Conservation Affairs October 2015

By: Larry Witte


The Michigan Court of Claims earlier this year dismissed a lawsuit by an animal rights group seeking to overturn the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. The decision is a victory for science-based resource management in Michigan. 

Passage of SRWCA in 2014 reaffirmed the authority of the Michigan Natural Resources Commission (NRC) to use science to designate and manage wild game species including wolves. In addition it provides for free hunting and fishing licenses for active military personnel and appropriates funding for rapid response to aquatic invasive species. 

Following passage of SFWCA the animal rights group, Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, filed a lawsuit claiming the law was unconstitutional. The suit was heavily financed by the Humane Society of the United States. 


Federal excise taxes that hunters and anglers pay when purchasing certain gear, import duties paid on boats and a portion of gasoline tax attributed to small boats and engines brings in $1.1 billion for the Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration Program. Michigan will receive $37.5 million of which $26.6 million will go to fund wildlife restoration efforts and $11.1 million for fisheries restoration projects. Of the $26.6 million for Wildlife restoration efforts $4.4 million will go to hunter education programs in the states. 

Michigan ranks 5th out of 55 states and territories for wildlife restoration dollars received and 7th out of 56 for sport fish restoration funds due to the number of licenses sold and the abundance of public land and water in the state. 


At the time of this writing three free-ranging Ingham County white-tail deer exhibited CWD symptoms were killed and tested at DNR and MSU labs and determined positive for CWD. The determination was confirmed by the National Veterinary Services. 

CWD is deadly to deer populations and is transmitted by animal to animal contact and by a contaminated environment where blood, saliva, urine, and feces from infected deer are present. 

Action being taken by DNR and MDA includes: 

-Creating a CWD management zone which includes Clinton, Shiawassee, and Ingham Countirs. 

-Implementing a deer feeding ban in the 3 counties. 

-Preventing private salvage of road killed deer which will be tested for CWD. 

-Removing a significant number of deer for testing within 2 miles of where CWD deer were found. 

The DNR continues to ask the public for help in reporting deer that are unusually thin or exhibiting unusual behavior (for example, acting tame around humans and allowing someone to approach). 

To report: 

-A suspicious-looking deer, call the Report All Poaching hotline at 800-292-7800 or fill out and submit the online observation report found on the DNR website. 

-Road-kills found in the Core CWD Area, call the Wildlife Disease Hotline at 517-614-9602 during office hours. Leave a voicemail with location information and staff will attempt to pick up carcasses on the next open business day. 


At the time of this writing 5 Canada geese have been confirmed with Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (H5N2), all in Macomb County. Avian Influenza is a virus carried by migrating waterfowl which can infect domestic poultry including chickens, turkeys, quail, ducks and geese. No known cases of H5N2 have been found to date in Michigan domestic poultry. Risk to humans is considered low. 

In order to prevent the spread of H5N2 in local goose populations DNR largely suspended round up and relocation of nuisance birds during the year. 


Earlier this year the Michigan Court of Appeals overturned a Marquette Count Circuit Court order and upheld a 2011 Invasive Species order issued by DNR prohibiting Russian boar in Michigan. While this is a win for DNR the issue goes back to local courts in the U.P. Litigants may argue that their animals are technically not covered. 


A Michigan Deer Harvest Survey Report on the 2014 hunting seasons found that approximately 615,000 hunters statewide harvested 329,000 deer, down about 15 percent from 2013. The decline was greatest in the U.P. where the harvest was down 36 percent. Several factors including back-to-back severe winters that reduced deer populations and early winter in 2014 resulting in more than 3 feet of snow on the ground in some areas of the U.P. before November 15 contributed to the decline. 

DNR reports that the deer harvest has risen and fallen since the early 1960’s: 

-The number of deer harvested hit a low in the early 1970’s below 100,000 statewide. 

-Mild winters and changing forest conditions resulted in rising deer populations with harvest reaching 400,000 by late 1980’s. 

-Tough back-to-back winters in the mid-1990’s reduced populations and harvest but rebounded again to nearly 600,000 by the end of the decade. 

-Deer harvest has remained below 500,000 since the early 2000’s. 


Thirty-seven new conservation officers completed the 22 week Natural Resources Conservation Officer Academy in June and will be completing 18 weeks of field training partnered with experienced officers in time for this falls hunting seasons. Michigan DNR Conservation Officers have a wide variety of training related to natural resources and are certified police officers with authority to enforce criminal laws. 


If you have worn shorts and a coat at the same time, you might live in Michigan. Jeff Foxworthy