Media Release: Federal Wildlife Officials Propose Lifting Endangered Species Act Protections For Gray Wolves in the Lower 48 States

The announcement was made on Wednesday by Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. The move would return management to the states and tribes, which would reinstate Wisconsin’s wolf hunt that began in 2012.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) plans to propose a rule to “delist” the gray wolf from the endangered species list in the Lower 48 states.

Wisconsin’s Record On Wolf Management

Wisconsin became the only state to allow hound hunters to use unleashed packs of dogs to hunt wolves. Wisconsin, quite literally, throws “dogs to wolves in two of the three wolf hunts in 2013 & 2014. Wisconsin hunters killed 528 wolves in the three seasons a hunt was held in the state before the animal was placed back on the endangered species list.

The Gray Wolf Monitoring Report done through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and can be found on their website estimates 905-944 wolves reside in Wisconsin’s northern & central forests.

Livestock depredations included 29 cattle killed and 1 injured, and 4 sheep killed. The number of farms affected was the same as the previous monitoring year. That number doesn’t include depredations of hunting dogs.

In wolf management units 1, 2, and 5, considered to be primary wolf range and containing 80% of the minimum winter wolf count, deer density estimates increased 19% compared to 2016.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) plans to propose a rule to “delist” the gray wolf from the endangered species list in the Lower 48 states. USF&WS is required to hold a public comment period on this ruling.

If delisting does occur in Wisconsin, my hope is that with the new WDNR Secretary in place, the required wolf management plan will include greater transparency allowing for public input in how the Gray wolf is managed.

There hasn’t been a wolf hunt since 2014. The Gray wolf is thriving on Wisconsin’s landscape, the wolf population is exhibiting signs of self-regulating, Gray wolves and White-tailed deer are benefiting each other once again, and livestock depredations aren’t a major threat.

Out of all the states that hunt wolves, only Wisconsin allows hound hunters to use unleashed packs of dogs to hunt wolves…

Wisconsin, quite literally, throws “dogs to the wolves. The barbaric act of Wolf-Hounding is legal in Wisconsin and is sanctioned when wolves are NOT listed on the Endangered Species List. In 2011 Wisconsin State Legislators backed by Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association rushed to create a law, Wisconsin Act 169, that mandated a wolf hunt because Gray wolves were about to be delisted. This law, Act 169 mandated a wolf hunt when gray wolves are not listed on the Endangered Species Act. Wisconsin law Act 169 orders the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to oversee a wolf hunt. In 2013 the brutal act of “wolf Hounding” began in Wisconsin. In 2013 & 2014 wolf hunters used dogs to track and trail wolves until a federal judge ordered them back under federal protection. Now it will start all over again if the senate’s version of H.R. 6784 calling for Gray wolf delisting in the lower 48 states and prevents any judicial review of the decision passes in the senate. Wisconsin’s Gray wolf could be delisted in 2019! Wisconsinites need to let Governor elect Tony Evers know about state law, Wisconsin Act 169, that sanctions the use of dogs to hunt wolves “Wolf Hounding” when wolves are not listed on the Endangered Species Act. You can reach Governor elect Tony Evers (here) at his transition website and he wants to hear from Wisconsinites!

About the photograph: This young Wisconsin Gray wolf lost his life to hound hunters in the last sanctioned wolf hunt to use dogs in 2014. On December 19, 2014 a Federal judge ordered gray wolves in the Great Lakes returned to the protection of the Endangered Species List. A little too late for this young Gray wolf being proudly displayed as a trophy for this Wisconsin hound hunter.

On Friday November 16, 2018 the House of Representatives, passed a bill, H.R.6784 – Manage our Wolves Act calling for Gray wolf delisting in the lower 48 states and prevents any judicial review of this bad legislative decision.  This bill now goes to the senate, but not likely to pass. However, the Senate could attach wolf delisting riders on budget bills. In Wisconsin we must become proactive before possible delisting, because; Wisconsin, quite literally, throws “dogs to the wolves. The barbaric act of Wolf-Hounding is legal in Wisconsin and is sanctioned when wolves are NOT listed on the Endangered Species List. We must change the law, and our new Governor could use his “line item veto power” to strike out parts of the Law, Act 169, that mandates wolf hunts.

In the photograph Wisconsin wolf hunters proudly display their trophy wolf taken by the use of dogs “Wolf Hounding” sanctioned by the Wisconsin State Legislation.

Under governor Scott Walker’s administration stripped the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources of sciences & practiced a hush-hush policy that denied public access. But on November 6th 2018 Wisconsinites elected a new Governor Tony Evers!Governor elect a Tony Evers will take office on January 7, 2019. Wolf advocates take action and let Governor elect Tony Evers know about state law, Wisconsin Act 169, that sanctions the use of dogs to hunt wolves “Wolf Hounding” when wolves are not listed on the Endangered Species Act. You can reach Governor elect Tony Evers (here) at his transition website and he wants to hear from Wisconsinites! Please share this blog about the barbaric act of “Wolf Hounding” with the Governor elect Tony Evers!

 “There has never been a more important time for the people of Wisconsin to show they are not going to give in to a small group of people that want to torture animals for fun under the guise of “sport.”  ~Rachel Tilseth

The following is a wolf hounding fact sheet:

Out of all the states that hunt wolves, only Wisconsin allows hound hunters to use unleashed packs of dogs to hunt wolves. Wisconsin, quite literally, throws “dogs to the wolves.”Hound hunters traditionally train their dogs to focus on specific prey by releasing their dogs to surround, attack and terrorize a prey animal (e.g. a bear cub or fox) for hours on end (up to 16 hours/day) enclosed in a small, open barrel or “roll cage.” At this point it remains disturbingly unclear as to how hound hunters will train their dogs to pursue wolves instead of other animals—will it be by capturing wolves and allowing their dogs to attack them in barrels and pens? How isn’t this worse than illegal dog fighting?

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, charged with overseeing the wolf hunt, has no rules in place that require hound handlers to report dogs injured or killed in the pursuit of wolves during a hunt. In fact, there is no monitoring or certification program whatsoever in place for the use of dogs in the wolf hunt; thus the state has little ability to hold hound hunters accountable for training or hunting violations or to prevent deadly and inhumane wolf-dog confrontations (e.g., hunters allowing dogs to overtake and kill rifle-shot wolves). These circumstances explain why Wisconsin stands alone: using dogs to hunt wolves is no better than state-sponsored dog fighting.

Two wolves were taken by the use of dogs on December 6, 2013.

Hound handlers are equipped with high tech radio telemetry devices that allow them to track GPS-collared hunting dogs from long distances. They are often not able to catch up to hounds that have a wolf at bay to prevent deadly fights between dogs and wolves. As proof of this, to date, Wisconsin has paid nearly $500,000 to “reimburse” hound-hunters for hunting dogs injured or killed by wolves. See link WDNR Dog depredations by wolves

Wisconsin, quite literally, throws “dogs to the wolves.”

According to DNR regulations, hound handlers are only allowed to use up to six dogs at a time to trail wolves. But handlers often replace tired dogs with fresh ones and younger dogs. It is common for a handler to be unable to retrieve the tired dogs, and end up with up well over 6 dogs chasing one wolf, potentially twice or even three times as many. There is no monitoring system in place to ensure that only 6 dogs pursue wolves.

At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst.  ~Aristotle

*Wolf hunters are not reimbursed when wolves kill dog/dogs while in pursuit of wolves, but are when in pursuit of bear.  

Join Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin’s campaign to end Wolf Hounding

 Contact us wolvesdouglasco@gmail.com

TAKE ACTION: contact Wisconsin Governor Elect Tony Evers (click here)  and make it clear you do not sanction Wolf Hounding in Wisconsin!

The Wisconsin legislature sanctioned “Wolf Hounding ” with 2011 Wisconsin Act 169 that allows the use of dogs to track and trail wolves. 2011 Wisconsin Act 169

Will the Government Ever Get it Right on Delisting the Gray Wolf in the Great Lakes Region?

These and other questions come to mind as the Federal Government Working On Removing Gray Wolf From Endangered Species List . Will Wisconsin be transparent in its management of the Gray wolf population, and once again allow for greater pubic input as it did prior to the 2012 USF&WS delisting decision.

In 2011 WISCONSIN ACT 169 legislation mandated a trophy hunt on the newly delisted Gray wolf. Wisconsin Act 169 allowed reckless management policies such as; Out of all the states that hunt wolves, only Wisconsin allows hound hunters to use unleashed packs of dogs to hunt wolves. Wisconsin, quite literally, throws “dogs to the wolves.” Wolf Hounding Fact Sheet

In 2013 & 2014 Wisconsin sanctioned the use of dogs to hunt wolves.

This reckless management of the Gray wolf was overturned as part of Humane Society of the United States lawsuit of USF&WS’s 2012 delisting. In December 2014 a federal judge put Gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes Region back on the Endangered Species List. USF&WS appealed the 2014 ruling, but the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., ruled Gray wolves in the Great Lakes region should remain on the endangered species list, July 2017.

Besides the horrific wolf management policies by the state of Wisconsin, problems exist within the way USF&WS determines criteria for wolf delisting in the Great Lakes Region in 2011. It’s seems USF&WS got its “hand slapped” by a judges ruling for trying to delist using the following:

“The proposal identifies the Western Great Lakes Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of wolves, which includes a core area of Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin, as well as parts of adjacent states that are within the range of wolves dispersing from the core recovery area.” USF&WS Press Release 2011

But then, on July 2017, the three-judge panel unanimously said the wolves should stay under federal protection. The judges wrote, “The Endangered Species Act’s text requires the Service, when reviewing and redetermining the status of a species, to look at the whole picture of the listed species, not just a segment of it.”

As the Associated Press reports the judges ruled that,

“The service had not adequately considered a number of factors in making its decision, including loss of the wolf’s historical range and how its removal from the endangered list would affect the predator’s recovery in other areas, such as New England, North Dakota and South Dakota.”

Just how reckless is Wisconsin in its management policies of the Gray wolf?

If the Gray wolf in Wisconsin gets delisted tomorrow; it’s a law that a wolf hunt must take place:

“If the wolf is not listed on the federal endangered list and is not listed on the state endangered list, the department shall allow the hunting and trapping of wolves and shall regulate such hunting and trapping as provided in this section and shall implement a wolf management plan. In regulating wolf hunting and trapping, the department may limit the number of wolf hunters and trappers and the number of wolves that may be taken by issuing wolf harvesting licenses.” 2012 Wisconsin Act 169

A brief history on Wisconsin’s reckless management of it’s wolf population, 2012 through 2014.

Wisconsin’s Wolf Advisory Committee is not far and balanced. In other words, there is no transparency in WI DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp’s Wolf management process (WDNR secretary at the time).

WDNR Wolf Advisory Committee met once a month during the legislatively mandated trophy hunt on Wisconsin’s Gray wolf. The WAC recommend how wolf management in Wisconsin should be done. Here is a list of Cathy Stepp’s (WDNR secretary at the time) hand Picked WAC, that she thinks better suited to, “…people who were willing to work with us in partnership…”:United States Fish & Wildlife Service(USFWS), United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services(USDA WS), Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission(GLIFWC), Wisconsin County Forest Association(WCFA), Wisconsin Conservation Congress(WCC), Safari Club International(SCI), Timber Wolf Alliance(TWA), Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association(WBHA), Wisconsin Bowhunters Association(WBA), Wisconsin Cattlemans Association(WCA), Wisconsin Trappers Association(WTA), Wisconsin Wildlife Federation(WWF) and 10 WDNR biologists. WODCW blog

Several DNR staff are on the recently created Wolf Advisory Committee, as are representatives of several pro-hunting groups. A smaller number of wolf hunting skeptics also remain on the committee, including a representative of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission.  WPR reporter Chuck Quirmbach June 2014 

At a WI DNR meeting secretary Cathy Stepp admitted, “When we’re charged to manage and to implement a hunt, coming in and telling us, ‘Don’t hunt wolves,’ is not a productive way to run a committee, frankly,” said Stepp. “That’s just the candid way to lay it out. We had to have people who were willing to work with us in partnership, and be willing to help us and advise us along the way in implementing state law.” Source WPR June 2014

I was was interviewed on June 2014 regarding DNR secretary kicking off wolf hunt opponents Rachel Tilseth of Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin was a volunteer DNR tracker of wolves for about a dozen winters, and attended a few meetings of what used to be called the Wisconsin Wolf Stakeholders Group. Tilseth testified about the wolf hunt proposal during Wednesday’s meeting. She later said she didn’t care for Stepp’s remarks.

“I was just appalled that somebody like Cathy Stepp, who’s in charge of this important issue, is saying something like that,” said Tilseth. “It sounds to me like it’s a committee that they want made up of wolf-killers.”

Recap of the last two years in the never-ending political rhetoric designed to stir public sentiment against an endangered species.

Wisconsin’s annual nine-day gun deer hunt sees increase in statewide buck harvest 2016. The largest change in buck harvest occurred in the Northern Forest Zone (30 percent increase from 2015) after two consecutive mild winters and limited antlerless tags. From WI DNR Press Release 

The increase in buck harvest is hopeful news, because fringe hunters, along with some politicians are claiming that wolves are killing all the deer. This news puts a damper on republican Senator Tom Tiffany’s efforts to delist the wolf.

“A Great Lakes Summit in September 2016, was organized by two Republican lawmakers from northern Wisconsin, Sen. Tom Tiffany and Rep. Adam Jarchow, who hope control of the wolf population returns to state governments.” MPR News

The 30 percent buck increase in the Northern Forest Zone (where the wolf lives) is good news as DNR’s own scientific data is proving wolves aren’t eating all the white-tailed deer in northern Wisconsin.

Yet, certain politicians in Wisconsin refuse to believe scientific fact.

As with any cause, a biased or misleading view can be used to promote, to publicize a particular political cause or point of view.  Here we have several anti-wolf politicians making claims to distort the public’ veiw of wolves; wolves are decimating the White-tailed deer herds, attacking livestock and killing hunting dogs.  Let’s set the record straight; wolves do hunt White-tailed deer, have killed some some livestock and did kill 37 bear hunting dogs.  But in reality; is there a big-bad-wolf here? Let’s get the facts before we sanction the killing of an endangered species.

Are wolves killing more livestock?

Let’s take some statistics from The Wisconsin Gray Wolf Monitoring Report for the period of 15 APRIL 2015 THROUGH 14 APRIL 2016 and read the graphic for yourself. There were 52 wolf depredations on livestock.

There were 52 wolf depredations from April 15, 2015 through April 15, 2016. To put it in perspective, that was 52 livestock deaths by wolves out of 3.50 million head of livestock in Wisconsin. Read for yourself:

“The total inventory of cattle and calves on January 1 rose 3 percent from 2014 to 2015, to 3.50 million head. The number of milk cows rose by 5,000 head to 1,275,000 head and the number of beef cows rose 25,000 head to 275,000 head. On the U.S. level, slaughter prices rose to $153.00 per cwt. for cattle and $255.00 per cwt. for calves. As a result, Wisconsin’s value of production rose 33 percent to $1.92 billion.”  Source: USDA Wisconsin statistics

Wisconsin’s wild wolf is the most talked about animal of late.  Politicians in Wisconsin have villianized the wolf, and are pushing to delist him.  It’s no secret that one cannot trust politicians. Politicians are in competition between competing interest groups or individuals for power and leadership; they’ve created propaganda to make the wolf look bad.

Politicians have removed science from wolf management and replaced it with political rhetoric. They put together a Wisconsin Wolf Advisory Committee with stakeholders primarily from the hunting community.

The WAC is heavily slanted towards recreational trophy hunting of wolves with 9 citizen pro wolf hunting organizations to 1 pro wolf citizen organization. Further, according to Cathy Stepp this committee is more productive than opponents of the wolf hunt. There is evidence to the contrary that shows the WAC productiveness is comparable to reality TV’s Housewives of NYC.  From WODCW’s Blog

In conclusion, if USF&WS, the government, gets it right this time in delisting the Gray wolf in the Great Lakes Region Wisconsin citizens must push for greater transparency in wolf management. Because trophy hunts are about power not conservation. We owe the Gray wolf, that was exterminated from our forest, an ethical & compassionate conservation management plan, because we have done enough harm to this iconic predator.

Ill conceived Assembly Bill 712 Takes a Nose-Dive in Public Hearing

On Wednesday January 10th the Committee on Natural Resources & Sporting Heritage held a Public Hearing on Assembly Bill 712.

Assembly Bill 712 is legislation not guided by or based on good sense. This bill ties the hands of local law enforcement from assisting federal authorities in any investigation into the illegal killing of Wisconsin’s wild wolf. Considering 20% of wolf mortalities were illegal killings in 2016 this bill is rather ill conceived. Wolves are a federally protected endangered species.

Jodi Sinykin Habush, an attorney spoke along with her son, Zack Sinykin in opposition to AB 712.

“It’s not a clear issue and it’s difficult to resolve as it makes sense,” said Jodi Habush Sinykin, environmental attorney for Midwest Environmental Advocates. “There are millions of dollars of federal funds at stake as well if Wisconsin were to pursue this task.”

https://vimeo.com/250621461

Rep. Nick Milroy (D-South Range) made note at the absence of the bill’s author.

Milroy said he was disgusted that Rep. Adam Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake) could not be present for the public hearing on Assembly Bill 712.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been to a committee hearing in my life where the lead author of the bill has not shown up for the public hearing,” said Milroy. “There’s some speculation that the whole reason for this bill is because the author of the bill is running for another office right now and the election is next week.”

The vote on this bill is not going to happen until after the election, of which has no concern for this committee at this time,” kleefisch said. Kleefisch is chairman of the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources and Sporting Heritage.

Many concerned citizens came out at Wednesday’s Public Hearing in opposition to AB 712. Wisconsin

State HSUS Representaive Melissa Tedrowe spoke in opposition against any trophy hunting of wolves, further stating the importance of wolves on the landscape. Tedrowe made it clear that Humane Society of the United States is an animal protection agency, and is opposed to the sport hunting of wolves. “Seventeen wolf packs disappeared in three years of wolf hunting,” said Tedrowe. Sport hunting of wolves indiscriminately messes with wolf packs and increases conflict. “Wolves are trophies when they are hunted and nobody eats them,” said Tedrowe.

Rep. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, questioned the companion Senate bill author Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, whether the legislation would lead to illegal killings.

“Aren’t you giving free license to people, at least as far as the state’s concerned, to violate both state and federal law?”

“Tiffany told the committee it’s the federal government’s responsibility to manage wolf populations.”

“They should hire the staff necessary to review these things if they believe it’s that important,” said Tiffany.

“The wolf plays an important role in the culture of all of Wisconsin Indian tribes,” he said. “Lack of wolf protection, as this bill would cause, would probably result in tribes losing packs on reservation lands and portions of the ceded territories.” Said Adrian Wydeven, of Timber Wolf Alliance.

What’s next for this ill conceived bill?

The companion bill of AB 712 is scheduled for a Senate Public Hearing Committee on Sporting Heritage, Mining and Forestry on Tuesday, January 16, 2018 10:00 AM.

Senate Bill 602 Relating to: enforcement of federal and state laws relating to the management of the wolf population and to the killing of wolves and expenditure of funds for wolf management purposes. By Senators Tiffany, Vukmir and Craig; cosponsored by Representatives Jarchow, Felzkowski, Quinn, Kremer, E. Brooks, Skowronski, Krug, Kleefisch, Swearingen, Stafsholt, Kulp, Brandtjen, Tauchen, Ripp, Edming, Vorpagel, Rohrkaste and Horlacher.

Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin remains in opposition of AB 712. Read more Please take action to protect Wisconsin’s wild wolf from legislation not guided by or based on good sense…

A plea for justice: In the video what you are seeing is a clear act of animal cruelty in progress…

…Yet the hunter in the video is never prosecuted. Warning the following video contains violence against a helpless wild sentient-being.

In the video what you are seeing is a clear act of animal cruelty in progress. Yet the hunter in the video is never prosecuted.

Will there ever be justice for the coyote being tortured by a hunter’s dogs in the video? I’ve been asking that question for several years now. When I found the horrific video in 2014 that a hunter posted to a hound hunting page I immediately downloaded it. I was hoping to seek justice for the coyote. I sent the video over to a group I was working with at the time in 2014, and they told me they would help me investigate the hounder in the video. I asked them if they found anything out about the hounder in the video, and they never got back to me. After over six months or so of no response from this group, I turned the video and the name of the hunter, Francis Metz, over to a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources warden in June of 2015.

Screenshot of the first email sent to a WDNR conservation warden in June 2015 almost a year after I sought help from another group I was working with at the time. They never got back to me.

The following screenshot is the response from Warden Kamke.

I received a response From the warden referring the case to another warden.

The warden, Nick Miofsky, did an investigation into the video and the hunter Francis Metz. Then, the warden turned the video and the evidence they collected over to the Florence County District Attorney on animal cruelty charges. Finally, I had hope that there would finally be justice for the coyote. How Ironic that in the end the district attorney of Florence county deemed the video to be to old to prosecute.

I’ve had this video for four years now, and there’s been no justice for this coyote. Yet, so many people want to keep the horrible truth from being seen. Even George Myer thinks the actions seen in this video are wrong and illegal. But he too did nothing about the abuse committed to the Coyote by the hunter.

Next, on March 15, 2016 Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin received a message in the inbox from George Meyer Executive Director at Wisconsin Wildlife Federation inquiring about the video on YouTube. The following is the message from George Meyer:

I viewed the Utube film of the dogs attacking the coyotes. While I support coyote hunting, the actions shown on the video are wrong and illegal. Please provide information on whether it took place in Wisconsin and who was involved. If done in Wisconsin I will personally look into it and seek legal redress.

The following is my response to Mr. Meyer’s message:

Thank you for being appalled by the actions in this video as I was. I found the video on a hound hunting Facebook posted by Francis Metz. I turned this over to a warden and it was investigated. Then turned over to the DA in Florence County for animal cruelty. But the DA did not pursue it. It was disappointing. But I haven’t given up and was getting ready to do a FOIA to get all the details. This is my email Address wolvesdouglasco@gmail.com Email me and I will forward you the emails. I look forward to receiving your email, Best, Rachel Tilseth

The following is Mr. Meyers response:

Will contact you tomorrow.

I never received an email back from George Meyer. In fact I never heard from him again. Disappointing to say the least.

That’s not the end of the story. In fact it’s just the beginning. I had the video on Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin’s You Tube Channel for a number of years, that is until March 15, 2017. It was taken down by YouTube deeming that it violates community standards. And a strike was assigned against my account.

My question is why was the video deemed, “violates YouTube’s community standards” then removed on March 15, 2017? Apparently all a person has to do to get a video removed is complain by clicking on the Flag Icon appearing on the far right under the video.

How to Remove Videos From YouTube That Someone Else Uploaded (source)

Wave the Flag

Under each video on YouTube is a toolbar with buttons that perform different actions, with a Flag icon appearing on the far right. This is the flagging tool which allows you to report a video to YouTube staff for review. Click the button and provide details as to why the video should be removed. If the video violates YouTube’s Community Guidelines it will be removed; but if there is no violation, the video will not be removed no matter how often it is flagged.

The video was removed and a strike was placed against Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin’s YouTube channel. Dare I even suggest a campaign by coyote hunters was responsible for removing the video?

Someone, or several “someone’s” wanted this video off my You Tube channel. Perhaps the proof is in the video, that clearly shows the coyote is being tortured by the hunter’s dogs. Why are they trying to cover up this animal cruelty? I want justice for the coyote in the video. The coyote hunter in the video was never prosecuted. Let’s not let the barbarous act committed against the coyote go unchallenged!

Please help me find justice for the the coyote…

The coyote was once a living breathing member of a community, and living in the wild in northern Wisconsin. Please take action copy and paste the link of this blog and send it to your Wisconsin State legislators, the head of the Wisconsin DNR executive team.

Say shame on this hunter who pushed his dogs to attack a coyote in the video! We want justice for the coyote!

Featured image by Ron Niebrugge

And thank you for sharing this blog!

Rachel Tilseth

The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated. ~Mahatma Gandhi

WODCW Opinion Editorial: Criminally harassing protected gray wolves is a violation of the Endangered Species Act

By Rachel Tilseth 

In 2016 41 dogs were killed in the pursuit of bear in northern Wisconsin.  Are any wolves being injured or killed in the decades-old conflict between bear hunters and wolves?  In a call to the USFWS services Great Lakes Office I asked them that question. USFWS didn’t have an answer for me.  My concern is that when USFWS investigates a wolf depredation on a hunting dog; do they investigate if any wolves were injured or killed as a result of the encounter?  Wolves are an endangered species protected under the Endangered Species Act.  The word “protected” was the sticking point for me.  Criminally harassing protected gray wolves is a violation of the ESA. 

There is hope for a solution to the deacades-old conflict between bear hunters and wolves, and it’s a legal one.  

On August 2nd a letter was sent to USFWS: “This is a formal request for an investigation of alleged criminal violations relating to the illegal take of the federally protected gray wolf (Canis lupus) in Wisconsin. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (“PEER”) has learned of ongoing illegal harassment of the gray wolf by hound hunters in Wisconsin.” Letter from PEER 

The Criminal Complaint Cites State Payments for Hunting Dogs Killed in Wolf Clashes was filed on August 2, 2017 by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER)
The Criminal Complaint from PEER

“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.”

The last sentence in the above paragraph makes it perfectly clear that the evidence is,  “…state payments to hunters to compensate for hunting dogs killed or injured in clashes with wolves as evidence of violations.”

Wolves a protected species under the federal ESA are being harassed. 

…“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.” Said,  Staff attorney Adam Carlesco (PEER)

In a previous Blog I asked this question; Considering the decades of conflict between bear hunters and wolves; is this becoming harassment of an endangered species?  Isn’t this illegal? 

The conflict between bear hunters and wolves has been occurring for decades.  In a Wisconsin Public Television special about Wisconsin wolves;  the conflict between bear hunters and wolves was addressed back in October 2010. Watch the the following video. 

The conflict between bear hunters and wolves is a reality, and it continues to play out every summer in Wisconsin’s north woods. 

Bear hunter holds up a dog killed by wolves

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. WODCW’s Blog

We have no way of knowing if wolves are being killed during these encounters occurring every summer; between dogs that are in pursuit of bear, and wolves that are defending their pups. In the PEER criminal complaint, criminal take can occur when a hunter’s activities, “…as appears to be the case here.” The “hunter’s activities” of running dogs in pursuit of bear through wolf rendezvous sites. Read the definition of criminal take from the press release: 

“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.”  PEER criminal complaint

Bear hunter’s activities, as in use of dogs in the pursuit of bear can be considered criminal “take” in this criminal complaint.  PEER in a Letter to the USFWS law enforcement requested a full investigation:

William C. Woody
Chief, Office of Law Enforcement
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
5600 American Boulevard, West, Suite 990 Bloomington, MN 55437-1458
RE: Request for Criminal Investigation – Violation of the Endangered Species Act
Dear Chief Woody:
This is a formal request for an investigation of alleged criminal violations relating to the illegal take of the federally protected gray wolf (Canis lupus) in Wisconsin. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (“PEER”) has learned of ongoing illegal harassment of the gray wolf by hound hunters in Wisconsin. These activities have led to adverse effects on breeding patterns and the habitat of the gray wolf. PEER believes these activities constitute prima facie evidence of ongoing criminal misconduct.”  Letter

A response from the president of the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association Star Tribune article,  “Wisconsin tradition – hunting bears with dogs – comes under attack by wolf advocates” Wolf advocates attack Wis. reimbursements.  By Josephine Marcotty Star Tribune AUGUST 11, 2017, stated, “…also there are many more wolves, period.  Also, the wolves have now devestated the deer population in northern Wisconsin, they have become more aggressive in their search for food, and thus more likely to target our dogs.”   Carl Schoettel, president of Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, full response to questions from the Star Tribune

Wolves are responsible for taking 6% of White-tailed deer population in wolf range in 2014

A “Study sheds light on top causes of deer mortality” conducted in 2014 found that; “…In fact, human hunting was responsible for about twice as much deer mortality in northern Wisconsin than the other four causes combined.  The rates of mortality were human hunting 43%, starvation 9%, coyote 7%, wolf 6% and roadkill 6%.”  Source

Who’s responsible for the record number of dogs killed by wolves in 2016?  We know wolves are killing hunting dogs that run through rendezvous sites where wolf pups are kept.  It’s absurd to lay blame exclusively upon an endangered species, wolves in this case. Laying blame on a wild animal that is defending offspring from the activity of human hunters is irresponsible.  

For over a year now, I’ve been saying (WODCW Blog) it’s the “loosening” of regulations as the probable cause for the high number of hunting dogs deaths. In PEER’s letter to USFWS requesting a full investigation what the cause is: 

“Furthermore, in 2015, the state eliminated the “Class B” bear hound training licenses. While a Class A license or “kill tag” is still required for any hunter wishing to kill a black bear, the Class B licensing requirements have been rescinded. See Wis. Stat. 29.184(3)(a) (stating that no license is required to, among other things, train a dog to track bear or assist a holder of a Class A bear license). Class B requirements mandated that a prospective hunter seeking to train hounds obtain a permit from the state to do so. A Class B permit allowed a hunter to bait bears, train dogs to track bears, act as a back-up shooter, or assist a hunter pursuing a bear. Now both residents and non-residents may run hound dogs through Wisconsin’s wilderness for training purposes unchecked and without licensed oversight from the state.” PEER Letter

Harassment or pursuit of a wolf while hound hunting is prohibited by the ESA. 

More from PEER criminal complaint:

“Harassment or pursuit of a wolf while hound hunting is a prohibited act as evidenced by the plain language of the ESA’s “take” definition, which includes harassment and pursuit. However, over the course of Wisconsin’s 2016 hunting season, forty-eight hounds were killed by wolves, twenty-one of which occurred on public lands, and more than fifteen of those acts occurred after hunters were informed of the fact that they were hunting in “wolf caution areas.”18 The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources creates specific “wolf caution areas” that warn hunters of previous instances of wolf attacks on hound dogs in a hunting or training situation. To aid hunters, the DNR website features an interactive “Gray Wolf Depredation Mapping Application” which “shows all verified wolf depredations and threats on livestock, hunting dogs and pets as well as verified human health and safety conflicts.”19 Lastly, DNR has an e-mail and text alert system to inform residents about wolf activity in their area.20”  PEER criminal complaint letter to USFWS

Such action is in obvious conflict with Congress’ intent to protect a fragile species and constitutes a criminal violation of the ESA.

Additionally, because hound training season in Wisconsin takes place when wolves are raising their pups, the fact that hounds are running through clearly identified wolf territory unchecked means that such actions directly impair the wolves’ ability to breed, feed, and find shelter; activity specifically protected by the plain language of the ESA’s implementing regulations. 50 C.F.R. 17.3. Such action is in obvious conflict with Congress’ intent to protect a fragile species and constitutes a criminal violation of the ESA.  PEER criminal complaint letter to USFWS

In a conversation with USFWS Great Lakes Region office over a month or so ago, I asked them if they would investigate bear hunters using dogs in pursuit of bear, because this activity or sport was getting out of hand; not only were a record number of hunting dogs being lost, but I began to think wolves were being harassed by this activity.  Hunters were repeatedly going into Wisconsin DNR Wolf caution areas. “Wolf caution areas are created 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.”  From the WDNR wolf caution website

USFWS never got back to me, and my next step was to call PEER, because I had heard good things about their work.  In the end, PEER took my concerns seriously, the result is a criminal complaint letter requesting USFWS law enforcement to investigate.  There is hope and it’s a legal one. We are now awaiting a response from USFWS. 

In 2017 minimum wolf population estimates was 925. 

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Featured photograph by Wisconsin DNR 

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