By ALISHA GREEN
LANSING, Mich. (AP) - State officials announced Monday that they are planning to track the presence of gray wolves in Michigan's northern Lower Peninsula.
The survey on wolf numbers in the region is scheduled to begin Feb. 16 and run through March 13, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
Wolf sightings or tracks believed to be from a wolf can be reported to the DNR online as part of the survey.
Wolves started returning to Michigan's Upper Peninsula through Canada and Wisconsin in the early 1990s. Wolf populations have been increasing since then, and their range continues to expand as well.
The DNR estimates there were more than 630 wolves in the Upper Peninsula last year, compared to 658 in 2013. A wolf hunt in 2013 killed 22. There was no hunt last year.
"The probability of observing an actual wolf or its tracks in the Lower Peninsula is low," said DNR wildlife biologist Jennifer Kleitch. "It's helpful to have as many eyes as possible looking, so public reports are important for this survey."
The survey will be a collaboration between the DNR, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians and the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians.
Survey teams will respond to areas where there have been reports of wolves.
"It's important that observations are reported in a timely manner so we can work with fresh evidence," Kleitch said, adding that any evidence should be disturbed as little as possible.
A federal judge in December threw out the Obama administration's decision to remove wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan from the endangered list. The move banned sport hunting and trapping of wolves in the region, where the combined population is around 3,700.
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