Michigan's wolf population at its highest in 12 years, survey finds

Michigan's gray wolf population rose by 131 animals over the past two years and the state's species is estimated to be at its highest in 12 years.

The Department of Natural Resources released its wolf survey numbers this week, showcasing that a minimum of 762 inhabit the Upper Peninsula as of 2024. The figures reveal a stable population that has reached its "biological carrying capacity" in the U.P., the DNR's large carnivore specialist said.

"This year’s survey findings are statistically consistent with our wolf population surveys for the past 14 years," said Brian Roell.

The wolf populations are dispersed across 158 packs. 

Surveys of wolf numbers are conducted every two years by identifying tracks in the snow. 

In the Lower Peninsula, it's a different story. Apart from one strange occurrence in Calhoun County when a coyote hunter shot and killed a wolf earlier this year, there is no present population below the Straits of Mackinac.

Surveys in 2011 and 2015 discovered wolf tracks in Cheboygan and Emmet counties. In 2014, biologists from the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians captured a wolf on a trail camera. 

The 2024 case happened in January. An investigation into how the wolf made it to Michigan failed to uncover anything of use.

"Research has suggested that there is suitable habitat for wolves in the northern Lower Peninsula," said Roell. "However, this habitat is fragmented and the ability of wolves to travel the landscape among these habitat patches is uncertain. Suitable habitat becomes even more patchy in the more populated southern Lower Peninsula, which makes it unlikely that wolves would establish themselves there."


No charges in killing of gray wolf in southern Michigan, experts remain stumped how it got there

The 84-pound wolf was killed roughly 300 miles south of the UP. The DNR said it learned through social media about someone shooting a "world record coyote." But this was no coyote.