Another winter has passed and as Wisconsin’s gray wolves prepare for new pups, biologists with the Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) are compiling wolf tracking data collected by state biologists, tribal members and volunteers, in one of the largest wolf tracking efforts in the country. Each year this information is used to provide an accurate assessment of Wisconsin’s wolves, which were last estimated to number 866-897 animals in 222 separate packs.
The stated goals of the large carnivore survey are to, “determine the number, distribution, breeding status and territories of wolves in Wisconsin, develop a sense of the abundance and distribution of other medium-sized and large carnivores in the state, and determine the existence of rare carnivores such as Canada lynx, cougar and possibly wolverine.”
For the second year, Wolf Patrol has provided trackers to the WDNR’s volunteer tracking program, which has relied on volunteers since 1995. We support the goals of the survey and believe that all interested people should be involved in the development of state wolf management activity and recovery.
Since 2014, Wolf Patrol has monitored human activities in Wisconsin that negatively impact gray wolves, reporting any evidence of illegal hunting activity to the appropriate law enforcement authorities. Wolf Patrol believes in working with the WDNR and all public agencies, towards the goal of wolf recovery in suitable habitat. We also believe that the best way to combat misinformation in the Wisconsin wolf debate is to gather as much information as possible, and make it available to policy and decision makers as well as the public.
Since Wolf Patrol’s citizen monitoring campaign began, we have met stiff resistance from Wisconsin’s bear hunters, whose hound hunting, training and bear baiting, we believe is the cause of much conflict between humans and wolves. Our efforts to document controversial hunting practices that impact wolves on public lands led to the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association lobbying for the passage of unconstitutional legislation that prohibits anyone from filming bear hunting practices like baiting and hounding. We haven’t stopped.
In the latest attempt to stop Wolf Patrol from being a voice for the wolves, the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association’s Laurie Groskopf recently asked WDNR to not allow Wolf Patrol to participate in the large carnivore tracking survey. In a January 2017 email to WDNR, Groskopf wrote: “I don’t at all see myself as a person who does unethical or illegal activities that would restrict me from doing this volunteer work. So please, stop saying that if you were forced to release an anti as a tracker, you would also have to consider releasing a tracker from the hunting community. That is not the point. The point is that any tracker should be released if they do something unethical or illegal. I certainly think, given the nature of his (Rod Coronado) felony, that allowing him to join us is dangerous and a potential PR nightmare for the DNR.”
Groskopf, who also represents the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, recently announced in letters to Wisconsin newspapers that she would be leaving the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, because they continue to refuse to adopt her resolutions which would allow unlimited hunting of wolves in the majority of Wisconsin, once the state regains wolf management authority. Groskopf also hunts with hounds in wolf territory, which led to one of her dogs being killed by a wolf last year. She was compensated from Wisconsin’s Endangered Species Fund, which receives funds from the sale of endangered species license plates.
In her email to the WDNR, she continued, “I don’t think having an opinion or outlook is enough to deny the opportunity to track for the DNR, but I do think committing a felony is enough. It puts the DNR in a dangerous position giving this person a legitimate reason to be out driving around viewing things and filming things. His web site says he is committed to ending hound hunting. Additionally, we heard he is spending his winter in WI to monitor coyote hunting, so he will probably be here more than you might expect given his address.”
To the WDNR’s credit, Wolf Patrol has not been asked to leave the tracking force, and in the end of March, we completed our fifth survey of the season in our assigned tracking block in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (CNNF). Wolf Patrol carried out the five surveys between December 2016 and March 2017, just as the last winter snow was melting. In February, we also patrolled an area of the CNNF where an illegal killed wolf was recently dumped.
In addition to providing important data on Wisconsin’s returning wolf population, Wolf Patrol also is concerned about the individual packs in areas where they were known to kill bear hounds in 2015-16. Last year, Wolf Patrol documented online threats made by bear hunters against wolves responsible for killing bear hounds in northern Wisconsin. There were five separate fights between federally protected gray wolves and bear hunting hounds in Wolf Patrol’s tracking block in the CNNF.
The greatest threat to Wisconsin’s wolves will begin July 1st, when bear hound training season begins and bear baiting is in full swing, both at a time when wolves are most defensive against hunting dogs loosed in their territories. Last year, there were thirty-one separate fights between wolves and bear hounds, the vast majority during the two-month hound training season.
With no change in bear hound training or baiting regulations, Wolf Patrol is preparing for another summer of wolf and bear hound fights on public lands across northern Wisconsin. Beginning on July 1st, we will be monitoring bear hound training activity throughout the Chequemegon-Nicolet National Forest, where we hope one day hunting with packs of hounds will be prohibited.
Please consider donating to our monitoring efforts, but more importantly, join us! Come see for yourself what the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources & the U.S. Forest Service allows on our national forest lands each Summer as gray wolves are moving pups between dens and rendezvous sites for the first time in their lives.
Each year, thousands of bear hounds are released on national forest lands in Summer months to chase, but not kill bears. Last year, Wisconsin’s minimal regulations including the removal of any license requirement for non-resident hound hunters led to a flood of out of state bear hunters looking to train their dogs when they own home states prohibit it. Wolf Patrol will be offering tours of bear hound training areas throughout the two-month training season, to journalists, writers, students or other interested citizens, in an effort to educate the public about the impact of bear hound training and bear baiting in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.
Please help us prevent the legal dumping of millions of gallons of bear bait and the use of dog packs to chase and kill bears and wolves in our national forests.
For More Information on the WDNR large carnivore tracking program:http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/wildlifehabitat/volunteer.html