Media Release: GLWP documents illegal wolf trapping activity, hunters kill over quota, WDNR takes no action

Media Release October 22rd, 2014 – At the invitation of Wisconsin residents, Great Lakes Wolf Patrol (GLWP) monitored the state’s third wolf trapping season in Douglas County Forest, located in Zone 1 of the Department of Natural Resources’ (WDNR) wolf hunt area.  Patrol members set out on daily foot patrols of high-traffic trapping areas and conducted surveillance using metal detectors, handheld and trail cameras, and our own eyes during hikes on public lands.  Our legwork reveals commonplace violations of trapping regulations by Wisconsin wolf trappers. GLWP left Douglas County Forest on Monday, October 21st with documentation of at least one wolf trap still unsprung and in the ground.

GLWP clocked hundreds of miles of patrols across Douglas County Forest lands, encountering dozens of hunters, but not once witnessing the presence of WDNR wardens patrolling an area with known wolf trapping operations.  Such negligence in managing public trust wildlife explains why wolf hunters were allowed to exceed the quota of 32 wolves in Zone 1 by 4 animals.  In Zone 2, the quota of 15 was exceeded almost 100% to 29 animals.

GLWP also documented steel-jaw leg hold traps placed within 3 feet of roads and hiking trails, frequented by grouse hunters and their dogs. In one trail video, hunters drive directly over a wolf trap and step out of their truck inches away from the hidden trap known to regularly injure dogs and other animals.  (Spruce grouse season began on October 13th, just two days before the beginning of Wisconsin’s wolf trapping season.)

After witnessing the placement of the above-mentioned trap, GLWP also filmed deer feeding near the trap, the trapper not checking his trap within the legally-required 24 hours, and the documented wolf trap being left in the ground after the Zone 1 wolf hunt ended at 6:30 pm on October 19th.

On two separate occasions, grouse hunters hunting with free-roaming dogs in the Spruce River and Empire Swamp Grouse Management Area were seen walking on roads where known  traps were placed.  WDNR’s legal minimum is 3 feet away from any road.  The overlap of grouse season and wolf season illustrates WDNR’s careless attitude towards not only wolves, but also the welfare of hunting dogs.  WDNR allows hound hunting and training in known areas where wolves travel with young pups.  This practice has led to 22 hunting dogs being killed and 8 injured by wolves so far this year.

Independent journalists were in attendance on our patrols, documenting our legal observations, and verifying that GLWP does not engage in any illegal activities (such as harassing hunters or damaging traps).  Yet, despite numerous death threats made against GLWP on social media sites by wolf hunters, the WDNR’s response was only to instruct wolf hunters to call 911 if they felt they were being harassed by our nonviolent observers.  Representing a lack of faith in the WDNR’s ability to monitor this hunt, six local residents joined us on GLWP missions.  Many other citizens from the region have joined these volunteers in pledging their continuing support for our presence in their northern Wisconsin communities.

Our conclusion is that Wisconsin’s 2014 recreational wolf hunt is violating not only the rules of fair chase and ethical hunting, but more importantly, the two principles of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation; that fish and wildlife are for the enjoyment of all citizens, and should be managed such that they are available at optimum population levels forever.  For the above reasons, Great Lakes Wolf Patrol calls on not only Wisconsin citizens, but all wildlife-loving Americans, to demand:

– A ban on all wolf trapping on public lands.

– The ouster of Cathy L. Stepp, Director of WDNR, for failing miserably to represent our Wisconsin ecosystems’ needs for wolf recovery since the 2011 federal delisting of the gray wolf from endangered species protections.

– The dismantling of the Wolf Advisory Committee, to be replaced with a group of citizens with equal members of hunters and non-hunters.

– A ban on the year-round allowance of hound training and hunting on public lands.

– The implementation of a six-mile buffer zone around all tribal lands.

– The legislative end to the hound hunting of wolves.

– The raising of the allowable population of wolves in Wisconsin from 350 to 1,500.

Great Lakes Wolf Patrol’s evidence of these findings from the 2014 wolf trapping season is now available on our website (wolfpatrol.org) and Facebook page (Wolf Patrol).

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5 thoughts on “Media Release: GLWP documents illegal wolf trapping activity, hunters kill over quota, WDNR takes no action

  1. Pingback: WI’s wolves are stressed out from three years of reckless wolf hunts. | Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin

  2. I always thought it was a bad idea. Wolves are basically wild dogs. Would you shoot dogs? What is the point? Are you going to eat wolf meat? Make a fur coat? Seems like just random killing of animals to me.

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  3. Good points. Good job not engaging in any illegal interference.

    I hope a group of stakeholders including the Great Lakes Wolf Patrol (GLWP) will be assembled to discuss the problems that have been pointed out here, and the demands that have been made.

    One of the demands that will need further discussion is the six-mile wolf sanctuary around all tribal lands. A proposal like this was discussed on 3/17/2014 in the Minnesota Senate Committee on State & Local Government. The MN DNR pointed out the legal difficulties that would be involved in regulating non-tribal lands in this way.

    Clearly, the WI Wolf Advisory Committee and the WI DNR need to improve their management of this wolf hunting & trapping season. An obvious step in that direction would be to respond to input from other points of view, including the scientific community which has been critical of how these recreational seasons, etc. have been designed and implemented.

    It’s probably not going to be an option to ban all wolf trapping on public lands. However high the optimal (or “allowable”) wolf-population size is set, and however effective non-lethal means of coexistence become, it’s likely that some lethal depredation control, and some control on population size, will be necessary at some point. Certainly, though, the rules need to be improved; for example, it’s ridiculous that there are no significant trail setbacks required of traps that attract and trap or snare people’s dogs. And, while the trapping regulations are being examined, it would make sense to examine them, as well, for target animals other than wolves.

    It’s probably not going to be an option to ban all hound hunting on all lands. Certainly, though, the bear-baiting and hound-training seasons begin far too early for humane wildlife management; and certainly there need to be limits on where hounds area allowed to go “looking for trouble” with bears and wolves. Den sites and rendezvous sites need to be protected.

    It’s probably not going to be an option for WI DNR Game Wardens to monitor trapping at the level that the GLWP did during this wolf-trapping season. When you consider the extent of the land involved, the brief time each day it takes for motorized trappers to check their traplines, the concealed nature of the traps, and the number of personnel available with the given budget to staff registration stations, do spot checks, respond to calls, etc., the fact is that trappers will continue to be on their own in the middle of nowhere most of the time. That is, after all, one of the essential parts of the activity for them; one that they will defend to whatever extent is necessary (some will say “to the death,” and others will say “beyond even that”).

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