Who has more common sense & self-restraint: the hound hunter or the gray wolf? The conflict continues…

Just this week in Wisconsin a hound hunter ran his dog through a wolf rendezvous site, and two gray wolves killed his dog. He went into the area looking for his dog and witnessed two timber wolves holding onto the dead dog. He not only disturbed wolf pups, causing the death of his dog; he then walks right into the rendezvous site where wolves are already in defense of pups adding fuel to the fire! I’ve been a volunteer wolf tracker for 19 years, and this takes the cake! It wins the award for stupid! He’s posted it on his Facebook & claimed the two wolves went after him. I’ll tell ya something about wolves that if they were after him as he claims, they most definitely could of finished him off fast. But they did not. They did not touch a hair on his head. Because they are smarter than him, apparently! And proving they have more self-restraint than he does!

His post is now being shared on Facebook and being exaggerated, commented on, ranted on, & on, angrily & all because of a lack of common sense! It’s a wolf-hate-fest!

Photograph is of hound hunter’s dog. Dog was running on Bear right through gray wolf rendezvous site. It’s a well known fact, that wolves keep their young pups at rendezvous sites while they go hunting.

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. Social carrying 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.

Several dogs in pursuit of bear were “thrown to wolves” over the weekend in Wisconsin’s north woods

Decades-old conflict between bear hunters and wolves continues with more hunting dogs killed.  Wildlife Services confirmed that wolves depredated the following hunting dogs over the weekend.  A Walker Hound on 8/12/17 in the Town of Blaine, Burnett County.  Then again on the very next day; Two Walker Hounds in the same incident on 8/13/17 in the Town of Blaine, Burnett County. DNR Wolf Caution Areas

In a response to a Criminal Complaint filed by PEER the president of the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association to a Star Tribune article; said, “As I stated before, with freedom you also have the freedom to make bad choices.  And to hunt in the exact same place that your hunting dogs got killed and eaten is your choice. But I know the vast majority of hunters do not.”  Carl Schoettel, president of Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association (WBHA).

“Disposable dogs” 

And to hunt in the exact same place that your hunting dogs got killed and eaten is your choice.  ~Carl Schoettel, WBHA

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. 

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed A criminal complaint cites; State Payments for Hunting Dogs Killed in Wolf Clashes, on August 2, 2017 filed complaint on behalf of an anonymous confidential public employee. 

About PEER (protecting employees who protect our environment) As a service organization assisting federal, state & local public employees, PEER allows public servants to work as “anonymous activists” so that agencies must confront the message, rather than the messenger. 

Wisconsin Hounders Illegally Harass Wolves Criminal Complaint, Press Release:,“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.”

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. Read full editorial here

Harassment of an endangered species in the north woods of Wisconsin began July first

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. 

That’s not even the worst of it. 

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. 

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).”  

There’s a decades-old conflict between bear hunters and wolves taking place every year in Wisconsin’s north woods. 

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. 

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.  

Watch the following video by Wisconsin Public Television 2010

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.

In 2017 $99, 400.00 was paid for hounds killed in pursuit of bear, 2016 training & Hunting season, according to the Wisconsin annual wolf damage payment summary. Did the Wisconsin wolf depredation program reimburse bear hunters who knowingly ran their hunting dogs through WDNR wolf caution areas?  

WDNR puts out wolf caution areas:

“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.” 

The following is a spreadsheet of wolf depredation program payouts to bear hunters using dogs in pursuit of bear in 2016:


Harassment is the act or an instance of harassing, or disturbing, pestering, or troubling repeatedly; persecution according to Webster’ dictionary. Let’s add the topic of the harassment being an endangered species, such as; Wisconsin’s wild wolf. 

Considering the decades of conflict between bear hunters and wolves; is this becoming harassment of an endangered species. Isn’t this illegal? 


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Featured image by John E Marriott

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About The Author

Rachel Tilseth is the author and founder of Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin founded 2012 to get the dogs out of the wolf hunt. Tilseth has been involved in Wisconsin’s wolf recovery since the year 1998. Tilseth is an artist, art educator & grandmother living in the north woods of Wisconsin. 

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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