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The following opinion is presented on-line for informational use only and does not replace the official version. (Mich Dept of Attorney General Web Site - www.ag.state.mi.us)



Opinion No. 5824

December 8, 1980


Possession of a gray or timber wolf (Canis lupus)

A person may not possess, transport, export, import, process, sell or buy a gray or timber wolf, Canis lupus, even though the wolf may have been born in captivity.

Howard A. Tanner


Department of Natural Resources

Stevens T. Mason Building

Lansing, Michigan

You have requested my opinion on the following question:

Does the Endangered Species Act of 1974, 1974 PA 203; MCLA 299.221 et seq; MSA 13.1204(1) et seq, apply to a gray or timber wolf, Canis lupu, which has been lawfully born and raised in captivity in another state?

1974 PA 203, supra, Sec. 6(3), reads:

'A person (1) shall not take, possess, transport, export, import, process, sell or offer for sale, or buy or offer to buy, any of the following species, or any part of product thereof: mountain lion, puma, or cougar (Felis concolor); jaguar (Panthera onca); gray or timber wolf (Canis lupis); free roaming feral horse; alligator, caiman and crocodile of the order Crocodylia.' (Emphasis added.)

By including the Latin taxonomic classification, Canis lupus, the Legislature made it clear that the prohibition against possessing, transporting, exporting, importing, processing, selling or buying applied to all animals classified as Canis lupus. The question is not whether the wolf was born and/or raised in captivity, but instead, whether the animal taxonomically is classified as Canis lupus.

Further evidence that no person is to possess, buy, sell or transport a Canis lupus is found in 1974 PA 203, supra, Sec. 6(2), which provides that a species of fish, plant or wildlife which is brought into the state pursuant to a federal permit issued according to the terms of the Endangered Species Act, 87 Stat 884 (1973), 16 USC 1531 et seq, or an applicable permit issued under the laws of another state may be transported, possessed or sold in Michigan according to the terms of such permit. The only exception to 1974 PA 203, Sec. 6(2), supra, are animals which are named in 1974 PA 203, Sec. 6(3), supra. As noted earlier, 1974 PA 203, Sec. 6(3), includes Canis lupus.

The Natural Resources Commission is required by 1974 PA 203, supra, Sec. 4, to promulgate a rule pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act, 1969 PA 306, as amended; MCLA 24.201 et seq; MSA 3.560(101) et seq, listing the endangered or threatened indigenous species of fish, plants and wildlife. Canis lupus is included on that list. 1980 AACS, R 299.1027(1)(b).

'The Director [of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR)] may permit the taking, possession, purchase, sale, transportation, exportation, or shipment of species of fish, plants, or wildlife which appear on the state list of endangered or threatened species for scientific, zoological or education purposes, for propagation in captivity of such fish, plants, or wildlife to insure their survival.' 1974 PA 203, supra, Sec. 6(5).

One may argue that since Canis lupus is on the endangered species list, the Director of the DNR may allow a person to possess, purchase, sell, transport, export or ship a Canis lupus pursuant to 1974 PA 203, Sec. 6(5), supra. However, whenever there is a conflict between a rule and a statute, the statute must prevail. As stated in Michigan Sportservice, Inc v Commissioner of Department of Revenue, 319 Mich 561, 566; 30 NW2d 281 (1948):

'. . . The provisions of the rule must, of course, be construed in connection with the statute itself. In case of conflict, the latter governs. It is not within the power of the department of revenue to extend the scope of the act. . . . For equally cogent reasons the rules and regulations of the department may not grant exemptions not authorized by the legislature.'

It is my opinion, therefore, that a person may not possess, transport, export, import, process, sell or buy the gray or timber wolf, Canis lupus, even though the wolf may have been born in captivity.

Frank J. Kelley

Attorney General

(1) 'Person' means an individual, corporation, partnership, trust, association, or any other private entity, or any officer, agent, department, or instrumentality of the federal government, of any state or political subdivision thereof, or of any foreign government. 1974 PA 203, supra, Sec. 2(g).


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