Wolf Patrol’s Agreement with USFS, WI DNR & Bayfield County Sheriff to Respect Hunting Rights

via https://youtu.be/fHn3V5Ew-jQ

Since 2014, Wolf Patrol has conducted citizen monitoring of legal hunting practices, including the Summer training of bear hounds in wolf territory in the Washburn District of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (CNNF). Last year, twenty-one bear hounds were killed by wolves in the CNNF between July 5-October 1st, including five in the area Wolf Patrol monitors. Our research suggests that Wisconsin’s minimally regulated bear hunting practices are contributing to that conflict.

Since Wisconsin’s bear hound training season began on July 1st, 2017, Wolf Patrol has maintained a base camp in the CNNF from which members monitor bear baiting & hound training practices. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conservation officers invited Wolf Patrol to a meeting to clarify legality and also to talk about how best to de-escalate potential conflicts and avoid violence.

Since the 2016 passage of Wisconsin’s Right to Hunt Act, many bear hunters believe it has become illegal to film a hunt (or training/baiting) activity more than once, as the new law states on public land. In recent weeks, members of Wolf Patrol have encountered hound hunters who have told them monitoring bear hunting practices was illegal. Some of these interactions have come close to violence.

On July 20, 2017, four members of Wolf Patrol, (all involved with monitoring duties in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest since 2014) met with Department of Natural Resources conservation officers, a chief law enforcement officer with the U.S. Forest Service, members of the Bayfield County Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney. All agreed, that the situation warranted agreements by all parties to respect each other’s right to access and utilize the national forest, and allow both the legal practices of bear baiting & training as well as Wolf Patrol’s right to monitor those activities.

The DNR’s Regional Conservation Officer asked what Wolf Patrol’s ultimate goal was for the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Wolf Patrol monitoring coordinator, Rod Coronado, stated that the goal is to see bear baiting & bear hound training ended in the CNNF, but that Wolf Patrol was committed to working through legal channels, such as soliciting public comments to CNNF officials in favor of a ban on baiting & training, while also gathering data to provide both national forest officials and acting DNR conservation officers responsible for enforcing bear hunting/training/ baiting practices in our research area.

In accordance with local, state and federal laws, Wolf Patrol’s members affirmed their commitment to cooperate and work with county, state and federal authorities to ensure that both bear hunters and our own members’ rights are not violated, and that we remain open to working with law enforcement, public lands managers and the bear hunting community towards peacefully respecting and exercising everyone’s constitutional rights to utilize and enjoy our national forests lands.

Wisconsin’s Endangered Species Fund Sponsored Wolf/Dog Fighting Season Has Begun

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July 2017: Lone bear hound in 2016 Wolf Caution Area.

Last year, more hunting dogs were killed by wolves than in any year previous, a record 41 dogs, mostly bear hounds, and most killed in areas the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) designated “Wolf Caution Areas.” But instead of serving as a deterrent, Wisconsin’s unique combination of minimal regulation of hound hunting and $2,500.00 reimbursement payouts to hound hunters, is actually encouraging careless hound hunters to continue running their dogs through federally protected gray wolf territory.

Wisconsin is the only state in the nation to allow bear hound training to run throughout the Summer months, when biologists report wolves are most territorial. This is when wolves with new pups are taking them away from dens for the first time to “rendezvous sites” where they can be taught to hunt. Combine this with the fact that the state two years ago removed the requirement of an actual license to bait for bears and train hounds, and you have the recipe for the disaster witnessed last year.

A Day 4

July 16, 2017: Bear hound chasing bear in front of Wolf Patrol’s vehicle.

But instead of owning up to the responsibility to putting hunting dogs at risk, anti-wolf politicians and hunters are using the record number of hound deaths as false evidence that the Wisconsin wolf population is exploding, and thus they need to regain state control so hunters can again kill wolves with guns, traps and packs of dogs. Wisconsin is again, the only state in the nation to allow for the hunting of wolves with hounds.

On July 15th, 2017, the USDA’s Wildlife Services confirmed that two bear hunting hounds were attacked by wolves in Langdale County, in the norheastern portion of Wisconsin, as they were chasing bears during the bear hound training season. The interesting thing is, last week’s depredation occurred less than a mile from where another depredation occurred on August 31, 2016, thus proving that instead of Wolf Caution Areas serving as a deterrent, they are instead like a siren’s call to bear hunters looking to make an easy $2,500.00.

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In same email that DNR sends out to “alert” hounders of latest Wolf Caution Area, they are asking that you buy a license plate that funds reimbursements to reckless hound hunters.

And that’s not the worst of it. Wisconsin residents who pay for an “Endangered Species” license plate, with the mistaken knowledge that their money is going towards endangered species preservation, are actually footing the bill for reckless hound hunting. Last year, the state’s “Endangered Species Fund” payed out $92,000.00 to bear hunters whose hounds were killed our injured by wolves while trespassing their range. But instead of addressing this fraud, the state legislature changed the law this year allowing hounders to not wait until the end of the year, but they now can have their checks from the Endangered Species Fund made out to them immediately once its been determined that wolves were responsible.

And still there is more. Hounders who knowingly run their dogs in Wolf Caution Areas are still eligible for the $2,500.00 reimbursement, meaning that in combination with no license requirement for hound training, hounders can take unwanted dogs, literally throw them to the wolves, and collect a virtually unlimited amount of restitution.

Last week’s bear hound depredation will most certainly not be the last. Wolf Patrol is the only organization in the state of Wisconsin that is on the ground in 2016 Wolf Caution Areas, documenting and reporting on the increasing amount of bear hound training and baiting taking place in our national forest lands. We are gathering the evidence we need to inform public lands managers of a increasing problem that could easily be prevented by banning the use of hounds and bear baiting in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, where 19 bear hounds were killed last year.

A Day 1

7/16/17: Wolf Patrol monitor filming hounds chasing bear in Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

If you believe that this is a practice that needs to end, please send an email comment to Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest officials demanding that the reckless practice of bear hound training and baiting be ended in our national forests.

SEND YOUR COMMENT TO: cnnfadmin@fs.fed.us

TO SEE AN INTERACTIVE MAP OF PAST & RECENT HUNTING HOUND DEPREDATIONS VISIT: http://dnrmaps.wi.gov/H5/?viewer=GRAY_WOLF_DEPREDATION

Animal Legal Defense Fund Files Federal Lawsuit Challenging Wisconsin’s Right to Hunt Act

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7/15/17: Wisconsin bear hunter citing Right to Hunt Act as evidence that Wolf Patrol has no right to film his activities on public lands.

Animal Legal Defense Fund Lawsuit Takes Wisconsin to Court for Violating First Amendment

Contact:
Natalia Lima, 201-679-7088, nlima@aldf.org

MADISON, Wis. – Today the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit in federal court aiming to strike down a recently amended Wisconsin statute which bans photographing, videotaping, approaching or even “maintaining a visual or physical proximity” to a hunter. The organization argues the law unconstitutionally restricts free speech and violates the First Amendment.

Today’s lawsuit claims the law’s restrictions violate the First Amendment – the same constitutional rights two federal judges ruled had been violated by Idaho’s and Utah’s Ag-Gag statutes. Just like these Ag-Gag laws, the Wisconsin statute at issue in today’s lawsuit is unconstitutional for suppressing speech critical of animal exploitation.

 

“The First Amendment guarantees journalists and activists the right to record and distribute truthful information on important public issues, including the inhumane treatment of wildlife at the hands of hunters,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “This statute tramples those rights to protect those who would prefer to prey on animals in secrecy.”

The Animal Legal Defense Fund argues the statute’s purpose and effect is to suppress critics of hunting. In addition to criminal penalties, the law subjects violators to civil lawsuits brought by the hunters and trappers themselves.

The three plaintiffs in the lawsuit, represented by attorneys from the Animal Legal Defense Fund and a Milwaukee-based law firm, are Wisconsin residents who, as a documentarian, journalist and activist, rely on the types of monitoring the expanded statute now prohibits. The plaintiffs say hunters in the state have already been emboldened by the amended statute, leading to more frequent and aggressive confrontations.

Monitoring hunting activity provides vital information to the public, including evidence of trespassing on closed trails, use of illegal baits and traps and even illegal poaching of federally protected gray wolves. It also documents troubling conflicts between wolves and hunting dogs, especially dogs used by bear hunters. When hunters release dogs into wolf territory, high numbers of dog deaths result. In retaliation, wolves are sometimes killed by hunters. Yet none of these issues would be known if not for the monitoring efforts of the plaintiffs.

“Threatening citizens with criminal and civil liability for constitutionally protected conduct amounts to declaring open season on free speech,” says Wells.

One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Joe Brown, is a filmmaker and educator based at Marquette University in Milwaukee. Brown’s current documentary work centers around a group called Wolf Patrol – a group of volunteers who work to monitor hunting in the United States. The Wisconsin law, with its prohibitions on filming and observing hunters, has directly impacted Brown’s work. More information about Brown’s upcoming film is at www.wolfpatrolfilm.com.

Non-residents Allowed to Chase Bears in Wisconsin Without License

Two years ago, the requirement of a “B” license to bait and chase bears in Wisconsin was eliminated at the request of the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association. This means that anyone can now come into the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (CNNF) and other public lands, and dump thousands of gallons of food waste to attract bears, and then release any number of dogs to chase them. All in the Summer months, when bears and other wildlife should be storing energy for the long winter months.

This video shows only one bear hunting party operating the CNNF, yet today alone we documented at least three hunting parties in our small research area carrying out the same practices. A recent study published in The Journal of Wildlife Management and conducted by the Wisconsin DNR & University of Wisconsin researchers concluded that in their study area, also in the CNNF, bear bait comprises 40% of a black bears diet, and the artificially high caloric diet is actually increasing fertility and creating artificial dependence on human feeding.

From The National Park Service’s web page for Sleeping Bear Dunes in the neighboring state of Michigan:

“A single taste of human food or trash is enough to turn a wild bear into a food-conditioned bear… Sadly, bears that obtain human food may lose their natural fear of humans. Over time, they may become bold or aggressive in their attempts to obtain human food and become a threat to public safety. When this happens, the bear pays the ultimate price–it is destroyed.”

Minimally regulated bear baiting and hound training in Wisconsin is a ecological disaster, and means an increased possibility of bear conflicts with humans. Although the practices serve a small vocal minority of bear hunters with powerful political lobbyist paid for by the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, the practice needs to end in our national forest lands.

The only people benefiting from these practices are bear hunters. In a recent DNR survey of bear hunters, over 93% hunted with the aid of bait and/or dogs. If you agree that the practice of feeding bears and allowing hunters to train their dogs to chase them in Summer months needs to end in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, please send your comment to forest officials at:

cnnfadmin@fs.fed.us

If you’d like to read the recent study on bear baiting in the CNNF:
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jwmg.21304/full

 

Field Update – July 13 2017

Today marks our 20th continuous day of patrols in the Chequamehon-Nicolet National Forest’s Washburn District, where Wisconsin’s minimally regulated bear hound training season & baiting season is in full swing.

Last year, over 19 bear hounds were killed by wolves while training & hunting in the CNNF’s wolf territory. Many of these conflicts occurred literally in the same areas, as hound hunters still receive $2,500 payouts from the state’s Endangered Species Fund, even though their continued use of dogs in “Wolf Caution Areas” can be considered irresponsible.

If you agree with Wolf Patrol that it is time to end the practices of bear hound training & baiting in our national forest lands, please email your comment to:
cnnfadmin@fs.fed.us