Bear hunting season opened on September 6 and runs through October 3rd. Wildlife Services confirmed that wolves killed a Walker Hound on 09/08/17. The attack occurred in the Town of Blaine, Burnett County. More information on the wolf caution area-maps available on the gray wolf webpage. Wildlife Services confirmed that wolves killed a Walker Hound on 09/07/17. The attack occurred in the Town of Draper, Sawyer County. More information and a wolf caution area-map are available on the gray wolf webpage.
Hunters are reminded to use the wolf caution area-maps  on the DNR website (dnr.wi.gov, keyword “wolf depredation”) to help reduce conflicts.

The decades-old conflict between Wisconsin Bear Hunters and wolves continues every summer in the north woods.
In 2016 41 dogs were killed in the pursuit of bear in northern Wisconsin. Are any wolves being injured or killed in the decades-old conflict between bear hunters and wolves? In a call to the USFWS services Great Lakes Office I asked them that question. USFWS didn’t have an answer for me. My concern is that when USFWS investigates a wolf depredation on a hunting dog; do they investigate if any wolves were injured or killed as a result of the encounter? Wolves are an endangered species protected under the Endangered Species Act. The word “protected” was the sticking point for me. Criminally harassing protected gray wolves is a violation of the ESA. 

There is hope for a solution to the deacades-old conflict between bear hunters and wolves, and it’s a legal one.  

On August 2nd a letter was sent to USFWS: “This is a formal request for an investigation of alleged criminal violations relating to the illegal take of the federally protected gray wolf (Canis lupus) in Wisconsin. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (“PEER”) has learned of ongoing illegal harassment of the gray wolf by hound hunters in Wisconsin.” Letter from PEER 

The Criminal Complaint  Cites State Payments for Hunting Dogs Killed in Wolf Clashes was filed on August 2, 2017 by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). 

The Criminal Complaint from PEER: 
“Washington, DC — Hunters unleashing packs of dogs to tree bears in Wisconsin woods are criminally harassing gray wolves in violation of the Endangered Species Act, according to a complaint filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The complaint cites state payments to hunters to compensate for hunting dogs killed or injured in clashes with wolves as evidence of violations.”
The last sentence in the above paragraph makes it perfectly clear that the evidence is, “…state payments to hunters to compensate for hunting dogs killed or injured in clashes with wolves as evidence of violations.”

Additionally, because hound training season in Wisconsin takes place when wolves are raising their pups, the fact that hounds are running through clearly identified wolf territory unchecked means that such actions directly impair the wolves’ ability to breed, feed, and find shelter; activity specifically protected by the plain language of the ESA’s implementing regulations. 50 C.F.R. 17.3. Such action is in obvious conflict with Congress’ intent to protect a fragile species and constitutes a criminal violation of the ESA. PEER Criminal Complaint letter to USFWS.

In a conversation with USFWS Great Lakes Region office over a month or so ago, I asked them if they would investigate bear hunters using dogs in pursuit of bear, because this activity or sport was getting out of hand; not only were a record number of hunting dogs being lost, but I began to think wolves were being harassed by this activity. Hunters were repeatedly going into Wisconsin DNR Wolf caution areas. “Wolf caution areas are created to warn hunters that a specific pack has attacked a dog or group of dogs. Bear hunters are urged to exercise greater caution if they plan to train hounds or hunt bear with hounds near any caution area, especially if near an actual kill site.” From the WDNR wolf caution website

USFWS never got back to me, and my next step was to call PEER, because I had heard good things about their work. In the end, PEER took my concerns seriously, the result is a criminal complaint letter requesting USFWS law enforcement to investigate. There is hope and it’s a legal one. We are now awaiting a response from USFWS. Read more click here

In 2017 minimum wolf population estimates was 925.