Wisconsin’s two month bear hound training season continues in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, and Wolf Patrol continues to monitor bear baiting & training activities in known wolf pack territory in Forest County, where Highway 70 cuts through the national forests. On both the northern and southern sides of Hwy 70, bear baits are scattered off US Forest Service roads, many much closer than the legal limit of 50 and 100 yards. From these bait sites, hound hunters are releasing their dogs to chase bears, often across busy roads and highways that intersect this portion of the national forest.
Every day that Wolf Patrol’s monitors have been documenting bear hound training on Highway 70 this month, we have seen hound trucks chasing loose hounds, hoping to catch them before they cross the busy highway where cars travel in excess of 60mph, often braking to avoid hound trucks and hunters on the road’s shoulder.
A very popular bear baiting and hound training area in this part of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest is along Windsor Dam Road, south of Highway 70, and off of Fishel Road, on the northern side of the highway. From both of these roads, hounds are released to trail bears that are often chased onto the busy highway. On July 8th, it was no different, with a bear crossing the highway in front of an unsuspecting speeding motorist.
But its not only creating a conflict with speeding traffic, bear baiting and hound training in this area is a recipe for disaster considering the number of known wolf packs with young pups in this part of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Not only have bear hounds been killed by wolves, but in recent years, wolves also have been killed and dumped in the area.
Wolf Patrol is opposed to the conflicts created when bear hunters bait and train their dogs in known wolf territory. We’ve documented how wolves are attracted to bait sites, often by the deer and other animals who are also attracted to the artificial feeding sites. We’ve also documented a pattern, whereby the vast majority of wolf/bear hounds conflicts occur on national forest lands where unlimited bear baiting is allowed to also occur.
Bear baiting isn’t only a contributing factor in violent encounters with federally protected gray wolves, its also conditioning and addicting black bears into being fed human food waste that alters the natural behavior of many other wild animals as well.
And not even the Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) or the US Forest Service (USFS) knows how many bear baits are being maintained in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. State law does not require a license to bait for bear, as long as its being done for hunting. Also, any bear baiter can place as many baits as they like on national forest lands, and are allowed to dump up to ten gallons of sugary food waste and fryer grease in each one daily, adding up to hundreds of gallons of oil and waste dumped at each site across the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest every year.
Many residents in Forest County, Wisconsin are also opposed to bear baiting and hound training practices because of the trespassing hounds that cross their property, chasing out deer and other wildlife in their blind pursuit of black bear. On July 8th, one such resident informed Wolf Patrol that bear hounds had just come onto Highway 70 and tried to get into his truck as he slowed to avoid them.
We also heard the story on patrol July 8th from a hound hunter operating baits in this area, that someone has been lifting off the lids to his baits and pouring gasoline over the enclosed bait. Wolf Patrol will monitor bear baits on public lands, often measuring their proximity to roads and highways, but we do not otherwise touch, tamper or contaminate bait sites. Nor do we condone anyone else violating the rights of bear hunters to legally practice bear baiting and hound training practices.
Wolf Patrol is opposed to bear baiting and hound training in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, but only through legal means such as monitoring and reporting on the conflicts it causes to wolves and other wildlife, and reporting illegal activity or non-compliant bait sites to WDNR & USFS law enforcement.
We believe we are being reasonable in calling on both WDNR & USFS to:
- Require the registration of bear baits.
- Limit the number of bear baits.
- Ban the use of chocolate in bear baits.
- Cessation of baiting when wolves begin visiting bear baits.
- Require a license to bait for bears and train bear hounds on national forest lands.
- Ban the dumping of grease and other non-biodegradable bear bait ingredients on national forest lands.
- Stop compensating hound hunters for dogs killed by wolves while chasing bears through known wolf territory.
- Prohibit the use of hounds within 100 yards of highways with a posted speed limit in excess of 55mph.
These are just a few changes Wolf Patrol will be calling for this Summer as we continue to monitor Wisconsin’s 7 month bear baiting and two-month hound training in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. If you agree that its time to reign in unsafe bear hunting practices on our national forest lands, send an email to forest officials asking for more restrictions on bear hunting activities that create conflicts for wildlife and other human forest users.
TO SEND A COMMENT TO CHEQUAMEGON-NICOLET FOREST OFFICIALS: