Stage is Set for DNR to Make Changes to Wisconsin’s Bear Baiting Practices…But Will They?

While the WDNR’s Revised Draft Bear Management Plan public comment period is open, Wolf Patrol will be sharing comments written by crew members and supporters. We would like to remind everyone (you don’t have to be a Wisconsin resident!) to submit their own comments:

Link to WDNR’s Revised Draft Bear Plan & other information:

https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/WildlifeHabitat/bearmanagement.html

Send Your Comments:

DNRBearPlanComments@wisconsin.gov

 

Black Bear @ Inactive Bait

Habituated bear visiting empty bear bait site in Bayfield County, Wisconsin June 2017.

Public Comments on 2019-2029 Draft Revised Bear Management Plan.

Dear Members of the Wisconsin DNR Bear Advisory Committee,

Thank you for your time and effort in reviewing public comments relating to bear management practices in Wisconsin. Your commitment in protecting our natural resources is essential in maintaining a balance in wildlife and assuring those who enjoy recreational opportunities in the state are assured a fair use of our public lands whether national, state or county-owned property.

Bear hunting season is an interesting season to say the least, especially for those who live in bear territory. I realize bear hunting in Wisconsin attracts hunters from many various states, not to mention the numerous bear hunters who already reside here. I also understand license revenue is important; however, there seems to be some management practices that could use major adjustments but are ignored from year to year.

NIK SEILENBINDER HOUND TRUCK

How a Wisconsin bear hunter spends a quiet day in the woods.

For instance, bears aren’t a nuisance until bear bait stations are placed in April, which is nearly 145-days prior to bear hunting season. Bears don’t require a baiting season from April thru September to lure them to specific sites so hunters have an easy kill. Bait sites are unregulated and hunters have unlimited usage to where and how many bear bait sites they are allowed.

Sixty-four bear bait sites were counted in about a three-mile range from Diamond Roof Road heading east near Langlade, Wisconsin. Sites are often uncovered or over-baited with little to no enforcement. I’ve caught hunters traveling on ATV’s with bait through the Nicolet National Forest, off-trail to their bear bait stations. Why can’t Wisconsin require a 2-3 per person limit on bear bait stations? Michigan requires permits and allows baiting 30-days prior to the first day of bear hunting season.

BUDHA BEAR BAIT

Chocolate loaded bear bait from Craigslist ad for Budha Bear Bait in Pelican Lake, Wisconsin, March 2019.

Additionally, overdosing bears with sweets including toxic ingredients such as chocolate and xylitol is not responsible. They become habituated to human junk food which is not a natural food source. I have noted the “warning” concerning chocolate in the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) Bear Hunting Regulations; however, toxic ingredients should be “banned”. Besides, bears are not the only wildlife that feasts on toxic bait. This includes all canines and felines.

CHOC SYRUP

Chocolate syrup sold as bear bait by the 55-gallon drum by Budha Bear Bait, Pelican Lake, Wisconsin.

I also believe there should be sections of national forests that do not allow bear baiting and hound training, so silent sport enthusiasts can enjoy public lands. For example, bird migration begins for some species during the summer baiting & training period and while I provide data to Wisconsin Society for Ornithology/Bird Breeding Atlas and photograph species, it becomes an issue in specific areas when hunters are baiting and hounds are running unsupervised invading studies. This issue also occurs on my private property where many times loose hounds stick around and swim in the lake because they are overheated and/or hassle visiting guests, my dog and I.

LAONA HOUNDER IN HOODIE

Laona, Wisconsin hound hunter complaining to Forest County Sheriff’s deputy about Wolf Patrol monitoring their hunt on public roads, January 2018.

If a goal of the bear management plan is to minimize or eliminate bear/human conflicts then it certainly sets the stage to make changes to baiting and hounding policies. This includes hunter/resident conflicts. Residents will not put up with being bullied by trespassers on private property whether they are bear hounds and/or bear hunters.

Bear hounds are a problem. Bear hunters are a problem. Calling enforcement and trying to keep unruly trespassers on the premises while waiting for police to arrive is impossible. Removing tracking collars from trespassing hounds and waiting for hunters to retrieve them is one way to warn hunters to stay off private lands but rather risky.

NICHOLAS VALENTA PHOTO 4

Wisconsin’s bear hunters operate in groups with multiple trucks loaded with GPS-collared packs of dogs, leaving the bear little chance of escape.

I suggest the WDNR meet with enforcement officials and recommend an increase in fines for trespassing as each county has their own charges and double the fine for repeated offenders. Currently, the fines are not substantial. WDNR should have record of offenders and perhaps after 3-repeated offenses, revoke their hunting license.

Another way to eliminate other bear/human conflicts would be to shorten hound training season which is already too long especially during the heat of the summer. Also, reduce conflicts in designated WDNR Wolf Caution Areas by banning bear baiting & hound training/hunting in those areas.

Trespass Hounders FB

Sawyer County, Wisconsin bear hunters blocking public roads and looking for hounds on private property, October 2017.

In summary, I’d like to see the modifications noted below to the 2019-2029 Draft Revised Bear Management Plan:

  1. Reduce bear baiting season to 30-days prior to the hunt.
  2. Register and reduce baiting stations to 2/3 per hunter. Group baiting/hunting: 1/per                            person.
  3. Reduce bear training season to 30-days prior to the hunt and limit training sessions to six hounds.
  4. Recommend increase in bear hound/hunter trespassing violations on private property.
  5. Ban bear baiting and hound training in designated WDNR wolf caution areas. Perhaps create a buffer zone.
  6. Ban bear baiting and bear hounding/hunting in some areas specifically near sections of rivers, streams and lakes for silent sport users and especially private properties abutting the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (unless the hunter resides in vicinity.)
  7. Ban toxic ingredients in all bear baits and enforce. Producer of bear bait should be monitored and/or labels of ingredients supplied to WDNR and approved or simply ban baiting.
Screen Shot 2017-08-12 at 1.35.00 PM

Wisconsin hounder checking baits in WDNR Wolf Caution Area, July 2017.

I hope you respect my concerns and will consider the comments I’ve made being a Wisconsin resident living and working in and near the national forests, and someone who has witnessed bear hunters and their hounds’ behavior. While private properties and roads are well marked with appropriate signage, safety and proper management practices and enforcement should be policy to eliminate what could easily turn into more dangerous conflicts. It is the WDNR’s responsibility to take action. Thank you.

Kindly,

Resident: Town of Wolf River

(for fear of retribution from bear hunters, this citizen has requested that their name be protected–WP)

ANGRY MN HOUNDER II

Non-resident bear hound trainer drunkenly request that Wolf Patrol surrender video footage from July 2017 encounter during bear hound training season in Bayfield County, Wisconsin.