Wisconsin Wolves Returning Home

Battle Axe Road CNNF

Last week, Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) released the results from one of the country’s most thorough wolf and large carnivore surveys conducted annually by a state wildlife agency. An estimated 866-897 wolves live in 222 packs in the northern two-thirds of Wisconsin, according to the DNR’s latest 2015-16 winter survey. That’s 16% more wolves than were counted last year, this latest survey being only the second since hunting and trapping was again outlawed in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan in December 2014. Last year, the DNR survey reported 746-771 wolves in 208 packs.

Wolves Detected 2015-16

Wolves detected in winter 2015-16.

Gray wolves returned to Wisconsin in the late 1970’s, recolonizing traditional territory from resilient populations in Minnesota that survived the campaign of eradication in the 1900’s. Since then, wolves have reclaimed their rightful place in Wisconsin’s ecosystems as an apex predator feeding primarily on whitetail deer. Of the nearly 900 wolves in Wisconsin, an estimated 28 live outside of packs as loners, but others are naturally dispersing to suitable unoccupied former habitat not only in Wisconsin, but in Michigan and maybe one day other states where wolves presently remain extinct. All of this is successful natural occurring wolf reintroduction that Wolf Patrol supports and the reason why we exist, to protect newly returning wolves to Wisconsin and other areas where they were previously exterminated.

Pack and lone wolf summaries

Pack and lone wolf summaries, winter 2015-16.

Gray wolves in Wisconsin were wiped out in the early part of the 20th Century, as part of an extermination campaign that spread across the entire nation. Since their return, DNR biologists and volunteers have carried out annual winter track surveys to estimate the number of wolves residing in Wisconsin. Last Winter, Wolf Patrol joined the DNR’s team of volunteers conducting winter surveys for wolves in the northern forests, with our crew carrying out six separate surveys in two tracking blocks between December 2015 and April 2016.

Wolf Scat 2016

Wolf scat found on road during survey.

Every year, Wisconsin’s Volunteer Carnivore Tracking Program recruits hundreds of citizens, some in favor of wolf recolonization, some opposed, but all are people who care about the environment and enjoy recreating in Wisconsin’s wide expanse of public lands. Interested individuals and organizations must first attend two mandatory tracking classes that teach people about wolf history, biology, and the DNR’s role in facilitating wolf recovery following their return. Before completing the training, everyone must also pass a track identification test.

Wolf tracks found during survey.

Fresh wolf tracks found after a rainstorm.

Wolf Patrol’s involvement in the annual wolf count is because we believe those who care about wolves should be involved with the DNR and their public policy making as much as those who presently advocate for a return to wolf trapping and hunting in Wisconsin.

In 2012, the first year killing wolves became legal, 117 wolves were killed in Wisconsin by mostly trappers but also hunters. In 2013, another 257 wolves were killed, including 35 that were legally run down with hounds. In 2014, before the federal courts could stop it, another 154 wolves were killed with guns, traps and hounds.

Hound hunters monitored by Wolf Patrol brandish their trophy, south of Clear Lake, WI on 12/03/14.

Since the cessation of recreational wolf trapping and hunting in Wisconsin, Wolf Patrol has focused our attention on illegal threats and legal hunting practices that threaten gray wolves in the state. The return of the wolf is not welcomed by many in northern Wisconsin. Since wolves were placed back under federal protection in 2014, Wolf Patrol has documented numerous threats on social media from northern Wisconsin hunters who advocate for illegal wolf killing. Such threats were again posted following the June 15th, 2016 DNR meeting that announced the latest wolf count, calling for “we the people” to take the matter into their own hands, or “SSS: shoot, shovel and shut-up”.

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Comments following June 16th DNR meeting on Facebook site, “Wisconsin Wolf Hunting”

But poaching is not the only threat to wolves in Wisconsin, much of the hatred directed towards wolves is related to their killing of domestic animals. While there has never been a documented case of a wolf attacking a human in Wisconsin, wolves regularly kill dairy and beef cattle, in 2015, 50 cows and calves were reported killed by wolves with a total of $122,581.84 being paid out by the state in compensation for those livestock losses.

2015 Depredation Compensation DNR

Breakdown of domestic animals killed by wolves in 2015 and the amount of compensation paid.

Preventing livestock depredations by wolves in northern Wisconsin has proven to be effective through the increased use of non-lethal controls. This year DNR officials reported that on farms where guard animals, fencing, fladry and other non-lethal methods are employed, there’s a marked decrease in wolf caused depredations. DNR continues to host workshops to teach livestock producers in wolf country better animal management practices. Other non-lethal measures implemented to address wolf conflicts in Wisconsin 2015 included the trapping, collaring, and relocation of three wolves that had entered a captive deer farm. The wolves were released within their pack’s territory and no conflict persisted.

2015 Wolf Abatement DNR

Non-lethal measures employed on northern Wisconsin farms to prevent wolf depredations.

In 2015, there were two instances reported where lethal measures against wolves were implemented to address human safety. On a dairy farm, one wolf was killed after repeatedly visiting areas of the farm with humans. The other lethal response followed two reports from the Colburn Wildlife Area in Adams County, where hunters twice reported wolves approaching them without fear. One hunter fired his pistol, reportedly wounding the wolf though no body was ever recovered. DNR attempted trapping the suspected wolves, but abandoned the effort when it was determined that the wolves had moved out of the area and no longer posed a human threat.

2015 Depredation Compensation DNR

Breakdown of domestic animals killed by wolves in 2015 and the amount of compensation paid.

Other domestic animals are killed by wolves in Wisconsin each year, but the lion’s share are hunting hounds that are released to follow scents of prey animals across wolf territory. Each year, hound hunters in Wisconsin loose thousands of hunting dogs onto public and private lands to chase for bear primarily, but also coyote, bobcat, fox and raccoon (and in 2013 & 2014, wolves too). And every year, numerous hounds are killed and sometimes eaten by wolves who see the other canines as trespassers.

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Wisconsin DNR statistics on wolf-killed hunting dogs.

In 2015, 22 hunting dogs were killed by wolves in Wisconsin, eleven of those were bear hunting hounds, seven of which were killed in an area the DNR designated as a “Wolf Caution Area (WCA)” following the first depredation. DNR was unable to explain the marked increase in wolf-killed hunting hounds over the last three years, but Wolf Patrol believes the conflict is rooted in the DNR’s extremely liberal hound hunting regulations, which do not take into account the ecological impact of running packs of dogs through expanding wolf territory, especially in Summer months when pack members are especially protective of their young pups.

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Wisconsin DNR Wolf Caution Area, Bayfield County, 2015.

Like livestock producers, hound hunters are also compensated for wolf-killed dogs. Up to $2,500 is paid out to hound hunters, from the state’s sale of “endangered species” license plates. In 2015, a total of $58,224.70 was paid out to hound hunters, some of whom released hounds in the same WCA where other dogs had already been killed. While livestock producers who report conflicts with wolves are expected to address factors that contribute to depredations, no such system exists for hunters who legally hunt with hounds. The DNR does not prohibit the hunting with hounds in areas where wolves have already killed hunting dogs, this problem alone may be exacerbating the conflict between wolves and dogs.

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Bear hunters training hounds to chase bear, Polk County, July 2015.

The use of hunting hounds in WCA’s is only part of the problem. In one of the tracking blocks assigned to Wolf Patrol, one such WCA was delineated after nine hounds were killed by wolves in 2015. Last Summer, in the same area, Wolf Patrol’s investigations revealed over 19 bear baits in the WCA, with many more in the surrounding national forest lands in Bayfield County.

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Waffle cones, cherry chips and other sugary foods were filled in this particular bear baiting log.

Researchers studying the conflict between wolves and hunting hounds in Wisconsin surmise that in addition to bears, wolves are also becoming habituated to feed stations intended for bears and in turn, defend them as feeding sites of their own. Many bear hunters release their dogs near bear baits where they can easily pick up a scent trail from a visiting bear. Hound hunters track their dogs using GPS collars attached to them, as the animals travel far out of the hunters view. This is when most are killed by wolves.

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Wolf Patrol member documenting bear baiting on Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest July 2015.

Since mid-April 2016, when bear baiting is legal to begin in Wisconsin, Wolf Patrol has been visiting Wolf Caution Areas to record the number of active bear baiting stations on public lands. Our investigation is intended to gather data and information that can be provided to resource managers, with the hope that legal hunting activities such as bear baiting and hound hunting that contribute to conflicts with wolves, will be better regulated. Wolf Patrol is also asking for an outright ban on bear baiting and hound hunting within the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, where there is a history of wolf conflicts, and within all designated Wolf Caution Areas.

Bear Bait Six

A typical bear baiting area in Polk County, Wisconsin, April 2016.

Wolf Patrol’s 2016 investigation into bear baiting and hound hunting on public lands needs your support! While we work cooperatively with Wisconsin DNR, many in the bear hunting and hound hunting community do not want our crew to uncover the truth about baiting and hounding wildlife on public lands. In a signing ceremony at this year’s annual gathering of the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, Governor Scott Walker signed into law The Right to Hunt Act, which was penned specifically to address the existence of Wolf Patrol. We believe every human being has the right to access public lands with the intent of seeing for themselves how their lands and wildlife are being managed, and towards that end, Wolf Patrol will continue its efforts to protect wolves and other predators from legal and illegal threats.

WP Truck in Moquah

On Patrol in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, May 2016.

For More Information on Wisconsin’s Volunteer Tracking Program and upcoming training sessions, please visit the DNR’s website: http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/wildlifehabitat/volunteer.html

For More Information on the conflict between bear hunters and wolves:

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0061708

To Contribute to Wolf Patrol’s campaign, please visit wolfpatrol.org or our Gofundme site:

“Great Lakes Wolf Patrol”

 

April 15: Bear Baiting Begins for 145 Days on Wisconsin Public Lands

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According to a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources survey in 2014, black bears were intentionally fed over 4 million gallons of bait at 82,340 bait sites in northern Wisconsin. Many of these bear baits are on public lands, such as the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, where wolves also become habituated to recognizing baits as a food source. Last year, wolves killed nine bear hunting hounds in one small area of the CNNF, where Wolf Patrol documented over 26 active bear baiting locations. Last fall in Grantsburg, Wisconsin bears accustomed to intentional feeding posed a human safety hazard as well. Bear baiting is illegal in 40 states, and in none of the other five states that allow it, is the baiting season as long as that in Wisconsin, where it creates conflict with wolves who are traveling with young pups to rendezvous sites. It’s time to follow the lead in United States Forest Service & National Park Service policy and tell Wisconsin:

PLEASE DO NOT FEED THE BEARS!

Last Stand of the Rosebud Wolves?

 

Wolf Tracks Off Mystic

Wolf tracks coming out of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area, Montana

On March 30, Wolf Patrol became aware of Montana and the federal government’s decision to lethally remove the Rosebud wolf pack, which roam the Beartooth Mountains, northeast of Yellowstone National Park. Wolves from the pack have been blamed for livestock depredations last year, as well as another this past January, and two cattle deaths on March 25, on a ranch just south of Roscoe, in Carbon County Montana. One of the Rosebud wolves was reportedly killed in early February, and two more wolves were captured and then killed with leg-hold snares set near the cattle carcasses on March 30, according to the USDA’s Wildlife Services.

 

Fersters Dead Cow

One of two replacement heifers allegedly killed by the Rosebud wolves.

This month marks the end of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s oversight of Montana’s state management of wolves, which has included the annual recreational hunting and commercial trapping season for wolves. As of 2016, there were an estimated 539 wolves in 126 packs in Montana, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. While 210 wolves were legally killed by hunters and trappers in Montana in the 2015-16 wolf season, state, federal and private ranchers are responsible for killing an additional 96 wolves, according to the 2015 Montana Wolf Annual Report.

Statewide, wolves were blamed for 41 cattle, 21 sheep and two horse deaths in 2015. In 2014, it was 37 cattle, 8 sheep and one horse, whose deaths were accredited to wolves. While these depredations are given widespread media coverage, what isn’t talked about is how these numbers represent a minuscule fraction of one percent of normal cattle mortality in Montana, where an estimated 1.5 million cows and 1.2 million calves are produced statewide each year.

Statistics on What Kills Cows

What’s really killing cows on the range.

Yet, in what is becoming the norm, more and more packs of wolves, not just the suspected offenders, are being lethally removed by state and federal authorities, following livestock depredations such as those recently blamed on the Rosebud pack.

Wolf Patrol believes the USDA’s Wildlife Services in Montana is using the predictable predation of livestock by individual wolves as justification for lethal removal of entire packs such as the Rosebud wolves. To determine whether this was the case, we dispatched a crew to southern Montana to investigate Wildlife Service’s planned removal of the Rosebud pack.

Patrolling

Patrolling the Custer National Forest where wolves recently crossed.

On April 4, Wolf Patrol set up a base camp near Fishtail, Montana, approximately six miles from the most recent depredation site in Carbon County. Our objective was to investigate cattle ranching practices, search out recent wolf sign and possibly document the federal government’s removal of the remaining members of the Rosebud pack. With the suspected removal activity taking place on private lands, we were unable to access ranches where we believed Wildlife Services had set snares to capture wolves.

Instead, our crew carried out daily patrols on public roads surrounding the cattle ranch where depredations occurred, as well as patrolling the numerous drainages wolves use to travel between the Beartooth Mountains and the Yellowstone River Valley, where they cross an estimated 20-40 cattle operations. We also placed trail cameras at locations we suspected Wildlife Services might be operating.

Fersters Cows

Cows and calves grazing near recent depredation site in Carbon County.

This part of Montana is an area of predominant cattle ranching, with mostly working ranches and only a few vacation homes. With the Spring calving season in full swing, thousands of black heifers and their calves now occupy ranches in the area, grazing openly on private lands adjacent to the southern fringe of the Custer National Forest. On the ranch where the most recent depredations occurred, cows and calves graze on the banks of Rosebud Creek, which is a natural corridor for wolves and other wildlife that historically inhabited this area in spring.

Rangelands Photo

What the range looks like where cattle graze.

Despite the overabundance of cattle in the area, both whitetail and mule deer were in abundance and two separate elk herds were also in the area. Bighorn sheep and moose were also seen. In addition to the cattle themselves, other attractants such as an elk carcass and numerous roadkill deer were documented in the Rosebud Creek area. Where cattle are openly grazed away from human habitations, no nonlethal deterrents such as flagry, guard animals or range riders were in evidence.

elk carcass

An elk carcass on Coleman Bench, not far from depredation site.

Ever since the reintroduction of wolves back into the Yellowstone ecosystem, many Montana cattle ranchers have demanded that wolves be prevented from rehabitating areas outside of the national park. An aggressive and long hunting season has meant that many wolves leaving Yellowstone are quickly killed, whether or not they have preyed on livestock. With the continued success of the wolf recovery program in Yellowstone, more and more wolves are leaving the park, looking to colonize territory in their former range.

Critical to the lethal removal of entire wolf packs by state and federal wildlife agents is the practice of radio-collaring individual animals, then re-releasing them to rejoin their pack. Once a livestock depredation has occurred, the so-called “Judas wolves” can then be easily tracked (usually through aerial surveillance) to the entire pack, which is then killed. According to Wildlife Services, on April 8, agents killed the last two remaining members of the Rosebud pack, which were fitted with radio collars.

GPS locations

GPS tracking of some of our patrol routes.

Wolf Patrol remained in the Stillwater & Carbon County area until reports were received that the last Rosebud wolves had been killed. No aerial activity was documented near the multiple cattle operations at the base of the Beartooth Mountains, which leaves us to suspect that the two collared wolves killed on April 8, were shot, not near cattle they supposedly posed a threat to, but we suspect in the high country on public lands, where access is still limited because of existing snow conditions. If this is proven to be the case, than it is evidence that state and federal authorities are using any act of livestock depredation as justification to lethally remove non-offending wolves with no history of conflict.

Wolf Tracks II

Wolf tracks in the Custer National Forest.

Our field investigation documented wolf sign in three separate drainages Therefore, while the Rosebud pack has been eliminated, we believe wolves will continue to be removed from Stillwater and Carbon counties. Cattle ranchers in both counties will continue to graze livestock on the open range, and it is only a matter of time before more naturally distributing wolves encounter and kill another cow or sheep.

According to Montana’s weekly wolf reports, at least 12 separate wolf packs (including the Rosebud pack) had individuals captured and fitted with 16 radio collars since January 2016. It would appear that Montana is marking the end of its federal management oversight by exercising the strategy of radio-collaring as many new and expanding wolf packs as possible, in order to more easily lethally remove them when depredations can be blamed on any wolf.

MT Wolf Report 1:2-16

Wolf report with radio collaring updates in blue.

Wolf Patrol does not support the lethal removal of wolves blamed for cattle deaths. We believe that such depredations are the cost of cattle ranching in wolf country, and native predators like wolves and grizzlies should never be killed, just because they’ve killed an animal that will be killed anyway. With over 2.7 million cattle occupying Montana lands, and less than 600 wolves, we believe the responsibility should fall back on the rancher to provide nonlethal deterrents when ranching in wolf country, and that wolves should be allowed to occupy suitable habitat within their historic range.

View from Mystic Lake

Looking towards cattle country from the wilderness above Carbon County.

Its ridiculous to think that wolves will not kill livestock grazed openly on range that both animals use. After witnessing the sheer number of cows and calves vulnerable to wolf predation in Stillwater and Carbon counties, Wolf Patrol believes wolves should be commended, not killed for taking less than 50 a year. Ending the killing of livestock by wolves was never believed to be possible, which is why there remains an active compensation program to reimburse ranchers who lose livestock to wolves.

Path to Mystic Lake

Following wolf and moose tracks in the wilderness area.

The larger issue of whether wolves and livestock can share their range will not be resolved by simply killing wolves that kill livestock, ranchers must put into place greater deterrents when grazing livestock, and recognize that occasional wolf depredations must simply become a vocational hazard when operating near large wilderness areas.

Wolf Patrol will continue to monitor the lethal removal of wolves blamed for livestock deaths in Montana and Idaho, and will continue to patrol areas where lethal control orders are in place, not for the purpose of interfering, but to further investigate the suspected killing of wolves with no history of livestock depredations. We do not believe it is an acceptable strategy to remove entire wolf packs when only some might be responsible for depredations, nor do we support the nonlethal removal of native predators from their historic range to be placed forever in captivity. All wildlife, including gray wolves, grizzly bears and bison deserve the right to roam free on America’s wild lands, and until they are, Wolf Patrol will remain as a watchdog of agencies and individuals who kill them.

February 5-6, 2016: Wolf Patrol Attends Coyote Contest in Mauston, Wisconsin

Wolf Patrol was on-sight for yet another coyote contest held near Mauston, Wisconsin at Jackson Clinic, a small tavern in Juneau County.  Crew members patrolled the surrounding area beginning at sunrise on Friday, February 5 in order to establish areas where hunters may be looking for coyotes.

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01/27/16: Newspaper ad for the coyote contest at Jackson Clinic

The weather that weekend made ideal hunting conditions, with above freezing temperatures which led Wolf Patrol to believe their would be much hounding activity on the day of the contest.  The roads were well-maintained, making navigation in and around the the Bass Hollow State Natural Area, fully accessible.  Hound and coyote tracks were evident throughout the territory our monitors patrolled.

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02/05/16: A snow covered road in Bass Hollow SNA.

Saturday, February 6 Wolf Patrol’s presence was patrolling roads surrounding Jackson Clinic, the establishment sponsoring the event.  By 730am, members were able to document the first two trucks equipped with hound boxes.  Minutes later a string of trucks were parked along the same road.  The rest of the day revealed heavy traffic, with at least 15 different trucks traveling throughout the beautiful bluff country in Juneau County.  At times, men with rifles could be seen standing near the roads edge, and other times caravans of trucks would be seen driving throughout the open farm roads.  By 1100am the first dead coyote could be spotted on top of a hound box.

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02/06/16: A caravan of hound trucks with a dead coyote in the back.

By 530pm the action was starting to die down on the previously busy rural roads, and after Wolf Patrol made a final lap, we headed to Jackson Clinic as the sun was starting to set.  Although the weigh-in wasn’t due until 700pm, coyotes began being weighed at 545pm.  In total, two coyotes were entered, which in turn won the all three categories of “smallest”, “largest” and “most.”

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02/06/16: A coyote being weighed-in at about 25 pounds.

While waiting to see if any late arrivals would be submitted, Wolf Patrol crew members had the opportunity to speak to several residents and contest participants.  The overall sentiment was that these hound hunters love to coyote hunt, and they love their dogs, even going so far as to say that they are the responsible hounders.  Also, the consensus was that coyotes are a detriment to the local deer population.  According to one gentlemen, “There’s nothing like the sound of my dogs running through the valley.”  Later, bear hunting entered the conversation, and another hunter said “I don’t care if I kill another bear.  I just like treeing them, and seeing what they’ll do, and letting them go.”  Overall, the tone in this small bar was generally positive despite the actual killing of these beautiful predators, and the precarious position put on their dogs while pitted against a wild animal.

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02/06/16: The two coyotes taken during the contest- 21 and 25 pounds.

In conclusion, Wolf Patrol believes that encounters like these help us glean valuable information into the hound hunting lifestyle, and communities that participate in it.  Despite disagreeing with the method by which this hunting occurs, and the general feeling of disregard for predators, our experience was a learning one; One that may help us make changes for the better for wolves and all of Wisconsin’s wildlife, by working with those that we oppose.

Northern Wisconsin Patrol Report: January 18-23rd, 2016

1.19.16 Moquah

01/19/16: Wolf Patrol, Moquah Barrens, Wisconsin.

On January 17th, Wolf Patrol’s Wildlife Crimes Division received a report of suspected wolf poaching in the Washburn District of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (CNNF). The report alleged that an unnamed individual had witnessed wolf poaching, allegedly by bear hunters in retaliation for eight hunting hounds that had been killed by wolves, since the bear hound training season began July 1st.

Wolf Killed Bear Hound

2015: Bear hound killed and eaten by wolves during the hound training season.

With the increase in the number of bear hunting hounds being killed by wolves in northern Wisconsin in recent years, Wolf Patrol has feared that these depredations would lead to retaliation killings, despite the fact that bear hound hunters are compensated from Wisconsin’s Endangered Species Fund, up to $2,500.00 for each hound killed by a federally protected gray wolf.

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09/23/15: DNR Wolf Caution Area, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Red denotes 2015 wolf-killed hound(s) blue, hound depredations 2009-14.

In July 2015, Wolf Patrol began its investigation of bear hound training and baiting in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, particularly in Bayfield County, where numerous hunting dogs had recently been killed by wolves. What we found was a high concentration of bear baits (19) in the Department Of Natural Resources’ (WDNR) “Wolf Caution Areas” which are designated once a depredation has occurred. Despite the advance warnings of wolves having been habituated to bear baiting sites, bear hunters continue to loose their hounds in the caution areas, and the result last Summer and Fall, was eight bear hunting hounds killed.

Endgo Rd Hound Hunter

09/17/15: Bayfield County, Wolf Patrol member Rod Coronado conversing with hound hunter documented driving illegally on closed trails.

On January 18, as part of the WDNR’s Carnivore Tracking Program, Wolf Patrol volunteer trackers conducted a carnivore tracking survey in the Washburn District of the CNNF. The annual gray wolf survey helps, “to determine the number, distribution, breeding status, and territories of wolves in Wisconsin”. The volunteer survey is also a way to monitor the abundance and distribution of other medium-sized and large carnivores, as well as an attempt to determine the presence of rare carnivores such ass Canada Lynx  and cougar.

checkin out poop

01/19/16: Measuring canine tracks and droppings near the Moquah Barrens, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

Wolf Patrol monitors visited the Washburn district of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in July, twice in September and once in October. On all three occasions, wolf tracks and sign were easily found in the areas where bear baits were also concentrated. At the conclusion of the track survey on January 18th & 19th, no wolf sign had been detected in any of the areas where it had been documented last Summer and Fall.

Bear Bait in Wolf Caution Area

09/13/15: Bayfield County bear bait in Wolf Caution Area, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

Our concern is that illegal killing of wolves is taking place in areas with a high concentration of hound hunting for bear, coyote and bobcat. Online evidence continually reveals a high degree of contempt for federally protected gray wolves by the hound hunting community and it was our suspicion, based on the numerous documented threats against wolves by hound hunters in northern Wisconsin, that these very same people are taking vigilante-type measures to illegal kill wolves despite their federal protections.

John Lobner Fish Hook Threat

07/15/15: Comment posted on Wolf Patrol’s Facebook site detailing how to illegally kill wolves.

Based on this suspicion, Wolf Patrol’s Wildlife Crimes Unit dispatched to Forest County, Wisconsin on January 20th, where a coyote hunting contest for hound hunters was being organized in Argonne, Wisconsin. Wolf Patrol monitors quickly learned that another coyote hunting contest had occurred the week previous to our arrival, and in that hunt, the Laona Hound Hunters claimed the prize money.

Pioneer Press Article

01/18/16: Pioneer Press article on Laona WI Predator Hunt.

Wolf Patrol spent the days leading up to the Argonne coyote hunt slowly driving CNNF roads in Forest County, looking for wolf sign in areas where the competition hunt would later occur. Our concern being that during competitive coyote hunts, the illegal shooting of wolves misidentified as coyotes is probable, especially amongst sportsmen who already despise them. This concern was partially founded on the fact that contest organizers were offering a prize for the “largest” coyote, as well as for the most killed.

Argonne Hunt Poster

01/19/16: Poster advertising Argonne Coyote Hunt.

Our field patrols of the CNNF in Forest County found multiple canine tracks intersecting deer trails in the recently fallen snow, and along the Peshtigo River, a high amount of wolf sign, including evidence of not just one or two wolves, but what we suspect were numerous animals. We placed two trail cameras in the areas with wolf sign on publicly accessible roads to monitor for wolf and human activity leading up to the Argonne coyote hunt.

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01/21/16: Wolf track in Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest near Argonne, Wisconsin.

WP monitors also visited local establishments where the subject of wolves was openly discussed. A high level of animosity towards wolves was quickly discovered, and at the restaurant where the Argonne Coyote Hunt was being organized, I spoke with a hound hunter who openly stated that any wolf seen in the area, was a wolf killed. No questions asked. According to this hound hunter, area residents feared wolves were coming closer and closer to residential areas, so illegal taking was being rationalized as a means to prevent depredations by wolves.

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01/22/16: Main St. Ed’s Argonne, WI, registration site for Argonne Coyote Hunt.

On January 21st, Wolf Patrol investigators contacted lawyers and biologists with the Center for Biological Diversity to inquire as to the legal requirements for competition events on national forest lands. Numerous attempts have been made to prevent contest killings of wildlife on public lands by citing federal code 36 C.F.R. § 251.51 which states that any commercial activities, such as those like the coyote hunt that charge an entry fee, are required to apply for a Special Use Permit. We next visited the Laona, Wisconsin U.S. Forest Service office where inquiries were made about a Special Use Permit for the hunt. A regional representative informed Wolf Patrol that a determination had been made that a Special Use Permit was not necessary.

Patrolling Peshtigo River 1.22.16

01/21/16: Patrolling Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest roads near Argonne, WI.

On January 21st, during local patrols of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in the Laona & Argonne areas of Forest County, numerous non-lethal marten hair traps set by University of Wisconsin researchers were located in the forests. Martens are one of the most endangered carnivores in Wisconsin. Wolf Patrol supports ongoing research projects by the University of Wisconsin to determine population and other biological information relating to the highly endangered marten.

Marten hair trap

01/21/16: University of Wisconsin non-lethal marten hair trap in Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest outside Argonne, WI.

On January 22nd, Wolf Patrol monitors returned to the Peshtigo River area where wolf sign had been earlier detected. Our monitors operate as experienced trackers who not only investigate wolf activity, but also human activity in wolf habitat. The entire purpose of our patrol this particular week, was to investigate human activities such as coyote hound hunting in areas where wolves are known to occur. The previously mentioned report of alleged wolf poaching by hound hunters led us to other areas where we knew hound hunters would be active in wolf territory.

Close Up of Baited Hook

01/22/16: Treble fishing hook wrapped with meat, dangling on monofiliment fishing line in Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

At approximately 1000am on January 22nd, Wolf Patrol monitors identified human tracks leading off U.S. Forest Service roads along the Peshtigo River. The human tracks followed game trails, and following just twenty feet off the road, the tracks lead to the discovery of three small meat baits, measuring approximately two inches in diameter, each wrapped around a treble (three-pronged) fishing hook. The baits were dangling from monofiliment fishing line that could easily be broken by any carnivore swallowing the bait.

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WDNR Conservation Officer investigating illegal baits found in Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

 

Approximately one hundred yards further down the same forest road, two more baited hooks were discovered. Wolf Patrol monitors documented the baits, obtained GPS coordinates, and then drove to nearby Laona, where WDNR was notified. We then returned to the bait site to await the arrival of the WDNR warden. While waiting for the warden, an additional bait was located in the same area, thus bringing the total number of discovered baited fish hooks to six.

At Approximately 1430hrs, a DNR conservation officer arrived on the scene and begun investigating the bait site. A determination was quickly made, that these were indeed illegal baits set for the intention of causing suffering and a slow death to any animal that ingested the hidden fish hooks.

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01/22/16: WDNR Conservation Officer removing illegal baits and evidence.

Wolf Patrol would like to thank the investigating Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer who responded promptly and professionally to this serious violation of both state and federal wildlife laws. Wolf Patrol exists to assist all wildlife agencies in their enforcement of laws meant to protect and conserve the natural resources of our great country, and our reward program was created to aid in the capture and prosecution of wildlife criminals.

HOund Truck on Browns Rd

01/23/16: Hound hunter with snowmobile looking for coyote sign near illegal bait site.

On January 23rd, Wolf Patrol monitors patrolled Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest lands within Forest County, where numerous hound hunters were seen prowling public lands, looking for coyote sign. Our intention was not to interfere, but simply to use our public presence to deter any illegal taking of gray wolves. Knowledge that our crew are in the field with handheld, vehicle-mounted, trail-cameras and drones serves as an alert to would be wildlife law violators that the illegal taking of wildlife will be witnessed, documented and prosecuted.

Argonne Coyotes on Dogbox

01/23/16: Coyotes killed by hound hunters during Argonne Coyote Hunt.

While the U.S. Forest Service did not require a Special Use Permit for the Argonne Coyote Hunt, because the event involved a raffle, the event fell under state gaming regulations that required an additional permit. For this reason, the public weigh-in of dead coyotes and the awarding of prize money was cancelled.

On January 23rd, Wolf Patrol announced a $5,000.00 cash reward for information that will lead to the prosecution and conviction of anyone responsible for the setting of illegal baits and traps for wolves in Wisconsin.

While we were relieved that six more wolves and/or coyotes or other predators did not ingest the illegal baits we uncovered, it’s ridiculous to believe that we were able to locate all the baits set by this particular poacher. More ominously, this discovery leads Wolf Patrol to conclude that wolf poaching is indeed taking place in the north woods of Wisconsin, and according to multiple reports, hound hunters are the prime suspects.

coyote with hounds

GPS-equipped hunting hounds attacking a wounded coyote on public lands.

Wolf Patrol will continue to investigate suspected poaching activities on Wisconsin’s public lands, offer assistance to WDNR efforts to combat illegal hunting, and monitor hound hunting for coyotes and predator killing competitions in documented wolf territory as part of an effort to dissuade wolf poaching. We also will continue to conduct carnivore tracking surveys in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, monitor wolf activity in the Moquah Barrens and support efforts by WDNR to ascertain the most accurate assessment of gray wolf populations in Wisconsin as is scientifically possible.

TO THE ETHICAL SPORTSMEN & WOMEN OF FOREST COUNTY, WISCONSIN:

Wolf Patrol will continue its reward program, and offers a no-questions asked cash reward to any individual who provides information that leads to the prosecution and conviction of wildlife criminals. If you or someone you know has evidence of a crime committed against Wisconsin’s wildlife, CALL or TEXT 1-800-TIP-WDNR (1-800-847-9367. To email a report of a violation not in progress: LE.hotline@wisconsin.gov

Report-back on the Public Hearing about the Right to Hunt Act

Wolf Patrol’s response to Committee on Natural Resources and Sporting Heritage public meeting on Assembly Bill 433 aka: The Right to Hunt Act

WATCH the video of the hearing here. You can jump forward to Wolf Patrol’s testimony at any time which begins at 3:22:00 though we encourage you to watch the entire meeting, then contact your legislators Wisconsin friends!

10/28/15: Today we heard Wisconsin’s bear baiters, hound hunters and commercial trappers cry bloody murder for our monitoring of their recreational hunting and trapping activities on public lands.12063356_417917295074583_4898341874414937424_n

Wolf Patrol’s monitoring in October 2014 of Wisconsin’s wolf trapping season led to the videotaping of a wolf trap illegally set beyond the close of last year’s hunt. This evidence was reported to the DNR’s anti-poaching hotline, and led to an investigation that concluded that the trapper had indeed broken the law. In a private meeting with the DNR’s Chief Warden, Wolf Patrol’s monitors were informed that the trapper had been given a verbal warning. This is the kind of public reporting and monitoring of controversial hunting and trapping practices that Rep. Jarchow and the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association (WBHA) wants to outlaw with Assembly Bill 433.

At today’s Assembly hearing, hunter after hunter testified to how they’ve felt intimidated and threatened by our public lands monitoring, yet not one shred of evidence was provided to prove that Wolf Patrol’s investigations have impeded or interfered with their hunting or trapping. Much of the WBHA’s testimony amounted to fabricated stories about Wolf Patrol committing serious crimes so as to foment fear amongst themselves and lawmakers to justify proposing legislation that criminalizes public lands monitoring and free speech.

12188916_417910715075241_130594514664350209_nAdam Jarchow testified today that The Right to Hunt Act was introduced to specifically target Wolf Patrol. He admitted that his legislation was drafted in response to the WBHA’s demand that Wolf Patrol’s citizen monitoring be made illegal. Yet all of their testimonies attested to alleged activity that is already covered in Wisconsin’s hunter harassment statute and anti-stalking laws. This legislation is purely the evidence of a special interest group (Wisconsin bear hunters) using political favoritism to draft laws that violate the Constitution and keep their activities hidden from public view.

The Right to Hunt Act is a direct response to Wolf Patrol’s investigation into Wisconsin’s liberal bear baiting and hound hunting regulations. In 2014, a DNR survey revealed that over 4 million gallons of bear bait was dumped into over 82,000 bear baiting locations on Wisconsin’s forestlands. In Wisconsin, anyone can set as many bear baits as they desire, and are not required to provide the locations to DNR, as is the practice in other states that allow bear baiting. Our 2015 investigation into bear baiting in a DNR-designated Wolf Caution Area documented over 24 bear baits within a square mile of where wolves killed seven bear hunting hounds between July and October, which spans both bear baiting, hunting and hound training seasons.

Our investigation was in response to the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest’s Washburn District request for public input into how to better manage our public forest lands in northern Wisconsin. Our videotape documentation of bear baiting practices was used to educate the public to the creation of Wisconsin’s number one source of wolf conflicts: the allowance of bear baiting and hound training and hunting in areas where it is known wolves have become conditioned to kill domestic animals. Our evidence was used to encourage citizens to submit public comments to the USFS, asking that bear baiting and hound hunting be banned within the Chequemegon-Nicolet National Forest.

UPDATE: The public hearing is being widely reported in the media from coast-to-coast. Here are a couple of media reports:

NPR: Some Wisconsin Lawmakers Claim Bear Hunters Are Being Harassed

SF Gate: Hunters press committee to pass anti-harassment bill

Controversial Wildlife Group Concludes its Monitoring of Florida’s Bear Hunt

Media Release 10/25/15 – An organization whose controversial tactics monitoring wolf & bear hunts in Wisconsin (which has led to the recent introduction of The Right to Hunt Act, a bill to outlaw their activities) has announced that it has been secretly monitoring Florida’s bear hunt. Wolf Patrol, operating as Florida Bear Patrol, is a group that advocates for “citizen monitoring” of controversial hunts that it believes caters to trophy hunting at the expense of apex predators and healthy ecosystems.

Florida Bear Patrol (FBP) members from Florida, Wisconsin and Michigan spent the weekend of the state’s first bear hunt monitoring hunting activities outside Altoona, FL in the Ocala National Forest. Where bear hunting tree stands were discovered, activists placed trail cameras to help ensure bear hunters were obeying the laws governing the hunt, most notably, whether illegal baiting was being employed.

FBP members also interviewed community members in Lake County, discovering that many residents were opposed to the hunt. “Our initial investigation revealed that the vast majority of bears reported killed weighed in at less than 140 lbs. that means they were either very young adult bears or second year cubs at best,” said FBP member, Rod Coronado. “While FWC (Florida’s Fish & Wildlife Commission) mandated that bear baiting would be illegal, it did not halt the legal baiting of deer with foods that also attract bears.”

FBP’s parent group, Wolf Patrol, is campaigning to halt the practice of bear baiting on national forest lands in Wisconsin where according to that state’s wildlife agency, over 4 million gallons of bear bait was dumped in the state in 2014 alone. In July and September of this year, while monitoring bear baiting and hunting, patrol members were questioned by county sheriff deputies investigating claims by bear hunters that the group was violating the state’s hunter harassment laws. “We operate 100% within the law monitoring questionable hunting tactics such as baiting and hound hunting. Our presence on public lands also helps wildlife officials rein in illegal activities and that’s what legislators in Wisconsin are being asked to stop.” concludes Coronado.

Coronado and his FBP crew will be on hand in Orlando Monday night to share their findings with bear hunt opponents who asked his organization to monitor the state’s first bear hunt in 21 years.