Hound hunting for black bears in Wisconsin isn’t just a tradition, its a business. While some hunting guides and outfitters run very professional operations, others simply offer their services and bear bait on Craigslist. This Summer, the training of bear hounds in Wisconsin, which is essentially when it becomes legal to loose hundreds of packs of dogs into the forest to chase bears, has resulted in territorial gray wolves killing 20 bear hounds so far, and the actually bear hunt hasn’t even begun.
This hasn’t prevented the training of bear hounds in areas where they’ve been repeatedly killed, such as is the case in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in Bayfield County, where as of this writing, there have been eight separate violent encounters between bear hunting hounds and federally protected gray wolves. In these Department of Natural Resources (DNR) designated, Wolf Caution Areas, hound hunters continue to loose their dogs in wolf territory, with not only the knowledge that they might be killed, but also knowing they will be compensated from the state’s Endangered Species Fund.
One of the black bear hunts offered in Bayfield County on Craigslist is by a professional bear baiting company that prides itself on being, “Wisconsin’s premiere bear hunting guide service”. Charging $2,000, this bear hunt guide runs 35-40 bear baits, monitored by trail cameras, with a success rate of nearly 100%.
How do you achieve such a high rate of kills? By dumping thousands of gallons of food and grease in bear country for months in advance of opening day, in bait sites that capture images of every bear that visits them, so you can not only promise success, but guide your “hunter” to the exact location you know a particular bear will be. Another guide on Craigslist offers hunts over baits that are filled from July 1st until the end of the season in October, many of them on national forest lands in known Wolf Caution Areas.
Not only are all of the above practices legal, but they are currently allowed and happening in northern Wisconsin’s principle gray wolf habitat, during Summer months when wolf packs are traveling with young pups to rendezvous areas away from their dens. What this Summer’s increase in run-in’s between wolves and bear hunting hounds tells us, is that there are more hounds and bear baits than ever in Wisconsin’s north woods.
While a 2014 DNR survey tells us that bear hunters dumped over 4.6 million gallons of bait in approximately 82,340 bait sites, no one, not even DNR knows for sure how many bear baits are operated in Wisconsin, as no law requires bear hunters to provide their location or the number of baits used.
If you believe that the dumping of millions of gallons of oil and food to attract bears and running packs of hounds through wolf territory on our public lands is a problem, please contact the DNR’s Directors and respectfully ask that they restrict the use of hounds and bait in DNR Wolf Caution Areas and also require the registration of bear baits so game wardens have a better chance of monitoring the sites. Its not only the right thing to do, its the most effective and easiest way to solve this wildlife emergency.
To learn more about this Summer’s gray wolf/bear hound conflicts, check out the DNR’s:
Contact information for DNR Directors:
To support Wolf Patrol’s bear baiting and hound hunting monitoring efforts: