In August 2022, Wolf Patrol returned to the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (CNNF) to again document how Wisconsin’s lenient bear baiting and hound training regulations continue to be the cause behind multiple bear hound depredations by wolves each year. Long before bear hunting season begins, Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) allows a two-month bear hound training season that begins July 1st and runs until the end of August.
So far this year, nine bear hounds have been killed by wolves in heavily bear baited areas of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest and other public lands in northern Wisconsin. In early August 2022, Wolf Patrol investigated multiple bear hound depredations that had occurred in Forest, Oconto and Bayfield counties. In all of the national forest areas where depredations occurred, Wolf Patrol documented multiple active bear bait sites.
WDNR regulations do not require that bait sites be registered, no license is required and hunters can construct as many bear bait sites on public lands as they desire. In each, baiters are allowed to dump up to 10 gallons of human food waste, grease and chocolate, which is toxic to bears, wolves and other canines. Over the last eight years, Wolf Patrol has documented chronic bear baiting occurring in WDNR “Wolf Caution Areas” which are designated 4-mile radius areas surrounding the location of a bear hound depredation.
These unlimited wildlife feeding stations are literally attracting the wolf’s natural prey like deer, as well as serving as a food source for wolves. The WDNR estimates that as much as 4 million gallons of bear bait is dumped in our national forests and other public lands in Wisconsin each annually. Wisconsin’s bear baiting season begins in April and runs seven months until October. Hound hunters in Wisconsin use multiple bear baits to attract bears that their dogs can later track, chase and tree.
Due to the lack of regulation on bear baiting in Wisconsin, a recent WDNR study concluded that 40% of a black bear’s diet in Wisconsin’s Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest is comprised of bear bait provided by hunters. In addition, when a wolf kills a bear hound in Wisconsin, the hound hunter is compensated $2,500 for their loss, even if the hunter has already been compensated for a hound killed in the very same Wolf Caution Area.
Over the last seven years, Wolf Patrol’s members and many other concerned residents have also introduced numerous citizen resolutions to Wisconsin’s Conservation Congress (WCC) to reduce or limit bear baiting and hound training. Every one of these resolutions supported by WCC voters has been rejected by the WCC Bear Committee whose stated purpose is the increase of bear hunting opportunities in Wisconsin.
Feeding the bears in Wisconsin is not only killing bears, its killing bear hounds and even wolves, which have become the target for poisoning and illegal killing in recent years due to the increase in wolf numbers and their attacks on bear hounds. All for a minority of hunters who like to run down bears with dogs so they can be shot out of a tree. In October 2021, A federal judge returned Wisconsin’s wolves to federal protections after a disastrous court-ordered recreational wolf hunt wiped out a third of the state’s wolf population.
Yet, as long as unlimited bear baiting is allowed in Wisconsin, wolf attacks on bear hounds will continue as will hound hunters illegal killing and poisoning of the federally protected wolves responsible. WDNR’s bear baiting and hound training practices are the number one cause of deadly conflicts between wolves and humans in Wisconsin, and both should not be allowed on our national forests where they are altering the natural behavior of bears, wolves, deer and other wildlife.
For now, bear baiting continues to be a big business in Wisconsin, with local bait dealers selling semi-truck loads of expired human food waste to hunters by the 55-gallon barrel. And chocolate isn’t the only ingredient in bear bait that is toxic to wildlife, but Xylitol is another ingredient found in bait items like peanut butter, which is regularly used as bear bait in Wisconsin. Its shameful!
Join Wolf Patrol in calling for WDNR and U.S. Forest Service officials to get a backbone and end the intentional feeding of wildlife in our national forests by bear hunters. Its a no-brainer. Feeding wildlife in unlimited bait sites on public lands is creating a nightmare for wildlife and is harming federally protected gray wolves. Hey Wisconsin, stop feeding the bears!
You can email Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest officials at: