In Wisconsin every summer hunters running dogs on Black Bear come into conflict with Gray wolves.

Gray wolves keep their three month old pups at rendezvous sites while they go hunting. Conflicts arise when bear hunters run their dogs through rendezvous sites. Gray wolves are forced to defend vulnerable pups from free ranging packs of hunting dogs.

Bear Hunters and Wolves

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 were not a threat to bear hunters because they were all but wiped out of Wisconsin by the 1960s.  It all changed for bear hunters when Wisconsin Wolf recovery began in the late 1970s.

This conflict between bear hunters and wolves isn’t new. Watch the following Wisconsin Public Television piece from 2010.

A Brief History on Wisconsin’s Gray Wolf

In 1967 and 1974 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated the eastern timber wolf a federally endangered species. In 1975, wolves were listed as a state endangered species as they began to recolonize along the Minnesota border. Wolves crossed over into Wisconsin from Minnesota and established territories on their own. Today, Wisconsin’s Gray wolf is listed on the Endangered Species List. Final Rule to Delist – – Due to a Federal court decision, wolves in the western Great Lakes area (including Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin) were relisted under the Endangered Species Act, effective December 19, 2014.

Wisconsin’s Gray Wolf Current Population

The 2017-18 overwinter minimum wolf count is 905-944, a 2.2% decrease from the 2016-17 minimum count of 925-956. The 2018-19 overwinter minimum wolf count is 914-978, a 1% increase from the 2017-18 minimum count of 905-944. Wisconsin’s Gray wolf appears to be self regulating.

Carrying capacity is an ecological term for the number of a given species that an ecosystem can sustainably support. Socialcarrying capacity, however, refers to the number of a species that people feel is appropriate.

Wisconsin Black Bear Hunters use dogs to track and trail bears. Conflicts arise when a hunter’s dogs run through Gray Wolf’s rendezvous sites where pups are kept. Rendezvous sites are:

Rendezvous Site Identification and Protection source WDNR Endangered Resources

Active Season for Rendezvous Sites: mid-May – mid-October

Habitat: Rendezvous sites are generally open areas of grass or sedge adjacent to wetlands. The sites are characterized by extensive matted vegetation, numerous trails, and beds usually at the forest edge. Rendezvous sites are often adjacent to bogs or occur in semi-open stands of mixed conifer-hardwoods adjacent to swamps. Sometimes abandoned beaver ponds are used as rendezvous sites.

Description: Rendezvous sites are the home sites or activity sites used by wolves after the denning period, and prior to the nomadic hunting period of fall and winter. Pups are brought to the rendezvous sites from dens when they are weaned, and remain at rendezvous sites until the pups are old enough to join the pack on their hunting circuits. Rendezvous site may be associated with food sources such as ungulate kills or berry patches. Generally a series of rendezvous sites are used by a specific pack. Rendezvous sites are mostly used from mid-June to late-September, but use may start as early as mid-May and may continue to early or mid-October. Some intermittent use of rendezvous sites may continue into the fall. It appears that the average number of rendezvous sites used by wolf packs is 4-6.

Although den and rendezvous sites each serve separate functions for wolves, they are sometimes used interchangeably. Excavations sometimes occur at rendezvous sites and these may be used as den sites in the future. Sometimes rendezvous sites may represent old den site areas. Therefore, a site used as a rendezvous site one year, could be used as a den site the next year or vice versa. Due to the transient use of rendezvous sites, special protections are not necessary. If recent excavations are observed indicating possible use as a den site, protocols in place for den site protection should be followed. Source

“Most Wisconsin citizens want at least some wolf presence in the state, but those who feel strongly, at either end of the spectrum, drive the argument.” Lisa Naughton, UW-Madison geography professor.

Wisconsin DNR puts out the following when there is a wolf depredation on hunting dogs:

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.

When a wolf depredation takes place on a Bear hunter’s dog he is compensated $2,500.00 per dog. Wisconsin’s wolf depredation program began in 1982, and soon afterwards bear hunters running dogs in pursuit of bear began receiving payouts. The payouts for wolf depredations were paid in the effort to help compensate hunters, livestock owners and residents living in wolf recovery areas.

We must mitigate the decades old conflict between bear hunters and wolves…

In 2015 Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association (WBA) worked at loosening regulations for bear hunters using dogs in pursuit of 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 license. Because of that change it’s impossible to know; just how many dogs in pursuit of bear are running through the woods. It’s all carefully crafted propaganda to make the wolf look bad. 

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

It’s time we begin to address the conflict, especially with the possible delisting threats on the horizon. This would mean Wolf management would fall into state hands.

Contact your Wisconsin State Representative. Wisconsin’s Gray wolf needs your help.

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

Three more hunting dogs killed in the pursuit of bear…

Hunters began running dogs in pursuit of bear for training on July first. Wildlife Services confirmed that the following dogs were klled in pursuit of bear took place over the weekend: A Plott Hound on 07/29/17 in the Town of Gordon, Douglas County.  A Walker Hound on 07/30/17 in the Town of Drummond, Bayfield County.  A Walker Hound on 07/30/17 in the Town of Round Lake, Sawyer County. Six dogs have been killed in pursuit of bear since the opening of July first training season.  DNR Wolf caution areas states: Hunters are reminded to use the caution-area maps on the DNR website (dnr.wi.gov, keyword “wolf depredation”) to help reduce conflicts.

Hunters using dogs in pursuit of bear in the norths woods of Wisconsin run their hounds right through wolf rendezvous sites (where wolf pups are kept). Wolf pups are only about three months old when hunters begin running their dogs on bear. They run hounds through known wolf caution areas; even though WDNR sends out alerts to avoid those areas. In 1982 Wisconsin started a wolf depredation program. Wolf depredation program pays $2,500.00 per hunting dog. In 2016 thirty-seven bear hunting dogs were killed in the pursuit of bear. Several bear hunters received multiple wolf depredation program payments, and even ones with criminal charges; such as poaching a black bear. More information on this on WODCW’s Blog

The needless deaths of three more hunting dogs comes on the heals of good news for wolves in the Great Lakes Region.

Wolves in the Great Lakes region and Wyoming won another reprieve Tuesday when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said the animals must remain under federal Endangered Species Act protection.

The appellate court backed a district court decision that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service still hasn’t shown that it properly followed federal laws when it declared wolves partially “recovered” across just a portion of the animal’s historical range. To read more about this appeals court decision click HERE

First confirmed hound dog killed in Wisconsin black bear training & hunting season 

Hunters began running dogs in pursuit of bear for training on July first. On Saturday July 15, 2017 Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) confirmed one bear hunting dog killed, and one injured (Plott, male, 5 years; Plott, female, 4 years). WDNR has put out a wolf caution alert in Langlade county Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources creates “wolf caution areas” to warn hunters of a wolf attack on hunting dogs. The purpose of these caution areas is to let hunters know that a specific pack has attacked a dog or group of dogs. It is the department’s experience that once a pack has attacked a dog in a hunting or training situation, there is a high probability another attack will occur again during the same year or within the following year. These attacks will generally be on trailing hounds used to hunt bear, bobcat and coyote, but such attacks rarely occur on dogs in bird-hunting situations. Caution areas are not intended to close areas to hunting or training, but rather to advise hunters to exercise greater caution when hunting within these areas. Greater caution can include, staying closer to dogs, avoid releasing at bait sites recently visited by wolves and avoid releasing dogs at or near the site of an attack.

Hunters using dogs in pursuit of bear in the norths woods of Wisconsin run their hounds right through wolf rendezvous sites (where wolf pups are kept). Wolf pups are only about three months old when hunters begin running their dogs on bear. They run hounds through known wolf caution areas; even though WDNR sends out alerts to avoid those areas. In 1982 Wisconsin started a wolf depredation program. Wolf depredation program pays $2,500.00 per hunting dog. In 2016 thirty-seven bear hunting dogs were killed in the pursuit of bear. Several bear hunters received multiple wolf depredation program payments, and even ones with criminal charges; such as poaching a black bear. Harassment of an endangered species began on July first.

On December 19, 2014 a federal judge returned wolves back on to the Endangered Species Act: U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell in Washington, D.C., ruled that the removal was “arbitrary and capricious” and violated the federal Endangered Species Act.

In her ruling, Howell wrote: “Wolves are the subject of heated disputes, with those on every side of the issue offering heartfelt arguments as to how best to manage this unique species. The last decade of litigation is a testament to those passions.”

Howell said that while the Fish and Wildlife Service and others may have “practical policy reasons” for removing protections for wolves, federal regulations protecting endangered species trump those concerns.

“At times, a court must lean forward from the bench to let an agency know, in no uncertain terms, that enough is enough,” Howell wrote in the decision. “This case is one of those times.”

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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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Who’s really to blame for the conflict between bear hunters and wolves in Wisconsin’s north woods? 

Why the name “Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin?”During Wisconsin’s wolf recovery years I helped monitor wolves as a volunteer winter wolf carnivore tracker in Douglas County Wisconsin. 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. 

On July first, the unregulated training of dogs running on bear begins. It’s a battle between bear dogs and wolves in the north woods of Wisconsin. 

But politicians spin the bloody-dog-on-wolf-fights as a wolf problem. 

Common sense dictates otherwise; bear hunters backed by political & special interests are the main cause. For decades I’ve witnessed how bear hunters, running dogs, take more and more advantage; it’s time to take a thorough accounting of this cruel sport and demand accountability. Who’s really to blame for the conflict between bear hunters and wolves? 

Help Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin legislatively remove this problem before more bear hunting dogs lose their lives. 

wolvesdouglasco@gmail.com 

Photo by John E Marriott 

Graphic by WODCW 

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One Minnesota bear hunting party, five hounds, at a reimbursement cost of $12,500.00

That’s just a tiny fraction of the cost Wisconsin pays for the sport of running dogs on bear.

Let’s not forget the costs for wildlife; the bear cubs separated from their mothers, foraging black bears are kept on the move, and how about the White-tailed deer forced to protect her fawn from packs of free roaming hunting dogs in pursuit of bear.

During the 2016 Wisconsin bear hunting season 37 hunting dogs were lost in the pursuit of bear. A few Wisconsin legislators claim these deaths were due to the high wolf population of 866 in 2016, but there’s a whole lot more to this story than meets the eye. Adrian Wydeven, former Wisconsin DNR Head Wolf biologist, wrote in a opinion editorial, “Numbers don’t add up in wolf-hound debate” written on November 12, 2016 and suggested that: 

“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).” Source

What could be causing the high deaths of hunting hounds? 

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’s Blog

Dogs may be trained statewide by pursuing bear from July 1 through Aug. 31. 

Lisa Makarrall, Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin researcher, obtained the 2016 Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Wolf Depredations Payments list. 

The list of wolf depredation payments for 2016, paid out to bear hunters with the same last name, and from Minnesota, read like the following:

On August 12, 2016 $2,500.00 was paid out to a Leon Gall from Pierz, Minnesota for one hound killed by wolves in Bayfield county. (Township 46)

On August 14, 2016, $5,000.00 was paid out to a Marne Gall from Hillmen, Minnesota for two hounds killed by wolves in Bayfield county.  (Township 45)

On August 14, 2016 $2,500.00 was paid out to a Leon Gall from Pierz, Minnestos for one hound killed by wolves in Bayfield county. (Township 46)

On August 21, 2016 $2,500.00 was paid out to a Leon Gall from Pierz, Minnestos for one hound killed by wolves in Bayfield county.  (Township 45)

Are Marne Gall & Leon Gall related?  When you google a Marne Gall she comes up as from a Pierz, Minnesota.  

When the sport of pursing bear with dogs began in 1963 wolves were all but eradicated in the state of Wisconsin. 

How many more lives will be lost in pursuit of bear before Wisconsin residents say enough is enough. 

This conflict between bear hunters and wolves continues in the north woods of Wisconsin, and now has become one of the reasons Wisconsin legislators want to delist wolves. 

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. 

The 2016 wolf depredations payments list speaks volumes about the growing conflict between bear hunters using dogs to pursue bear. Every year the WDNR reminds the public:

Dog owners are reminded to exercise caution in wolf occupied areas, especially those using their dogs to hunt. Conflicts between hunting dogs and wolves are most common during the bear training and hunting season. WDNR

More to come…

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