Wisconsin’s bear hound training season began on July 1st, and Wolf Patrol spent all of July documenting the amount of hound training and bear baiting taking place in just one area of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (CNNF). Every year, dozens of bear hunting hounds are killed by wolves as they chase bears through wolf “rendezvous sites” when young pups are vulnerable. These deadly encounters leave many bear hunters wanting retaliation, with some threatening to illegally poison wolves in their hunting areas.
In Wolf Patrol’s research area, within the Washburn District of the CNNF, in Bayfield County, there were five separate fights between wolves and bear hounds that led to deaths in 2016. In the larger CNNF, last year there were 21 separate incidents when bear hounds fought to the death with federally protected gray wolves. These attacks occur because bear hunters continue to bait for bears and run their dogs in known wolf areas.
Beginning in late June 2017, Wolf Patrol placed trail cameras throughout a portion of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, in an effort to quantify the amount of hound training taking place in an area known for conflicts between bear hounds and wolves. In the days leading up to the beginning of hound training season, not only wolves but fisher, bobcat, badger, coyote, bear and deer were all seen on our trail cameras before bear hound training season began on July 1st.
After July 1st, Wolf Patrol’s trail cameras revealed just how many hound hunters come onto national forest lands to train their hounds and bait for bear. Only in Wisconsin, can you train bear hounds and bait for bear without a license, and only in Wisconsin will you be compensated $2,500.00 if any of your bear hounds are killed by wolves, even if you are running hounds in known “Wolf Caution Areas” where dogs have been killed before.
Since bear hound training season began, the vast majority of training activity monitored occurred on the weekends. Although some hunters were known only to run dogs during the week when fewer hounders were afield. Many bear hunters use bait to attract bears for their dogs to follow, and these hunters were known to refill baits in the days leading up to the weekend. Many bear hunters use ATV’s that can carry five-gallon plastic bait buckets, the tell-tale sign of a bear baiter.
The following photos show bear hound training & baiting activity on one national forest road, in one area of the forest on Saturday, July 22nd 2017. Many of the vehicles seen hunt in this area every weekend, and many hunters work together combining dogs and resources in their effort to chase bears almost every single day beginning July 1st until the kill season in September. As the photos reveal, the chase begins early, and goes late with 15 hours of bear hunter activity documented on this one trail camera alone.
The minimally regulated practice of bear hound training and baiting in Wisconsin means bears in our national forest are being chased almost every day from July until October. Many of the bear hounds being trained are young dogs who also chase other wildlife, meaning its not just bears burning up energy, but other wildlife as well. The constant running of dogs and continuous dumping of bait, only to serve bear hunters, means more bears will become conditioned to associate humans with food, more wolves will be forced to defend their pups, killing bear hounds, and more bear hunters will want to illegally kill wolves.
Seven bear hounds have been killed so far since training season began this year, and more are expected to be killed when the actual bear killing season begins on September 6th. If you agree that bear hunters in Wisconsin should not be allowed to run hounds or bait for bear in known wolf areas, please send a comment to Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest officials and ask them to restrict both activities on our national forest lands.
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