Tag Archives: hunting

Targeting Wildlife Predators with Poison to Improve Hunting Opportunities is not only Unethical, it is Illegal

The investigation into the poisonings began in December 2018 after animals were found with no clear cause of death, said Lt. Bryan Harrenstein, warden supervisor in the northern area for the DNR. Since the investigation was announced in early 2019, two hunting beagles have been killed by poison in Forest County, according to a news release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The dogs became very ill after ingesting the poison and died shortly after, according to investigators. WPR reporter Megan Hart

USFWS reward is $1,000.00 for information that leads to the arrest of someone who is poisoning pet & Wildlife in northern Wisconsin. As of January 2021 three more pet dogs have died. DNR tip line 1-800-TIP-LINE

Over the last year several poison baits have killed domestic dogs and wild animals. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) & Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) Conservation Wardens are on the case investigating who’s targeting wildlife predators with poison baits. Several domestic dogs and wild animals have died as a result of eating these poison baits. This is not the first time poison baits have been used to kill wild animals and probably won’t be that last. In 2014 a father & son plead guilty to poisoning over 70 wild animals. In 2014 as a results of federal and state investigation charges were filed in Wisconsin wildlife poisoning investigations.

“Indiscriminately targeting wildlife predators with poison to improve hunting opportunities is not only unethical, it is illegal. Such use of systemic poisons kills non-targeted species, such as our national symbol, and causes environmental contamination,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent in Charge Gregory Jackson, February 13, 2014

The charges were the result of a cooperative Federal and State investigation of the use of the highly regulated pesticide Carbofuran to kill as many as six eagles and other wildlife (more than 70 animals total) on the Sowinski property in Oneida County between 2007 and 2010.Poisoned eagle, bobcat and bear documented by USFWS in 2014.

Poisoned eagle, bobcat and bear documented by USFWS in 2014.
A man walks three dogs along the Tri-County Corridor near Moccasin Mike Road in Superior on Saturday, March 7. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
68% of Bald Eagle Deaths Are Caused by Humans Quad City Daily.

As of April 30, 2020 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is offering a $1,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of someone who is poisoning pets and wildlife in northern Wisconsin. Four dogs have died in the past month in Forest County. Testing on two of them confirmed that the pets died from poisoning. Tests are pending after two more dogs died last weekend. Officials believe the deaths are related to the ongoing poisonings in Florence, Forest and Marinette counties that have been investigated for about a year. So far, seven pet dogs have died. Investigators also found dead coyotes, weasels and wolves that were poisoned. The reward is for information that leads to the arrest and/or charges being filed against a responsible party, the Fish and Wildlife Service said. It asks anyone with information to contact its office in Madison.A man walks three dogs along the Tri-County Corridor near Moccasin Mike Road in Superior on Saturday, March 7. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

Poisoning like these are not uncommon in Wisconsin. Law enforcement officers became aware of potential poisoning of wildlife in the spring of 2007 when a State warden recovered a dead eagle and three other animals within 100 yards of a deer carcass. Both the wildlife and deer tested positive for Carbofuran. These discoveries let to the arrests & convictions of a father and son in Oneida County. 

According to USF&WS Alvin and Paul Sowinski, father and son, live in Oneida County, where the family owns some 8,000 acres, which include farm fields as well as prime habitat for both wildlife and hunting. The elder Sowinski baited multiple sites on the property with wildlife carcasses or processed meats treated with Carbofuran, hoping to attract and kill bobcats, coyotes, wolves, fishers and other species that prey on the deer and game birds that he and his son routinely hunted on their land.

“The defendants had in their possession a bald eagle which was killed by a pesticide that one of the defendants admits using improperly,” said Randall K. Ashe, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Wisconsin. “Product labels are designed to ensure the safe use and application of pesticides. Using pesticides for purposes other than their registered use is illegal and puts people, animals and the environment at risk of exposure. Today’s action shows that individuals who misuse these products and kill protected wildlife will be prosecuted.” USFWS Newsroom February 13, 2014 68% of Bald Eagle Deaths Are Caused by Humans Quad City Daily. 

“Wildlife poisoning cases are one of the most egregious violations we come across and are among the most difficult criminal natural resource investigations to conduct,” said Brian Ezman, DNR investigative unit supervisor. “Collecting evidence, conducting surveillance and working around highly toxic insecticides – which were being used indiscriminately – required a heightened sense awareness to protect the safety of investigators, the public and our wildlife and natural resources.” USFWS Newsroom February 13, 2014 

“This is a disturbing case involving the reckless poisoning of wild birds and animals,” said Todd Schaller, chief DNR warden, retired in 2019. “To place poisoned baits out into the environment, lethally threatening any and all wildlife in the area, is not only illegal it is unconscionable and not something the citizens of this state will tolerate.” USF&WS Newsroom 02/13/2014

“The investigation was successful as a result of the teamwork and positive working relationships shared between several law enforcement agencies (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Oneida County Sheriff’s Department),” said Brian Ezman, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Investigative Unit Supervisor. USFWS Newsroom 

Two Sentenced For Violating Eagle Protection Act Monday, August 4, 2014

United States Department of Justice  Madison, Wis. – John W. Vaudreuil, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced that Alvin C. Sowinski, 78, and his son Paul A. Sowinski, 46, both of Rhinelander, Wis., were sentenced today by U.S. District Judge James D. Peterson for conduct relating to the possession of an American bald eagle. Alvin Sowinski received a $30,000 fine, a seven-year ban on his hunting, fishing and trapping privileges, $100,000 in restitution, and one year of probation and four months of home confinement. Paul Sowinski received a $10,000 fine, a five-year ban on his hunting, fishing and trapping privileges, $100,000 in restitution, and one year of probation. Both men pleaded guilty to the charge on May 14, 2014. 

In 2018 investigations of wildlife poisonings in three counties 

The investigation into the poisonings began in December 2018 after animals were found with no clear cause of death, said Lt. Bryan Harrenstein, warden supervisor in the northern area for the DNR. Since the investigation was announced in early 2019, two hunting beagles have been killed by poison in Forest County, according to a news release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The dogs became very ill after ingesting the poison and died shortly after, according to investigators. WPR reporter Megan Hart

As of April 30, 2020 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is offering a $1,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of someone who is poisoning pets and wildlife in northern Wisconsin. Four dogs have died in the past month in Forest County. Testing on two of them confirmed that the pets died from poisoning. Tests are pending after two more dogs died last weekend. Officials believe the deaths are related to the ongoing poisonings in Florence, Forest and Marinette counties that have been investigated for about a year. So far, seven pet dogs have died. Investigators also found dead coyotes, weasels and wolves that were poisoned. The reward is for information that leads to the arrest and/or charges being filed against a responsible party, the Fish and Wildlife Service said. It asks anyone with information to contact its office in Madison.

The public is advised for safety to keep pets on leashes while walking in public lands.

Sneak Peek at Project Coyote’s short film “Killing Games – Wildlife in the Crosshairs”

On any given weekend, some of America’s most iconic wild animals are massacred in wildlife killing contests. Bloodied bodies are weighed and stacked like cords of wood, and prizes are awarded to the “hunters” who kill the largest or the most of a targeted species. More information.

Coyotes, bobcats, wolves and foxes are common victims of these contests; children as young as 10 are encouraged to participate. Fueled by anti-predator bias, these legally sanctioned but relatively unknown contests are cruel and foster ignorance about the critical role apex predators play in maintaining healthy ecosystems. These contests occur on both public and private lands in almost every state except California — where killing predators for prizes has been outlawed. In KILLING GAMES, a groundbreaking exposé, actor, conservationist and Project Coyote Advisory Board Member Peter Coyote — with environmentalists, ranchers, public officials and Native Americans — brings these shadowy contests to light and speaks out against this hidden war on wildlife. Project Coyote’s KILLING GAMES inspires viewers to call on their state and local legislators to bring an end to these brutal contests where wild animals become living targets. More information.

Director and Producer Camilla H. Fox is the founder and executive director of Project Coyote- a national non-profit organization based in northern California that promotes coexistence between people and wildlife and compassionate conservation through education, science, and advocacy. With more than 25 years of experience working on behalf of wildlife and wildlands and a master’s degree in wildlife ecology, policy, and conservation, Camilla’s work has been featured in several films, books and national media outlets. A frequent speaker on these issues, Camilla has authored more than 70 publications and is co-author of Coyotes in Our Midst, co-editor and lead author of the book, Cull of the Wild, producer of the award-winning documentary Cull of the Wild ~ The Truth Behind Trapping and most recently, producer and director of the film KILLING GAMES: Wildlife in the Crosshairs. Camilla has served as an appointed member on the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture’s National Wildlife Services Advisory Committee and currently serves on several national non-profit advisory boards. In 2006, Camilla received the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the Marin Humane Society and the Christine Stevens Wildlife Award from the Animal Welfare Institute. She was named one of the 100 Guardian Angels of the Planet in 2013 and the 2014 Conservationist of the Year Award by the John Muir Association. In 2015 she was honored with the Grassroots Activist of the Year Award by the Fund for Wild Nature. Read more here.

A review…

“Killing one, ten, twenty or more wild animals is most assuredly not a game—all animals deserve our deepest respect, regard, and compassion. KILLING GAMES ~ Wildlife In The Crosshairs exposes the barbaric practice of slaughtering coyotes, bobcats, wolves and other wild animals for prizes and “fun.” Thank you, Project Coyote, for bringing to the forefront this cruel and ineffective “wildlife management” method. We at Born Free, who work to conserve and protect wild animals and to end their exploitation, encourage everyone to watch this groundbreaking film, and to take action to end these shameful killing contests.”

~Will Travers & Virginia McKenna Born Free

Poaching may be a bigger threat than the state thought…

Hunters may need to keep their paws off Wisconsin wolves. 

By Sarah Fecht, Popular Science 

Wisconsin’s wolves are a great success story in many ways. When the state began monitoring its gray wolf population in 1979, there were only about 25 left in the area, after bounty hunting and prey decline nearly wiped them out. Today, thanks to the Endangered Species Act and the state’s efforts, Wisconsin is home to about 800 gray wolves. But they may not be out of hot water yet.

In 2012, Wisconsin declared its wolves were no longer endangered, and over the course of three years, hunters obtained permits to kill more than 500 of them. A federal judge put the population back on the endangered list in 2014, where it remains today. But there are folks in Wisconsin—including the governor and some senators and congressmen—who hope the wolves will be fair game again soon.

That might not be such a good idea, according to research published Monday in the Journal of Mammology. The study found that Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) has systematically underestimated how many wolves are killed by poachers each year. And without an accurate estimate of the population size and the threats they face, hunting quotas could potentially imperil Wisconsin’s wolf populations again.

“We’ve found that poaching or illegal killing is the primary threat to wolves in Wisconsin,” says lead author Adrian Treves, who studies human-carnivore interactions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “This isn’t something that only happens in Africa. It’s happening in our own backyard, with controversial species like the wolf.”

Poaching problems

Treves and his colleagues received a grant from the WDNR to study how the state’s 2012-2014 cullings impacted the wolves’ population growth rate. In the course of that study, the researchers tracked down the state’s data on how wolves die every year. The state sorts cause of death into five basic categories: vehicle collisions, legal killing, poaching/illegal killing, and non-human causes. After digging through the state’s figures, the researchers found problems with how the data were collected and analyzed.

The discrepancy between poaching’s estimated and actual impact was particularly profound: Treves’ team found poaching to be the cause of at least 39 to 45 percent of wolf deaths every year, compared to the state’s estimate of 34 percent. And Treves says that 45 percent is based on conservative estimates—the real number may actually be higher.

“The care that should have been taken was not taken,” says Treves. “We don’t think somebody was intentionally underreporting poaching, but it seems like the state agency errs on the side of not calling something poaching.”

Data difficulties

Treves and his colleagues found a number of problems with the way the state estimated the cause of death in wolves.

Since it would be impossible to monitor every wolf in Wisconsin, the state radiocollars only about 13 percent of its wolves. By monitoring those wolves, they try to get an idea of how the entire population is doing. But Treves argues that the wolves that are studied don’t provide an accurate picture of the larger group. That’s because they’re mostly selected from state lands, which represent the best and safest habitat for wolves. The wolves that live outside those core areas are at a higher risk of being poached or struck by cars, says Treves, and they’re not represented in the data.

There’s another problem. The state assumes that lost radiocollared animals have died of the same distribution of causes as they animals they’ve managed to keep tabs on. So if 34 percent of the successfully tracked population dies from poaching, the state assumes 34 percent of the collared wolves who went missing also died from poaching. But that’s not quite right, says Treves. Legal hunting claimed the lives of about 13 percent of tracked wolves, but since the state records each and every wolf that’s killed legally, none of the missing wolves could have met such a fate. So that 13 percent needs to be redistributed elsewhere, suggesting that the number of poached wolves would in fact be higher than 34 percent. And since poachers may be more likely to target a wolf that’s not wearing a radiocollar, the applicability of those numbers to the larger population is debatable.

“The state made a decision about the cause of death, and we think they got it wrong.”

Finally, Treves’ team revisited the files of a few dozen wolves that were autopsied, and found that many of the wolves classified as dying from car collisions contained bullet remains. “It looks to us like people might be shooting at wolves on the road and then hitting them with their cars as a weapon,” says Treves. He says that although the veterinarians reported the bullet evidence, “the state made a decision about the cause of death, and we think they got it wrong.”

Hunting on hold

Overall, poaching may be at least 6 to 11 percent more common than expected. Treves worries that if Wisconsin regains the power to hunt its wolves, and if it continues to underestimate poaching rates, it could put the population into a downward spiral.

“Without estimates of mortality and births that are unbiased, precise, and accurate,” the paper notes, “policies that promote the killing of wildlife will risk unsustainable mortality and raise the probability of a population crash. The current government of the state of Wisconsin risked that crash when it issued high wolf-hunting quotas and when it liberalized culling from 2012 to 2014, both done without presenting careful, transparent accounting of mortality and births.”

The WDNR did not respond to Popular Science’s request for comment, but state leaders claim the wolf population never dipped below 350, the state’s minimum target. However, some researchers think 1,000 to 1,500 wolves might be necessary to maintain healthy genetic diversity.
Treves’ paper is surely not the end of the debate about whether to legalize the hunting of gray wolves. But the team is putting all the data online, so that other researchers can analyze their findings.

“The state has never published all of its mortality data,” says Treves. “We’re doing it for the first time to be totally transparent.” Source: Popular Science

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