DAY 23 Wisconsin’s Bear Hound Training Season:
At Wolf Patrol’s July 20th, 2017 meeting with law enforcement officials in Washburn, Wisconsin, one of the last topics discussed was our intention to monitor hunting activities in Wolf Caution Areas, which are a 4-mile radius from where wolves have killed hunting dogs and established by Wisconsin’s DNR so as to “warn” hunters of the presence of wolves willing to kill their dogs. Only in Wisconsin is it legal to train bear hounds in the Summer beginning July 1st. And only in Wisconsin is bear hound training practiced regularly in wolf territory.
Last year, 41 hunting dogs, mostly bear hounds were killed as they were being trained or actually hunting bear in northern Wisconsin. 21 of these dogs were killed by wolves in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (CNNF) where Wolf Patrol has maintained a base camp, for members monitoring bear hound training in 2016 Wolf Caution Areas.
Bear hunters are compensated up to $2,500.00 from Wisconsin’s Endangered Species Fund, which derives its funds from the sale of vanity endangered species license plates. Last year bear hunters were paid over $90,000 for bear hounds killed by wolves.
On July 18, 2017 a Plott hound was killed by wolves in a part of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in Ashland County, Wisconsin. Since DNR alerted the public to the depredation on July 20th, Wolf Patrol has been in the area investigating bear hunting practices such as hound training and bear baiting, which we believe are to blame for wolves killing bear hounds. Wherever wolves kill bear hounds in Wisconsin, you will find bear baiting stations where food waste is dumped to attract bears that hounds can then chase.
At 0650am on the 23rd, Wolf Patrol arrived for a morning patrol to determine whether bear hunters were still training hounds near the 7/18 depredation site. Our patrols have focused on the US Forest Service Roads 183 & 184, which surround the depredation area along the Iron River. On the Iron River bridge, a hound truck was parked. We passed the truck and parked approx. 300 yards past on the shoulder to listen for bear hounds and watch bear hunter activity in the WCA.
From where we were parked, we could see another hound truck parked approx. 400 yards on the opposite side of the rode. This hound truck drove past Wolf Patrol’s vehicle and monitors filmed the hound vehicle as is our protocol. About 15 minutes later, the same hound truck turned around and drove back past our parked vehicle filming us.
At approximately 915am, we saw a Ashland County Sheriff’s vehicle pull up to the two hound trucks parked at the Iron River bridge on USFS RD 183. A deputy spoke with the bear hunters for about 8 minutes, and than drove down the road to talk to Wolf Patrol monitors. We asserted our right to monitor hunting activities on public lands, from a safe distance, and according to the interviewing Sheriff’s deputy, his agency had no problem with us monitoring bear hound training practices, understanding our concerns because of the recent hound depredation.
Wolf Patrol was told that it would be up to DNR conservation officers to determine whether we should be cited for violating the Right to Hunt Act, but that as long as there was no intent to impede or interfere with bear hunters, he wasn’t going to write us a citation. As of the publishing of this article, neither DNR or the Ashland County Sheriff’s Department have tried to contact us about this incident.
Once again, Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association (WBHA) is refusing to tell its members that they cannot trample on the rights of others to monitor their bear hound training & baiting activities in our national forest lands. The bear hunters still running their dogs in this particular Wolf Caution Area, sported WBHA stickers and are mistakenly informed about the rights of others to access, use and film on Wisconsin’s public lands.
The nature of Wolf Patrol’s meeting last week with county, state and federal authorities was to affirm everyone’s right to utilize our national forest lands, including our right to monitor activities that we believe are negatively impacting not just wolves and bears, but all wildlife. Research published just this month in The Journal of Wildlife Management concluded that 40% of a black bear’s diet in northern Wisconsin is composed of food waste used in bear baits. That’s 10% more than the black bears of Yosemite National Park in the 1970’s which were being intentionally fed as a tourist attraction until it was deemed a public safety hazard as bears became less fearful of humans.
We thank the Ashland County Sheriff’s Department for assuring us of our rights to monitor bear hunting activities in the 7/18 WCA. As we have documented in the past, the prolific training of hounds and bear baiting in the CNNF is creating a deadly conflict with wolves. In the 7/18 WCA multiple bear baits were located, from where bear hounds can catch the scent of a bear that visits the bait, and then the chase begins, and in the Iron River area, right through wolf rendezvous sites where young pups are first taken from their dens to learn how to hunt and survive.
The presence of WBHA hounder members in the 7/18 WCA since the depredation indicates that bear hunters are continuing to run their hounds and bait in the WCA increasing the possibility of future deadly conflicts, with wolves. Wolf Patrol will continue to monitor bear hunting practices in this and future Wolf Caution Areas throughout the Summer and Fall bear hunting season.
If you believe that the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest should not be a training and dumping grounds for bear hunters, their dogs and bait, please send an email to CNNF officials at: firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s time to end bear baiting and hound training in our national forests!