WODCW Op Ed: Bear hunting with hounds is “risky behavior’ 

In a Wisconsin State Journal, Guest Column, Carl Schoettel, of Neosho, president of the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, stated his opinion entitled;  Bear hunting with hounds isn’t risky behavior

Schoettel was responding to a Wisconsin State Journal Editorial written on September 9, 2016; Stop payouts to bear hunters for dead dogs, Schoettel stating that it: “was clearly written by someone who has never hunted in the north woods or perhaps even met a bear hunter. The commentary was misleading and wrong about interactions between hunters, dogs and wolves.”

Mr. Schoettel is naive to think that Wisconsin residents and taxpayers will sit idly by while bear hunters throw dogs to wolves.

Further, Schoettel states; “First and foremost, the editorial continually called bear hunters “irresponsible” and gave the impression hunters are violating state rules when they choose to hunt in wolf country. They are not. And hound hunters do avoid areas where recent wolf activity has taken place. In fact, the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association (WBHA) puts out alerts to its members within hours of any confirmed dog depredations so hunters can avoid that area.”

I’ll address the first part of Mr. Schoettel statement about bear hunters being “irresponsible” and discuss the rules of training dogs to pursue bear.  First of all, state law was changed in 2015 to end a license requirement for the summer dog training season, and so it is difficult to know how many dogs are running through the woods in pursuit of bear. 

WI Bear Hunters Association was successful in getting training license requirements removed; no permit to train dogs in pursuit of bear leads to the simple fact; that, WI DNR has no idea how many bear hunter’s rigs are running through the north woods. Increase of dogs running in wolf range during pup rearing times is bound to cause conflicts between bear hunters and wolves. 

Starting in July bear hunters run dogs through wolf rendezvous sites in pursuit of bear causing conflicts between dogs and wolves. Wolf pups are barely three months old and need protection from packs of free ranging dogs in pursuit of bear. The conflicts between bear hunters and wolves continues with record numbers of hunting dogs killed in July and August of 2016.  Bear hunting dogs are equipped with radio telemetry or GPS devices that have a range of up to 10 miles and handlers are often miles away from their dogs. 

 Thus, the direct action of (WHBA) in ending the license requirement for the summer dog training season is seen as  “irresponsible” because it allowed for an undetermined number of hunting dogs in pursuit of bear. Therefore, what would you call a sport that refuses to be accountable; that doesn’t have any training license requirement for its members? WI DNR has no idea of how many dogs are running through the woods during training in pursuit of bear. Is this the cause of the record hunting dog deaths?

 Mr. Schoettel take responsibility for training your hounds in wolf country by bringing back the training license requirements that hold bear hunters accountable.

Mr. Schoettel states: “the DNR’s map of wolf packs shows that virtually the entire northern third of the state is “occupied” by the packs. The editorial would be calling for the end of all bear hunting if we had to avoid any area with a wolf threat. Ask any deer hunter and they will tell you that now they see more wolves than deer in the North Country.”

Mr. Schoettel is right that the northern third of the state has wolves living there, but fails to take responsibility for conflicts between bear hunters and wolves.  Next, Schoettel brings deer hunters into the debate by using unsubstantiated facts. The very idea that Mr. Schoettel scapegoats the wolf for the lack of deer is preposterous.  Every ethical Hunter that practices the rules and especially, rules of fair chase, knows that; a couple of winters back it was heavy snowfalls that killed off the deer herd NOT the wolf. The deer herds are now rebounding in Wisconsin.

Why wouldn’t any reasonable, hunter or resident of the state call for an end of bear hunting with the use of dogs?  At this rate of payouts, at $2,500.00 per dead dog, is astonishing.  Since July First, a total of 28 bear hunting dogs have been killed by wolves defending their pups from large packs of free ranging dogs in pursuit of bear; with a total price tag of $70,000.00.

 Mr. Schoettel states: “Wisconsin allows bear hounding because it has a long and proud tradition of supporting our hunting heritage. Wisconsin’s citizens were hunting bears with dogs long before wolves were reintroduced into Wisconsin. And in Wisconsin, hunters are protected by our constitutional right to hunt.”

Mr. Schoettel, wolves “reintroduced themselves” to their historic range by crossing over the border between Wisconsin and Minnesota. People never physically “reintroduced wolves” into Wisconsin. They are not illegal (alien) wolves.

I’ll argue full heartedly against Mr. Schoettel’s defective reasoning that bear hounding has a long tradition of supporting hunting heritage, because it wasn’t until 1963 that this practice of hunting black bear with the aide of dogs began in the state.  Furthermore, there are those who do not agree with bear hounding as “fair chase” part of Wisconsin’s ethical hunting heritage. This practice of bear hounding is losing support by the state’s residents due to its relaxed hunting regulations, not to mention the conflicts between bear hunters and wolves.  I’ve seen an increase of letters to the editor over the past several months complaining about bear hounding in papers across the state.

 Mr. Schoettel states: “The editorial and a previous State Journal article reported that wildlife experts aren’t sure why more dogs are being killed this year. Well, I think a lot of wildlife experts will agree with our members that the answer is very simple: Wisconsin has a lot more wolves this year than just two years ago. Since an East Coast federal judge ended Wisconsin’s management of wolves in 2014, the wolf population has exploded.’

Although Mr. Schoettel is correct in stating the wolf population is up, he doesn’t have the correct reason for why bear hounding dogs are being killed.  To reiterate, the WI DNR has stated they do not know why there has been record hunting dog deaths this training season, because they do not know how many dogs are running through the woods.  WBHA was responsible for ending the license requirement for the summer dog training season. Therefore WI DNR has no records on how many dogs are running in the woods.

Mr. Schoettel states: “Bear hunting with hounds is not “risky behavior.” It is a constitutionally protected outdoor sport with centuries of history and generations of heritage behind it, and Wisconsin policymakers rightly recognize that.”

Mr. Schoettel is right in saying that Wisconsin policy makers rightly recognize the sport of bear hounding; or at least the current party in power with their very own appointed WI DNR Secretary, that backs them.  

I disagree with Mr. Schoettel’s fairy tale view of running hounds through the woods “isn’t risky business” as history is proving conflicts between bear hunters and wolves is very risky for dogs, wolves and taxpayers’ pocket books. 

I will end here with a quote by one of their own bear hounding advocates that make a point about abusing power;

The government is so out of control.  It is so bloated and infested with fraud and deceit and corruption and abuse of power. Ted Nugent

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Letter to the Editor: Don’t blame wolves for killing hounds 

By Cynthia Samels

Wisconsin State Journal
September 1, 2016

Here we go again with politicians carrying the torch for trophy hunters in Wisconsin.

In response to the Aug. 25 article “Wolf attacks on cattle, dogs rise,” I would like to address two glaring misconceptions: that wolves are imminent threats to pets, and that wolves have compromised the deer population, leading devastated deer hunters to sell their cabins.

Indeed, wolves are killing dogs. But the blame must be placed on hunters who knowingly put their hounds in imminent danger. This seems unethical at best.

Bear hunters are active and replenish baiting stations in the same areas where wolves are mating, denning, raising and protecting their pups. Bear baits attract more than bear, as any trail camera will reveal. Raccoons, coyotes, deer, wolves and other wildlife frequent these sites.

Many bear dogs have been killed by wolves in Bayfield and surrounding counties recently, several in areas deemed dangerous by our very own Department of Natural Resource.

As for our deer populations, honest hunters are more likely to blame recent winters and are more concerned about the spreading of chronic wasting disease. Don’t fall for scare tactics. Bear hunters using hounds are afraid of losing their rights.

Cynthia Samels, Iron River

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Featured image by John E Marriott

“Make no mistake, bear hunting is blood sport, especially with hounds…”

…direct quote from the author, Dale Bowman, of a recent article; Loose the hounds: Following bear hounds in northern Wisconsin, in The Chicago Sun Times, on August 22, 2016.  The author of this article rode along with a family of bear hunters using dogs in pursuit of bear in another Wisconsin. 

Read on:

NORTHERN Wis.–Snorting, the black bear crashed through brush with hounds snarling and baying just behind, unseen in the lush summer green. Standing on a forest road, I timed it well enough to snap a photo as the bear broke across in a full-stretch dark streak.
“Do you think you could have shot it?’’ asked Pat, patriarch of a hound hunting family.

No,’’ I said. “I would not have even gotten a shot off.’’

Not sure what I expected from tagging along on training hounds for bear hunting, but it was one of my all-time experiences, doubly so because our 15-year-old daughter Sara wanted to come along.
Make no mistake, bear hunting is blood sport, especially with hounds. So our host family of hound lovers, Heath, son of Pat, his wife Laurie and their daughter Sierra, asked that I not use their last name.
And I mean family. Heath began going along as a 3-month-old; he and Laura started Sierra about as young.
Their home pays homage to bears from decorative paws outside to bleached bear skulls and cured hides inside.
It was truly primordial, beautiful in animal athleticism.
Bear season in Wisconsin runs five weeks, this year beginning Sept. 7. There is a split between using dogs and not using dogs (no dog hunting is allowed in Zone C). Otherwise, this year the first four weeks are open to non-dog hunting, the final four weeks for dog hunting only with a three-week overlap in the middle. There is differences of opinion between bait-sitters and those who hunt with hounds. Read full story by clicking HERE

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You can help Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin’s legislative campaign to end the sport of bear hounding in the north woods of Wisconsin
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 file written complaints:
A). Trespassing on private property by bear hound hunters that have not asked for permission, and especially if you’ve posted private property/no hunting signs 
B). Noise complaints of baying hounds at night that interrupts sleep 

C). Encountering large packs of free ranging bear hunting dogs while using public lands where you feel for your safety 
 We need these complaints written in order to file a: Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to support our legislative campaign to end bear hounding in the the north woods of Wisconsin. Will gather all these complaints to present to legislators.

You can write a letter to your legislator asking them to back Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin’s campaign to end bear hounding in the north woods of Wisconsin. Click HERE to find your legislator
Watch for updates concerning Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin’s campaign to end bear hounding in the north woods of Wisconsin. 

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Featured image: Bill Lea Photography 

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Disclaimer *not affiliated or aligned with Wolf Patrol

The sport of bear hounding results in injuries or death to both bears and dogs 

Bear hounding leaves cubs vulnerable to being  mauled, orphaned and leads to death. Not to mention this sport disrupts other native wildlife, such as wolves that are rearing pups. Other wildlife affected by running dogs on bear over long distances; birds, deer with fawns, and other small mammals.  The sport of bear hounding  is not part of “fair chase” used in ethical hunting practices. 

That’s why; Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin is beginning a campaign to legislatively end bear hounding in the north woods of Wisconsin. 

When this sport of pursing bear with dogs began in 1963 there were no wolves present in Wisconsin. Conflicts arise between bear hunters and wolves because bear hunters run dogs through rendezvous sites where wolves keep pups. Bear hunters are reimbursed $2,500.00 per dead dog killed by wolves forced to defend their pups from free ranging dogs in pursuit of bear. 

The dogs pursing bear lose their lives to bear as well.  In the north woods I found a rock memorial to Oscar killed by bear on September 22, 1984 and took the following photograph:

   

Another concern is when bear houndsmen bait black bear starting in April. This bear baiting makes bears more habituated to humans and human’s food.  Bear baiting involves intensive feeding of black bears to make them easier targets of trophy hunters waiting nearby. 

Bear baiting can harm bears; In late summer and fall, bears go into a frenzied eating behavior, called hyperphagia, as they attempt to gain 20 to 40 pounds per week to survive hibernation. Baiting occurs during this exact time in bears’ desperate search for extra calories, increasing the likelihood of conflicts. Bears subjected to baiting come to associate food with the smells of humans and even livestock. Those who then become habituated to human foods become less shy and more unpredictable, changing their eating habits, home ranges and movement patterns in ways that are sometimes irreversible. Source

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The following is a fact sheet on bear hounding from Humane Society of the U.S. Read on: 

WHAT IS BEAR HOUNDING?

Hounding involves hunters and guides using packs of radio-collared hounds to pursue bears until the exhausted, frightened animals seek refuge in a tree, where they are shot, or turn to fight the hounds. Hounding results in injuries or death to both bears and dogs and leaves bear cubs vulnerable to mauling, orphaning and death.

Most people feel that hounding is unethical and not “fair chase” hunting as it gives too much advantage to the hunter.

HOUNDING IS INHUMANE FOR BEARS AND DOGS

Hounding orphans cubs, and those under a year old will likely die from slow starvation and predation. Hunters frequently fail to check for the presence of dependent young in a nearby tree, which could alert them that they are pursuing a mother bear. Biologists have also found that hunters misidentify the gender of approximately one-third of treed bears. And in some pursuits, hounds confront bears while they are on the ground; in the melee, hunters may not take the time to try to determine the bear’s gender before shooting.

  
Especially during hot weather, pursuit stresses both hounds and bears. Bears who have been chased for a prolonged period can experience severe physical stress due to their thick fur and fat layer, which they build to survive during hibernation. Overheated bears can die and pregnant bears can lose embryos.

Altercations with hounds can result in injuries or death to bears, particularly cubs. In turn, hounds mauled by bears can suffer broken bones, punctured lungs or other serious injuries. Hounds may chase bears into roadways, where oncoming vehicles could strike either animal. Hounds are frequently dumped at municipal animal shelters or left in the woods if they do not perform adequately.

Because hounds track bears across large spaces, they invariably pursue and stress nontarget animals including deer, moose, small mammals and birds.

HOUNDING DISRUPTS BEARS AND THEIR POPULATIONS

Bears eat nearly all their nutrients for the entire year in the summer and fall. In many regions of the U.S., black bears feed intensively for three to four months just before they go into hibernation. This frenzied feeding period (called hyperphagia) coincides with most states’ bear-hunting seasons.

In poor food years, hounding makes bears expend energy that they need in order to survive hibernation. Hounds disrupt feeding regimes for both the bears who are chased and nearby bears who are not. Bears must shift their sleeping patterns and become more nocturnal to avoid being hunted.

Hunting black bears also changes their social organization. Hunters and guides typically target larger bears for trophies. When a territorial male is killed, subordinates take their place. The new male will often kill the cubs sired by the original one.

HOUNDING IS UNSPORTING AND LACKS FAIR CHASE

Surveys demonstrate an overwhelming lack of public support for bear hounding. It is considered unsporting—even among many sportsmen—because it is not “fair chase,” the cornerstone of ethical hunting.

Jim Posewitz, author and founder of Orion: the Hunter’s Institute, explains: “The ethical hunter must make many fair-chase choices. In some areas, chasing big game with dogs is an accepted custom. In other places, it is considered an unfair advantage for the hunter. … If there is a doubt, advantage must be given to the animal being hunted.” (Emphasis added.)

Several wildlife managers suggest the public will tolerate bear hunting only if “credible” management programs are in place. This includes setting appropriate seasons, restricting licenses and number of bears killed, and limiting methods of pursuing an animal, such as hounding. Source

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Wisconsin is one of the ten states that allow bear hounding. Let’s bring Wisconsin in line with the other 40 states that have banned the unethical sport of bear hounding. 

You can help Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin’s legislative campaign to end the sport of bear hounding in the north woods of Wisconsin

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 file written complaints:

A). Trespassing on private property by bear hound hunters that have not asked for permission, and especially if you’ve posted private property/no hunting signs 

B). Noise complaints of baying hounds at night that interrupts sleep 

C). Encountering large packs of free ranging bear hunting dogs while using public lands where you feel for your safety 

 We need these complaints written in order to file a: Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to support our legislative campaign to end bear hounding in the the north woods of Wisconsin. Will gather all these complaints to present to legislators.

You can write a letter to your legislator asking them to back Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin’s campaign to end bear hounding in the north woods of Wisconsin. Click HERE to find your legislator

Watch for updates concerning Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin’s campaign to end bear hounding in the north woods of Wisconsin. 

Images of black bear with cubs by John E Marriott