Wisconsin’s Fall Trapping Season Doubles as Illegal Wolf Trapping Season


Wisconsin trapper John Oens with yet another trapped wolf.

Every year since gray wolves were returned to federal protections in 2014, Wisconsin trapper John Oens has been catching them in his coyote traps. Wisconsin’s recreational/commercial trapping season begins in October, and is the cause of many “incidental” trapping incidents involving legally protected wolves.

For trappers like Oens, the illegal captures have become an easy way to gain attention on YouTube, with videos of the wolves being released from his traps receiving millions of views. Most viewers are unaware that Oens himself is the cause of what has become his annual wolf captures. This kind of state sponsored harassment of a federally protected species to boost YouTube views should be condemned by Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) and prosecuted as the harassment of federally protected wildlife.

Another grave example of how Wisconsin’s coyote trapping season is threatening gray wolves in the state, is the actual incidents when incidentally trapped wolves are illegally killed by trappers, as happened last December outside of Spooner, Wisconsin.

On the morning of December 27, 2017 an off-duty police officer from the small town of Siren, Wisconsin was driving home when he saw a wolf caught in a trap west of Spooner near the Yellow River. The local officer called the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ (WDNR) Violator Hotline before returning to the location of the trapped wolf. Upon returning, he saw a green Chevy truck with a dog box, that the officer recognized as belonging to a local bear hunter, Alfred Paulson. He also noticed that the wolf was no longer in the trap.

Less than an hour later, a couple from Madison, Wisconsin discovered a dead wolf hidden in brush in the same area, and as they were leaving encountered Paulson who admitted that he had released a wolf earlier from one of his coyote traps. Later that afternoon, the off-duty officer again returned to the location, this time following the blood trail from Paulson’s trap site, where he first saw the wolf, to where the dead wolf was now hidden under a spruce tree with a single gunshot wound to the head.


Illegally killed wolf in Michigan 2017.

WDNR conservation officer Jesse Ashton responded to the officer’s tip, collecting the dead wolf and other evidence from the scene of the crime, before running the license plate from the green hound truck seen near the trap site. The truck was registered to Paulson, who was visited by WDNR officer Ashton in Spooner. Paulson denied killing the wolf, but said he had discovered the dead animal dragged away from his coyote trap site.

On July 10, 2018, officer Ashton returned to Paulson’s residence with US Fish & Wildlife Special Agent Darin Brandenburg and a search warrant, to look for the .22 caliber rifle that was used to kill the wolf last December, according to findings from the USFWS forensics laboratory. Again Paulson was questioned, and finally when shown the findings on the four .22 shell casings collected from his trap site, admitted to shooting the wolf with his .22 rifle and dragging the body into the woods where it was later discovered.

This incident is also evidence that many trappers are also Wisconsin hound hunters, waging a campaign against federally protected wolves that they believe are responsible for killing hunting dogs. Wolf Patrol has long reported on the public support amongst hound hunters for wolf poaching. Public threats on social media regularly follow depredation incidents, especially in areas where bear hounds have been recently killed, as is the case in Burnett County, where Paulson killed his wolf.


2017 Wolf depredations on hunting dogs in Burnett County (red square location of Paulson’s trapped wolf).

During 2017’s Wisconsin bear season, five conflicts were reported between bear hounds and wolves in Burnett County where Paulson and many bear hunt. In addition, according to WDNR, on December 22, 2017, just five days before Paulson trapped and killed his illegal wolf, a hunting beagle was injured by wolves in Burnett County. During the 2018 bear hunt, two more wolf conflicts with bear hounds were reported with another four occurring just north, in Douglas County.


2018 Wolf depredations on hunting dogs in Burnett & Douglas Counties.

A recent study published in the Journal of Mammalogy and conducted by the University of Wisconsin found that WDNR has been systematically underreporting the illegal killing of wolves in the state. The study analyzed data collected from dead wolves from 1979 to 2012, and found that 37% of those wolves reported as roadkill were most likely killed by gunshot.

The Alfred Paulson wolf poaching case is moving forward with a status conference planned for this November 2018. Please join Wolf Patrol in calling for the maximum punishment in this latest example of Wisconsin’s war on wolves!

If you would help, letters in the Paulson case are now needed!

Here’s the addresses and a sample letter with more information, remember you must send a copy of your letter to each of the listed parties:

Judge Melissa Mogen
Burnett County Courts
7410 County Road K
Siren, WI 54872

Thomas Mulligan II, Defense Attorney
Mulligan Law Office
P.O. Box 457
Spooner, WI 54801

Daniel Patrick Steffen, District Attorney
7410 County Rd. K
Siren, WI 54872

Judge Melissa Mogen
Burnett County Court
Clerk of Courts Office
7410 County Road K
Siren, WI 54872

cc: Thomas Mulligan II, Defense Attorney
Daniel Patrick Steffen, District Attorney

State of Wisconsin vs. Alfred Paulson Burnett County Case Number 2018CM000223

Dear Judge Mogen,

I am writing in earnest to ask that you find Alfred Paulson guilty of poaching an endangered species, the Gray Wolf, and penalize him to the maximum extent possible. I volunteer for the WDNR as a carnivore tracker, frog & toad surveyor, turtle monitor, monarch butterfly monitor and I do water clarity monitoring as well. I value all wildlife for their importance to a diverse and healthy ecosystem and thoroughly enjoy seeing and hearing them daily. Gray Wolves provide many ecological benefits and this is born out in science research as well.

Law enforcement criminal complaints show this wolf was alive in the trap when a citizen discovered it. Alfred Paulson did not incidentally catch this wolf. He is stating that he was trapping for coyotes and that is a lie based on the following two facts:

Trappers have incidental catches all too frequently. If the incidentally trapped animal is alive, the WDNR asks only that the animal be released. If the released animal is a protected/threatened/endangered animal, the ethical trapper is encouraged to report it to the WDNR and that would be it.

If this indeed was an unintentionally trapped wolf, why would Alfred Paulson not have simply released the wolf? Mr. Paulson planned to intentionally kill this wolf. Mr. Paulson knew there were wolves in the area, as he is a bear hound hunter. Furthermore, the report also states the complainant recognized “it [the owner of the Green Chevy truck] as a subject who hunts bears with dogs in the area…” According to WDNR’s “Wolf Pack Count Details”, there are wolves identified in that area/tracking block as well as surrounding tracking blocks.

I track in a block adjacent to the block where Alfred Paulson hunts for bears with his dogs and where he also traps. It is a well-known fact that hound hunting dogs who are sent off of bait sites into areas where wolves are raising their young, are often killed by the wolves who are protecting their territories. It is also a well-known fact that some hound hunters will/have killed wolves that live in their hound hunting areas so they will not interfere with their dogs. Alfred Paulson knew wolves ran in his hunting area and laid his trap in a spot likely to catch a wolf.

Wolves should not be persecuted and are protected by federal law. The Gray Wolf was extirpated from Wisconsin back in the 1950‘s by people such as Alfred Paulson. Wolves have been persecuted for centuries and it continuing to this day. Since then, Wisconsin has spent millions of dollars and numerous decades to monitor wolves and their migration back into Wisconsin from Minnesota. A 2014 survey by the WDNR showed that a majority of northern rural WI residents want a robust population of wolves in our state. We are one of only a handful of states fortunate enough to still have wolves.

Regretfully, a minute but lethal segment of WI society subscribe to the “SSS” (shoot, shovel and shut-up) mentality which, as stated earlier, is what extirpated wolves to begin with. They are willing to illegally kill a wolf for a misguided long-held hatred of wolves and they believe they won’t get caught.

Recent science has indicated that poaching of wolves is higher in Wisconsin than previously espoused https://www.jsonline.com/…/study-says-wisconsin-d…/97373334/ Also see Gray Wolf Mortality Patterns in Wisconsin: 1979-2012 – https://academic.oup.com/jmammal/article/98/1/17/2977342), 02 February 2017; “Mismeasured mortality: Correcting estimates of wolf poaching in the United States – http://faculty.nelson.wisc.edu/trev…/…/Treves_etal_2017b.pdf

Alfred Paulson was charged under state statutes/guidelines rather than federally charged with civil and criminal penalties. Cruelly poaching a federally protected species violates the Endangered Species Act and draws a much harsher punishment (https://www.fws.gov/le/USStatutes/ESA.pdf).

Federal agencies defer to the states and expect criminal penalties will be imposed. Examples of penalties for this crime at the federal level under statute: Fines up to $50,000; 6 months in jail and license suspension. In the recent Michigan wolf poaching case decided on 2/20/18, Honorable C Joseph Schwedler sentenced Donald Curtis Aberly of Crystal Falls to both fines and restitution of $2,255, probation and revocation of hunting and trapping privileges.

Additionally, I encourage you to consider imposing the following:

1) Attendance at a wolf education seminar/workshop;

2) Attendance at a wolf education training program that would follow with Alfred Paulson attending schools to talk w/ young students about the concepts learned in the wolf education program including the value of wolves.

3) Suspension of trapping privileges for three years.

Thank you for your work on this case and the opportunity given for citizen input.

Polk County


First Report on 2018 Wisconsin Bear Hunter & Wolf Conflicts

This year’s Wisconsin black bear hunt was the source of multiple conflicts between wolves and bear hunting hounds with a total of twenty-one deadly fights reported, killing sixteen dogs and injuring an unknown number of wolves. Wolf Patrol is the only organization in the country opposing this conflict in the northwoods of Wisconsin, where it is happening.


Wisconsin bear hunting truck with hounds

Our presence in the field has become a thorn in the side of hound hunters, who know that we are monitoring for illegal hunting activities in places where no other wolf groups dare to operate. Here’s Part One of our update from the field, which begins in early June when bear baiting season begins. This film covers our monitoring of the first month of bear hound training season which began July 1st.

In addition to reporting bear baits out of compliance to Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), Wolf Patrol again documented the prolific bear baiting taking place in Wolf Caution Areas where bear hounds have been killed by wolves on public lands. We successfully asserted our rights to maintain experimental bear baits in an effort to document and illustrate the impact intentional feeding has on black bears in this part of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, where DNR researchers found that 40% of a black bear’s diet is composed of bear bait set out by humans.


Bear hound seriously injured by wolves July 2018.

Only nine months ago, hound hunters in Wolf Patrol’s Forest County operating area confronted our research team, illegally detaining and assaulting our patrol in their claim that we were breaking Wisconsin’s unconstitutional hunter harassment laws. We responded with a video campaign highlighting the illegal and cruel practices associated with hound hunters in Wisconsin, that itself resulted in a criminal investigation of those featured in the videos.

Not only did Wolf Patrol return, but Forest County Sheriff’s deputies and DNR wardens also responded, helping us recover stolen trail cameras and bring out of compliance bear baits into compliance. We also distributed dog bells to two groups of hound hunters, which have been proven to help reduce conflicts between bear hounds and wolves.


Forest County Sheriff’s deputy investigating trail camera theft.

The next installment of Wolf Patrol’s Report on the 2018 Wisconsin Bear Hunter & Gray Wolf Conflict will focus on the multiple depredations on bear hounds attributed to wolves that took place outside of our Forest County patrol area.




Tyler Kettlewell’s dogs baying a bear.

Wolf Patrol Welcomes Fire Keeper Wolves to Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest!

On the last weekend of Wisconsin’s 2018 bear hunt, Wolf Patrol recorded the howls coming from the newly named Fire Keeper Pack, while monitoring continued bear hunting in two Wolf Caution Areas in northern Wisconsin.

Since 2016, Wolf Patrol has been monitoring wolf activity in portions of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in Forest County. We were first drawn to the area because of illegal wolf killings and baiting meant to kill wolves discovered in the area. Since then we have been confronted by hound hunters opposed to Wolf Patrol’s presence on these national forest lands, including in January 2018, when hounders blockaded our patrol vehicle and assaulted our crew.

This Summer we began monitoring bear hunting activities, in particular bear baiting and hound training in areas where we identified multiple wolf packs over the past two winters of tracking. This portion of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest is popular with many bear hunters, and it wasn’t long before we began seeing wolf sign at bear baits in the area.

Screen Shot 2018-10-12 at 3.11.06 PM

On August 30, 2018 a bear hound was injured by wolves in this portion of the national forest, and then the very next day, two more bear hounds were killed by wolves in the immediate area we had been patrolling since June 2018. Once bear hound training season was over, and the killing season began in September, another bear hound was injured by wolves on September 18th. Finally, on September 29, one more bear hound was killed, just north of where two were killed on August 31st.

A common factor in all the areas where bear hounds were injured or killed in Forest County in the 2018 Wisconsin bear season is the prevalence of bear baits, that attract wolves to locations where bear hounds are also released to trail bears from the bait sites.

Wisconsin’s bear hunting season may be over, but the threat posed by hound hunters in Forest County to wolves in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest is far from over. Historically, wolf poaching occurs during Wisconsin’s firearms deer season, and once snow has fallen, making wolf tracking by poachers much easier.

Wolf Patrol will continue monitoring wolf activity in Forest County and the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest throughout winter 2018-19, which is also the time when hound hunters return to these forests to hound hunt for bobcat and coyote.

You can join Wolf Patrol in our battle to protect the wolves of Wisconsin by sending an email to US Forest Service officials asking that the conflicts created by hound hunters on our national forests be addressed and prevented with greater regulation of bear baiting and hound hunting & training.

SEND EMAILS TO: cnnfadmin@fs.fed.us

gaspardo wolf

Bear Baiting in Wisconsin Results in 21 Deadly Fights Between Bear Hounds and Wolves on Public Lands

On the last day of Wisconsin’s 2018 black bear hunt, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reported the 21st deadly encounter between bear hunting dogs and federally protected gray wolves. Most of the violent conflicts between hounds and wolves occurred in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest of northern Wisconsin, where bear baiting legally begins in April, with bear hound training season following in July, and finally the kill season in September. Over 12,000 bear hunters took to the field in 2018, killing over 4,500 bears. Over 95% of all black bears killed in Wisconsin are taken with the aid of bait and/or hounds.


In Wisconsin there are no laws limiting the number of bear baits anyone can use on public lands. Bear hunters are not even required to register their baits, and unlike neighboring states like Michigan, its even legal to use chocolate as bear bait despite it being toxic and dangerous to bears and other canines. The combination of baiting and hound hunting in Wisconsin has created an annual conflict that has become a part of Wisconsin’s bear hunt. Hound hunters use bear baits to attract bears close to roads where their dogs can catch their scent.


The problem is, not only bears are attracted to baits, but wolves and other wildlife as well. When wolves become conditioned to feeding from bear baits, they don’t only chase off the bears, but will consider any loose dog in the area competition for the intentional feeding site. In the 2018 bear season multiple wolves were reportedly visiting baits in northern Wisconsin and Michigan. As predicted, these baiting sites were largely to blame for the over 20 bear hunting hounds killed by federally protected gray wolves on public lands between July-October 2018.


Wolf Patrol is asking Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest officials to end the practice of bear baiting and bear hound training on our national forest lands where its causing more deadly encounters with hunting dogs than any where else in the nation. This is a preventable problem that Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources is responsible for allowing with its virtually lack of regulation over bear baiting and hound training. Wisconsin’s national forests belong to everyone, not just bear hunters. Legalized hunting practices that cause deadly conflicts with wolves need to addressed before more dogs and wolves are killed.


Please join us in calling for end to the deadly conflict between bear hunting dogs and Wisconsin’s wolves!



CB3 BEAR 8.11.18

Conversations With A Wisconsin Bear Hunter…UNEDITED

Last week in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, Wolf Patrol monitors were questioned about our campaign to end bear baiting and hound training on national forest lands. We appreciate the opportunity to address concerns of bear hunters who do not know why Wolf Patrol is opposed to bear baiting and hound training.

The following video is of the entire recorded conversation, although it was interrupted when the camera stopped recording. We offer the complete video without editing so the nature of the conversation could be better understood. Unfortunately, the gentleman in the passenger seat cannot be heard as well.


Wolf Patrol is not implying in any way that these particular bear hunters were breaking any laws or hunting in unethical ways. We simply encountered them as they were assisting a disabled hunter in finding a bear in the Wolf Caution Area where a bear hound was killed on September 29, 2018.

If you would like to join the debate by voicing your opposition to bear hunting practices that endanger federally protected gray wolves, please send your email to USFS officials at:


Hounders Continue Attracting Wolves with Bear Baits in Forest County Wolf Caution Areas

Yesterday Wolf Patrol continued checking up on active bear baits in areas of Forest County and the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest where bear hounds were recently killed by wolves in September 2018.

We found one bait we had reported for being too close to Highway 55 (legal requirement is 100 yards) removed, and the remaining bear bait brought into compliance. But in another area north of Highway 55 off of Fishel Road, where multiple bear baits are located, Wolf Patrol found one particular bear bait still being used despite being less than 20 yards from the road (legal requirement in these conditions is 50 yards,)


Wolves at a Baraga, Michigan bear bait September 2018.

This year more and more bear hunters are reporting wolves visiting their bear baits. In both Wisconsin and Michigan bear hunters have reported multiple wolves at bear baits in areas where bear hounds were also killed by wolves. The practice of bear baiting is used by hound hunters to draw bears close enough to the road for hounds to catch their scent. The only problems are the baits also attract wolves and other wildlife, creating a recipe for conflict between territorial wolves that view bear baits as a feeding site.

Screen Shot 2018-10-08 at 6.11.14 PM

In two Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) Wolf Caution Areas in Forest County established this September, Wolf Patrol monitors documented over a dozen active bear baits near the location where bear hounds were killed by wolves.

Wolf Patrol is asking Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest officials to end bear baiting and bear hound training and hunting in WDNR Wolf Caution Areas. To join the call, please send your email to:



Wolf Patrol Returns to Monitor Bear Hunting in Forest County Wolf Caution Areas

Wolf Patrol is continuing its campaign monitoring bear hunting activities in areas where bear hunting hounds have recently been killed by wolves in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (CNNF). Portions of the CNNF in Forest County, Wisconsin have seen a total of five deadly conflicts between bear hounds and wolves, making it the number one county in Wisconsin for wolf depredations on hunting dogs.

On October 6, Wolf Patrol monitors were monitoring continued bear hunting where wolves depredated a bear hound on September 30, 2018. The above video is an edited conversation between bear hunters operating in the area and Wolf Patrol monitors. The full unedited video will be available online at a later date.

Wolf Patrol welcomes civil conversation and respectful debate with those engaged in hunting practices which we oppose. We’d like to thank the hound hunters we shared our opinions with this morning and wish them a safe hunting rest of their season.