Not all bear hunters are bad apples. Wolf Patrol highlights the hunting practices that contribute to conflicts with federally protected wolves and other wildlife, and they are not hard to find. But what deserves mention is the “better hunting practices” exercised by hound hunters who we believe do truly love their dogs.
Let me restate, Wolf Patrol is adamantly opposed to all bear baiting and use of bear, bobcat and coyote hounds on our national forest lands. But we also understand that those practices are not ending anytime soon unfortunately. To be truly effective, Wolf Patrol must work incrementally towards ending the conflict between bear hunters and wolves. Towards that end, we welcome communication and feedback from hound hunters who are not willing to sacrifice their hounds for the sake of their enjoyment.
Last Summer Wolf Patrol monitors met a father and son in Forest County who wanted us to know that they have no interest in seeing their dogs put at risk by running them in wolf territory (video included of our conversation beginning 4:00). These gentlemen explained how difficult it was to find an area to bait in that wasn’t already being baited by other hunters or frequented by wolves.
This July, we’ve encountered the same bear hunters in our Forest County patrol area. When Wolf Patrol identified that these individuals were operating a bear bait that was questionably to close to a road, I contacted them to let them know our concerns about the bait. Rather than wait for WDNR conservation officers to investigate their bait, they voluntarily agreed to move it without question.
These are the kinds of interactions Wolf Patrol would prefer to have with Wisconsin bear hunters and anyone from out of state running hounds in wolf territory.
In April 2019, I was contacted by a hound hunter who also wanted Wolf Patrol to know that not all hounders are bad apples. Here is what he had to say, and what we liked to hear:
I have over the years switched bait locations to stumps, and have been making my own so they have a bottom. Hoping to limit animals from digging under. I have even went to less bait in the stump, when running dogs you do not always need the bear to get a full stomach, I just want them to stop for a snack. So I might even ration it, to check on the results, possible down to 1 gallon per site. Part of the reason I have been trying these things is to see how the bears react, which is better for my results, but to also limit the addition of other non-target animals at the bait. If there is no bait for them to get there is no reason to stop there.
I will start by stating I believe wolves should be managed, but I will also state I am not sure who the right person/department or whatever you want to call makes the decision. I did not and do not agree with chasing them. I do not want my dogs to even think of running them. Do I judge people for running them? No, but I do not think it was a good idea to push for that style of hunt (hunting wolves with hounds in Wisconsin).
Do I think it is a matter of time before a wolf attacks a human? I think this will be highly unlikely unless the animal is starving or very sick. Have I been howled out of the woods? Yes. Have wolves started howling when I have been running a bear across the road from them, yes. When that happens I catch my dogs as soon as possible and leave the area.
Does that affect how I hunt the area I hunt? Yes. When I find out where the (wolf) pack is summering the pups, I move to the other end of the area I hunt, giving them as much room as possible. I have had a dog killed by wolves 7 years ago. No it was not reported or claimed, and yes I can verify. I found the collar at the den. No I did not molest or harm the den. So please hold back on the hounder welfare comments. I am trying to figure out the best way to hunt around them due to the fact that they are going to be around from now on.
I will always run hounds as long as I can. For some of us, it is not about the kill but the interaction of the dog and the wilderness. I honestly just like being in the woods and listening to the dog work. The sounds of the hounds is music to my ears. With that being said, if people do not follow the rules that the DNR have given they should be prepared to pay the price. Is there good and bad with every sport yes. There are cheaters, people that are labeled extremist, possibly vandalize things. Do they ruin it for everyone? They definitely can.
Enjoy the woods