Since July 4th, members of the wolf preservation group, Wolf Patrol have been in northern Wisconsin peacefully monitoring the annual bear hound training season and the baiting of bears by hunters. As part of a campaign to address continued threats to wolves in Wisconsin, Wolf Patrol is asking the Department of Natural Resources to stop the intentional baiting of bears because the practice, which begins in May is resulting in an increase in deadly conflicts between hunting hounds and wolves. Last year, over 20 hunting hounds were killed by wolves. Since being returned to federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, hound hunters are being paid $2,500.00 for each hound killed by wolves with money from the state’s Endangered Species Fund.
Members of Wolf Patrol have documented the presence of wolves near bear baiting sites, where hound hunters take their dogs to chase bears and also place food baits to habituate bears to artificial feeding so they will be easier to kill in September, when bear season in Wisconsin opens. Since Wolf Patrol’s campaign began on July 4th, bear hunters have responded by filming and following Wolf Patrol members in Douglas, Washburn, and Polk Counties as they carry out their monitoring of bear baiting and hound training on public lands. Last December, Wolf Patrol met with DNR wardens in Madison, WI to inform them of the monitoring of hound hunting of wolves, coyotes and bears, including communication with wardens as recently as July 8th.
At approximately 8:15pm on July 8th, while setting up camp at the Trade River State Campground, Wolf Patrol members heard hounds barking from Evergreen Road adjacent to the campground. Members began following and filming three truckloads of bear hunters and baiters with hounds from a safe distance and were soon approached by Polk County Sheriff’s deputies who informed them that it was illegal to follow and film bear hunters on public roads and lands, which is in direct contraction to Constitutional rights of free speech. Wolf Patrol told law enforcement officials that we welcomed prosecution which we believe will create more awareness towards the unethical and unsportsmanlike behavior of running down wildlife such as wolves, coyotes, bears, fox, bobcat and raccoon with dogs on public lands for sport.
Polk County Sheriff deputies were unable to issue citations due to what they said was a lack of a statute number and also said their computers were down. Deputies suggested that the three Wolf Patrol members go to the Polk County Clerk’s Office in Balsam Lake, WI to receive their citations. “In every national park in America it is illegal to feed bears, but only in Wisconsin can a person be charged for filming hunters while they feed bears on public lands so they will be easier to kill in the Fall.” said Rod Coronado, founder of Wolf Patrol. Coronado and two other patrol members, Stephanie Losse and Benjamin Haas, will be at the Polk County Clerk’s Office on July 9th to supposedly be charged with hunter harassment. “The intentional feeding of bears not only leads to their habituation to an artificial food source, but it also leads to wolves claiming the sites as their own food source, and defending them by killing bear hunting hounds that are released into the woods to run down wildlife.” Coronado continued.
Wolf Patrol is asking DNR officials to amend bear hunting regulations to reduce the deadly conflict between wolves and hunting hounds.