On July 22nd, a bear hound was killed by wolves as it was running through a wolf rendezvous area in northern Wisconsin’s Chequamegon-Nicolet National forest, where last year 19 bear hounds were killed by wolves. This marks only the third time this year such an attack have happened, but more are anticipated.
Wolf Patrol has been documenting the continuing use of bear hounds and baiting practices in known Wolf Caution Area’s (WCA), and this month we have visited two sites where hounds have been killed. In Ashland County our investigators also found two illegal bear baits that were reported to state and federal authorities.
Over the last three Summers, Wolf Patrol has been documenting the deadly practice of training bear hounds in active wolf territory. Last year was by far the worst, with over 40 bear hounds killed by wolves in over 32 separate incidents. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) designate bear hound depredation areas as “WCA’s” as a means of cautioning hound hunters, but most ignore the warnings and continue running dogs in WCA’s.
Part of the problem may be that for every hound killed by wolves, hunters receive as much as $2,500.00 in compensation from the state’s Endangered Species Fund, which derives most of its revenue from the sale in Wisconsin of endangered species license plates. Another problem is bear hunters are helping create conflict with wolves when they not only run their dogs through summer rendezvous areas, but also by baiting for bears in areas where wolves live and hunt.
Deer are the principal prey of wolves in Wisconsin, and on multiple occasions Wolf Patrol has documented deer regularly visiting and feeding from bear baits. Research has shown how in northern Wisconsin, wolves can become habituated to visiting bear bait sites, and identifying the baits as their own food source. Bear baiting is minimally regulated in Wisconsin, with over 4 million gallons of bait dumped in forests across the state at an unknown number of sites.
In addition, bears fleeing from bait sites have been known to run into dense vegetation when chased by bear hounds, often right through areas where wolves are resting with their young families. The vast majority of the WCA’s that Wolf Patrol has visited are surrounded by bear baits used by hound hunters as beginning points to train their hounds from. Many of these young hounds are just 8 months old and easily are separated from more experienced hounds in their pack. This is when they become easy prey for wolves protecting their young.
Wisconsin’s allowance for bear hound training in summer months, when wolves are most territorial and protective of new pups, has created a deadly conflict with wolves for years now. The increase in bear baiting practices, and the removal of license requirements to bait for bear or train hounds in the summertime, has meant an increase in the number of hound hunters training dogs in our national forest.
Since July 1st, when bear hound training began, Wolf Patrol citizen monitors have documented hound training activities in their patrol area within the Washburn District of the CNNF, 24 of the last 30 days of the season. Bears that are being chased on the average of six days a week, are forced to burn calories and fat that they should be storing for winter hibernation. Many of the bears being chased are mothers with cubs, causing stress to both, even though its illegal to actually kill a sow with cubs.
Bear baiting & hound training in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest needs to end. Recent studies proclaim that 40% of a black bears diet in the CNNF is from human food waste fed to bears in hunters’ baits. The intentional feeding of bears so that they can be later killed is not a practice that should be allowed in our national forests. It creates a nuisance for humans, wolves, bears and all the other wildlife affected by bear hound training in Summer months.
Please support Wolf Patrol’s call to end bear baiting & hound training in the CNNF by sending an email to forest officials now at: