The Big Bad Wolf: Is the Image Still Present in the Minds of Michiganders?
Dr. Roger Nemeth, Hope College
A proposal to remove the gray wolf from the Endangered Species list in the Western Great Lakes region will place responsibility of wolf management on state agencies. Along with Minnesota and Wisconsin, Michigan will have to implement its own plan to manage wolf populations in the future. While the size of the wolf population has grown considerably in the past two decades, attitudes of residents toward wolves and their future remain uncertain. This study measures the “social carrying capacity” for wolves in northern Michigan. The survey consisted of 1,053 northern Michigan residents, asking questions regarding their support and fear of wolves, as well as their approval of methods for state management. The results show that, while there continues to be strong support for wolves in Michigan, since 2005 there has been a significant decline in support for wolves and an increase in fear of the animal. These findings reveal that the wolf population may be exceeding the social carrying capacity for the creature. Also found is a growing polarity of opinion among Michigan residents, indicating that the topic of wolves may result in a culture war for northern Michigan. Since the state will need to develop a management plan in the near future, the findings of this research have direct policy implications.
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