Wolf Patrol’s first monitoring of a hound hunt in Wisconsin was in 2014, when we encountered hunters during the state’s second legislated recreational hound hunt for wolves. Since then, we have become aware of the almost year around hound hunting & training seasons in Wisconsin for bear, coyote, fox, bobcat and raccoon, and the conflict they create with federally protected gray wolves.
All of the hound hunting activities Wolf Patrol has monitored, have been on public lands, and since gray wolves were returned to federal protections in December 2014, we have continued to witness violent conflicts between hound hunters and wolves. Last year was the worst, with over 40 hunting hounds killed by wolves as they trespassed wolf territory, yet the practice of not only hound hunting, but hound training, continues across Wisconsin’s public lands with minimal regulation.
It didn’t take long for Wolf Patrol to discover that many hound hunters in Wisconsin hate wolves. Window decals, bumper-stickers, personalized license plates, and public threats all indicate an intolerance for gray wolves. Our discovery in January 2016, of treble fish-hooks wrapped with meat and hung with fishing line, throughout the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (CNNF), was enough for us to realize that despite federal protections, individuals in Wisconsin were still baiting, poisoning and killing wolves.
Wolf Patrol has launched a reward program, that offers cash rewards for information that leads to the prosecution of individual(s) responsible for the illegal killing of a wolf. Anyone can come forward, and if your information is crucial to an investigation into any illegal wolf killing, you will be awarded $1,000.
Throughout 2016, Wolf Patrol not only offered rewards to help catch poachers, we provided numerous tips to Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) & the U.S. Fish & Wildlife’s law enforcement division, participated in the WDNR’s annual large carnivore survey, and maintain working relationships with U.S. Forest Service authorities, who have told us that they want to know about any illegal hunting practices within the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest’s 1.5 million acres.
Our focus has become the monitoring of hound hunting and training for bear in July through October, and hound hunting for coyote and bobcat throughout the winter. This is because since 2013, we have witnessed and documented the violent clashes between hound hunters and wolves, especially since the latter’s return to federal protection. Hound hunters, especially those who lose dogs to wolf depredations, are very open about their hatred for wolves and their willingness to kill them.
The hound hunters we oppose have responded. Intimidation tactics against us haven’t worked, so a law was passed that was specifically written with the intent to silence Wolf Patrol and cease our monitoring of controversial hunting practices on public lands. The “Right to Hunt Act” was signed into law by Governor Scott Walker at the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association annual conference on April 2, 2016. To date, Wolf Patrol has not been affected by the questionably unconstitutional law.
Last winter, the practice of organized hunts for coyote were publicized, as multiple communities in northern Wisconsin hosted coyote killing contests. Wolf Patrol shares the concern of many, that the lack of regulation or even a season for killing coyotes in Wisconsin, provides an excellent cover for the killing of wolves through the “accidental mis-identification” of a wolf as a coyote.
Last January, Wolf Patrol was monitoring hound hunting activities during an organized coyote killing contest in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest around the town of Argonne, Wisconsin. In the days leading up to the hunt, while patrolling national forest lands, our members found human footpaths into the forest, that led to the numerous illegal meat baits mentioned earlier in this article. WDNR conservation officers responded, and the baits were removed, but to date, no one has been charged with the crime.
That same weekend, I spoke with a local Forest County resident who openly told me that any wolf seen in the area would be killed, and that locals feared the wolves coming closer to their towns. He echoed the fear of many of Wisconsin’s hunters, that wolves were “killing all the deer.”
On January 25th, I received a press release from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources soliciting information on the dumping of a gun shot female wolf ten miles southwest of Iron River, Michigan. As an organization actively opposed to the illegal killing of gray wolves in not just Wisconsin, but Minnesota and Michigan, Wolf Patrol began an investigation on the grounds that although the recently discovered wolf was found in Michigan, it was in an area where three dogs were killed by wolves, and less than an hour from where we found the meat wrapped fish hooks.
A further search of the WDNR Gray Wolf Depredation Map for the last three years reveals a long history of violent conflicts between wolves and hound hunters in Forest County and the surrounding area. In 2014, during the annual bear hound training season in Wisconsin, which begins July 1st, there were two separate encounters between wolves and bear hounds. In the first on 8/1/14, three bear hounds were killed in a bloody encounter, while on August 23rd a vicious fight occurred that left four bear hounds dead.
In 2015, one bear hound was killed by wolves in Forest County, just three miles from where the recently gunshot female wolf’s body was dumped, while wolves were responsible just east in Florence County, for killing three beef calves and a pet dog. In addition, a human health & safety complaint was issued against wolves in southeastern Florence County. Last year saw three more dogs getting killed by wolves, one of which was a bear hound killed on 8/3/16 during the bear hound training season.
On January 27th, Wolf Patrol contacted our WDNR law enforcement liason to inform the agency that we would be launching an investigation into the recently dumped wolf in Iron County, Michigan. For the reasons stated above, we believe that there is a strong possibility that the wolf was killed in Wisconsin and simply dumped over the state line a few miles away, to deter legal investigations.
My fear that the wolf’s body being found in Michigan would not alert the WDNR to any possible illegality in Wisconsin was confirmed when our WDNR contact and another warden said they knew little more than what MIDNR stated in their press release about the poached wolf. Fortunately, WDNR took Wolf Patrol’s concern’s seriously and informed us that they would be contacting conservation officers in the area and ask them to assist MIDNR with their ongoing investigations into illegal wolf killings.
Wolf Patrol also informed DNR that we would be in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest near Argonne, to investigate both human hunting and wolf activity, due to the history of illegal activity in the area.
On February 11, 2017 at 0530hrs, two Wolf Patrol vehicles left Crandon, Wisconsin, headed north on Highway 55 towards the location in Michigan where the killed wolf was dumped. Our intent was to investigate any human made trails into the national forest, as this was how we discovered the baited hooks in 2016. One vehicle left the highway just north of Argonne, following a US Forest Service road that would reconnect with the highway further north. As our primary patrol vehicle approached the North branch of Popple Creek, we saw a truck without its lights off, parked on the roadway. We slowed to a crawl as we passed the truck with a hound box, and then saw other vehicles lining the roadside including a hound truck with a snowmobile.
We continued north to Long Lake Rd, where we decided to return to investigate the multiple hound trucks lining the shoulder of Highway 55. We passed the hunting party on the highway again, and parked a quarter mile away, staying inside our vehicle. We then continued south on Hwy 55, when we encountered a hound hunter who had left his vehicle and entered the roadway as we approached. I again slowed to a crawl and addressed the hunter who was standing on the yellow line in the middle of the highway. The hunter (identified as Jody Campbell) angrily alleged that we were interfering with his hunt and that he was calling DNR wardens. I gave Mr. Campbell my Wolf Patrol business card and told him we had every intention of continuing to access and use public highways and national forest lands.
After the approximately 40 second conversation with Mr. Campbell, we continued driving south, and parked on the west shoulder of the highway near the Popple River. Mr. Campbell followed our vehicle and pulled behind us and parked, as a female companion remained in the vehicle filming us.
I asked Mr Campbell if he had contacted law enforcement, which he acknowledged he had done, so I informed him we would await their arrival. Mr. Campbell continued with an angry outburst about our presence interfering with his coyote hunt. After waiting for approximately 45 minutes, we continued to monitor hound hunting activities in the surrounding national forest.
From approximately 0630hrs-0955hrs we watched and filmed from a distance, as over ten trucks belonging to Mr Campbell’s hound hunting party drove up and down Hwy 55, parking occasionally on the shoulder to locate loose hounds with their handheld GPS devices. At one point, we drove north on Hwy 55, with Mr. Campbell following close behind us, turning east on Long Lake Rd, as our original plan dictated. Mr. Campbell parked behind us again and continued to film us as we made breakfast.
After we’d eaten, we continued down Long Lake Rd, and in less than a mile, encountered four more hound trucks occupying both lanes of the road. Unable to pass, we waited approximately 100 yards away, and watched as an individual holding a shotgun walked the road looking for coyote tracks.
When the individual returned to the hunting party, five GPS-collared hounds were loosed north into the forest. Two of the dogs quickly returned, and after retrieving them, the hound hunting party passed us headed back towards Hwy 55.
We spent the rest of February 11, following human tracks through the forest, most of which led to non-lethal marten hair traps, that are part of a University of Wisconsin research project that Wolf Patrol supports. We also encountered another hound hunting party, including two men on snowmobiles with uncased shotguns on their backs who were driving forest service roads, looking for tracks as they motored by. Once the hound hunting parties were no longer close, we launched our drone to obtain aerial footage for future campaign purposes. On February 11, we stapled multiple reward posters throughout the Crandon, Wisconsin area, which offered a $1,000 reward for any information on the illegal killing of federally protected gray wolves.
On February 16, Wolf Patrol was contacted by two WDNR conservation officers responsible for patrolling the Argonne area. Wolf Patrol was informed that Mr. Campbell had accused our monitors of playing loud music, blocking roads, and driving amongst their vehicles. I detailed to the officers all of our day’s activities, and offered unedited video of the entire encounter as evidence of the facts. Neither officer alleged that Wolf Patrol had violated any law, and equally, we informed WDNR that we hadn’t witnessed any illegality on the part of the hound hunters, though we affirmed our right to monitor legal hunting activities in any area with a history of illegal hunting.
The rest of our conversation with WDNR centered on our reward program, and how we could work with conservation officers investigating the illegal killing of gray wolves. I informed WDNR that from this day forward, any lead on a wolf poaching that they deem is credible, will make the informant eligible for a cash reward from Wolf Patrol.
And now the work begins. Wolf Patrol’s focus will remain on the hound hunting of all wildlife in Wisconsin wolf territory, especially Wolf Caution Areas and areas where we suspect wolf poaching to have occurred. Please help us continue our monitoring of controversial & illegal hunting practices on public lands in Wisconsin in 2017. We remain one of a few environmental organization that will actually go into the field and search out illegal hunting operations, such as those that we have uncovered in the past.
In addition, please consider donating to our new reward program so that we might provide an incentive for individuals to come forward with information on the illegal killing of gray wolves in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota.
“Wolf Patrol” Like us on Facebook and watch our Youtube channel!
“Great Lakes Wolf Patrol” Find us & donate via GoFundMe!
Read the recently published scientific report on under-reported illegal wolf killings in Wisconsin: