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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Opinion Editorial: Wisconsin is the only state in the nation that compensates hunters when wolves kill their animals…

A hunter gets up to $2,500 per dog — even when a hunter violates state rules or releases hounds in areas the state Department of Natural Resources has mapped as dangerous because of wolf activity...According to an Opinion Editorial in the Wisconsin State Journal Read on:

Stop payouts to bear hunters for dead dogs

Wisconsin State Journal editorial

Here’s an easy assignment for state lawmakers who oppose wasteful spending and who favor personal responsibility: Stop paying tens of thousands of dollars a year to irresponsible bear hunters whose hounds are killed by wolves.
Wisconsin is the only state in the nation that compensates hunters when wolves kill their animals. A hunter gets up to $2,500 per dog — even when a hunter violates state rules or releases hounds in areas the state Department of Natural Resources has mapped as dangerous because of wolf activity.
So far this year, a record 28 hunting dogs have been killed by wolves, the State Journal just reported. That could cost the public some $70,000 in unjustified payments. And bear season is just beginning.
Most of the dogs that have been killed were being trained for hunting on public land. Owners release their dogs to track and chase bears up trees, where the bears can be easily shot.
That’s not much of a challenge, which is why most hunters don’t use dogs to tree bears. Bear hunting with dogs is expensive and cruel to the animals that are hurt.
Wisconsin has more than doubled the number of bear hunting licenses it issues over the last decade. But only 10 percent to 15 percent of the bears taken from the woods were killed by hunters using dogs to tree them, according to the DNR.
That begs the question: Why does Wisconsin even allow bear hounding. Many states don’t.

State wildlife experts aren’t sure why more dogs are being killed this year. Wisconsin’s wolf population has grown, but not significantly in the areas where the dogs are being attacked.
Wisconsin has relaxed its hunting regulations. A license is no longer needed to train dogs in the summer, which is when wolves are raising their pups. That may cause wolf packs to be more aggressive about protecting their territory and young when they spot a hunting dog nearby.
Another factor is Wisconsin’s liberal law on baiting bears. While some states limit baiting to 30 days a year, Wisconsin permits the practice for about 145 days.
Besides killing hunting dogs, some wolves have attacked livestock. In total, about 58 domesticated animals (including the dogs) have been killed or injured by wolves this year, mostly in northern Wisconsin.
The state compensates farmers for lost livestock at market value. That seems fair, since farmers aren’t creating the conflict, and the cost is less than for dogs. The DNR, for example, reimbursed a farmer $800 for a calf last year.
Despite some difficulties, the return of the wolf to Wisconsin after near-extinction is welcome. The DNR counted nearly 900 wolves last winter. The wolves help control deer and other animals that damage crops, and they restore ecological balance to our forests.
The state shouldn’t pay hunters who lose hounds to wolves after disregarding rules and the DNR’s advice. The Legislature should stop the offensive payouts to a minority of bear hunters who don’t deserve compensation for risky behavior.

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Featured image John E Marriott Photography
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Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin is working to legislatively ban bear hounding in Wisconsin for more information and how you can help click HERE 

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

Handlers that lose dogs to wolves defending their pups can be reimbursed up to $2,500.00 per dead dog (the state’s wolf depredation program began in 1985). It’s a win-win situation for hound hunters that send their dogs in pursuit of bear during training and hunting. In 2016 thirty-seven bear hunting dogs were killed in the pursuit of black bear. 

It’s a mystery as to just how many dogs in pursuit of bear are running through the woods during training & hunting. Why is this a mystery? Because a change in regulations took place that removed the Class B bear training & hunting licence. Because of that change it’s impossible to know; just how many dogs in pursuit of bear are running through the woods. WODCW Blog

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

  

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

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

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

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

  

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


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

Adult wolves are very defensive of pups and end up killing dogs that come into contact with pups near rendezvous sites. Dogs run in large free roaming packs up to 6 at a time in pursuit of bear.  

During training on bear these hunting dogs wear collars equipped  with radio telemetry devices. The dog’s handlers are often miles away from the scene in bear trucks monitoring the hounds with radio telemetry or even satellite GPS training and tracking systems. GPS training and tracking systems may have a range of up to ten miles. 

  

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

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

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

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

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

In the 1960s Wisconsin started allowing the use of dogs in the pursuit of bear. At that time there were maybe a handfull of wolves in Wisconsin if any.  Wolves have resided in Wisconsin for centuries prior to Europian settlement. Europian settlers arived with livestock in tow, & along with the old story book myths of the the big bad wolf. A few centuries later, by the 1960s, wolves were extirpated from the Wisconsin landscape. Wolves were not a threat to bear hunters because they were all but wiped out of Wisconsin by the 1960s. 

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

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

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

   

‘No Grounds For Hounds’ design by Ned Gannon

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

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

“When wolves attack dogs in hunting or training situations on public land, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will create wolf caution areas to warn hunters that a specific pack has attacked a dog or group of dogs. Bear hunters are urged to exercise greater caution if they plan to train hounds or hunt bear with hounds near any caution area, especially if near an actual kill site. Table 1 contains a summary of the 2016 dog depredations by wolves.”

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

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

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

I started working on the Wisconsin wolf recovery program as a volunteer Winter Wolf Tracker in the year 2000.  I lost track of how many “no-wolf” bumper stickers I encountered in a day of tracking in the the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. This conflict between bear Hunters and wolves is decades old.

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

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

Take action for Wisconsin’s wildlife…

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

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

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

Any suspected violation of poaching call the tip line Violation Report 

Call or text 1-800-847-9367

Another issue to address through WI DNR is the controversial practice of bear baiting. Tons of sweet treats are fed to Wisconsin’s 28,000 black bears. Refer any and all suggestions on this practice to your legislators Click Here to find you legislator
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*please note; Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin is not affiliated or aligned with any other Wisconsin wolf & wildlife organizations. WODCW is an independent news source, action alerts, education, awareness & advocacy that practices compassionate conservation ethics.  WODCW’s main focus is on Wisconsin’s wild wolf, but is active throughout the Great Lakes Region, the USA and international.