A photo of a man holding a wolf nearly his size after it was struck by a car and killed last month has got people talking, garnering more than 3,500 shares and 800 comments on Facebook. Not just because it's a powerful image, but because it's drawing out strong feelings at a moment when wolves' future is at a crossroads.
The wolf reportedly weighed around 100 pounds and was healthy. It was killed on a road near Watersmeet, a town on the western side of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
Michigan Whitetail Pursuit / Facebook
While the wolf's death appears to be an unfortunate accident, it comes at a time when animal activists across Michigan and outside the state are focusing their efforts on protecting the state's wolves. Fewer than two years after the state's wolves were removed from the endangered species list, a new law allowing hunting of wolves may go into effect. Approved by Gov. Rick Snyder in December, the final decision will come from the Natural Resources Commission, which is beginning a survey of the population, according to NBC 25.
Several states have recently allowed wolf-hunting, which were on track to extinction several decades ago. The population has increased under federal protection. Michigan now has about 700 wolves, according to the Lansing State Journal, up from six in 1973 when protection efforts began.
Activists are collecting signatures on a petition to put a referendum of the hunting law on the 2014 ballot. They need a total of 161,300 signatures to certify it, according to the Free Press.
According to MLive, the Humane Society of the United States is involved with the coalition organizing the petition, Keep Michigan Wolves Protected. The former organization's President and CEO Wayne Pacelle told the news site the state's wolf population is only now starting to recover.
“It’s not right to spend decades bringing the wolf back from the brink of extinction only to turn around and allow them to be killed for sport,” he said.
Proponents of the legislation cite problems with wolves killing livestock. Though they can be difficult to catch, it is currently legal to kill wolves to protect livestock, according to the Soo Evening News.
Department of Natural Resources officer Dave Painter, who is shown holding the animal, was called to the scene. The Iron County Reporter said the the hide will be preserved and displayed by the Lac Vieux Desert Tribe, while the carcass will undergo a necropsy downstate.
The photo was posted on the Facebook page of Michigan Whitetail Pursuit, a group of "hunters with a passion for pursuing Whitetails primarily with a bow," according to their bio.
Hat tip: Michigan Radio.