wolf range were less tolerant with time. Complicating factors even further, a meta-analysis (a summary of studies) published in 2002 found that attitudes in the US did not change over a roughly 30-year period.

    We used news-media coverage as a proxy of attitudes and found a trend toward increased negative news coverage in North America; however, this was entirely attributable to places where wolves had recently recovered (that is, negative press was increasing in the NRMs, MI and WI; press was stable in AK, MN and Canada. (As an aside, one of the first studies ever published on the topic found Alaskans had the most positive attitudes toward wolves). Seems to me that rural resentment of wolves may be more of a reflection of the policies (and the people) that put them in these places, rather than anything directly attributable to wolves, themselves.


Dr. Jeremy Bruskotter is an associate professor in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at the Ohio State University where his research interests are centered around the human dimensions” of wildlife conservation and management. Jeremy is passionate about wildlife–at one time or another, he has called himself hunter, angler, and wildlife photographer. Most of all, Jeremy is concerned with bringing the tools and techniques of the social sciences to bear on pressing issues in wildlife management.

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Jeremy Bruskotter