Targeting Wildlife Predators with Poison to Improve Hunting Opportunities is not only Unethical, it is Illegal

The investigation into the poisonings began in December 2018 after animals were found with no clear cause of death, said Lt. Bryan Harrenstein, warden supervisor in the northern area for the DNR. Since the investigation was announced in early 2019, two hunting beagles have been killed by poison in Forest County, according to a news release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The dogs became very ill after ingesting the poison and died shortly after, according to investigators. WPR reporter Megan Hart

USFWS reward is $1,000.00 for information that leads to the arrest of someone who is poisoning pet & Wildlife in northern Wisconsin. As of January 2021 three more pet dogs have died. DNR tip line 1-800-TIP-LINE

Over the last year several poison baits have killed domestic dogs and wild animals. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) & Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) Conservation Wardens are on the case investigating who’s targeting wildlife predators with poison baits. Several domestic dogs and wild animals have died as a result of eating these poison baits. This is not the first time poison baits have been used to kill wild animals and probably won’t be that last. In 2014 a father & son plead guilty to poisoning over 70 wild animals. In 2014 as a results of federal and state investigation charges were filed in Wisconsin wildlife poisoning investigations.

“Indiscriminately targeting wildlife predators with poison to improve hunting opportunities is not only unethical, it is illegal. Such use of systemic poisons kills non-targeted species, such as our national symbol, and causes environmental contamination,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent in Charge Gregory Jackson, February 13, 2014

The charges were the result of a cooperative Federal and State investigation of the use of the highly regulated pesticide Carbofuran to kill as many as six eagles and other wildlife (more than 70 animals total) on the Sowinski property in Oneida County between 2007 and 2010.Poisoned eagle, bobcat and bear documented by USFWS in 2014.

Poisoned eagle, bobcat and bear documented by USFWS in 2014.
A man walks three dogs along the Tri-County Corridor near Moccasin Mike Road in Superior on Saturday, March 7. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
68% of Bald Eagle Deaths Are Caused by Humans Quad City Daily.

As of April 30, 2020 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is offering a $1,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of someone who is poisoning pets and wildlife in northern Wisconsin. Four dogs have died in the past month in Forest County. Testing on two of them confirmed that the pets died from poisoning. Tests are pending after two more dogs died last weekend. Officials believe the deaths are related to the ongoing poisonings in Florence, Forest and Marinette counties that have been investigated for about a year. So far, seven pet dogs have died. Investigators also found dead coyotes, weasels and wolves that were poisoned. The reward is for information that leads to the arrest and/or charges being filed against a responsible party, the Fish and Wildlife Service said. It asks anyone with information to contact its office in Madison.A man walks three dogs along the Tri-County Corridor near Moccasin Mike Road in Superior on Saturday, March 7. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

Poisoning like these are not uncommon in Wisconsin. Law enforcement officers became aware of potential poisoning of wildlife in the spring of 2007 when a State warden recovered a dead eagle and three other animals within 100 yards of a deer carcass. Both the wildlife and deer tested positive for Carbofuran. These discoveries let to the arrests & convictions of a father and son in Oneida County. 

According to USF&WS Alvin and Paul Sowinski, father and son, live in Oneida County, where the family owns some 8,000 acres, which include farm fields as well as prime habitat for both wildlife and hunting. The elder Sowinski baited multiple sites on the property with wildlife carcasses or processed meats treated with Carbofuran, hoping to attract and kill bobcats, coyotes, wolves, fishers and other species that prey on the deer and game birds that he and his son routinely hunted on their land.

“The defendants had in their possession a bald eagle which was killed by a pesticide that one of the defendants admits using improperly,” said Randall K. Ashe, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Wisconsin. “Product labels are designed to ensure the safe use and application of pesticides. Using pesticides for purposes other than their registered use is illegal and puts people, animals and the environment at risk of exposure. Today’s action shows that individuals who misuse these products and kill protected wildlife will be prosecuted.” USFWS Newsroom February 13, 2014 68% of Bald Eagle Deaths Are Caused by Humans Quad City Daily. 

“Wildlife poisoning cases are one of the most egregious violations we come across and are among the most difficult criminal natural resource investigations to conduct,” said Brian Ezman, DNR investigative unit supervisor. “Collecting evidence, conducting surveillance and working around highly toxic insecticides – which were being used indiscriminately – required a heightened sense awareness to protect the safety of investigators, the public and our wildlife and natural resources.” USFWS Newsroom February 13, 2014 

“This is a disturbing case involving the reckless poisoning of wild birds and animals,” said Todd Schaller, chief DNR warden, retired in 2019. “To place poisoned baits out into the environment, lethally threatening any and all wildlife in the area, is not only illegal it is unconscionable and not something the citizens of this state will tolerate.” USF&WS Newsroom 02/13/2014

“The investigation was successful as a result of the teamwork and positive working relationships shared between several law enforcement agencies (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Oneida County Sheriff’s Department),” said Brian Ezman, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Investigative Unit Supervisor. USFWS Newsroom 

Two Sentenced For Violating Eagle Protection Act Monday, August 4, 2014

United States Department of Justice  Madison, Wis. – John W. Vaudreuil, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced that Alvin C. Sowinski, 78, and his son Paul A. Sowinski, 46, both of Rhinelander, Wis., were sentenced today by U.S. District Judge James D. Peterson for conduct relating to the possession of an American bald eagle. Alvin Sowinski received a $30,000 fine, a seven-year ban on his hunting, fishing and trapping privileges, $100,000 in restitution, and one year of probation and four months of home confinement. Paul Sowinski received a $10,000 fine, a five-year ban on his hunting, fishing and trapping privileges, $100,000 in restitution, and one year of probation. Both men pleaded guilty to the charge on May 14, 2014. 

In 2018 investigations of wildlife poisonings in three counties 

The investigation into the poisonings began in December 2018 after animals were found with no clear cause of death, said Lt. Bryan Harrenstein, warden supervisor in the northern area for the DNR. Since the investigation was announced in early 2019, two hunting beagles have been killed by poison in Forest County, according to a news release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The dogs became very ill after ingesting the poison and died shortly after, according to investigators. WPR reporter Megan Hart

As of April 30, 2020 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is offering a $1,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of someone who is poisoning pets and wildlife in northern Wisconsin. Four dogs have died in the past month in Forest County. Testing on two of them confirmed that the pets died from poisoning. Tests are pending after two more dogs died last weekend. Officials believe the deaths are related to the ongoing poisonings in Florence, Forest and Marinette counties that have been investigated for about a year. So far, seven pet dogs have died. Investigators also found dead coyotes, weasels and wolves that were poisoned. The reward is for information that leads to the arrest and/or charges being filed against a responsible party, the Fish and Wildlife Service said. It asks anyone with information to contact its office in Madison.

The public is advised for safety to keep pets on leashes while walking in public lands.

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