Last week a federally protected gray wolf was spotted near Tettagouche State Park in northern Minnesota with a wire snare wrapped around his muzzle. Calls flooded 911 as the wolf made its way south into the city of Duluth, roaming neighborhoods and streets, unable to eat or drink, until a police officer shot and killed the wolf on February 10, 2018 as he approached a local high school. Volunteers and state and federal wildlife officers attempted to capture the animal but were ultimately unsuccessful.
A local wildlife rehabilitation center, Wildwoods reported that a volunteer happened upon the wolf just north of Duluth and followed him. She walked near him, talking soothingly and sometimes getting within 10 feet. The wolf would stop and look at her, “like he was asking for help”, before he disappeared into the woods.
According to Wildwoods and local media, when 911 operators and Minnesota DNR started getting calls from concerned members of the public about the wolf in Duluth neighborhoods, even though the wolf had the wire snare wrapped tightly around his muzzle, Duluth Police felt they had no choice but to shoot the wolf.
After being shot, Wildwood volunteers were able to examine the animal, “Our exam of this wolf’s body was heartbreaking. Part of a wire snare trap meant to catch small animals was embedded tightly around his muzzle. He might have been able to lick up some snow and sniff roadkill, but he had not been able to eat. He had been starving, and was a skeleton of fur and bones.”
Before the dust could settle from last week’s tragic shooting of the male wolf in Duluth, another wolf was photographed in Finland, Minnesota, not far from Tettagouche State Park, with a snare wrapped around its neck. As of the time of this writing, the second wolf is still roaming freely in the area. According to Christian Dalbec, who photographed the wolf on February 13, the wolf, “looked healthy except for the dried blood on the open gouge under it’s neck.”
This isn’t the first time snares intended for smaller coyotes, bobcats and fox have caught wolves instead. In Alberta, Canada photos from trail cameras in 2016 depict two wolves suffering from snares embedded in their necks. In a separate case, biologists (pictured below) were able to remove a snare from a wolf and the animal recovered and was released.
In 2008, in Denali National Park, Alaska, visitors reported two wolves with snares around their necks, one was so restricting the animals circulation that the wolf’s head looked more like a bear because of swelling that trapper’s refer to as “jelly-head” because the snares will ultimately cause a wolf or coyote’s brain to rupture.
Snares like most commercially available traps that are sold legally in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan are indiscriminate and often kill unintended prey. Allowing the use of indiscriminate snares and traps in areas with known wolf populations should be illegal as it constitutes the harassment and illegal take of a federally protected species. But it isn’t, so in Minnesota and Wisconsin its legal to set snares in wolf territory for coyote, bobcat and fox.
This isn’t the first time snares have been a problem in northern Minnesota, in February 2015, A landowner photographed a bobcat with a snare tightly cinched around his midsection, cutting into his flanks. Wildwood volunteers again responded and were able to live-trap the bobcat, which was taken to a local vet, who sedated the animal, and shaved around the wound to expose the snare embedded in the bobcat’s flesh. There were prominent wounds to both of the bobcat’s flanks. After cutting away the snare, other injuries included both upper canine teeth broken, likely from trying to chew through the anchor of the snare, which was broken and dangling when the bobcat was rescued.
Also in February 2018 outside of Hinkley, Minnesota, a DNR conservation officer assisted another local trapper with an incidental catch of a large, adult bobcat that had its rear leg caught in a snare. After a lot of patience, and careful use of a catch pole, the barely injured bobcat was successfully released.
So now that we’ve established that the legal use of snares is a problem in northern Minnesota, let’s talk about the people using them. In December 2014, a MN DNR conservation officer found a live wolf in a snare north of Duluth, not far from where the recent snaring incidents occurred. In the same area where the snared wolf was found, DNR conservation officers found numerous other snares matching the snare type and bait as that used to take the wolf. After a two year investigation, Douglas Anthony Marana, 70, and Roderick Robert Kottom, 68, of Chisholm, were charged with four counts of illegal trapping activities after investigators seized 638 illegal snares set by Marana and Kottom in January 2017, in a large area of St. Louis, Itasca, Koochiching and Lake Counties.
A MN DNR enforcement supervisor in Grand Rapids said, “This number of sets has not been surpassed in Minnesota before. Our average for fail-to-attend traps or snares would be one to 10. Ten would be a big number in any other case.” Despite the literal hundreds of illegal traps operated by the poachers, Marana was sentenced to probation and loss of trapping rights for one year. Kottom has a long history of violating Minnesota trapping rules, having been convicted in recent years of possessing a mounted lynx, 40 unregistered fisher and pine marten pelts, and for failure to check traps and snares as required by law.
For more information on how snares kill wolves and other wildlife please visit: http://www.wolfmatters.org/snaring.html
Minnesota’s regulations on snares & traps can be found on Page 51 at: http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/rlp/regulations/hunting/full_regs.pdf
The following are the reports written by Wisconsin and Michigan conservation officers (game wardens) investigating recent cases where a deer hunter and trapper illegally killed a gray wolf. These are not our exaggerations, they are the words of licensed law enforcement officers responding to the increase of violence directed towards the wolves of Wisconsin and Michigan. The wolf shot in its rear legs by Steven Kohl dragged itself 35 yards before she died from her wounds.
FROM WISCONSIN DNR CONSERVATION OFFICER CASE ACTIVITY REPORT 11/22/17:
“Once we got as close to the wolf as we thought we could get, we proceeded on foot to a large marshy swamp and located the deceased wolf very close to the location provided by the GPS collar. I saw that the wolf was generally black in color and lying on its left side in a patch of brush. I took several photos of the wolf which are in the attached photography log. Upon closer examination, I saw significant trauma to the left and right rear legs. Based on experience and training the trauma appeared consistent with a gunshot wound. One or both of the rear legs appeared to be broken. Based on training and experience, I did not believe the wolf could have traveled very far after being shot. I was able to back track the wolf’s movement by following what appeared to be a drag trail of flattened vegetation and blood approximately 35 yards to where the wolf was when I believed it was shot.”
Once Wisconsin conservation officers located Steven Kohl, who had been deer hunting from a deer stand overlooking where the wolf was shot, he denied killing the animal,
“I told Kohl we had a mortality signal on a wolf that was shot and it was found in front of his deer stand. Kohl stated that none of the wolves he saw appeared to be wounded and he did not shoot it. I explained the evidence to Kohl and suggested perhaps he made an error in judgement and took a shot at the wolf. Kohl then admitted he ‘shot to keep them going’ and that he doesn’t shoot to kill. Kohl stated that he took one shot at the black wolf when it was out in the swamp straight east of him. After shooting at the wolf, Kohl stated he didn’t see the wolf again. Kohl stated he shot the wolf about 930am on November 18, 2017.”
“Warden Ebert then instructed Kohl that we would be seizing his rifle and trail camera. Kohl was informed he’d be receiving a citation in the mail for the illegal bait placement (WP note, Kohl and others on the property were using corn as deer bait, in violation of a baiting ban in Oneida County.) and that additional charges would be sought through the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service or the WI DNR for the illegal harvest of a wolf.”
FROM MICHIGAN DNR CONSERVATION OFFICER CASE ACTIVITY REPORT 11/14/17:
“I observed a front leg with blood located near the paw. This is common in injury to K-9 animal from being caught in a leg hold trap. I observed a blood spot on the center of the rear head…I advised ABERLY that the owner of the property found the blood trail to the wolf. And he had a camera on his gate that got a picture of his truck…I advised ABERLY that we were there for a wolf that was caught in a trap and shot. It was dumped just behind the trap. The trapping was the same as your sets I checked in the past. I asked if he was intentionally targeting wolves or was it an accidental catch. I told him that there was more information that led us to talk to him. I don’t think you shot it on purpose but we need to know what you did.”
Once confronted with the evidence that placed him at the scene of the crime, Aberly confessed:
“I shot it. It was jumping around a lot. I thought it was a coyote. I saw it was a wolf and put it under the tree. I pulled my traps…I used shovel to cover up trap site.” Conservation officers asked Aberly if he had the trap the wolf was caught in, “I don’t know which one exactly but just like this set, held up a leg hold with a stake. I observed a pile of leg holds (traps) in the barn with stakes.”
WISCONSIN CRIMINAL COMPLAINT AGAINST STEVEN KOHL:
MICHIGAN CRIMINAL COMPLAINT AGAINST DONALD ABERLY:
Two recent incidents where federally protected gray wolves were illegally killed have made it through the prosecutorial stage and will result in sentences handed down to the two men responsible, Steven Kohl of Wisconsin and Donald Aberly of Michigan.
- On November 14, 2017, Michigan conservation officers located a dead wolf hidden under a tree with evidence suggesting the animal was shot. Officers located a trap site nearby and evidence was gathered suggesting the wolf was caught in a trap, shot and then hidden. Two days later, the officers obtained a confession from a trapper who stated he had caught the animal and shot it.
- On November 18, 2017, Steven Kohl of Manitowoc shot a wolf with a tracking collar on the first day of deer season. Kohl and another hunter were also issued citations for illegal baiting.
Wolf Patrol encourages supporters of wolf recovery in the Great Lakes to write letters to Judge’s in both cases asking that the convicted pay for the costs of the DNR’s investigations in each state, as well as lose hunting and trapping privileges for at least 3 years. We believe such a punishment would help deter future acts of wolf poaching more than any prison sentence.
2 South Sixth Street, Crystal Falls, MI 49920
If thinking of attending, please contact the Iron County prosecutor or judge’s office as these things tend to get moved around.
Iron County Prosecutor: 906 875-6628, Iron County Courthouse: 906 875-3301, District Court Iron County 906 875-0619
State of Wisconsin vs. Steven R. Kohl, Oneida County Case Number 2018CF000014
Sentencing for Kohl is scheduled for February 16, 2018, 9:30am Central Time, Courtroom, 3rd Floor, Oneida County Courthouse
The Oneida County Clerk has told supporters that the judge in this case will not read any letters that are only written to him alone, you have to cc copies to the District Attorney and Kohl’s attorney. The clerk said letter-writers could send all 3 letters in one envelope to her office, and she would give the copies to the judge, DA and Kohl’s attorney. If you would rather send individual letters to the parties concerned, Here are the addresses.
Oneida County Clerk (If sending all three letters):
ATTN: Judge Patrick F. O’Melia, Oneida County Courthouse P.O. Box 400, 1 S. Oneida Avenue, Rhinelander, WI, 54501
The DA’s address is:
District Attorney, Michael W. Shriek, P.O. Box 400, 1 S. Oneida Ave., Rhinelander, WI 54501
Kohl’s attorney’s address:
Steven Michael Lucareli, Lucareli Law Offices, LLC, Steven M. Lucareli, 433 East Sheridan St., Eagle River, WI 54501
- Why wolves are important to you
- Michigan/Wisconsin residents support wolf recovery
- Michigan/Wisconsin residents want poaching laws to be upheld
“It is my understanding that Donald Curtis Aberly, Crystal Falls, MI has pled guilty and will be sentenced on February 20, 2018 for killing a wolf on or about 11/12/2017-11/14/2017. I believe the U.P. is a special place because of wolves. Wolves provide many ecological benefits. Wolves help control beaver populations, thus minimizing the damage they cause through construction of their dams. Research also suggests that wolves may limit the spread of CWD by removing the diseased deer from the herd.
Unfortunately, a small segment of society, when it comes to wolves, believe in “SSS”, (shoot, shovel and shut up) and will illegally kill a wolf either because of a long-held hatred or they simply believe they won’t get caught. As an experienced trapper, Mr. Aberly should have known that even a small wolf is larger than a very large coyote. Wolves have distinctively long legs and large paws compared to a coyote. Upon realizing he caught a wolf in his coyote trap, Mr. Aberly had choices. He could have released the wolf, without penalty. He could have called the DNR office in Crystal Falls and they could have released it (or collared her for monitoring purposes). Instead, he decided to shoot it and hide the body and when confronted, lied until presented with the evidence.
When considering his sentence, I ask that the court review MCL 324.40118 (amended violation as misdemeanor; penalty; additional penalties) and MCL 324.40119 (restitution). Mr. Aberly should also be reminded that as a federally protected species, he could have been federally charged with civil and criminal penalties far greater that state guidelines. In addition to any fines you deem appropriate, I ask that Mr. Aberly lose the privilege of hunting or trapping for the next three years.
I do not believe jail time would serve any purpose however, I do ask that the court consider that Mr. Aberly attend a wolf education program. Although their 2018 programs have not yet been The Timber Wolf Alliance offers several programs throughout the year https://www.northland.edu/sustain/soei/twa/wolf-workshops/
Thank you for any consideration you give to my suggestions.
END OF SAMPLE LETTER
These are the penalties these individuals could have received if prosecuted for violating the Endangered Species Act:
(a) Generally (1) Except as provided in sections 1535 (g)(2) and 1539 of this title, with respect to any endangered species of fish or wildlife listed pursuant to section 1533 of this title it is unlawful for any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to— (A) import any such species into, or export any such species from the United States; (B) take any such species within the United States or the territorial sea of the United States; (C) take any such species upon the high seas; (D) possess, sell, deliver, carry, transport, or ship, by any means whatsoever, any such species taken in violation of subparagraphs (B) and (C); (E) deliver, receive, carry, transport, or ship in interstate or foreign commerce, by any means whatsoever and in the course of commercial activity, any such species; (F) sell or offer for sale in interstate or foreign commerce any such species; or (G) violate any regulation pertaining to such species or to any threatened species of fish or wildlife listed pursuant to section 1533 of this title and promulgated by the Secretary pursuant to authority provided by this chapter.
(a) Civil penalties (1) Any person who knowingly violates, and any person engaged in business as an importer or exporter of fish, wildlife, or plants who violates, any provision of this chapter, or any provision of any permit or certificate issued hereunder, or of any regulation issued in order to implement subsection (a)(1)(A), (B), (C), (D), (E), or (F), (a)(2)(A), (B), (C), or (D), (c), (d) (other than regulation relating to recordkeeping or filing of reports), (f) or (g) of section 1538 of this title, may be assessed a civil penalty by the Secretary of not more than $25,000 for each violation. Any person who knowingly violates, and any person engaged in business as an importer or exporter of fish, wildlife, or plants who violates, any provision of any other regulation issued under this chapter may be assessed a civil penalty by the Secretary of not more than $12,000 for each such violation. Any person who otherwise violates any provision of this chapter, or any regulation, permit, or certificate issued hereunder, may be assessed a civil penalty by the Secretary of not more than $500 for each such violation. No penalty may be assessed under this subsection unless such person is given notice and opportunity for a hearing with respect to such violation. Each violation shall be a separate offense. Any such civil penalty may be remitted or mitigated by the Secretary. Upon any failure to pay a penalty assessed under this subsection, the Secretary may request the Attorney General to institute a civil action in a district court of the United States for any district in which such person is found, resides, or transacts business to collect the penalty and such court shall have jurisdiction to hear and decide any such action. The court shall hear such action on the record made before the Secretary and shall sustain his action if it is supported by substantial evidence on the record considered as a whole. (2) Hearings held during proceedings for the assessment of civil penalties authorized by paragraph (1) of this subsection shall be conducted in accordance with section 554 of title 5. The Secretary may issue subpenas for the attendance and testimony of witnesses and the production of relevant papers, books, and documents, and administer oaths. Witnesses summoned shall be paid the same fees and mileage that
are paid to witnesses in the courts of the United States. In case of contumacy or refusal to obey a subpena served upon any person pursuant to this paragraph, the district court of the United States for any district in which such person is found or resides or transacts business, upon application by the United States and after notice to such person, shall have jurisdiction to issue an order requiring such person to appear and give testimony before the Secretary or to appear and produce documents before the Secretary, or both, and any failure to obey such order of the court may be punished by such court as a contempt thereof. (3) Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, no civil penalty shall be imposed if it can be shown by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant committed an act based on a good faith belief that he was acting to protect himself or herself, a member of his or her family, or any other individual from bodily harm, from any endangered or threatened species. (b)
Criminal violations (1) Any person who knowingly violates any provision of this chapter, of any permit or certificate issued hereunder, or of any regulation issued in order to implement subsection (a)(1)(A), (B), (C), (D), (E), or (F), (a)(2)(A), (B), (C), or (D), (c), (d) (other than a regulation relating to recordkeeping, or filing of reports), (f), or (g) of section 1538 of this title shall, upon conviction, be fined not more than $50,000 or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both. Any person who knowingly violates any provision of any other regulation issued under this chapter shall, upon conviction, be fined not more than $25,000 or imprisoned for not more than six months, or both. (2) The head of any Federal agency which has issued a lease, license, permit, or other agreement authorizing a person to import or export fish, wildlife, or plants, or to operate a quarantine station for imported wildlife, or authorizing the use of Federal lands, including grazing of domestic livestock, to any person who is convicted of a criminal violation of this chapter or any regulation, permit, or certificate issued hereunder may immediately modify, suspend, or revoke each lease, license, permit, or other agreement. The Secretary shall also suspend for a period of up to one year, or cancel, any Federal hunting or fishing permits or stamps issued to any person who is convicted of a criminal violation of any provision of this chapter or any regulation, permit, or certificate issued hereunder. The United States shall not be liable for the payments of any compensation, reimbursement, or damages in connection with the modification, suspension, or revocation of any leases, licenses, permits, stamps, or other agreements pursuant to this section. (3) Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, it shall be a defense to prosecution under this subsection if the defendant committed the offense based on a good faith belief that he was acting to protect himself or herself, a member of his or her family, or any other individual, from bodily harm from any endangered or threatened species.
16 USC 1531-1544 Endangered Species Act (§ 1540. Penalties and enforcement)
This document was shared with county, state and federal law enforcement authorities in our patrol area in July 2017, after repeated incidents where hound hunters accused Wolf Patrol of harassment. We are sharing it again to demonstrate our adherence to open communications with law enforcement agencies responsible for patrolling public lands in northern Wisconsin. The document was shared at a meeting which led to the understanding that hound hunters and Wolf Patrol would respect each others rights to engage in legal activities on public lands without such an incident as that occurring outside of Laona, Wisconsin January 27, 2018.
Great Lakes Wolf Patrol
Statement of Principles
Citizen Monitoring of Public Hunting Practices within the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest
To: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Forest Service & Bayfield County Sheriff’s Department
Purpose of this Document
The purpose of this document is to describe Wolf Patrol’s working principles within it’s field of operations, which for the purpose of this document, is those portions of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (CNNF) contained within Bayfield County, Wisconsin.
Since 2014, Wolf Patrol has conducted investigations of wolf, bear & coyote hunting practices within the CNNF, for the purpose of gathering evidence of practices which we believe negatively impact federally protected gray wolves and other wildlife, namely, black bear, bobcat, fisher and possibly, wolverine & lynx.
The intent of our data collection is to provide a reasonable assessment of how bear hunting & hunting hound use impacts the presence of gray wolves in Wisconsin and other wildlife affected by these practices. We also remain an organization that provides assistance to WDNR conservation officers in their enforcement of existing state and federal laws governing wildlife.
Data collected is used to educate the public, recruit greater citizen participation in the solicitation of comments in regards to the management of our national forests, and as a scientific basis of information which can be provided to public lands managers to aid in their decision-making process in regards to the management of all public lands.
This document has been created with the hope of creating a formal agreement of understanding between Wolf Patrol and local, county, state and/or federal officials involved in the management of wildlife and public lands. We recognize that the management of gray wolves and other wildlife is a contentious issue, fraught with strong emotional responses from all sides.
Wolf Patrol, in agreeing to begin formal discussions with county, state and federal officials, hopes to provide a template whereby citizens involved in these issues can participate in a framework that respects the rights of all citizens who use our national forest system and all public lands, while also providing the opportunity to participate in policy-making process and decisions.
That being said, Wolf Patrol is asking that county, state and federal officials offer a public statement of understanding, to be used to educate the public to the rights all individuals have to use and access public lands, including but not limited to county, state and federal forest lands, so as to address the misunderstanding that we as an organization have run into. Too often, we have been accused of engaging in illegal activity, by carrying out the duties and objectives of our organization, yet since our inception, we have never been cited for any violation of any local, county, state or federal law.
Towards that end, we also remain open to meeting with private individuals and organizations including, but not limited to the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, and other local, county, state or federal organizations involved in legal hunting & trapping practices.
Great Lakes Wolf Patrol
Principles of Operation
Wolf Patrol monitors will obey all local, county, state & federal laws.
Wolf Patrol will cooperate with all relevant law enforcement agencies.
Wolf Patrol will provide documentation & information on any & all suspected illegal activities encountered while conducting data collection & monitoring within the national forest system, state & county forest lands.
Wolf Patrol will not impede nor interfere with legal hunting practices.
Wolf Patrol will not tamper, disturb nor damage private property, including but not limited to bear baits, hunting hounds, trail cameras, vehicles, legal traps or campsites.
Wolf Patrol monitors will not engage in uncivil behavior including, but not limited to interactions with individuals engaged in legal hunting activities, individuals associated with legal hunters & county, state or federal employees carrying out their duties.
Wolf Patrol will work with local, county, state & federal land managers including but not limited to, providing data to assist with the responsible management of public lands, the solicitation of citizen involvement in resource management & soliciting information from the public when illegal activities have been carried out on public lands.
Wolf Patrol will provide up to $1,000.00 to be used as a cash reward for investigating illegal wolf killings. These funds will be dispersed at the discretion of relevant WDNR conservation officers, to be used as an incentive for individuals suspected of possessing information valuable to ongoing investigations into wolf killings.
Wolf Patrol will offer assistance to law enforcement agencies investigating ANY illegal activity, or in need of assistance in the carrying out their respective duties, including but not limited to emergency assistance in our field of operations.
Wolf Patrol will remain open to dialogue at all times with those individuals or organizations involved in legal hunting practices within the CNNF or other state, county or federal public lands.
Last week a large party of coyote hunters detained members of Wolf Patrol, a group monitoring their hunting practices outside of Laona, Wisconsin. Since 2016, Wolf Patrol has been monitoring legal and illegal hunting practices in the area, including in the surrounding Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.
In January 2016 during a coyote killing contest in Argonne, WI Wolf patrol monitors found illegal fish hooks wrapped with meat and dangling from fishing line. The baits are intended to lodge in the intestines of wolves and other unsuspecting wild canines, causing a slow and painful death.
In January 2017 an illegally shot wolf was dumped outside of Iron River, Michigan. When Wolf Patrol investigated the following month and were distributing reward posters, an angry coyote hunter threatened monitors in their patrol vehicle on a public highway.
In January 2018 in another portion of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, wolves injured three hounds hunting bobcats. Depredations on hunting hounds can lead to illegal attempts to kill wolves such as the baited fish hooks found not far from this depredation site in Forest County.
All of these incidents were reasons why Wolf Patrol was monitoring coyote and bobcat hunters in Forest County on January 27, 2018 when we came upon a party of hound hunters parked along Highway 32 and Stark Settlement Road. We filmed members of the hunting party standing in the road with shotguns and then decided to drive West on Stark Settlement Rd to film more hunters spread out along the road. That is when the following incident occurred.
When Forest County Sheriff’s deputies arrived, most of the hunting party had fled, but Wolf Patrol’s vehicle remained blocked in by members of the hunting party. After taking statements, a deputy informed Wolf Patrol that cameras were being seized. When we refused to consent to the seizure and asked about a warrant, we were told a warrant would be issued Monday, but the officer was seizing the cameras regardless at that time.
Because of the history of lawlessness and killing directed toward federally protected wildlife and other animals in this part of national forest lands that belong to everyone, Wolf Patrol feels there is a greater need for accountability by hound hunters who feel entitled to violate the rights of others using public roads and lands. Wisconsin hunters who cannot respect the rights of others has led to an increase in violent confrontations with members of Wolf Patrol despite 2017 agreements between county, state and federal authorities meeting to address the violation of our civil rights.
A federal case is pending between members of Wolf Patrol and the state of Wisconsin challenging the constitutionality of the Right to Hunt Act, which was signed into law in 2016 and written in direct response to Wolf Patrol’s citizen-monitoring campaign in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.
At this time we are awaiting to see whether Forest County officials will choose to charge members of Wolf Patrol with violating the Right to Hunt Act for the January 27, 2018 incident.