Category Archives: Conflict between bear hunters and wolves in Wisconsin

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 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.



Human food subsidies make up more than 40% of the diet of bears in northern Wisconsin.

In a new research paper, titled “Consumption of intentional food subsidies by a hunted carnivore” authored by: Rebecca Kirby of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Jonathan Pauli assistant professor with the University of Wisconsin’s Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, and David MacFarland Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources large carnivore specialist. The Journal of Wildlife Management

The researchers documented the abundance of bear bait on forestlands, to determine the contribution of human foods to individual and population diets. That bear baiting on public lands contributed to 40% of their diet. They found that bears were relying on (human foods) subsidies throughout their lifetimes. 
Bears using baits in northern Wisconsin may be contributing to Wisconsin’s high population density compared to neighboring states. Female consumption of high caloric food subsidies can increase fecundity (the ability to produce an abundance of offspring or new growth; fertility), and can train cubs to seek bear baits. Long-term supplementation can increase a population above its ecological carrying capacity. Extensive foraging on bear bait could affect individual bear nutrition through increased body sizes and energy requirements. Increased energy requirements and habituation may create a dependency on food subsidies; if food subsidies were removed, bear-human conflicts may increase and bears may no longer be able to subsist on natural foods.  High availability of energy-rich food can also alter denning chronology, shortening the denning period. In northern Wisconsin, humans are influencing the ecosystem not only through top-down forces via hunting, but also through bottom-up forces by subsidizing the food base. Researcers’ findings emphasize the need to understand what effects conservation and management strategies that feature human subsidies can have on wildlife, particularly how they alter behavior, population sizes, and demographic parameters. Consumption of intentional food subsidies by a hunted carnivore


Is it time to reevaluate black bear baiting in Wisconsin?  Please contact WDNR Bear Advisory Committee

The Bear Advisory Committee is a diverse group representing agency, non-agency, tribal and stakeholder interests. The committee meets to propose bear quota recommendations and advises the Wildlife Policy Team on a variety of topics such as population monitoring and research priorities. Department leadership considers proposed quotas in developing department recommendations for Natural Resources Board approval.

Contact information
For information about the Bear Advisory Committee, contact:

Dave MacFarland

Carnivore specialist



Dogs may be trained statewide by pursuing bear in Wisconsin starting on July first resulting in bloody wolf-on-dog-fights

Handlers that lose dogs to wolves defending their pups can be reimbursed up to $2,500.00 per dead dog (the state’s wolf depredation program began in 1985). It’s a win-win situation for hound hunters that send their dogs in pursuit of bear during training and hunting. In 2016 thirty-seven bear hunting dogs were killed in the pursuit of black 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 licence. Because of that change it’s impossible to know; just how many dogs in pursuit of bear are running through the woods. WODCW Blog

According to 2016 Wisconsin Bear Hunting Regulation on WI DNR website It is legal to train dogs in Zones A, B, and D during the season when hunting bear with aid of dogs is open. While hunting bear, or training dogs to pursue bear during the open season for hunting bear, it is illegal to:
-hunt or train dogs to pursue bear before or after established hunting hours;
-hunt bear with dogs in Zone C;
-train dogs by pursuing bear except during times stated above;
-hunt or train dogs unless one person in the group has on their
person rabies tags and dog license tags for each dog;
-hunt, train dogs, or pursue bear with a dog that is not tattooed or wearing a collar displaying the owner’s name and address;
-hunt, train dogs or pursue bear with more than 6 dogs in a single pack, regardless of the number of bear hunters or the
dog’s ownership;
Note: dogs that fall out of the chase may be replaced, but no more than 6 dogs may be used to pursue bear.
-allow the dogs to kill any wild animal;
-hunt or pursue any free-roaming wild animal with the aid
of any dog, May 1 to June 30 north of the highways shown on the map below, except for approved dog trials and training on free-roaming rabbits or raccoons under a hound dog trial or training license


Decades-old conflict between bear hunters & wolves in the north woods of Wisconsin 

Wolf pups are born around mid-April and are approximately two and a half months at the time WI bear hunters begin training dogs on bear starting July first. Typically wolves leave their pups at a rendezvous site for safe keeping to be watched over by a babysitter.  The pup’s family members keep a  close eye on the rendezvous site while off hunting.

 The following is what the WI DNR has to say about wolf rendezvous sites:  Adult wolves are very defensive of pups at rendezvous sites and will attack other predators, including dogs, that get too close to the rendezvous site or the pups. Wolves are probably most aggressive toward strange wolves and dogs at den and rendezvous sites when their pups are small, during the breeding season in January and February and when they are protecting a fresh kill.

Found within a wolf pack’s territory, den and rendezvous sites are specific locations used for breeding and other pack activities. Wolves begin moving their young pups from dens to rendezvous sites from mid-March to mid-May. Rendezvous sites are actively used from mid-May to mid-October.


Photo: A Wisconsin wolf puppy at a den site.  WI DNR photograph 

Bear hounds die every July at an alarming rate…in 2016 over 37 lost lost thier life in the pursuit of bear

Adult wolves are very defensive of pups 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. 


Wisconsin is the only state that reimburses for dogs killed by wolves in the pursuit of bear.

Handlers that lose dogs to wolves defending their pups can be reimbursed up to $2,500.00 per dead dog. It’s a win win situation for hound hunters that send their dogs in pursuit of bear during training and hunting. 

The Wisconsin Wolf Recovery Program made it possible for the wolf to reclaim a part of his historic range. That’s a success story!

The conflict between wolves and bear hunters that use dogs has been around for decades. Wolves have been recovering in Wisconsin since the late 1970s. Wolves are a federally  protected species under the Endangerd Species Act in the Great Lakes Region.  

In the fall of October 2010 Wisconsin Public Television did a story about ‘Bear Hunters and Wolves’ watch the following video:

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 have resided in Wisconsin for centuries prior to Europian settlement. Europian settlers arived with livestock in tow, & along with the old story book myths of the the big bad wolf. A few centuries later, by the 1960s, wolves were extirpated from the Wisconsin landscape. Wolves were not a threat to bear hunters because they were all but wiped out of Wisconsin by the 1960s. 

Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association was one of many hunt clubs that worked for an aggressive wolf hunt and pushed for  legislation 2011 WISCONSIN ACT 169 that created a mandatory wolf hunting and trapping season as soon as the wolf was delisted. 

The Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association’s hand-prints were all over this wolf hunt legislation

Included in this bill was the barbaric use of dogs to hunt wolves.  Wisconsin quite literally throws dogs to wolves. Wisconsin became the only state that allows the use of dogs to run down and kill wolves.


‘No Grounds For Hounds’ design by Ned Gannon

Every year starting in July, the north woods of Wisconsin runs blood red with conflict between wolves and dogs in the pursuit of bear. Is this a win-win situation for their handlers that are reimbursed up to $2,500.00 per dead dog? 

The WI DNR puts out warnings. The following is from WI DNR website’s Caution areas, dogs and wolf behavior.

“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 2016 dog depredations by wolves.”

There is even a new interactive map for hunters using dogs on the WI DNR website called Gray Wolf Depredation Mapping Application

Click on the blue highlighted words and bingo you have all this information at your finger-tips. All of this information is available for hunters using dogs in the pursuit of bear and maintained for their convenience by the WI DNR – in order to prevent wolf-on-dog- fights in the north woods during bear training with dogs. 

Why is this wolf-on-dog-fights such a conflict? 

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 I encountered in a day of tracking in the the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. This conflict between bear Hunters and wolves is decades old.

Wolves are here to stay and hopefully attitudes can be softened. Bear hunters using dogs in pursuit of bear are reminded to check WI DNR Website’s for updates on wolf and dog caution areas.

The public is welcome to contact the Bear Advisory Committee for more information contact Dave MacFarland, Carnivore specialist at 715-365-8919.

Take action for Wisconsin’s wildlife…

Wisconsin Residents experiencing any of the following conflicts due to bear hunters use of dogs in pursuit of bear during training or hunting times are encouraged to:

Trespassing on private property, noise complaints or if you feel unsafe while using public lands call local law enforcement and file a written complaint. Start a paper trail.

If you come across a lost hunting dog with a GPS collar on please contact your local law enforcement. They will advise you on what to do. 

Any suspected violation of poaching call the tip line Violation Report 

Call or text 1-800-847-9367

Another issue to address through WI DNR is the controversial practice of bear baiting. Tons of sweet treats are fed to Wisconsin’s 28,000 black bears. Refer any and all suggestions on this practice to your legislators Click Here to find you legislator

*please note; Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin is not affiliated or aligned with any other Wisconsin wolf & wildlife organizations. WODCW is an independent news source, action alerts, education, awareness & advocacy that practices compassionate conservation ethics.  WODCW’s main focus is on Wisconsin’s wild wolf, but is active throughout the Great Lakes Region, the USA and international.