Michigan Energy & Environment

IPR brings you the stories and sounds of nature Up North. Hear about our changing natural world, and the challenges northern Michigan faces with a growing economy and a fragile ecosystem.

A new report shows wolves on Isle Royale have taken a sudden turn towards extinction.

For half-a-century, scientists have studied the predator-prey behavior of wolves and moose on the island. It's the longest running wildlife study in the world. 

The National Park Service manages Isle Royale as a wilderness, with a hand-off policy of not intervening. But some researchers say if the wolves die out, the moose will radically change the island's ecology. 

Isle Royale Wolves Face Extinction

Mar 16, 2012

A new report shows wolves on Isle Royale have taken a sudden turn towards extinction. With nine animals counted this winter, the population is the lowest it's ever been in the last half-century. Researchers aren't sure what's caused this latest decline.

Twenty years ago, a disease called Canine Parvovirus reduced the Island's wolf population to twelve. Since then, their numbers have gotten as high as thirty.

Sturgeon Heyday

Mar 9, 2012

Lake sturgeon is not a fish you hear much about these days but it was once part of the everyday vernacular around the Great Lakes. The story of its demise is an unusual one. For Americans moving into the region in the 1800s the fish was at first considered worthless but suddenly became a prized food. Laura Bien writes about the history of the sturgeon in her most recent article for The Ann Arbor Chronicle.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Starting today, gray wolves are no longer under federal protection in the Upper Great Lakes region. That means states have a free hand to go after wolves that cause problems for people.

Wildlife officials say delisting is long overdue, but court battles had blocked their efforts.

Wolf numbers in the Upper Great Lakes have rebounded dramatically over the last decade. It's a success story of recovery under the Endangered Species Act.

A case of moose poaching in the Upper Peninsula has turned out to be a hoax.

The head of a freshly killed moose was left on a rock beside a road near Ishpeming last October. Next to the moose head was a sign that said "wolfs won't get this one".

State conservation officers investigated a possible illegal killing of the moose, but they found a hunter had legally taken it in Canada. He kept the antlers and meat and left the carcass, including the head, with a butcher in Negaunee.

Chesapeake Litigation

Jan 6, 2012

Last month attorneys suing one of the nation's largest energy companies had their first victory in a long line of cases related to hydrofracking in Michigan. Two years ago land owners across the region were receiving record sums of money in exchange for the right to drill for oil and gas in a deep shale formation that had been untouched until then. But more than 100 landowners now say they were cheated when Chesapeake Energy walked away from their agreements.

Great Lakes Wolves Not Endangered

Dec 21, 2011

Gray wolves will no longer be protected as an endangered species in the upper Great Lakes. The federal government announced today wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin will be removed from the list in January. That means state agencies will be allowed to kill wolves that are causing problems and could also establish a hunting season for the animals. State wildlife officials say there is growing pressure to establish a hunt for wolves.

Mercury Problem Improves In Region

Oct 11, 2011

A new study of mercury in the Great Lakes region says the problem has significantly improved in recent decades. But in a few places it appears to be getting worse. That could include northern Michigan.

Mercury has been a problem in the Great Lakes regions for much of the past century.  Coal-fired power plants and incinerators have been the main sources. Mercury accumulates in fish that are eaten by people and birds. It can impair brain development in children.

No other wildlife species, it seems, causes such extremes of emotion as the wolf. Some people want to protect it at any cost. Others want to shoot the animal on sight.

Protected for Now
At the moment wolves are listed as an endangered species. But they may soon be removed from federal protection. The it will be up to the state to decide how to come to terms with a top predator.

Officials Take Comment On Wolf Delisting In The U.P.

Jun 17, 2011

Residents from across the Upper Peninsula gathered in Marquette last night to learn more about a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to remove the gray wolf from the Endangered Species list.  The agency says the animal has not only recovered, it is thriving in the Western Great Lakes Region.  Officials say it's time to let states determine how they'll manage the wolf themselves.

Delisting opponents say recovery efforts are not complete.  They say wolves keep the whitetail population healthy, as they go after the weakest and sickest deer. 

Federal wild life officials announced today the gray wolf is fully recovered in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing again to take the animal off the endangered species list in the Western Great Lakes Region.

Two previous court battles resulted in keeping gray wolves under federal protection.

Last May, oil and gas companies spent of hundreds-of-millions of dollars buying up rights to drill in Michigan. By summer, private landowners in northern Michigan had signed leases promising record payments to drill for their minerals.

But by the end of the year, the frenzy over the new gas play had fizzled, and hundreds of people were claiming they'd been cheated. Lawsuits now say gas developers didn't just break their word, but they allegedly engaged in fraud and conspiracy to manipulate the market.

Wolf Shot In Eastern U.P.

Feb 22, 2011

State officials are offering an award for information about an illegal wolf kill in the Eastern Upper Peninsula. The wolf was found February 11th, with an apparent gunshot wound, south of Newberry.

Wolves are still considered an endangered species in Michigan. They can't be killed unless in defense of human life.

Just last month, state officials reported that a wolf pup was likely poached in the northern Lower Peninsula as well.

Wolf  poaching has been on the rise in recent years, even as the state is trying to get Michigan wolves off the endangered list.

State wildlife biologists suspect one of two young wolves in northern Lower Michigan has been illegally killed.

Two female pups were mistakenly caught in coyote traps last fall. Technicians with the state Department of Natural Resources and Environment put radio collars on them.

Radio trackers found live signals on January 14th and then a mortality signal for one of the young wolves on the 19th.

Lieutenant Jim Gorno with the DNRE says the radio collar had been cut off and left by the side of a road east of Pellston.

Managing Michigan's Wildlife

Sep 16, 2010

Russ Mason knows managing wildlife is not just about science. Mason runs the state's wildlife division. It's his job to make sure we don't have too many deer, but not too few. He's also trying to keep wild pigs from overrunning Michigan's forests and fields. He says the state needs to be able to shoot wolves that are causing problems but his federal counterparts have failed to take the animal off the endangered species list three times. Mason joins us this week on Points North. Live Friday morning at 9 a.m.

A federal wildlife agency will consider taking wolves off the endangered species list for the fourth time in Great Lakes states. Minnesota and Wisconsin and various sportsman groups asked the Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the animal from the list. Michigan also supports the change.

Wildlife biologists have evidence that wolves are breeding in the Northern Lower Peninsula. They trapped a wolf pup last week in Cheboygan County. They were trying to capture an adult to put a radio collar on it.

Biologists put an ear tag on the pup and released it.

Earlier this year, the state Department of Natural Resources and Environment confirmed two small packs in the Lower Peninsula. This is the first evidence of wolf breeding south of the Bridge since their population was wiped out in the early 1900's.

State wildlife officials say there's a lot of public anger about the high number of wolves in the Upper Peninsula, and people are taking matters into their own hands.

In the most recent case, a court in St. Ignace convicted a man for illegally shooting a wolf last December and fined him two thousand dollars. But, state officials also are frustrated because wolves are still given the highest protection under federal law. 

The state of Michigan is asking federal officials for the authority to kill wolves that prey on livestock or attack pets. Right now, only wolves that threaten people can be killed, because wolves are still protected under the endangered species act.

But most problems are from wolves that attack livestock or pets, state wildlife officials say. And the state Department of Natural Resources and Environment no longer captures and moves problem animals.

Wolves Below The Bridge

Mar 23, 2010

For the first time, state wildlife officials say there's a wolf pack in northern Lower Michigan. A pack is defined as two or more animals travelling together, but it doesn't necessarily mean there's a breeding pair.

"The pack designation has more to do with the fact that they hunt together," says Tim Reis, wildlife supervisor for the Department of Natural Resources and Environment.

He says officials found two separate sets of tracks at the same time on private land in northern Cheboygan County.

World Record Trout Pulled From Manistee

Sep 11, 2009

What may be the world's largest brown trout was caught Wednesday on the Manistee River. Tom Healy landed a 41 lb 7 oz fish. That's a pound heavier than the current world record. State biologists verified the weight and declared it the new state record. Healy was fishing with a guide from Cadillac, Tim Roller. 

Roller says they have all the documentation to register the fish and claim the world record. He expects the attention to drive a lot of anglers to the Manistee area.

"But They need to know they're not going to catch a forty pound brown trout," says Roller.

Chub Fishery Disappearing

Aug 10, 2009

The smell of smoked fish mixes with apple and maple wood outside of Monte's Original Smoke House in Frankfort.

The owner Monte Finkhouse says he can't supply enough smoked chub for his customers.

Chubs were THE smoked fish of choice at local retailers up until the mid 90s.  They accounted for 90 percent of all smoked fish sold at Monte's small store in Frankfort.  

"Chubs are the deepest fish we have," Finkhouse said. "So they're real oily and that makes for good smoked fish."

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