In September 2017, Wolf Patrol received reports of chronic problems with bear hunters running hounds across private property without permission. A resident told us in 2016, there were 70 complaints made to the Sawyer County Sheriff’s Department regarding “dogs at large” and so far this year, authorities had received 55 complaints related to bear hunting hounds chasing bears out of the nearby Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest onto private lands.
Many landowners do not live in the area year-around, so their properties are easily trespassed by bear hounds, especially late in the hound hunting season, as hunters become more desperate to fill their bear tag before the season closes. In addition to our investigation into criminal trespassing by bear hounders, Wolf Patrol was in the Sawyer County portion of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (CNNF) for the last weekend of the hound hunt for bear in Wisconsin, because this is where the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) reported that four bear hounds had been killed by gray wolves so far in 2017.
A bear hunter in the area also reported to Wolf Patrol that a common practice in the area, was to not report bear hounds killed by wolves, but instead use the dog’s remains to poison the wolves responsible. If a hound killed by wolves wasn’t worth much, some hound hunters won’t seek financial compensation, but instead lace the carcass with Xylitol, which is toxic to wild canids, knowing wolves will return to finish eating the bear hound they killed.
Reports were also received of intimidation of local residents who lodge complaints against bear hunters. At least three large hound hunting crews maintain hunting cabins in the Draper and Loretta area of Wisconsin, traveling here every year to run their dogs after bear, bobcat and coyote. We were told that this season, one resident who filed a complaint of hounder trespass, found the locks on the gate of their property super-glued the following day. One elderly resident also said that during bear hunting season, she wouldn’t let her grandchildren play outside because she was fearful of trespassing dogs injuring someone.
On Saturday, September 30, many hound hunting parties were operating in this portion of the CNNF, one of the first that Wolf Patrol encountered, included 8-10 trucks that late in the morning were parked at the junction of County GG Road and South Black Lake Road, collecting loose hounds. When we turned onto Black Lake Rd, hound trucks were parked on the shoulder of the road alongside private properties clearly posted closed to hunting and trespass. Bear hounds were being collected from these properties as they emerged from the forest and one of the hound trucks was parked in the driveway of the posted land.
Wolf Patrol was told by local bear hunters that late in the hound hunting season, bears will run onto private lands and towards water where they stand a better chance of losing the hounds pursuing them. This is when they leave national forest lands and enter the many private properties adjoining nearby Barker, Hunter and Blaisdell Lake. It is also a known fact that bear hunters cannot control the direction in which their dogs run. So when bears run south onto private lands, the hounds of course follow.
At approximately 2pm, we heard a party of hound hunters reporting loose dogs approaching the Barker Lake Golf Course which adjoins national forest lands. We traveled to the area and watched as a hound truck sped around private properties looking for access points to retrieve dogs. Once again, this was an area clearly posted closed to hunting and trespass, with many residential homes in the area. It is also an area unfamiliar to visiting hound hunters, who rely on maps that do not clearly designate private land boundaries.
When Wolf Patrol dispatched a drone to look for bear hounds leaving the national forest, the three hound trucks we were monitoring fled the area. Another reason there are problems with trespassing hounds, is that bear hunters will place bear baits on public lands adjoining private lands, knowing full well that if they release their dogs from the bait, as is their intention, that there’s a high probability they will trespass.
At one such bait location on Glenwood Road near Blaisdell Lake, which has national forest on one side of the road and private land on the other, children could be heard playing at the private property near the bait where a summer camp is also located. This leads us to believe that chasing bears with dogs so close to human dwellings might led to bigger problems than criminal trespass.
Although the 2017 Wisconsin bear hunt is coming to an end, Wolf Patrol will be working with local residents of northern Wisconsin counties plagued with hound hunter trespass. If you are a northern Wisconsin resident who has had such problems, please contact us to learn about a new program we are initiating in 2018, which will offer free “NO TRESPASS/HUNTING” signage for private lands adjoining the national forest, as well as regular patrols of private properties during popular hound hunting seasons.
Hunting with hounds in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest isn’t only causing conflicts with gray wolves, its leading to the illegal poisoning of federally protected wildlife, and other criminal activities by hound hunters emboldened by Wisconsin’s minimally regulated bear hunt. Wolf Patrol believes it time that national forest officials recognize that allowing hound hunting in the national forest is opening the door to illegal activity and it needs to be stopped if not heavily regulated.
If you agree that bear hunters should have to follow the same laws as everyone else or be kicked out of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest for causing these problems, please send a polite email to CNNF forest officials asking them to end bear baiting and hound hunting on our national forest lands!
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