Wisconsin Hounders Chasing Bears Near Golf Course and Homes in Sawyer County

These bear hunters were caught operating amidst a densely populated area clearly posted closed to hunting and trespassing. You can hear the bear hunters on the radio rationalizing that because there is national forest lands behind the homes, they believe they can loose their hounds in the area.

When a local resident is told Wolf Patrol is monitoring bear hunters suspected of trespassing in the area, he replies, “Sounds good!”

Bear hounds trespassing where they are not wanted is common in this part of the national forest, where hound hunters travel from the southern part of the state, unfamiliar with roads and property boundaries, yet desperate to fill their bear tags before their hunting weekend is over.


Wolf Patrol found these three hound trucks desperately trying to find their dogs, even though they are wearing GPS collars. In Sawyer County, near Barker and Hunter Lakes, bear hounds will follow a bear out of the national forest and onto private lands where local residents have lodged dozens of complaints of dogs at large.

Wolf Patrol was monitoring these particular bear hunters because they are not only causing violent conflicts with federally protected gray wolves with their hounds, but also local residents who don’t want the dogs on their properties.

Its this kind of problem hunting that has led Wolf Patrol to ask that Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest officials end the practice of bear baiting and bear hound hunting and training in our national forests.

If you agree, send them an email at: cnnfadmin@fs.fed.us

Wolf Patrol will Continue to Monitor Illegal Hound Hunters in Sawyer County

Wolf Patrol is continuing to investigate complaints received from northern Wisconsin residents that local authorities are ignoring numerous reports of criminal trespass by bear hunters using dogs.

On the last weekend of the 2017 hound hunt for bear in Wisconsin, Wolf Patrol monitors documented multiple hound hunters running their dogs on national forest lands, which is not illegal. The problem begins when bear hounds (who cannot read no-trespassing signs.) chase bears across the many private residences that border national forest lands in Wisconsin.


Sawyer County hounders waiting for dogs near private residences & golf course.

The bear bait site documented in this video was less than 100 yards from a private residence and summer camp. Despite its proximity to numerous properties posted closed to hunting and trespass, hound hunters will still run their dogs after bear that visit such baits close to private properties.

During the 2017 black bear hunt in Wisconsin, Wolf Patrol worked with state and federal law enforcement to report illegal activities committed by bear hunters who run dogs after bear. Our attention has been drawn to northern Wisconsin’s national forest lands where we believe there is an active campaign to illegal kill federally protected gray wolves.

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Wisconsin online threats made following the killing of bear hounds by wolves in 2016.

Since 2014, when wolves were returned to federal protection, after three years of recreational hunts, many hunters have openly bragged and advocated for the illegal killing of wolves. Biggest amongst the sub-sect of hunters saying this, are bear hunters who use hounds.

Since the successful recovery of the gray wolf in northern Wisconsin in the last few decades, bear hunters running dogs after bear in wolf territory have seen an increasing number of their dogs killed by wolves. Most of these fights occur in the summer months, as Wisconsin’s bear hound training season begins in early July, which is also when wolves are most protective of the season’s young pups.

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Wolves visiting bear bait location in Sawyer County.

In January 2016, Wolf Patrol monitors found illegal baits set for wolves in an area of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest where many bear hounds have been killed by wolves. Since then, while monitoring the hound hunt for bear in Wisconsin, Wolf Patrol has documented and reported multiple hunting violations to state conservation officers and federal rangers.

Whether it’s placing bear baits too close to roads, pursuing bear with more than six hounds, illegally dragging roads or criminal trespass, Wolf Patrol has learned that Wisconsin’s hound hunters regularly break the law while hunting on national forest lands.


Reviewing trail camera placed near bear hound depredation site.

Wolf Patrol is not an anti-hunting organization, but a coalition of citizens opposed to recreational hunting activities on public lands that put gray wolves and other wildlife in danger. We are also committed to upholding local, state and federal rules governing hunting and reporting illegal activities committed by hunters in the field.


Local Complaint to Wolf Patrol: Hounders in Sawyer County are Trespassing on Our Private Lands

In September 2017, Wolf Patrol received reports of chronic problems with bear hunters running hounds across private property without permission. A resident told us in 2016, there were 70 complaints made to the Sawyer County Sheriff’s Department regarding “dogs at large” and so far this year, authorities had received 55 complaints related to bear hunting hounds chasing bears out of the nearby Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest onto private lands.

Many landowners do not live in the area year-around, so their properties are easily trespassed by bear hounds, especially late in the hound hunting season, as hunters become more desperate to fill their bear tag before the season closes. In addition to our investigation into criminal trespassing by bear hounders, Wolf Patrol was in the Sawyer County portion of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (CNNF) for the last weekend of the hound hunt for bear in Wisconsin, because this is where the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) reported that four bear hounds had been killed by gray wolves so far in 2017.

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Bear hound depredations in Sawyer County, 2017.

A bear hunter in the area also reported to Wolf Patrol that a common practice in the area, was to not report bear hounds killed by wolves, but instead use the dog’s remains to poison the wolves responsible. If a hound killed by wolves wasn’t worth much, some hound hunters won’t seek financial compensation, but instead lace the carcass with Xylitol, which is toxic to wild canids, knowing wolves will return to finish eating the bear hound they killed.

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Sharing information on poisoning wolves by hounders on Facebook.

Reports were also received of intimidation of local residents who lodge complaints against bear hunters. At least three large hound hunting crews maintain hunting cabins in the Draper and Loretta area of Wisconsin, traveling here every year to run their dogs after bear, bobcat and coyote. We were told that this season, one resident who filed a complaint of hounder trespass, found the locks on the gate of their property super-glued the following day. One elderly resident also said that during bear hunting season, she wouldn’t let her grandchildren play outside because she was fearful of trespassing dogs injuring someone.

On Saturday, September 30, many hound hunting parties were operating in this portion of the CNNF, one of the first that Wolf Patrol encountered, included 8-10 trucks that late in the morning were parked at the junction of County GG Road and South Black Lake Road, collecting loose hounds. When we turned onto Black Lake Rd, hound trucks were parked on the shoulder of the road alongside private properties clearly posted closed to hunting and trespass. Bear hounds were being collected from these properties as they emerged from the forest and one of the hound trucks was parked in the driveway of the posted land.

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Bear hunters collecting dogs from private lands.

Wolf Patrol was told by local bear hunters that late in the hound hunting season, bears will run onto private lands and towards water where they stand a better chance of losing the hounds pursuing them. This is when they leave national forest lands and enter the many private properties adjoining nearby Barker, Hunter and Blaisdell Lake. It is also a known fact that bear hunters cannot control the direction in which their dogs run. So when bears run south onto private lands, the hounds of course follow.


Bear hound coming off of private lands on S. Black Lake Rd.

At approximately 2pm, we heard a party of hound hunters reporting loose dogs approaching the Barker Lake Golf Course which adjoins national forest lands. We traveled to the area and watched as a hound truck sped around private properties looking for access points to retrieve dogs. Once again, this was an area clearly posted closed to hunting and trespass, with many residential homes in the area. It is also an area unfamiliar to visiting hound hunters, who rely on maps that do not clearly designate private land boundaries.

When Wolf Patrol dispatched a drone to look for bear hounds leaving the national forest, the three hound trucks we were monitoring fled the area. Another reason there are problems with trespassing hounds, is that bear hunters will place bear baits on public lands adjoining private lands, knowing full well that if they release their dogs from the bait, as is their intention, that there’s a high probability they will trespass.


Hounder leaving Barker Lake area.

At one such bait location on Glenwood Road near Blaisdell Lake, which has national forest on one side of the road and private land on the other, children could be heard playing at the private property near the bait where a summer camp is also located. This leads us to believe that chasing bears with dogs so close to human dwellings might led to bigger problems than criminal trespass.

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“Striker” bait used by hound hunters near Blaisdell Lake.

Although the 2017 Wisconsin bear hunt is coming to an end, Wolf Patrol will be working with local residents of northern Wisconsin counties plagued with hound hunter trespass. If you are a northern Wisconsin resident who has had such problems, please contact us to learn about a new program we are initiating in 2018, which will offer free “NO TRESPASS/HUNTING” signage for private lands adjoining the national forest, as well as regular patrols of private properties during popular hound hunting seasons.


Posted signs near bear bait site used by hounders.

Hunting with hounds in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest isn’t only causing conflicts with gray wolves, its leading to the illegal poisoning of federally protected wildlife, and other criminal activities by hound hunters emboldened by Wisconsin’s minimally regulated bear hunt. Wolf Patrol believes it time that national forest officials recognize that allowing hound hunting in the national forest is opening the door to illegal activity and it needs to be stopped if not heavily regulated.


Running dogs in Sawyer County Wolf Caution Area.

If you agree that bear hunters should have to follow the same laws as everyone else or be kicked out of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest for causing these problems, please send a polite email to CNNF forest officials asking them to end bear baiting and hound hunting on our national forest lands!

SEND COMMENTS TO: cnnfadmin@fs.fed.us

Bear Hound Hunting Leads to 15 Dog Fights with Federally Protected Wolves

So far in 2017, bear hunters using hounds have been responsible for 15 dog fights with federally protected gray wolves while training and hunting with their dog packs in northern Wisconsin. Many of these attacks have occurred on Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest lands, where its legal to maintain unlimited bear baits from Spring until mid-October.

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2017 gray wolf/bear hound fights.

In addition to luring black bears, wolves are also attracted to prey animals like deer who also regularly feed from bear baits. When hound hunters release their dogs to trail bears visiting bait sites, they are attacked by wolves defending their families and territories.

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2017 Sawyer County bear hound depredations.

In early September, Wolf Patrol investigated a bear hound depredation in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, in Sawyer County, where four bear hounds have been killed by wolves so far this year. Multiple bear baits are located in the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ designated Wolf Caution Area, where our trail camera captured these images of wolves spending over two hours at a bear bait location.

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Wolves Feeding from bear bait in Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.


If you agree that intentionally feeding bears and running packs of dogs after bears in wolf territory shouldn’t be allowed in our national forests, please send your email to forest officials at: cnnfadmin@fs.fed.us

Bear Hunters Continuing to Use Illegal Drags in Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest

Since 2014, Wolf Patrol has been monitoring hunting activities in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (CNNF), where there is a history of conflicts between bear hunters and federally protected gray wolves. The use of bait and hounds to hunt bear in Wisconsin, especially in areas where wolves are protective of their young, has been a recipe for violent fights between wolves and bear hounds in recent years. Last year, 41 hunting dogs were killed by wolves, more than in any previous year on record.

This year, Wolf Patrol has been monitoring bear hunting activities in the Washburn District of the CNNF, where six bear hounds were killed by wolves in 2016. This area of the CNNF on the Bayfield Peninsula, isn’t just good bear habitat, it’s some of the best in the state. More black bears are killed in Bayfield County than anywhere else in Wisconsin (410 bears in 2015). This is also Black Bear Management Zone D, where 1,603 of the 4,643 bears killed last year were taken, and also where every year, bear hounds are killed by wolves.

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Blue: 2016 bear baits, Red: 2016 wolf/bear hound fights.

Wolf Patrol’s research area within the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest was also chosen because of the high density of bear bait locations, and the large number of recreational and commercial hound hunters that operate in the area, which is also home to the Moquah, Iron River, Flag River and Twin Lakes wolf packs. Since our investigations began in 2014, we have catalogued dozens of bear baits in the immediate area of bear hound and wolf fight sites, which we believe are largely responsible for the conflict between hounds and wolves.

Bear hunters operating on national forest lands must not only adhere to Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ (WDNR) lenient bear baiting regulations, but also to U.S Forest Service regulations such as those governing the limit of days you can camp on national forest lands. In the past, Wolf Patrol has reported bear baits found too close to roads, which are used exclusively by hound hunters, non-resident hound hunters leaving campers and hound kennels for months on end in the national forest, and the illegal dragging of roads.


Bear hunters using hounds place “striker baits” as close as they can to roads (usually, just over the minimum 150′) so they can watch for where bears have crossed forest roads to reach their baits. Once they locate a fresh bear track, they can put their dogs down on the scent, and the chase begins. This is a practice we document every year in this and other parts of the CNNF.


Illegal drag in Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, 2016.

Once there was a time when hunting meant you drove to a remote forest area, parked your vehicle, and for the duration of the hunt, were either on foot, tracking or sitting watching an active game trail. Not anymore, at least for bear hunters. Today in Wisconsin, bear hunting means bait, trail cameras, trucks, satellites, CB radios and packs of hounds.

Every bear hunting day begins with hunters slowly driving roads baits are located off of, to see where bears might have crossed roads. Making this task even easier, bear hunters will pull a drag behind a truck, smoothing the road surface, so the next morning they might easily see who crossed. This is a practice that Wolf Patrol has witnessed every year in the CNNF, and one that is currently being investigated by US Forest Service law enforcement.

In the grand scheme of things, one might argue that hunters dragging dirt and gravel forest roads isn’t a big deal. But when a politically powerful and vocal special interest group like Wisconsin bear hunters lobby against any reform, and argue that they are law-abiding, they deserve to be held to the same legal standards we all must abide to when using national forest lands.

Every year in Wisconsin, over 4.2 million gallons of food waste is dumped in northern forests to attract bears, literally thousands of bear hounds are allowed to run through national forest lands, beginning in July and running all the way until October. Artificially grooming roads to make bear hunting even easier isn’t only illegal, it’s unethical. Yet, every year Wolf Patrol encounters reckless practices allowed under the law in our national forests.

Bear baits that condition bears into accepting food from humans, and artificially make up to 40% of a black bear’s diet in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National, should alone be enough reason for national forest officials to end bear baiting and hound hunting in this part of Wisconsin. Coupled with the conflict created when bear hounds are run through active wolf areas, resulting in dozens of dog fights and deaths a year that must be compensated from the state’s Endangered Species Fund, and you begin to see a pattern of public lands abuse practiced by bear hunters in the CNNF.

Wolf Patrol has joined the Public Employee’s for Environmental Responsibility, Endangered Species Coalition, Animal Legal Defense Fund and other environmental groups who are calling for federal action to end the abuse of public lands by bear hunters in Wisconsin. It start’s here, in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, where there already exists enough evidence of misuse by a special interest group that treats our national forest lands like their own private hunting reserve.


Bear bait in September 7, 2017 Wolf Caution Area.

If you agree it’s time to end bear baiting, hound hunting and the illegal and violent activities that accompany it in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, please send an email comment to: cnnfadmin@fs.fed.us

Day 5 Report from the Wisconsin Bear Hunt…

Last year, more bear hounds were killed by wolves than in any year previous. 41 dogs died, and an unknown number of wolves killed or injured, all because bear hunters in Wisconsin care not that they are placing their dogs in mortal danger. They do this because they care more about the bears they want to kill than the lives of their hard-working dogs.

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2017 locations of bear hound/ wolf fights to the death.

In every designated Wolf Caution Area we have investigated, where the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) has warned hound hunters of the dangers posed to their animals, Wolf Patrol has documented the continued use of both bear baits and hounds. At the Sept. 7, 2017 depredation site, where wolves killed a bear hound earlier this week, Wolf Patrol encountered a large bear hunting party still running their dogs in the Wolf Caution Area.

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Hound hunters running their dogs in area where a hound was killed two days previous.

The four-vehicle hunting party were running their dogs less than a mile from where a hound was killed just two days previous. While monitoring hound hunter radio communications, we heard one hounder say to another, after learning that that hounder’s dogs had treed a bear, “I could stop and shoot that bear for you, if you want.” Such statements reveal the bad judgement the state of Wisconsin made when they removed the license requirement for members of bear hunting parties who run dogs and bait, but do not have a license to actually kill a bear.


A bear bait in the 9/7/17 WDNR Wolf Caution Area.

The “Class B” license requirement was removed two years ago, after the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association (WBHA) lobbied the state, arguing that other hunters that use dogs, such as waterfowlers and grouse hunters do not require a license to train their dogs, so why should bear hunters? I’ll give you one reason why, because when bear hunters bait and train their dogs, dozens are killed by wolves as they roam freely through summer wolf territory.


Same bait, loaded with Dorito’s tortilla chips and pink waffle cones.

According to the WDNR press release announcing the rule change two years ago:

“Both residents and non-residents may now participate in the following: bear baiting, hunting and training activities without a Class B bear license if those activities are permitted and in compliance with applicable regulations:

  • bait bears for hunting purposes (recreationally feeding bears remains illegal);
  • train dogs to track bears;
  • act as a back-up shooter; and
  • assist hunters with pursuing bears, provided that a person does not shoot, shoot at, capture, take, or kill the bear (unless acting as a back-up shooter).

The removal of the Class B license requirement has also left the barn door open for non-residents who wish to travel to Wisconsin to not only train their hounds and bait for bear, but also kill a bear, even if they have no hunting license. There is no way for conservation officers to determine whether it actually was the bear tag holder who shot a bear, and bear hunters in Wisconsin know this, which is why we overheard this particular Sawyer County hound hunter offering to kill the bear in question.

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Large black bear killed with the aid of hounds.

If you agree that these reckless practices need to end in our national forests, please send your comment to forest officials at: