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.

Screen Shot 2017-07-05 at 1.09.30 PM

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.

screen-shot-2017-02-07-at-2-28-44-pm

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.

IMG_8034

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.

Screen Shot 2017-09-10 at 10.09.58 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2017-09-10 at 10.20.39 AM

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.

IMG_8034

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.

IMG_8038

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.

Screen Shot 2017-09-09 at 2.04.28 PM

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:

cnnfadmin@fs.fed.us

Day Four Report from the Wisconsin Bear Hunt

On September 7th & 8th, 2017, on just the second and third day of this nation’s largest black bear hunt, Wisconsin’s hound hunters were again responsible for their dogs being killed by wolves. The first depredation occurred in Sawyer County, in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, where Wolf Patrol is documenting the reckless running of bear hounds in wolf rendezvous areas.

The second bear hound/wolf fight occurred, in Burnett County just south of the St. Croix River, approximately 5 miles from where three more bear hounds have been killed so far this year. In both locations, despite Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), bear hunters continue to loose their hounds in areas where they know there is a likelihood that they will be killed by wolves. Many hound hunters say their dogs are like family members, but I have yet to meet anyone who would let their family members wonder into a known potentially deadly situation.

At the Sawyer County depredation site, we found multiple active bear baits in the middle of an active wolf rendezvous site. In every single bear hound depredation site Wolf Patrol has visited over the last three years, we have documented continued bear baiting and hound running, even though the WDNR warns against it. The Sawyer County location was no different. As we turned West out of Park Falls, headed to the site, we saw a hound truck turning onto the same road where the killing occurred. When we reached the immediate area, we found four more bear hunter vehicles parked and waiting, as other hunters refilled bear baits.

The practice of running hounds from bear baits is a recipe for disaster, for wolves and bear hounds, but also its a lucrative way for hounders to make a couple thousand dollars through Wisconsin’s compensation fund for wolf-caused depredations. Last year, more bear hounds were killed by wolves (41) than in any year previous. 28 of these wolf/dog fights occurred in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (CNNF), where the practice of running dogs through wolf territory begins in July and runs three-and-a-half months, until bear season ends in October.

It’s time to end the practices of bear baiting and hound running through known wolf rendezvous area in our national forests. If you agree, please email forest officials at:

cnnfadmin@fs.fed.us

Day Three Report from the Wisconsin Bear Hunt…

Today, Wolf Patrol monitors are preparing for a swarm of hound hunters entering the woods tomorrow, on the first Saturday of the hound hunt for bear. This first week of bear hunting is traditionally also the time when many bear hounds trespass into wolf rendezvous areas where they are sometimes killed by wolves protecting their young.

Yesterday’s interaction with a non-resident bear hunter who challenged Wolf Patrol founder, Rod Coronado to a fight to the death, however benign it might seem, reminded us of the lengths some bear hunters are willing to go to keep their bloodsport a secret. The Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association has spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to stop Wolf Patrol from sharing the atrocities committed against Wisconsin wildlife, but Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) wardens, the Bayfield County Sheriff, and the US Forest Service have all assured us of our legal right to continue monitoring bear hunting activities on our national forest lands.

Last night, our patrol vehicle broke down at a bear baiting site, and we are currently working with a local supporter from the Red Cliff Nation to get it back on the road by the morning. Thank you to everyone who responded to our pleas for assistance!

Don’t forget! The best way to show your support for our efforts to reign in reckless hunting practices that harm federally protected wolves and other wildlife in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest is to send an email to forest officials asking them to end bear hounding & baiting in our national forests!

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

Day Two Report on the Wisconsin Bear Hunt

Today, Wolf Patrol citizen monitors were in the Drummond, Wisconsin area of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (CNNF), where on July 30, wolves killed a bear hound. We traveled as close as we could to the actual depredation site, and were not surprised to find the area heavily baited for bears. We documented the presence of multiple bear baits in the Wolf Caution Area established on July 30, and then returned to the Washburn  District of the CNNF.

At the heart of our concern is bear hunting activities in known wolf territory where wolves have responded with violent attacks against bear hounds. These fights leave not only hounds and wolves injured or killed, but also leave hound hunters wanting retribution against the wolves responsible. The reason we are in the CNNF, is because of the constant threats made against wolves responsible for hound deaths.

Because of active logging activity near our original base camp at Hoist Lake, we moved our camp to another area where we could monitor suspected illegal activities committed by bear hunters in our patrol area. At approximately 5:20pm, a non-resident bear hunter stopped at our campsite to talk to our crew, and we welcomed his willingness to engage in civil discussion, although we had to decline his request to fight to the death.

2017 Opening Day Report on Wisconsin Bear Hunt

Wolf Patrol spent opening day of Wisconsin’s bear hunt in the Washburn District of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, in Bayfield County, where more bears are killed than any other county in Wisconsin. Our campaign focus during the bear hunt is to monitor hound hunting and bear baiting activities in areas with a history of conflicts between bear hunters and federally protected gray wolves.

This morning saw multiple hunting parties operating around national forest lands where they have been baiting to attract bears since early July. Recent logging activity has impacted a lot of areas bear hunters use here, so we saw fewer hunters out today than in the past two years on opening day. At around 10am, we spotted the first bear killed this season being driven out of the forest in the back of a truck, a small bear, maybe 175lbs.

In addition to monitoring bear baiting and hounding activities, we are following up with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the US Forest Service in regards to our earlier reports of illegal activities.

In support of the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility’s legal complaint to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in regards of the use of bear hounds in known wolf rendezvous areas, Wolf Patrol will be closely monitoring national forest lands where we know both bear hunters and wolves currently are, in case of future depredation on bear hounds running in these areas.

 

Wisconsin’s Bear Hunt with Hounds Begins Tomorrow

Thousands of dogs will be released across northern Wisconsin on September 6, signaling the beginning of the nation’s largest bear hunting season. More black bears are killed in Wisconsin than anywhere else in the United States, including Alaska. Last year, 4,682 bears were reported killed, 96% of those animals were killed with the aid of bait and/or dogs. This year’s quota is 5,000 bears, slightly more than in 2016.

1129:070717:77F:2879:CAMERA1:3E[129:0123]G[008:0x0006]

Minnesota bear hunter running dogs in 2016 Wolf Caution Area.

No license is required to bait or train dogs to chase bears in Wisconsin, and both of those seasons have been open since mid-April and July, meaning that for the last two months, black bears in Wisconsin could be legally chased, but not killed. As Wolf Patrol has reported before, the summer training season is traditionally when conflicts occur between bear hounds being trained, and federally protected gray wolves. So far this year, 11 bear hounds have been killed by wolves and five injured.

ANGRY MN HOUNDER II

Minnesota bear hunter demanding film from Wolf Patrol.

While 12,850 permits have been issued to actually kill a bear, there is no way to quantify the actual number of people actively baiting and running dogs for licensed permit holders. In August 2015, Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) was required by state law to remove the license requirement to bait or train bear hounds. This was done to appease the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association who argued that no other hunting group that used dogs was required to have a license to train their dogs, so why should bear hunters?

Hound Truck with 3 Barrells of Bait

Minnesota bear hunter…moving into the national forest.

Wolf Patrol has been investigating bear hunting practices in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (CNNF) for three years running, documenting bear baiting and hound training activities in areas where wolves have historically killed trespassing bear hounds. Because of the lax regulations governing bear baiting and hound training in Wisconsin, many bear hunters come from out of state to train and bait for bear when their home state prohibits both activities.

Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 1.58.20 PM

Blue dot: Minnesota bear hunter campsite, red dots: bear hounds killed by wolves in 2016.

Beginning July 1st, 2017, Wolf Patrol has been documenting bear hunting practices in the Washburn District of the CNNF, and reporting bear baits found out of compliance to both WDNR and the US Forest Service. In a meeting with WDNR conservation officers, US Forest Service law enforcement, and the Bayfield County Sheriff’s Department, Wolf Patrol was affirmed in our rights to continue to monitor bear hunting activities in Wisconsin in a legal manner. During the 2017 bear hunt, Wolf Patrol will be monitoring hunting activities in past and present Wolf Caution Areas, which are established by WDNR once a wolf has killed a bear hound.

DSC_0163

Wolf Patrol removing bear hound chains from national forest campsite.

One of the activities Wolf Patrol will be monitoring, is the use of the national forest as a temporary kennel for hound hunters traveling from nearby Minnesota. Since 2015, Wolf Patrol has documented out of state bear hunters occupying undeveloped campsites for weeks and even months longer than the allowed 21 day limit.

DSC_0141

Chains used to anchor bear hounds in 2016 Wolf Caution Area.

In early June, Wolf Patrol visited one such site, picked up trash, and removed over a dozen dog chains that had been left by bear hunters the previous year. We also found unused illegal drags at the campsite, that were used in past years to drag the soft surface of forest roads so hunters could see bear tracks more clearly. In July, we again found evidence of illegal drags still in use in the Washburn District of the CNNF, and reported the incidents to US Forest Service officials.

Old Drag @ Basecamp

Abandoned illegal drag at bear hunter campsite.

On September 3rd, Wolf Patrol again discovered that non-resident bear hunters are using the national forest site as a temporary kennel, only now in addition to a trailered camper, and 55-gallon drums filled with bear bait, hunters have re-installed dog chains and added kennels for their bear hounds. Less than a mile from the temporary kennel is the site where two bear hounds were killed last July and August during the 2016 bear hound training season.

WI BEAR BAIT STATS GRAPHIC

While there is no way to know for certain how many hound hunters will be in the northern Wisconsin woods, or how many bear baits are in operation, what we do know is that according to WDNR bear hunter surveys, over 4.6 million gallons of bait was dumped in bear baits in 2014. This July, the Journal of Wildlife Management also published a study on bear baiting done in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest which concluded that in the CNNF, 40% of a black bear’s diet consists on unhealthy food waste used as bear bait.

Moquah Wolf

Wisconsin wolf occupying 2016 Wolf Caution Area.

Wolf Patrol is asking Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest Officials to ban the practices of bear baiting and bear hound training in our national forests. National forests belong to everyone, and should not be treated like a private hunting reserve by bear hunters. Bear baiting and hound training results in the conditioning of bears and other animals to accept human handouts. Running dogs in summer wolf territory is also the greatest cause of conflict between bear hunters and wolves, and also constitutes as the illegal take of an endangered species, “take” being legally defined to include harassment.

MOULTRIE DIGITAL GAME CAMERA

Wisconsin wolf on same road as Minnesota bear hunter campsite.

If you agree that its time to reign in bear hunting practices in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, please email forest officials now: cnnfadmin@fs.fed.us