Wolf survey set to start Monday

BIG RAPIDS — It’s unlikely the survey being conducted by the DNR, which we started Monday on the presence of gray wolves in the northern Lower Peninsula, will impact local residents.

But the DNR stiill advises individuals to keep their eyes open.

The wolf track survey will be through March 13.

“The probability of observing an actual wolf or its tracks in the Lower Peninsula is low,” DNR wildlife biologist Jennifer Kleitch said in a statement. “It’s helpful to have as many eyes as possible looking, so public reports are important for this survey.”

The DNR noted wolves began naturally returning to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula through Canada and Wisconsin in the early 1990s and added that since that time, populations have increased and their range continues to expand.

Evidence of range expansion into the Lower Peninsula came, the DNR said, when a gray wolf was accidentally killed in Presque Isle County in 2004.

Wolf sightings or tracks believed to have been from a wolf, between Feb. 16 and March 13, can be reported to the DNR’s Gaylord Customer Service Center at (989) 732-3541, ext. 5901. Reports of observations also can be submitted online at www.dnr.state.mi.us/wildlife/pubs/wolf_obsreport.asp.

Survey teams, the DNR said, will then respond to the areas with recent reports, searching locations where there have been one or more reported observations.

“It’s important that observations are reported in a timely manner so we can work with fresh evidence. If the public finds what they believe are wolf tracks, they should preserve the physical evidence and disturb it as little as possible or take a photo of the tracks with a ruler,” Kleitch said in her statement. “We’d also be very interested in any pictures of a wolf in the Lower Peninsula.”

Kleitch said in a phone interview on Wednesday that the likely responses will come from residents north of U.S.10.

“That’s not to say it’s not possible, but it’s more likely in that region, north of U.S. 10,” she said. “We don’t usually get too many observations outside the northern two or three tiers of counties, but I have staff that are based out of Baldwin that could respond to a recent report.

“Most of the responses have been of the most northern tier (of the Lower Peninsula). The road densities in the Lower Peninsula is high for wolves. You would be less likely they would be (tracked) further south but it’s not impossible. We’ve had a wolf from the U.P. travel to Missouri, so they can travel.”

Katie Keen, wildlife technician for the DNR in Northern Michigan, said “it’s a citizens science type of thing. We take this little short-time period for people who have either seen wolves or have tracked them. At that point, they’ll check out the information. It’s really on folks that feel they have seen one.

“The calls the Gaylord office receives, it does vary. Many times it’s like historical information like over the summer or during the deer season. We’re looking for information we can follow up with hopefully, a direct visit, if possible.”

It’s unlikely, but not impossible to locate a wolf the further one goes south from the Mackinac Bridge, Keen said.

“It would be very interesting because we’ve never had anything like that in this area,” Keen said. “It goes back to what a confirmation is. We have to deal with 100 percent certainty by looking at evidence. You can’t always go by if someone says they saw something. We have to be able to look at that information and several people be able to say ‘yep, this is 100 percent certainty and that’s what that was.’”