Wolf news from across the country…

It certainly has been an up and down whirlwind of a week for news on gray wolves. From the disheartening reports out west where wildlife officials are killing members of Washington’s Smackout pack and the Harl Butte pack in Oregon, to the two encouraging news stories concerning Wisconsin wolves.

The first story affecting Wisconsin’s gray wolf was the Washington DC appellate court’s  3-0 decision to retain protection for gray wolves in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan. The court cited that the USFWS had not sufficiently considered how loss of historical territory would affect the predator’s recovery and how removing the Great Lakes population segment from the endangered list would affect wolves in other parts of the nation.

The second story affecting Wisconsin’s wolves was Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filing a criminal complaint citing state payments to hunters to compensate for hunting dogs killed or injured in clashes with wolves as evidence of violations. PEER has requested a criminal investigation for violation of the Endangered Species Act.  PEER Staff Counsel Adam Carlesco states, “Endangered species are legally protected from human activity which adversely affects the animals, not just physical injury but harm to habitat or breeding. Loosing packs of dogs on them absolutely constitutes an adverse impact.”

“Wisconsin encourages hunting practices that seem calculated to cause fatal conflicts with wolves,” ~Adam Carlesco, PEER

According to PEER, the WI DNR has not been authorized to give payments for hound depredations since 2014, but have been doing so in violation of Wisc. Stat. § 29.888 since then. This statute reads as follows:

“The department shall administer a wolf depredation program under which payments may be made to persons who apply for reimbursement for death or injury caused by wolves to livestock, to hunting dogs other than those being actively used in the hunting of wolves, and to pets and for management and control activities conducted by the department for the purpose of reducing such damage caused by wolves. The department may make payments for death or injury caused by wolves under this program only if the death or injury occurs during a period time when the wolf is not listed on the federal endangered list and is not listed on the state endangered list.”

“Wisconsin DNR does not pretend to manage bear hunting in any discernible fashion, nor do they even bother to monitor what is taking place.” ~Adam Carlesco, PEER

Rachel Tilseth, worked closely with PEER in gathering information for this criminal investigation. Rachel reached out to PEER a couple months ago requesting their help and stated that she was impressed at the amount of investigation, research, and digging that PEER did. Read her blog on this story here. WPR will be publishing more on this story. Email us at wolvesdouglasco@gmail.com for more information.

Both of these stories are wonderful news for Wisconsin’s gray wolf, but this is no time to rest on our laurels; we must remain vigilant and continue advocating. US Senate bill S1514 is getting closer to coming to the Senate floor for a vote. This bill would permanently delist wolves in the Great Lakes states, and preclude any judicial review – no appeals period – taking away a fundamental bedrock of our democracy. Our wolves deserve better than this.

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Press release: Wisconsin hounders illegally harass wolves.

Criminal Complaint Cites State Payments for Hunting Dogs Killed in Wolf Clashes

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) Click HERE for PEER news release

For Immediate release : Aug 02, 2017

Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

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.

To read letter request for a full investigation click here 

During Wisconsin’s 2016 hunting season, forty-eight hounds were killed by wolves and more than fifteen of these cases occurred after hunters were informed that they were hunting in “wolf caution areas” where wolf depredations had occurred. Wisconsin also allows for training dogs to pursue bears from July 1st through August 31st – the period when female wolves are tending to their pups and are more aggressive about defending their young and their territory.

“Wisconsin encourages hunting practices that seem calculated to cause fatal conflicts with wolves,” stated PEER Staff Counsel Adam Carlesco, who filed the complaint today with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the agency charged with enforcing the Endangered Species Act. “Endangered species are legally protected from human activity which adversely affects the animals, not just physical injury but harm to habitat or breeding. Loosing packs of dogs on them absolutely constitutes an adverse impact.”

Wisconsin is also the only state with a program that compensates the owners of dogs killed by wolves while hunting other animals. Under the program, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) pays each hunter $2,500 per hound killed during a wolf depredation event. In 2017 alone, the state paid out $99,400 to hunters for hounds killed by wolves.

Gray wolves are classified as an endangered species in the Great Lakes region. Under the federal Endangered Species Act, criminal “take” does not require proving that the hunter intended to hurt a wolf. Take can occur when a hunter mistakenly shoots an endangered species believed to be a non-listed animal. Criminal take can also occur when a hunter’s activities, though not specifically directed at a listed species, result in take of a listed species, as appears to be the case here.

Compounding the conflicts is the fact that bear hunting with hounds (“hounding”) is basically unregulated in Wisconsin, despite it being a banned hunting practice in 32 states. In 2015, the state eliminated the bear hound training licenses previously required. Both residents and non-residents may now participate in bear baiting, hunting, and training without a license.

“Wisconsin DNR does not pretend to manage bear hunting in any discernible fashion, nor do they even bother to monitor what is taking place,” added Carlesco, noting that the DNR compensated individuals who had prior convictions for hunting related crimes. “In any prosecution of criminal take of wolves, DNR deserves to be an unindicted co-conspirator.”

The PEER complaint asks the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to open criminal investigations of twenty-two individuals who engaged in hounding during the 2016 season in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest or on DNR-managed land and who also received wolf-related compensation for damage or loss of hounds from the state. If the agency determines that criminal take took place, PEER asks that the cases be referred to the U.S. Justice Department for prosecution. 

We’ve been working with PEER to make this happen & providing background information on this issue, and we were copied in on this press release. We are sharing this breaking news story with you.  Wisconsin Public Radio will have a full news story out on this criminal Complaint. 

Rachel

Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin Blog Harassment of an endangered species in Wisconsin north woods

Urgent action needed for wolves: Persuade Your Senators to Oppose S. 1514…

…that directs the Secretary of the Interior to turn over management of wolves to the state governments.

Turning over management to state governments such as Wisconsin would be a death sentence for wolves.  Wisconsin allows the harassment of endangered species:

Wolves are an imperiled species, that are a part of Wisconsin’s wild legacy, and are being pushed to the brink of extinction; by conservation policies that favor a group of fringe hunters. These special interest, fringe hunters take advantage of the current political environment. They cause harm to wildlife by the “loosening” of regulations; they pushed for the removal of the Class B bear training & hunting licence that allowed for an undetermined number of dogs running through wolf habitat. That could definitely be the cause of the 37 bear hunting dog deaths. ”  WODCW’s Blog

“I’ve been helping with wolf recovery since 1998. I’ve witnessed the conflict between bear hunters and wolves while radio trapping wolves in the Chequamegon national forest. They’ve hated wolves for decades, and I’ve seen how this sport wears on the people & wildlife living in the north woods. Common sense dictates that; if bear training & hunting license requirements are removed conflicts occur between dogs and wolves. That’s a fact as plain as the nose on your face. If you run dogs on bear through wolf rendezvous sites; conflict will happen. Wolf pups are three months old when bear hunters start running their dogs on bear starting July first.”  WODCW’s Blog

Please take action by urging your senators to oppose S. 1514

How to Contact Your Member of Congress

Member websites provide comprehensive contact information: Click HERE
Send a letter today urging senators to oppose S. 1514


If these politicians: Senator Barrasso (R-WY), along with Senators Boozman (R-AR), Capito (R-WV), Cardin (D-MD), Baldwin (D-WI), and Klobuchar (D-MN) get their way and turn management of wolves back to states, such as Wisconsin, it’s certain death for wolves. 

This is how the state of Wisconsin manages the Gray wolf population


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Opinion editorial: Numbers don’t add up in wolf-hound debate

By Adrian Wydeven 

As often is the case with ecological issues, simple answers or solutions are often inadequate or incorrect. 
Everyone likes a good mystery, especially one where an unlikely candidate is revealed as the culprit. This “Ah ha!” moment is a staple of the genre and most of us can remember the satisfaction of discovering the one responsible. Sherlock Holmes, Colombo and Nancy Drew were the masters of the reveal.
Such a mystery may be playing out in Wisconsin right now with record high numbers of wolf depredations on hunting hounds. The initial suspect: record high wolf numbers. The initial conclusion: Increased advocacy for a hunting season on wolves believing that fewer wolves would mean fewer hounds being attacked by wolves.
However, just like the classic mysteries, there is more to this story.
No one disputes that the summer and early fall of 2016 saw record depredations by wolves on hounds in Wisconsin. A total of 37 hounds have been killed since July 1 — the beginning of the bear training period and hunting season. Plus, three other hounds were killed earlier in the year, for a total of 40 hounds killed in 2016.
Some people attribute the high number of hounds killed to the current record high population of wolves (866 wolves in late winter 2016) and the lack of wolf hunting season over the last two years. Seems like a logical conclusion, but things are often not as simple as they first appear.
Do wolf numbers correlate with wolves killing hounds? The evidence suggests this might not necessarily be the case. In 2012, only seven dogs were killed and yet there were nearly as many wolves in 2012 as there were in 2016 (815 wolves in late winter 2012).
In other words, the wolf populations in 2012 and 2016 were similar, yet these two years represent the highest and the lowest numbers of hounds killed by wolves in the last 13 years. Obviously, there is more to this story than just more wolves killing more hounds.
What else influences the interactions between wolves and hound dogs? Bear hunting culture and policy are two other important factors that could influence the number of hounds killed by wolves.
Could a change in bear hunting policy be a factor? Wisconsin is a major destination for bear hunting and training — with some of the highest bear densities and bear harvest success rates in the nation.

Prior to July 2015, people putting out bait and handling hounds used to train on bears were required to buy a Class B Bear Permit. The permit cost residents $14 and nonresidents $110. The permit and fees were eliminated in 2015 and now anyone can freely bait for bears, and train their dogs on bears. This may have increased baiting and training of dogs on bears in Wisconsin, putting more bear hunters and hounds in the hunt, especially from out-of-state residents with the license fee no longer a barrier.
Sometimes changes in regulations cause unintended consequences. The elimination of the Class B Bear Permit, which has led to more hunters baiting and training hounds on the landscape, plus the extensive baiting period in Wisconsin — about 145 days in Wisconsin vs. a maximum of 31 days in other states — may explain the recent spike in wolf kill on hounds.
I cannot state that the removal of Class B licenses is the only reason wolves are killing more hounds. More sleuthing may be required. Yet as often is the case with ecological issues, simple answers or solutions are often inadequate or incorrect.
The “Ah-ha!” moment may be more elusive in cases involving complex interactions between social and ecological factors. In the case of hounds and wolves, the initial culprit — the record high wolf population or lack of wolf hunting season — do not adequately explain the record numbers of wolf attacks on hounds. Like any good detective, it is important to look closely at all of the potential culprits before drawing conclusions.
Adrian Wydeven is a former wolf biologist at the Department of Natural Resources and the coordinator of the Timber Wolf Alliance at Northland College.

Source

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Featured image: John E Marriott

Spike in wolf depredation is a result of the class B bear license being eliminated…

Former DNR biologists Adrian Wydeven says the wolf population wasn’t all that different in 2012 when only 7 were reportedly killed by wolves.  He believes the spike in wolf depredation is a result of the class B bear license being eliminated. Wydeven there are likely a larger number of dogs out hunting and tracking bears this year since the permit is no longer required. Source

News articles foooding Wisconsin papers this week continue to scapegoat the wolf instead of addressing the real problem. 

Read the following article: 

Hunters worry over safety after record number of hunting dogs killed by wolves By Jorge Rodas

OCONTO FALLS, Wis. (WBAY) — A record number of hunting dogs have been killed in Wisconsin by wolves during this year’s bear hunt and hunters are not happy about it.
Hunters are once again pushing for wolf population management.
Manny Elbe is an experienced bear hunter and says there are too many wolves roaming free.
“It’s a terrible thing when your dog’s eaten alive, you know, and it hasn’t happened to me yet but a lot of guys that i know, they’ve lost a lot of good dogs,” said Eble.
During this year’s bear hunt, a record 40 hunting dogs were killed by wolves.
Eble says it’s a simple equation — more wolf attacks, means more wolves.
But former DNR biologists Adrian Wydeven says the wolf population wasn’t all that different in 2012 when only 7 were reportedly killed by wolves.
He believes the spike in wolf depredation is a result of the class B bear license being eliminated. Wydeven there are likely a larger number of dogs out hunting and tracking bears this year since the permit is no longer required.
Eble says wolf population is larger than the state acknowledges – the Wis. DNR says the number is about 900.
“It’s an estimate — and that’s the world that we work in – but when you can put years of data trends in terms of whether the population is increasing or decreasing and certainly over the past three years that population has grown,” says Jeff Pritzl, Wis. DNR regional program manager.
“When you’re looking for tracks in the winter coyote hunting you’ll find 25 wolf tracks to 2 coyote tracks,” Eble says, convinced wolf population is the main reason for the dog killings.
 
Wolves are federally protected because they’re on the endangered species list meaning they can’t be hunted in Wisconsin. Right now the courts are determining if they should continue to be on that list.
Eble says until that’s settled, more dogs will be killed.
“20 seconds is all it takes and your dog’s literally ripped in half,” Eble said. “Blackberry pickers, a lot of people you talk to, they’re all carrying guns. They’re not worried about bears, they’re worried about wolves.”  Source

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Featured image John E Marriott

Wisconsin bear hunters and wolves a conflict spanning more than three decades…

..with no resolution in sight.

I was curious as to just how far apart were the two recent hunting dog depredations just outside of the town of Solon Springs. So I went to check it out.  I know this area well. I’ve spent over a half dozen summers and winters monitoring wolves and carnivores near the town of Solon Springs as a volunteer WI DNR Winter Wolf Tracker under the Wolf Recovery Program.  Two hunting dog depredations in Douglas county – On July 9 a six month old male Black and Tan, then on July 23, a seven year old Walker. WI DNR Wolf Caution Areas website  I drove right to the hunting dog depredation site (July 9) and sure enough recognized this as the area wolves have previously left pups at a rendezvous site. During summer months I would scout my tracking block and conduct wolf howl surveys. In this same area in 2002 while conducting a wolf howl survey I  heard pups howling (Photo: rendezvous site & now is a wolf caution area, photo by Rachel Tilseth). 


While walking the trail it was good to see wolf sign. Seeing this sign put a smile on my face. I knew this wolf territory like the back of my hand. Off in the distance I heard the familiar sound of baying dogs.  So I headed to the next hunting dog depredation site.

 The second hunting dog depredation site (July 23) was at best, less than three miles from the site that occurred on July 9th. There was something so familiar about this scenario. It almost felt like I was experiencing Déjà vu, because of all these recurring hunting dog depredations taking place in this area. 

It happened every summer, hunting dogs were killed by White Eyes (name given to the alpha female in my tracking block) as she defended her three month old pups against free ranging hunting dogs in the pursuit of bear.  White Eyes was a tenacious alpha wolf and she defended her pups every summer against hunting dogs running near her pups. 

I had a smile on my face as I recalled all the stories of her killing hunting dogs that ran into her pups.  I respected and admired her. Wolves are good parents and sad as it is for the loss of a hunting dog, White Eyes was doing what any parent would do to protect their children from outside threats. 

Wisconsin bear hunters and wolves a conflict spanning more than three decades…with no resolution in sight…it continues 

As I traveled through White Eyes’ territory I picked up a rock at each stop. I drove to one of her den sites and stacked the rocks together as a memorial to her. I felt her spirit that day though her “tenacious” offspring. 

  
In loving memory of White a Eyes, Alpha Wolf 2000 – 2009 

‘White Eyes’ alpha female-447F wolf of Douglas county Wisconsin

In loving memory of White Eyes who died in 2009 after being hit by a vehicle. She leaves a lasting legacy as one of the Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin. 

A history of Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin. 

Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin was started in 2012 to draw attention to the plight of wolves in Wisconsin. Wolves were being hunted with hound dogs, trapped and killed shortly after being taken of the endangered species list 2012. 

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Additional information and history on this conflict is available in the following blog by clicking on the highlighted blue words: Dogs may be trained statewide by pursuing bear in Wisconsin starting on July first resulting in bloody wolf-on-dog-fights 

Bear hounds die every July at an alarming rate…


Adult wolves are very defensive of pups at rendezvous and end up killing dogs that come into contact with pups near rendezvous sites. Dogs run in large free roaming packs up to 6 at a time in pursuit of bear.  


During training on bear these hunting dogs wear collars equipped with radio telemetry devices. The dog’s handlers are often miles away from the scene in bear trucks monitoring the hounds with radio telemetry or even satellite GPS training and tracking systems. GPS training and tracking systems may have a range of up to ten miles. 


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Featured image: John E Marriott Photography