Wisconsin’s Gray Wolf Needs Your Help…

Every summer hunters running dogs on Black Bear in the north woods come into conflict with Gray wolves. Gray wolves keep their three month old pups at rendezvous sites while they go hunting. Conflicts arise when bear hunters run their dogs through rendezvous sites because gray wolves are forced to defend vulnerable pups from free ranging packs of hunting dogs.

Bear Hunters and Wolves

In the 1960s Wisconsin started allowing the use of dogs in the pursuit of bear. At that time there were maybe a handfull of wolves in Wisconsin if any. Wolves were not a threat to bear hunters because they were all but wiped out of Wisconsin by the 1960s.  It all changed for bear hunters when Wisconsin Wolf recovery began in the late 1970s.

This conflict between bear hunters and wolves isn’t new. Watch the following Wisconsin Public Television piece from 2010.

A Brief History on Wisconsin’s Gray Wolf

In 1967 and 1974 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated the eastern timber wolf a federally endangered species. In 1975, wolves were listed as a state endangered species as they began to recolonize along the Minnesota border. Wolves crossed over into Wisconsin from Minnesota and established territories on their own. Today, Wisconsin’s Gray wolf is listed on the Endangered Species List. Final Rule to Delist – – Due to a Federal court decision, wolves in the western Great Lakes area (including Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin) were relisted under the Endangered Species Act, effective December 19, 2014.

Wisconsin’s Gray Wolf Current Population

The 2017-18 overwinter minimum wolf count is 905-944, a 2.2% decrease from the 2016-17 minimum count of 925-956.

Carrying capacity is an ecological term for the number of a given species that an ecosystem can sustainably support. Socialcarrying capacity, however, refers to the number of a species that people feel is appropriate.

Wisconsin Black Bear Hunters use dogs to track and trail bears. Conflicts arise when a hunter’s dogs run through Gray Wolf’s rendezvous sites where pups are kept. Rendezvous sites are:

Rendezvous Site Identification and Protection source WDNR Endangered Resources

Active Season for Rendezvous Sites: mid-May – mid-October

Habitat: Rendezvous sites are generally open areas of grass or sedge adjacent to wetlands. The sites are characterized by extensive matted vegetation, numerous trails, and beds usually at the forest edge. Rendezvous sites are often adjacent to bogs or occur in semi-open stands of mixed conifer-hardwoods adjacent to swamps. Sometimes abandoned beaver ponds are used as rendezvous sites.

Description: Rendezvous sites are the home sites or activity sites used by wolves after the denning period, and prior to the nomadic hunting period of fall and winter. Pups are brought to the rendezvous sites from dens when they are weaned, and remain at rendezvous sites until the pups are old enough to join the pack on their hunting circuits. Rendezvous site may be associated with food sources such as ungulate kills or berry patches. Generally a series of rendezvous sites are used by a specific pack. Rendezvous sites are mostly used from mid-June to late-September, but use may start as early as mid-May and may continue to early or mid-October. Some intermittent use of rendezvous sites may continue into the fall. It appears that the average number of rendezvous sites used by wolf packs is 4-6.

Although den and rendezvous sites each serve separate functions for wolves, they are sometimes used interchangeably. Excavations sometimes occur at rendezvous sites and these may be used as den sites in the future. Sometimes rendezvous sites may represent old den site areas. Therefore, a site used as a rendezvous site one year, could be used as a den site the next year or vice versa. Due to the transient use of rendezvous sites, special protections are not necessary. If recent excavations are observed indicating possible use as a den site, protocols in place for den site protection should be followed. Source

“Most Wisconsin citizens want at least some wolf presence in the state, but those who feel strongly, at either end of the spectrum, drive the argument.” Lisa Naughton, UW-Madison geography professor.

Wisconsin DNR puts out the following when there is a wolf depredation on hunting dogs:

When wolves attack dogs in hunting or training situations on public land, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will create wolf caution areas 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. Table 1 contains a summary of the 2018 dog depredations by wolves.

When a wolf depredation takes place on a Bear hunter’s dog he is compensated $2,500.00 per dog. Wisconsin’s wolf depredation program began in 1982, and soon afterwards bear hunters running dogs in pursuit of bear began receiving payouts. The payouts for wolf depredations were paid in the effort to help compensate hunters, livestock owners and residents living in wolf recovery areas.

We must mitigate the decades old conflict between bear hunters and wolves…

In 2015 Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association (WBA) worked at loosening regulations for bear hunters using dogs in pursuit of bear. It’s a mystery as to just how many dogs in pursuit of bear are running through the woods during training & hunting. Why is this a mystery? Because a change in regulations took place that removed the Class B bear training & hunting license. Because of that change it’s impossible to know; just how many dogs in pursuit of bear are running through the woods. It’s all carefully crafted propaganda to make the wolf look bad. 

I started working on the Wisconsin wolf recovery program as a volunteer Winter Wolf Tracker in the year 2000. I lost track of how many “no-wolf” bumper stickers were encountered in a day of tracking in the the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. This conflict between bear Hunters and wolves is decades-old.

It’s time we begin to address the conflict!

There are a few of us beginning to work towards addressing the conflict between bear hunters and Wisconsin’s Gray wolf.

You can help by emailing me at wolvesdouglasco@gmail.com for more information.

Then, I can add you to our email updates.

The conflict between bear hunters and wolves has become polarized into opposing factions that polarize any campaign to remedy it. I propose we break through and start to mitigate the conflict.

Contact your Wisconsin State Representative. Wisconsin’s Gray wolf needs your help.

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