Since 2014, Wolf Patrol has conducted citizen monitoring of legal hunting practices, including the Summer training of bear hounds in wolf territory in the Washburn District of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (CNNF). Last year, twenty-one bear hounds were killed by wolves in the CNNF between July 5-October 1st, including five in the area Wolf Patrol monitors. Our research suggests that Wisconsin’s minimally regulated bear hunting practices are contributing to that conflict.
Since Wisconsin’s bear hound training season began on July 1st, 2017, Wolf Patrol has maintained a base camp in the CNNF from which members monitor bear baiting & hound training practices. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conservation officers invited Wolf Patrol to a meeting to clarify legality and also to talk about how best to de-escalate potential conflicts and avoid violence.
Since the 2016 passage of Wisconsin’s Right to Hunt Act, many bear hunters believe it has become illegal to film a hunt (or training/baiting) activity more than once, as the new law states on public land. In recent weeks, members of Wolf Patrol have encountered hound hunters who have told them monitoring bear hunting practices was illegal. Some of these interactions have come close to violence.
On July 20, 2017, four members of Wolf Patrol, (all involved with monitoring duties in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest since 2014) met with Department of Natural Resources conservation officers, a chief law enforcement officer with the U.S. Forest Service, members of the Bayfield County Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney. All agreed, that the situation warranted agreements by all parties to respect each other’s right to access and utilize the national forest, and allow both the legal practices of bear baiting & training as well as Wolf Patrol’s right to monitor those activities.
The DNR’s Regional Conservation Officer asked what Wolf Patrol’s ultimate goal was for the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Wolf Patrol monitoring coordinator, Rod Coronado, stated that the goal is to see bear baiting & bear hound training ended in the CNNF, but that Wolf Patrol was committed to working through legal channels, such as soliciting public comments to CNNF officials in favor of a ban on baiting & training, while also gathering data to provide both national forest officials and acting DNR conservation officers responsible for enforcing bear hunting/training/ baiting practices in our research area.
In accordance with local, state and federal laws, Wolf Patrol’s members affirmed their commitment to cooperate and work with county, state and federal authorities to ensure that both bear hunters and our own members’ rights are not violated, and that we remain open to working with law enforcement, public lands managers and the bear hunting community towards peacefully respecting and exercising everyone’s constitutional rights to utilize and enjoy our national forests lands.