Skip to main content
Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

Hunter should not face charges for killing wolf, Michigan GOP lawmakers say

gray wolf
Michigan wolves are on the federal endangered species list, which makes killing them a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison and a $50,000 fine. (iStock photo by Tammi Mild)
  • A group of 27 Republican lawmakers warned against criminal charges in the January killing of an endangered gray wolf
  • State investigators are looking into the ‘very atypical’ circumstances surrounding the killing
  • Wolf advocates accuse the lawmakers of meddling in an open investigation

April 25: Southern Michigan dead wolf mystery deepens; records suggest it was trapped

A group of Republican lawmakers is urging state wildlife officials not to punish the Michigan hunter who recently killed an endangered gray wolf, arguing they have “shaky grounds” to pursue criminal charges.

In an April 15 letter to Scott Bowen, director of the Department of Natural Resources, Rep. Jay DeBoyer, R-Clay Township, and 26 cosigners expressed “grave concerns” about the criminal investigation, which centers on a hunter who said he mistook a wolf for a coyote while hunting in southern Michigan, 300 miles from the animal’s known habitat.

“This rare incident has shed some light on the mismanagement of both wolves and coyotes in Michigan,” the letter stated.



    In a separate statement, DeBoyer said he hopes “common-sense and a commitment to solutions will come of this event – not criminal charges that will impact someone for the rest of their life.”

      Great Lakes wolves are on the federal endangered species list, which makes killing them a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison and a $50,000 fine. Investigators have not said whether they plan to seek charges.

      A prominent Michigan wolf advocate accused the lawmakers of political interference in an ongoing criminal investigation.

      “Why is the legislature getting involved?” asked Nancy Warren, executive director of the National Wolfwatcher Coalition. “It’s just not their role, especially since he hasn’t even been charged.”

      DNR officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

      They first learned about the wolf kill in late January, when a southern Michigan man posted Facebook photos of himself posing with the 84-pound animal’s carcass. A photo caption referred to the animal as an “absolutely huge coyote.”

      Coyotes are far smaller than wolves, rarely exceeding 40 pounds. 

      When contacted by DNR officials, the man said he had shot the animal while hunting with a guide in Calhoun County. Subsequent genetic testing confirmed that the animal was a Great Lakes wolf — a species found only in the Upper Peninsula, northern Wisconsin, Minnesota and northern Ontario.

      The incident immediately raised questions about how the animal made it all the way to southern Michigan, and how an experienced hunter, a guide and a taxidermist could all mistake it for a coyote.

      DNR law enforcement officials confirmed their investigation to Bridge Michigan April 9, calling the circumstances surrounding the killing “very atypical.”

      The incident has revived a longstanding debate in Michigan about an apex predator that is reviled by some, and celebrated by others. 

      Michigan is home to about 630 adult wolves, all of them living in the Upper Peninsula. The population has been stable for more than a decade, and Republican lawmakers have been pushing for years to legalize wolf hunting in Michigan.

      They renewed those calls in the letter to Bowen, arguing that the growth of Michigan’s wolf population has led to more encounters with humans and livestock, making a hunt “the only viable option.”

      The letter also took aim at the DNR’s recent decision to shorten Michigan’s coyote hunting season.


      But Warren argued the January killing — and the backlash to the DNR’s investigation — is more evidence that Michigan’s wolves need legal protections.

      “Their letter serves no purpose except to foster myths and fears,” Warren told Bridge. “Not reality.”

      She noted, for example, that wolf attacks on livestock have declined in recent years. In 2023, there was just one documented incident.

      For now, the federal protections for Great Lakes wolves supersede any state policy on hunting. State officials have said they won’t consider authorizing a hunt while wolves remain federally listed.

      How impactful was this article for you?

      Michigan Environment Watch

      Michigan Environment Watch examines how public policy, industry, and other factors interact with the state’s trove of natural resources.

      Michigan Environment Watch is made possible by generous financial support from:

      Our generous Environment Watch underwriters encourage Bridge Michigan readers to also support civic journalism by becoming Bridge members. Please consider joining today.

      Only donate if we've informed you about important Michigan issues

      See what new members are saying about why they donated to Bridge Michigan:

      • “In order for this information to be accurate and unbiased it must be underwritten by its readers, not by special interests.” - Larry S.
      • “Not many other media sources report on the topics Bridge does.” - Susan B.
      • “Your journalism is outstanding and rare these days.” - Mark S.

      If you want to ensure the future of nonpartisan, nonprofit Michigan journalism, please become a member today. You, too, will be asked why you donated and maybe we'll feature your quote next time!

      Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Pay with PayPal Donate Now