With newly returned authority to verify wolf depredations, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services has confirmed that wolves injured a bird hound outside the town of Harding, in Lincoln County Wisconsin on December 26th. 2014 was the year when 22 hunting dogs were killed and nine injured by wolves as they pursued other wildlife, mostly bears.
Most of the attacks in Wisconsin occur as bear hunters are training hounds in Summer months. Its also bear baiting season, when hunters begin leaving large food piles as an attractant for bears in the forest, which can also attract wolves. Domestic dog/wolf encounters are greatest in July-August, when wolf pups are leaving their dens for the first time and their family groups are very protective.
Each dog owner is entitled to $2,500.00 in compensation (from the sales of wolf tags and applications) and all claims will be paid out by the state in January 2015. Wisconsin is the only state in the nation to reimburse hound hunters for deaths or injuries to dogs used for hunting, conflicts that continue because of the state’s liberal nine-month hound training and hunting season.
New Great Lakes Wolf Patrol members-in-training participated in a patrol of the site of the latest hound depredation in Lincoln County on January 9th, (after a recent snowstorm forced the postponement of our public meeting the night before!) to determine whether this latest attack as well as six recorded depredations between 2009-2013 might result in any illegal retribution or reprisals against wolves.
This portion of Lincoln County Forest sits in former Wolf Hunting Zone 2, which was closed to hunting just three days after the season began on October 15th, 2014. Mostly trappers killed a total of 29 wolves in Zone 2, the official quota was 15. Our patrol began in the predawn hours when we left Madison. An online supporter from northern Wisconsin reminded us that the recent snowfall would make tracking wolves easier. This is also the breeding season for gray wolves. We arrived at the reported depredation site, where the Ice Age Trail traverses a county road. In the clear blazing sunlight, it was easy to tell few animals were moving since the previous night’s snowfall. We decided to leave the paved roads and follow a lone set of truck tracks in the newly fallen snow. It wasn’t long before we could tell that some creature had very recently been trotting along the road. Getting out of the truck, it took only a moment to recognize the familiar large canine track of a solitary wolf.
The tracks zig-zagged from one side of the road to the other, stopping frequently to investigate deer tracks or perform a “RLU” (raised leg urination) which becomes more common for wolves this time of year when dominant family members and pair-bonded animals advertise their presence.
We remained in the field until sunset, thankful to see only ruffed grouse and whitetail deer on the roads. These unannounced patrols serve to not only investigate possible illegal wolf hunting, but also serve to better enhance our knowledge of the wolf’s behavior and life cycle. A big Thank You to new Wolf Patrol members from Madison who braved the storm to join us on our (your) patrol! If you would like to be a part of our next patrol in northern Wisconsin or have us give a presentation, contact us soon!