What is Wolf Hounding an Interview with Rachel Tilseth

First ran on May 4, 2014 by Justin King on Digital Journal.
First, could you explain what wolf hounding is?
What is wolf hounding? It is a form of hunting that uses dogs to chase the wolf to the hunter so he can kill it. Wolf hounding is a barbaric practice and a return to the time when wolves were considered vermin. Wolves are far from vermin status as they were allowed to recover on their own in Wisconsin starting in the 1970s. Wisconsin monitored wolves and allowed them to establish territories free from human interference. That is until 2012 when the Wisconsin legislature enacted law, Act 169, which allowed wolves to be hunted once they were taken off of the endangered species list. Wolves were now designated a game animal that could be hunted and killed. Wisconsin became the only state to allow wolves to be hunted with the use of dogs.

How does it work exactly?
Hunters use packs of free ranging dogs to chase the wolf to the hunter/hunters and kill them.(six dogs allowed at one time by DNR wolf hunting regulation) Wolf hounders send out six dogs at a time replacing tired ones with fresh dogs(if they can catch them if not then the pack of dogs could be up to 20). These dogs are equipped with high tech radio collars and the dogs handlers follow along with radio telemetry antennas.

Wolf hounders typically release hounds on fresh wolf track/tracks. The dogs pick up the wolf’s scent and chase after it until they corner it or the wolf turns to fight. Then this can either be a kill shot for the hunters or a huge fight between wolf and dogs. In Wisconsin it is illegal for packs of dogs to kill wildlife and the hounds handlers must kill the animal the dogs are chasing.

How long does it take for the dogs to bring down a wolf?
This can depend on many factors. Typically dogs chase the animal until it is exhausted and wolves can trot up to 40 miles per hour in order to conserve energy, but when being chased by a pack of dogs is a different matter all together. The wolf then becomes the pray of the dogs. If an older more experienced (alpha)wolf is being chased by dogs he leads them away from his family. The alpha wolf will lead the pursuing dogs into a low area and then turn on them to fight for his life.

Do the dogs kill the wolf or does the handler?
The handler by law is supposed to kill the wolf. But suppose handlers are nowhere in sight when the dogs corner the wolf. Then this could end in a blood bath resulting in a fight between up to six or more dogs to one wolf.

How is this any different than dog fighting?
The only difference is they are in a contained area called a pit. While hounds are out in the wolf territory.

How does the state justify this being legal? The US congress delisted wolves in 2011 without any scientific testimony or federal agency testimony. This was the beginning of the end for science driven legislation and this opened the door for wolf hunting. Then in Wisconsin they already use dogs on bears so for the hounders it was a natural progression for them to hound wolves.

What happens when a wolf kills a dog?
Hounders are not required to report any injured or killed dogs in the pursuit of a wolf kill. There is no way of really knowing this as it is a purposeful lack of information on the WDNR’s part. Citizens are kept out of the process and they don’t want us to have any evidence to shut them down. WDNR claimed this year’s wolf hunt with dogs was a success without any incident.

Wisconsin gives out depredation payments to people whose dogs were killed by wolves. Do they make those payments even if the dogs were turned loose to hunt a wolf or some other predator?

Wisconsin pays out up to $2,500.00 for each dog killed by wolves out of wolf hunting season. They are reimbursed when their dogs are killed by wolves while training on bear. Wolf hounders are not reimbursed if their dog is killed while running them on wolves in the hunt.

According to one source about a third of that money over the last year went to people who intentionally put their dogs at risk by using them to hound.

Does that sound right to you?
Yes that sounds exactly right to me as hounders are given proper warning of where wolves keep their pups. WDNR gives out these warnings every year during bear hounding seasons and these are repeatedly ignored by the hounders. Last summer, 2013, 23 bear hound dogs lost their lives to wolves because owners ignored these warnings.

Update: July 2014 wolf hounders are now allowed to train their dogs to chase wolves. Wolf hounders can release dogs to chase wolves through the north woods but must use rules that are in place for hound hunting wildlife. The Wolf Advisory Committee has recommended a training period beginning sometime in November running through February that must be approved by the NRB. Training dogs to chase wolves during January and February is a bad idea for both wolves and dogs. The recommended time to train is during wolf breeding time when wolves are very protective of their territory and this will result in conflicts between dogs and wolves.

“Wolf hounding is a barbaric, in-humane, and archaic practice that has no place in civilized society.” Rachel Tilseth founder of Wolves of Douglas county Wisconsin a grassroots organization

We are working to ban wolf hounding in Wisconsin and for how to help:
Photographs from Rachel Tilseth Tracking journal, raven in the north woods of Wisconsin and wolf tracks in the woods Wisconsin



WODCW Visits Wisconsin State Capital on Earth Day April 22, 2014

By Rachel Tilseth
We(along with several other allies)visited with Senator Fred Risser on Earth day to thank him for working to remove the dogs from the wolf hunt. We discussed strategy and came away with a plan of action. We also visited other state representative to discuss removing the dogs from the hunt.

Photographs: Patricia making some good points as to why using dogs to hunt wolves is a bad idea, Senator Risser telling us that he has no intention of retiring soon and LuAnn, Patricia, Randy, Senator Risser, myself and Chris meeting at the capital .




Trophy hunting of wolves with firearms, traps, use of bows, hound hunting with a training season is legal in WI: #BanWolfHounding of #wolves in the #wiwolfhunt

Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin(WODCW) wants to remind the citizens of WI, that starting December 2014 the State of Wisconsin will allow the cruel and inhumane practice of hunting wolves with of dogs.

Wisconsin is the only state in the nation that allows the use of free ranging dogs equipped with radio collars to chase down wolves and kill them. In a poll taken (here), by the Human Society of Untied States, in June of 2013, 85% of people in WI did not want hounding to take place.

Get the FAQs on hound hunting wolves here: http://wolvesofdouglascountywisconsin.com/2014/08/13/wodcw-faq-sheet-on-wolf-hound-hunting/

“We want Wisconsinites to know what will happen when packs of dogs are unleashed on wolves”, said Rachel Tilseth, founder of WODCW. “It is not a fair fight. The hound hunters are allowed to place homemade collars on their dogs, which are fitted with nails and shards of steel, which will lacerate the mouths of the wolves, once wolves try to fight back. There is no way for the wolf to defend themselves, before the hounds’ owners catch up to the pack tearing the wolf apart.”

In last year’s Wolf hunt where dogs were used for the first time in decades was a sham. There were no rules, no enforcement and botched investigations by WDNR that proved WI is now the laughing stock of civilized world.

WODCW wanted independent veterinarians in on any investigations of the 35 wolves killed by the used of dogs but that never happened. Full story here: http://www.wpr.org/dnr-ends-wolf-hunting-season

New to this second wolf hounding season. In July of 2014 a judge ruled that dogs can be trained to chase wolves. WDNR Wolf Advisory Committee has recommended a training period to take place from end of gun deer hunt season and run through February. This is wolf breeding season and wolves are very protective of their mates at this time. “I am certain that wolves will defend their mates from hound hunting dogs at this time of year resulting in brutal conflicts.” Tilseth stated.

Get the full story here: http://wolvesofdouglascountywisconsin.com/2014/10/02/third-wolf-hunt-set-to-begin-with-no-permanent-rule-in-place-to-monitor-use-of-dogs/

Members of the press are encouraged to join WODCW in the woods, to expose this form of cruelty, in hopes to educate Wisconsin residents on this archaic method of killing wolves. “There has never been a more important time for the people of WI to show they are not going to give in to a small group of fringe hunters want to torture animals for fun under the guise of legalized sport here in WI’s north woods.

Tilseth stated, “Wolf hounding is a return to the days when hunters drove wolves to the brink of extinction.” We ask you all to call and email your opposition to wolf hounding and end this bloodletting, before it begins in December”.

WODCW is pleased that Great Lakes Wolf Patrol will be monitoring hound hunting of wolves in WI. http://wolfpatrol.org/

About Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin
Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin was founded by Rachel Tilseth, after spending 13 years as a WI DNR winter carnivore/wolf tracker volunteer, under the supervision of former head wolf biologist Adrian Wydeven. Tilseth is a long time WI resident, educator, and artist.

Photograph of wolf heading down the road in the North woods of Wisconsin. Belongs to Rachel Tilseth

‘White Eyes’ alpha female-447F wolf 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 off the endangered species list 2012. 

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. 


Drawing of White Eyes by Rachel Tilseth

I was assigned a wolf tracking block in the year 2000 that had a new alpha female wolf. I set out exploring the new wolf territory. I spent summers scouting this block, and winters surveying for wolf tracks.

Part of monitoring wolves is conducting wolf howl surveys during summer and fall seasons.

Photograph of wolf range in Douglas county Wisconsin by Rachel Tilseth 

While conducting wolf howl surveys,  I was favored with a howl from the entire wolf family, and on one evening was startled by a lone wolf howl right next to me. I was even privileged to see two wolf silhouettes in the moonlight as they howled back to me.

White Eyes’s pack only had 5 family members.

This meant that five wolves was the maximum number of wolves for this 24 square mile range. This wolf pack of 5 members couldn’t afford to leave a yearling to babysit the pups. Every adult was needed to hunt and the pups were to young to join them on a hunt. The puppies were usually stashed in a brushy area for safe keeping while the pack was off hunting.

On a warm July summer night in 2002 I was about to find out that a wolf’s trust could be broken.

I was on a howl survey that night when White Eyes stashed her two pups,   then headed off to hunt. 

That night on my first howl, White Eyes’ two pups responded back to me to my surprise. 

“How adorable they are” I thought to myself. One pup was light and the other was dark in color. One wolf pup was obviously an alpha, as was demonstrated with his or her aggressive behavior. 

I dared not linger, because that could bring danger to the pups. However, I did name them “Salt and Pepper.” And I left the area that night. 

Something changed that following year of 2003. The wolves didn’t howl back to me. 

I wasn’t able to get a peep out of “White Eyes” or any of her pack members. I was getting worried that maybe something happened to them.

Finally one night on a howl survey,  I said to my son Jacob, “you try a howl.” he did and was able to get several of White Eyes’s family to respond back to his howl. 

What did that tell me about White eyes? It told me , that a wolf’s trust could be broken.

I spent 2 years building a relationship with White Eyes, and in one summer lost her trust,  because I got too close to her pups. All of this made me realize, that I was a tolerated human observer; not a wolf babysitter.

It took another year before the relationship was back, and I was allowed to hear the family howls again. I was able to hear them howl again, just before sunset, and while they were hunting at midnight.  I learned to steer clear of White Eyes’s pups.

Photograph is of one of White Eyes’s pack members tracks as they trotted down a snow covered road in Douglas county Wisconsin. Photograph taken by Rachel Tilseth. 


A view from a wolf tracker:chasing wolves with dogs will end badly for both species.

In my dozen or so years as a volunteer WI DNR Winter Wolf Tracker, I learned a great deal about wolves. Wolves are territorial predators, social animals living within family packs, that depend on each other for survival. Wolves have a beneficial effect on ecosystems as a keystone predator. Wolves have been off the endangered species list now for over two years, and are being managed by the state of Wisconsin.

Wisconsin is only managing wild wolves as a trophy game animal. Managing the wolf only as a trophy, especially using dogs to hunt them, is an outright waste of natural resources, money, and time previously spent on recovery.

I cite the loss of 23 hound hunting dogs during 2013 bear-hunting training season with reimbursement up to $2,500 per dog.

On July 10, 2014, a Judge ruled that dogs could be trained on wolves and this is concerning. Here is why. Based on what I’ve learned about wolves during tracking:

Training dogs to chase wolves during breeding season in January and February will result in a blood bath. While tracking wolves during the winter breeding season I found wolf scent marking every tenth of a mile, for about a mile. There were multiple wolf tracks on the edge of the packs range. I found obvious signs of a female wolf in estrous near these scent markings. I’m certain if a wolf hound handler sends dogs to chase wolves during breeding season it will end in a blood bath because wolves are very protective of their mates at that time.

These fringe hunters put both wild wolves and hunting dogs in known situations that cause conflict. Should citizens be paying money for this reckless behavior?

Over the next several months the Wolf Advisory Committee, which Wisconsin DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp admitted is stacked with pro-hunter interests) will be writing training rules for dogs to chase wolves.

Stepp has limited citizen input by selecting a committee stacked with pro hunting lobbyists that cater to a minority of extremist fringe hunters.

All citizens have the right to weigh in on this issue, including ethical hunters, hikers, eco-tourists, cyclists, photographers and bird watchers. I ask that Wisconsinites speak out against this practice of chasing wolves with dogs and stop this before it ends in a north woods blood bath.

Rachel Tilseth
Photograph WI Senator Fred Risser and Rachel Tilseth
Another source on this article:


WDNR Wolf Advisory Committee Recommends Training for Wolf Hounding

Wisconsin DNR Wolf Advisory Committee recommended dog training times of the year. I offer this editorial on the WAC.

The majority voted to recommend training dogs to hunt wolves beginning after deer gun hunt season closes through February. One biologist advised against chasing wolves with dogs during breeding season because wolves are very territorial and protective at that time. It’s certain that conflicts between dogs and wolves will occur.

But 3 pro wolf hunt committee members insisted this will not happen. I wonder what fairy tale these 3 “extremist fringe wolf killing” committee members believe in? Because since 1985 almost HALF MiLLION DOLLARS has been paid out for hounds lost to wolves.

The other recommendation was to start the dog training after deer gun hunt season closes sometime in November through January 15 but only three committee members voted for this one and they are pro wolf.

These two recommendations will now go to the Natural Resources Board for final decisions.

WODCW will be working to ban this barbaric practice.

I attended this meeting as a spectator. I saw first hand how Cathy Stepp’s admittedly pro hunter stacked wolf advisory meeting was over run by 3 pro hunt committee members. I cannot decide which of these two examples to compare their behavior to: the housewives of NYC or a class of 6th graders out of control?

I will give a round of applause to whomever had the idea to bring in a meeting facilities moderator with a background as a teacher. This new moderator had her hands full making sure that everyone had a chance to speak up. As in the past this meeting has been dominated by these three pro wolf hunt members.

I am of the opinion that we need to call for Cathy Stepp’s resignation for not effectively carrying out her duties as head of the WDNR. Whether working for the WDNR or not, because no one should ever be treated with such disrespect witnessed at last Tuesdays Wolf Advisory Committee meeting. To Cathy Stepp I ask this question: where are your leadership skills?

Hats off to those Wolf Advisory Committee Members who acted with professional standards through-out this whole process: doing their best to fight for science!
#wolfhunt #banwolfhounding

Photo credit belongs to WI state Rep Brett Hulsey making an appearance at the meeting and is concerned about this state-sponsored sanctioned dog fighting.


Featured Writer: Steve Meurett

Steve was one of the outdoor writers in attendance at the Wisconsin Outdoor Communications Convention held at Trees For Tomorrow in Eagle River, WI. I was one of six panelists on the topic of the wolf hunt.

Here’s a little about Steve in his own words. Photography and art has always been a part of my life. I loved to draw and paint as a kid and cameras became one of the new tools for creativity as I grew older. I love this artist statement: “I take pictures of things I think are cool. I think these pictures are cool, I hope the viewer thinks they are cool too. Cool?” Comments are welcome! All rights reserved. Photographer, Skinny skier, Fat tire rider, Teacher, dirt digger and coach. – See more at: http://on-theedge.blogspot.com/2012/06/cunkcunk-wolf.html#sthash.enkZ6w97.dpuf

Here is one of Steve’s pieces on wolves. He had the privilege of going on a wolf monitoring study. Read more..

As always my mission is wolves and to bring WODCW readers more on this topic. Education and awareness are key tools for changing public perceptions about wolves.
#SpeakForWolves WIWolfHunt #BanWolfHounding


“Ally of the Grey Wolf”

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