Wolves vs. Hounds: Fights Expected to Rise in Lead Up to Wisconsin Bear Hunt

 

2016 was a record year for bear hound killings by wolves in Wisconsin, as proponents of a wolf hunt are quick to note, but the undeniable truth all sides agree on is, more fights between wolves and bear hounds are expected, in the lead up to the September 6th opening day of Wisconsin’s actual bear hunt. To date, nine wolf/bear hound “conflicts” have been reported in 2017, since bear hound training season began on July 1st, resulting in ten dogs dying and one being injured.

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WIDNR depredation info: http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/wildlifehabitat/wolf/dogdeps.html

Last year, by mid-August 2016, sixteen wolf/bear hound fights had been reported by Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (WDNR). Do fewer hound deaths by mid-summer represent a downward trend? Let’s hope so, but the statistics don’t look good. Wolf Patrol has compared 2017 bear hound depredation locations and numbers to those in 2016, and this is what we found.

With two more months of bear hound training and actual hunting to go, more fights are anticipated as more hunters prepare for bear season with increased baiting and hound training activity in areas with a known history of wolf/bear hound conflicts. Last year, a total of 23 hounds were killed and three injured by wolves from mid-August to October 1st, with most of the depredations occurring on top of each other, in or near the same location. So far this year, eight of the nine fights between wolves and bear hounds have occurred in areas where depredations also occurred in 2016.

7.22&30.17 DEP

Sawyer County, large blue: 2017 hound depredations, red: 2016 year-end depredations.

7.30.17 DEP

Bayfield County, large blue: 2017 hound depredation, red: 2016 year-end depredations.

8.2.17 DEP

Washburn County, blue: 2017 hound depredation, red: 2016 year-end depredations.

The simple fact is, bear hound depredations occur when hunters loose their dogs and bait for bear in and near wolf “rendezvous areas” where historically, wolf family groups are known to travel in Summer months with young pups, away from the safety of their dens. When packs of bear hounds trespass these areas in pursuit of a bear, wolves are known to respond with deadly results. These locations are deemed “Wolf Caution Areas” by WIDNR and bear hunters are warned to exercise caution, but not forbidden to continue training or hunting with dogs in these areas.

Since 2015, Wolf Patrol has investigated bear hunting practices in areas where wolves have been known to kill bear hounds. In every single Wolf Caution Area, we have discovered active bear baiting locations being used by hound hunters training or hunting with their dogs. In addition, where there’s bear hound training and baiting, there’s hunters who do not comply with minimal regulations on bear baiting.

In 2016, Wolf Patrol reported non-compliant bear baits to WDNR, and again this year, we reported two illegal bear baits less than the required 50 yards from a road in a July 2017 Wolf Caution Area. WDNR conservation officers have told Wolf Patrol that concerns about compliance with bear hound training and baiting regulations in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest are greatest with non-residents who travel to Wisconsin to train hounds.

Measuring Bait

Measuring a the distance between bear bait and road…this one was less than the legal limit.

Most bear baiting occurring in early Summer is done by hound hunters looking to catch a scent trail that hounds can follow after a bear has visited a bait site. Wisconsin is the only state in the nation where any resident or non-resident, can bait for bear and train bear hounds without a license, in July and August, when wolves are fiercely territorial. But violent fights between federally protected gray wolves and bear hunting hounds aren’t only caused by non-residents, they are caused exclusively by hound hunters in general.

The illegal bait locations we discovered in Ashland County recently, are known as “striker baits” as they are sites used exclusively by hound hunters looking to strike a good scent trail. A Wisconsin bear baiter contacted Wolf Patrol after we reported the discovery of the striker baits in Ashland County, to tell me more about the differences between hound hunters and bait sitters, and why he didn’t support baiting for the purposes of hound training.

Hound Truck with 3 Barrells of Bait

Non-resident hounder & baiter looking for campsite in Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

He wanted Wolf Patrol to understand that its hound hunters who are causing conflicts with wolves by bringing dogs into wolf areas and running multiple striker baits close to roads, and that many of these people are non-residents encouraged by both the lack of any training or baiting license but also by the financial compensation should any of their hounds be killed by wolves.

Remember, in Wisconsin bear hunters can still receive their $2,500.00 compensation for dogs killed by wolves, even if they continue running their hounds in the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) Wolf Caution Areas. On August 2, 2017, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed a criminal complaint with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service alleging that Wisconsin’s Summer bear hound training season amounts to harassment and “take” of an endangered species. That wolves are being harassed by bear hounds to the point of killing them is clearly evidence of a violation of the federal Endangered Species Act.

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Non-resident training hounds in 2016 Wolf Caution Area.

PEER’s complaint also cites evidence that Wisconsin’s bear hound compensation program (which derives its revenue from the sale of endangered species license plates) is illegal as it has compensated repeat offenders and those who were hunting illegally or after their hunting privileges had been suspended.

The Wisconsin bear hunter I spoke with said he’s never had a problem with wolves although he does bait in wolf territory. He believes its irresponsible to run hounds in areas where wolves have killed dogs before, and blames hound hunters for making all bear hunters look bad by doing so. Bear hunters who hunt over bait without dogs try to lure in large bears by learning about the habits of bears visiting their few baits which are often further from roads and tucked away.

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Wolf in 2016 Wolf Caution Area in days leading up to bear hound training season.

The bear hunter went on to explain how Wisconsin’s bear licensing system allows for multiple family members ranging in all ages to apply for kill permits, meaning that as long as one family member has a permit, everyone else and their hounds can hunt as well. Combine the hunting pressure on wolves caused by bear hound training with that of the actual kill season, and it becomes obvious that more fighting with wolves will occur throughout August, September and October 2017.

Probably the best example of the carelessness and irresponsibility of bear hunters that leads to conflicts with wolves can be illustrated by the most recent bear hound depredations incident which occurred on August 11 & 12, 2017 in Burnett County. On August 11th, a Walker bear hound was killed by wolves, just two miles from where wolves killed another bear hound on August 1st of this year.

8.11&12.17 DEPS

Burnett & Washburn County, blue: 2017 hound depredations, red: 2016 end of year depredations.

Both of these bear hound depredations occurred literally in the same area where three bear hounds were killed in 2016. After the August 1st depredation, WDNR designated the portion of Washburn & Burnett County as a Wolf Caution Area. Following the August 11th depredation in the pre-existing WCA, bear hunters returned the very next day to train their hounds, and on August 12th it was reported that two more Walker bear hounds had been killed by the very same wolves.

Wolf Patrol will continue to monitor and investigate bear hound training, hunting & baiting practices in 2017 Wolf Caution Areas within the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest as bear hound training season ends and the bear hunt begins. Please join is and help end the practices of bear hound training & baiting in our national forests and in wolf rendezvous areas.

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Hounder & baiter in July 2017 Ashland County, WI Wolf Caution Area.

It’s now up to us to stop this abuse of public lands and violation of federal endangered species protections. Please send your comment to U.S. Forest Service officials asking that bear hound training & baiting be banned within the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest: cnnfadmin@fs.fed.us

Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association’s Response to Questions about Harassing Federally Protected Wolves

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WBHA member in July 2017 Wolf Caution Area.

The following statement was sent by Carl Schoettel, president of the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, in response to the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s questions about bear hunting with dogs, the number of dogs killed by wolves, Wisconsin’s program to compensate hunters for dogs killed by wolves, and what can be done to ease the conflict between wolves and bear hunters. For the August 11, 2017 published news article: http://www.startribune.com/a-wisconsin-tradition-hunting-bears-with-dogs-comes-under-attack-by-wolf-advocates/439739523/

(PEER is the Professional Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a
national watch dog group that is pushing for an investigation into hunters who it alleges illegally harass wolves in Wisconsin.)

FROM WHBA PRESIDENT’S DESK:

First, nobody refers to our way of hunting as “hounding.’’ It is hunting with the aid of dogs. Since the dawn of time, people have hunted with the aid of dogs. Ours are pursuit
dogs, which chase the prey with the aim of putting the bear in a position to be harvested, not to actually engage with the prey.

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Minnesota resident training bear hounds without any license in 2016 Wolf Caution Area.

It is like bike riding or hunting deer or any other activity — we as free people get to choose what we like to do. It also is a form of hunting that is very easy to involve your family and young people. Bear hunting traditions are no different than traditions of hunting that others participate in — other than our sport is even more family-friendly than most hunting pastimes; it is the norm that you see entire families with children from 1 through 25 out participating in the sport. PEER understands that and has targeted us because their ultimate radical agenda is to eliminate all hunting.

Hounder Trucks w Dogs 7.7.17

Hounders riding bikes, uh, I mean training their dogs in our national forest.

There are no science based facts available that any biologist from Wisconsin can state that the elimination of class B [hunting dog training license] has indeed increased the
conflicts. Don’t forget, the amount of depredations for agriculture has gone up and nobody is making the excuse it was because of the elimination of Class B license.

2017 Wisconsin wolf depredations (to date): https://dnrx.wisconsin.gov/wdacp/public/depredation/2017

2016 Wisconsin wolf depredations: https://dnrx.wisconsin.gov/wdacp/public/depredation/2016

It is also absurd to say that there is an expansion of access to public land; instead there has been a significant contraction. Many of the state’s private timber leases expired in the recent past and the majority of that land is up for sale or is sold in small 40 acre or more parcels. At the least, this is tens of thousands of acres of land that we cannot hunt
on. Road maintenance expenses are an area that counties are cutting, which also reduces the amount of land to hunt on.

koty-barth

WBHA hunting party struggling with the loss of public lands accessible with their trucks and dogs.

And last, if you see how they count wolves in this state only a fool would agree that the population is the same as 2012. There are many more wolves, period. Also, as the wolves have now devastated the deer population in Northern Wisconsin, they have become more aggressive in their search for food and thus more likely to target our dogs.

Wisconsin DNR 2016 gray wolf monitoring report describing tracking methods: http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/Wildlifehabitat/wolf/documents/Wolfreport2016.pdf

As I stated before, with freedom you also have the freedom to make bad choices. And to hunt in the exact same place that your hunting dogs got killed and eaten is your choice. But I know the vast majority of hunters do not. I will say that there is not an area in the northern half and some of the south central part of the state that does not have wolf packs — you can view this on the Wisconsin DNR web page.

DogAttackedbyWolves1

“Protect Bear Hunters’ Freedom to Make Bad Decisions”-new WBHA motto.

Back when the management number was 350, which is the number at which wolves were de-listed, there was a lot less conflict. There was a much better balance where all parties are concerned. To state that people knowingly are doing this to make money [from Wisconsin’s compensation program] is also absurd coming from people who have no idea what it costs to raise feed and maintain a good hunting dog; it is a fraction of what the loss is, plus the emotional cost to your children’s hunting dogs and yours also. It also is kind of like hunting and worrying that your dog might get hit by a car- there is no place to hunt in this state that does not have roads where we bear hunt, and there is no place to bear hunt in this state that there are no wolves.

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WBHA member struggling with the emotional loss of his bear hound on Facebook.

This is not a hunter vs. wolves issue; farmers and other landowners also suffer wolf predation. It is an out of touch judiciary and groups like PEER, which is not from our state, telling us how to manage our wildlife. The people who know best how to do this, Wisconsin Hunters, Farmers, Landowners, Taxpayers and Wisconsin DNR all agree with the US Fish and Wildlife biologists who for a decade have concluded that the gray wolf has recovered and is no longer in need of protection and should be managed per the DNR state management plan. With proper management we are 100% sure that depredations will be greatly reduced if not essentially eliminated.

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Wisconsin hounder/participant in the DNR endorsed 2012 “proper management” of wolves.

Thank you.
Carl Schoettel
President
Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association
Neosho WI 53059
Phone: (414) 531 2296
E-mail cschoettel@discoveryworld.org

One July Day in Wisconsin Bear Hound Training Country…

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Wisconsin’s bear hound training season began on July 1st, and Wolf Patrol spent all of July documenting the amount of hound training and bear baiting taking place in just one area of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (CNNF). Every year, dozens of bear hunting hounds are killed by wolves as they chase bears through wolf “rendezvous sites” when young pups are vulnerable. These deadly encounters leave many bear hunters wanting retaliation, with some threatening to illegally poison wolves in their hunting areas.

In Wolf Patrol’s research area, within the Washburn District of the CNNF, in Bayfield County, there were five separate fights between wolves and bear hounds that led to deaths in 2016. In the larger CNNF, last year there were 21 separate incidents when bear hounds fought to the death with federally protected gray wolves. These attacks occur because bear hunters continue to bait for bears and run their dogs in known wolf areas.

Beginning in late June 2017, Wolf Patrol placed trail cameras throughout a portion of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, in an effort to quantify the amount of hound training taking place in an area known for conflicts between bear hounds and wolves. In the days leading up to the beginning of hound training season, not only wolves but fisher, bobcat, badger, coyote, bear and deer were all seen on our trail cameras before bear hound training season began on July 1st.

After July 1st, Wolf Patrol’s trail cameras revealed just how many hound hunters come onto national forest lands to train their hounds and bait for bear. Only in Wisconsin, can you train bear hounds and bait for bear without a license, and only in Wisconsin will you be compensated $2,500.00 if any of your bear hounds are killed by wolves, even if you are running hounds in known “Wolf Caution Areas” where dogs have been killed before.

Since bear hound training season began, the vast majority of training activity monitored occurred on the weekends. Although some hunters were known only to run dogs during the week when fewer hounders were afield. Many bear hunters use bait to attract bears for their dogs to follow, and these hunters were known to refill baits in the days leading up to the weekend. Many bear hunters use ATV’s that can carry five-gallon plastic bait buckets, the tell-tale sign of a bear baiter.

The following photos show bear hound training & baiting activity on one national forest road, in one area of the forest on Saturday, July 22nd 2017. Many of the vehicles seen hunt in this area every weekend, and many hunters work together combining dogs and resources in their effort to chase bears almost every single day beginning July 1st until the kill season in September. As the photos reveal, the chase begins early, and goes late with 15 hours of bear hunter activity documented on this one trail camera alone.

The minimally regulated practice of bear hound training and baiting in Wisconsin means  bears in our national forest are being chased almost every day from July until October. Many of the bear hounds being trained are young dogs who also chase other wildlife, meaning its not just bears burning up energy, but other wildlife as well. The constant running of dogs and continuous dumping of bait, only to serve bear hunters, means more bears will become conditioned to associate humans with food, more wolves will be forced to defend their pups, killing bear hounds, and more bear hunters will want to illegally kill wolves.

Seven bear hounds have been killed so far since training season began this year, and more are expected to be killed when the actual bear killing season begins on September 6th. If you agree that bear hunters in Wisconsin should not be allowed to run hounds or bait for bear in known wolf areas, please send a comment to Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest officials and ask them to restrict both activities on our national forest lands.

SEND YOUR COMMENT TO: cnnfadmin@fs.fed.us

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility’s Criminal Complaint Against Wisconsin’s Bear Hound Training Season

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Filming the continued use of bear hounds in a recent Wolf Caution Area.

August 2, 2017

William C. Woody
Chief, Office of Law Enforcement
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
5600 American Boulevard, West, Suite 990 Bloomington, MN 55437-1458

RE: Request for Criminal Investigation – Violation of the Endangered Species Act

Dear Chief Woody:

This is a formal request for an investigation of alleged criminal violations relating to the illegal take of the federally protected gray wolf (Canis lupus) in Wisconsin. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (“PEER”) has learned of ongoing illegal harassment of the gray wolf by hound hunters in Wisconsin. These activities have led to adverse effects on breeding patterns and the habitat of the gray wolf. PEER believes these activities constitute prima facie evidence of ongoing criminal misconduct.

The activities in question involve twenty-two individuals who have, by all appearances, violated the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1531 et seq., (“ESA”) by engaging in activities which amount to the “taking” of a protected species as defined under § 9 of the Act.

During Wisconsin’s 2016 hunting season, forty-eight hunting hounds were killed by wolves. Twenty-one of these incidents occurred on public National Forest lands, and more than fifteen occurred after hunters were informed of the fact that they were hunting or training their dogs in “wolf caution areas.” These activities constitute harassment of endangered wolves and are criminal violations of the ESA.

Background

Wisconsin’s Hound Dog Compensation Program

August 2, 2017

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In 1982, Wisconsin started its wolf depredation program, which includes reimbursement for death or injury caused to hunting dogs by wolves. Wis. Stat. 29.888.1 Through its Department of Natural Resources (“DNR”), Wisconsin allows the hunting of bears with hound dogs and is the only state with a program that compensates the owners of hound dogs killed by wolves while hunting other animals. The stated purpose of the program is to mitigate damage caused by the recovery of the endangered wolf population. Wisconsin’s DNR compensates each hunter $2,500 per hound killed during a wolf depredation event. In addition, DNR reimburses hunters for any veterinary care sought to save the hound’s life. If the animal dies, the state covers veterinary costs in addition to the $2,500 depredation payout.2

Over the past decade, the state has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to hunters who have lost dogs due to depredation events.3 In 2017 alone, the state paid out $99,400.00 to hunters for hounds killed by wolves.4

Wisconsin DNR provides compensation for a lost hound regardless of past or present criminal activity. At least five individuals who have filed verified claims to receive compensation from the state of Wisconsin for hunting dogs killed by wolves had prior criminal convictions for hunting-related offenses.5 These payments, as well as those to individuals with less serious hunting-related prior violations, are legal under DNR compensation policies.

Though the DNR issues hunting licenses in the state, a license is not an eligibility requirement for compensation from the DNR for hounds killed by wolves during violent

1 Although the statute by its terms forbids depredation payments at times when the wolf is listed on the federal or state endangered species list, the DNR has been making payments despite the fact that the gray wolf is federally listed. Wis. Stat. 29.888(1m).
2 See Dep’t Natural Res., Dog Depredations by Wolves for 2016, available at http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/wildlifehabitat/wolf/dogdeps2.html [hereinafter Dog Depredations]; see also Dep’t Natural Res., Wolf Damage Payments, available at http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/wildlifehabitat/wolf/documents/wolfdamagepayments.pdf [hereinafter Wolf Payments] (describing the amount of money the state paid out to cover the cost of hound veterinary bills in 2016).

3 See Wolf Payments, supra note 2.
4 Id.
5 Rickey J. Nelson, Loyal, in Clark County: 2002 misdemeanor conviction for killing a bear without a license. Mr. Nelson was fined $2,064 and lost his DNR privileges for three years. Mr. Nelson also had prior misdemeanor convictions for trapping without a license during closed season and possessing a deer during closed season. Mr. Nelson was fined $2,860. The state has paid Nelson $2,500 each for two dogs — one killed in 2009, the other in 2012.
Josh K. Schlosser, Oconto, WI: 2009 misdemeanor conviction for killing a bear without a license. Mr. Schlosser was fined $2,108 and had his DNR hunting privileges revoked for three years. He filed a claim seeking $4,500 for the death of a hound in 2011 and received the maximum $2,500.
Kenneth F. Strobl, Catawba, in Price County: 2003 misdemeanor convictions on one count of killing a bear without a license and one count of unlawful sale of animal parts. Mr. Strobl was originally charged with illegally killing two bears and selling 30 bear gall bladders to an undercover conservation warden. He was fined $2,749 and subsequently lost DNR privileges for five years. Mr. Strobl received $2,000 for a hunting dog killed in 2011.
Brandon M. True, Gillett, in Oconto County: 2009 misdemeanor conviction for being party to killing a bear without a license; he was fined $1,000 and lost hunting privileges for one year. Mr. True additionally received $2,500 for a dog killed in 2013.
Mike Wood, Amery County: 2009 three misdemeanor convictions for intentional mistreatment of animals. Mr. Wood was also convicted of a fourth misdemeanor for illegal poaching of a bear and a fifth for resisting a conservation warden.

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hound/wolf interactions. See Wis. Stat. § 29.184.6 Thus, Wisconsin’s current DNR compensation policy for lost dogs covers out-of-state hunters as well as Wisconsin residents who do not have hunting licenses and thus are hunting illegally.7 Under the present policies, both in- state and out-of-state residents may petition and receive reimbursement from the state for hounds killed by wolves while legally or illegally engaged in hound hunting or training activities.8 Hunters who are restricted from obtaining licenses, yet continue to hunt in violation of licensing requirements, may still receive a state sanctioned payout if they lose a dog to a wolf.

Furthermore, in 2015, the state eliminated the “Class B” bear hound training licenses. While a Class A license or “kill tag” is still required for any hunter wishing to kill a black bear, the Class B licensing requirements have been rescinded. See Wis. Stat. 29.184(3)(a) (stating that no license is required to, among other things, train a dog to track bear or assist a holder of a Class A bear license). Class B requirements mandated that a prospective hunter seeking to train hounds obtain a permit from the state to do so. A Class B permit allowed a hunter to bait bears, train dogs to track bears, act as a back-up shooter, or assist a hunter pursuing a bear. Now both residents and non-residents may run hound dogs through Wisconsin’s wilderness for training purposes unchecked and without licensed oversight from the state.

Wisconsin’s 2016 Hunting Season

Wisconsin’s DNR allows for the training of dogs by pursuing bear from July 1 through August 31, prior to the start of hunting season.9 This period is when female wolves are tending to their roughly three-month-old pups. This hound training occurs when wolves are taking their pups out of dens for the first time to “rendezvous sites” where the pups can be taught to hunt. Thus, this training occurs at times when female adult wolves are more aggressive about defending their young and their territory.

Between March and December of 2016, forty-eight hound dogs were sent by hunters into probable wolf pack ranges10 and killed in conflicts with wolves, with the highest number of depredation events occurring between July 1 and August 31 when wolf pups are first leaving their dens.11 Bear season does not start in Wisconsin until September 6; however, more hounds were killed in Wisconsin during hound training season than during the sanctioned bear hunting season. Of the total number of depredation events, more than fifteen of the forty-eight hounds killed were on public lands in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, specifically in areas that the DNR had cautioned previously as being high risk for wolf attacks.12

6 See supra note 5; see generally Dog Depredations, supra note 2.
7 Bill Leuders, State pays scofflaws over hound deaths, WisconsinWatch.org (Jan. 5, 2014), http://wisconsinwatch.org/2014/01/state-pays-scofflaws-over-hound-deaths/.
8 See supra, note 2.
9 See Dep’t Natural Res., Bear Season Dates, available at http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/hunt/dates.html (noting that this occurs before the official start of bear hunting season that begins on September 6).
10 See Dep’t Natural Res., Wisconsin Grey Wolf Monitoring Report 11-13, available at http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/Wildlifehabitat/wolf/documents/Wolfreport2016.pdf.
11 See Dep’t Natural Res., Gray Wolf Depredation, available at http://dnrmaps.wi.gov/H5/?viewer=GRAY_WOLF_DEPREDATION [hereinafter Depredation Map].
12 See id; see also Wolf Payments, supra note 2

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Criminal Violations

Endangered Species Act

Due to a Federal court decision, wolves in the western Great Lakes Distinct Population Segment, which includes Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, were relisted under the ESA effective December 19, 2014.13 The United States Supreme Court has observed that the ESA is “the most comprehensive legislation for the preservation of endangered species ever enacted by any nation.” Tennessee Valley Authority v. Hill, 437 U.S. 153, 180 (1978). Beyond any doubt, “Congress intended endangered species to be afforded the highest of priorities, as the “plain intent of Congress in enacting [the] statute was to halt and reverse the trend toward species extinction, whatever the cost.” Id. at 184 (emphasis added).

Section 9(a)(1) of the Endangered Species Act provides that “with respect to any endangered species of fish or wildlife listed pursuant to section 1533 of this title it is unlawful for any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to… (B) take any such species within the United States or the territorial sea of the United States.” 16 U.S.C. § 1538(a)(1)(B). Section 3(19) of the Act defines the statutory term “take” as meaning “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct.” 16 U.S.C. § 1532(19) (emphasis added).

In a recent case in Arizona, the U.S. district court14 invalidated the Department of Justice’s “McKittrick Rule,” addressing the law’s definition of “knowingly” for criminal offenses. WildEarth Guardians overturned the DOJ’s previous policy, which required that the government only prosecute “take” of animals on the ESA list of endangered species when it could prove that the individual knew the biological identity of the species he was harming. Just as criminal “take” can occur when a hunter mistakenly shoots an endangered species believed to be a non-listed species, “take” can occur when a hunter’s activities, though not specifically directed at a listed species, result in take of a listed species. This is the case here where hunters’ activities in training and hunting with hound dogs for bears result in the harassment of listed wolves.

Twenty-one individuals have engaged in the impermissible take of the federally protected gray wolf on federal land in the state of Wisconsin.

Section 9 of the ESA prohibits various activities including the “take” of endangered species. 16 U.S.C. § 1538(a). “Take” can be direct or indirect and includes engaging in or attempting to engage in a variety of deleterious actions including harassment, harm, and pursuit. Id. § 1532(19). Under 50 C.F.R. § 17.3, “harm” includes significant habitat modification or degradation that kills or injures wildlife by significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns, including breeding, feeding or sheltering.” (emphasis added). Moreover, both the Supreme Court and Congress have explicitly stated that the term “take” is to be interpreted as broadly as

13 Humane Soc’y of the United States v. Jewell, 76 F. Supp. 3d 69 (D.D.C. Dec. 19, 2014) (holding The National Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS’s) final rule, which “delisted” wolves from the ESA’s list of protected species in nine Midwestern nine states violated the spirit and the letter of the ESA).
14 WildEarth Guardians v. United States DOJ , No. CV-13-00392-TUC-DCB (D. Ariz June 19, 2017).

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possible.15 “Harass” is an intentional or negligent act or omission which creates the likelihood of injury to wildlife by annoying it to such an extent as to significantly disrupt normal behavioral patterns which include, but are not limited to, breeding, feeding, or sheltering.16 Courts have recognized that, in addition to past and current threats of harm, the “likely” threat of future harm also constitutes “take” under the ESA.17

Harassment or pursuit of a wolf while hound hunting is a prohibited act as evidenced by the plain language of the ESA’s “take” definition, which includes harassment and pursuit. However, over the course of Wisconsin’s 2016 hunting season, forty-eight hounds were killed by wolves, twenty-one of which occurred on public lands, and more than fifteen of those acts occurred after hunters were informed of the fact that they were hunting in “wolf caution areas.”18 The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources creates specific “wolf caution areas” that warn hunters of previous instances of wolf attacks on hound dogs in a hunting or training situation. To aid hunters, the DNR website features an interactive “Gray Wolf Depredation Mapping Application” which “shows all verified wolf depredations and threats on livestock, hunting dogs and pets as well as verified human health and safety conflicts.”19 Lastly, DNR has an e-mail and text alert system to inform residents about wolf activity in their area.20

Wisconsin is the only state in the nation that has a compensation program for hound hunters who have lost hunting dogs to wolf depredation out in the field. While this program is designed to improve hunters’ acceptance of the presence of wolves within the State, it has demonstrably failed to do so. Wisconsin’s own Wolf Management Plan states, “the existing compensation program for wolf depredations was very popular, but individuals who received compensation payments for reported depredations were no more tolerant of wolves than were individuals claiming losses but who were not paid.”21 Wisconsin’s compensation program serves as little more than a state sanctioned financial subsidy for hunters engaged in the criminal harassment of the federally endangered gray wolf.22

15 16 U.S.C. § 1538(a)(1)(B); 5 C.F.R. 17.21(c); see, e.g., Babbitt v. Sweet Home Chapter of Cmtys. for a Great Or., 515 U.S. 687, 698 (1995) (determining that “the broad purpose of the ESA supports” a correspondingly broad definition of “harm” from the Secretary of the Interior); S. Rep. No. 93-307, at 7 (1973) (“‘Take’ is defined . . . in the broadest possible manner to include every conceivable way in which a person can ‘take’ or attempt to ‘take’ any fish or wildlife.”).

16 See Babbit, 515 U.S. 705, 718, 719-720.
17 Marbled Murrelet v. Babbitt, 83 F.3d 1060, 1066 (9th Cir.1996); Loggerhead Turtle v. Cnty. Council of Volusia Cnty., Florida, 92 F. Supp. 2d 1296, 1302 (M.D. Fla. 2000).
18 See Depredation Map, supra note 11; see also WOLF ADVISORY COMMITTEE MEETING (Feb. 12, 2014), available at http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/wildlifehabitat/wolf/documents/committee/meeting0214.pdf (noting that wolf alert areas include a 4-mile buffer around the depredation event).
19 See Depredation Map, supra note 11.
20 See Dog Depredations, supra note 2; see also Karen Madden, DNR starts issuing wolf alerts, Timber Wolf Information Network, http://www.timberwolfinformation.org/dnr-starts-issuing-wolf-alerts/.
21 WISCONSIN WOLF MANAGEMENT PLAN Appendix H2 (1999), available at http://dnr.wi.gov/files/PDF/pubs/ER/ER0099.pdf.
22 As noted above, the program is not even statutorily authorized for periods when the wolf is listed as endangered on the federal or state level. However, the DNR has continued to implement it since the gray wolf was reinstated on the federal endangered species list.

5

Gray wolves are a federally protected species under the ESA in the Great Lakes Region of Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.23 Yet, violent interactions between hounds and wolves continually occur, constituting impermissible “take” under § 9 of the ESA. As the Court held in Babbitt v. Sweet Home Chapt. Comms. for Ore.,24 Congress intended to go beyond the actual infliction of direct force upon an endangered species. Deadly encounters between wolves and hound dogs are clearly take of a federally protected species, as they may result in wounding, and at the least stem from harassing or pursuing the wolf. Scientific research on wolves confirms that death to a hound would not occur unless a wolf had been harassed or pursued.25 These facts by their very nature establish the prima facie elements of a violation of the ESA.

Additionally, because hound training season in Wisconsin takes place when wolves are raising their pups, the fact that hounds are running through clearly identified wolf territory unchecked means that such actions directly impair the wolves’ ability to breed, feed, and find shelter; activity specifically protected by the plain language of the ESA’s implementing regulations. 50 C.F.R. 17.3. Such action is in obvious conflict with Congress’ intent to protect a fragile species and constitutes a criminal violation of the ESA.

Congress passed the ESA to conserve endangered and threatened species and their habitat. 16 U.S.C. § 1531(b). The Supreme Court’s review of the ESA’s “language, history, and structure” convinced the Court “beyond a doubt” that “Congress intended endangered species to be afforded the highest of priorities.”26 Below is a list of twenty-one individuals who engaged in hounding activities during the 2016 season in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest and one individual on DNR-managed land that resulted in the criminal harassment of an endangered species, yet received compensation from the state:

  1. Cody Hatten, Milltown, WI; depredation occurred in Bayfield, WI
  2. Eugene Benson, Amery, WI; depredation occurred in Bayfield, WI
  3. Jesse Claflin, New Auburn, WI; depredation occurred in Sawyer, WI
  4. Eli Belisle, Osceola, WI27; depredation occurred in Bayfield, WI
  5. Jacob Lindahl, Osceola, WI; depredation occurred in Bayfield, WI
  6. Tod Harshman, Clear Lake, WI; depredation occurred in Bayfield, WI
  7. Nathan Bauer, Stanley, WI; depredation occurred in Bayfield, WI
  8. Morgan Francis, Rio, WI; depredation occurred in Sawyer, WI
  9. Steven Lipscy, Neillsville, WI; depredation occurred in Ashland, WI
  10. Jonas Moermond, Hazelhurst, WI; depredation occurred in Langlade, WI
  11. Luke Withrow, Broadhead, WI; depredation occurred in Ashland, WI
  12. Ryan McCauley, Stratford, WI; depredation occurred in Sawyer, WI
  13. John Larson, Foley, MN; depredation occurred in Bayfield, WI

23 Humane Soc’y of the United States v. Jewell, 76 F. Supp. 3d 69 (D.D.C. Dec. 19, 2014).
24 515 U.S. 687 (1995).
25 See David Mech, THE WOLF: THE ECOLOGY AND BEHAVIOR OF AN ENDANGERED SPECIES 5 (1970) (noting that wolves have a basic aversion to fighting and will do much to avoid aggressive encounters but will become aggressive in certain specific situations including but not limited to protecting a den or pups from other predators). 26 Tennessee Valley Authority v. Hill, 437 U.S. 153, 174 (1978).
27 Mr. Belisle was paid twice in the same season for two hound depredation events in the same area within three weeks of each other. This demonstrates an obvious knowledge of the presence of the endangered gray wolf in the area and a willful disregard of DNR recommendations to avoid such areas.

6

14. Randy Moldenhauer, Osseo, WI; depredation occurred in Sawyer, WI 15. Benny Vance, Newland NC; depredation occurred in Ashland, WI 16. Marne Gall, Hillman, MN; depredation occurred in Bayfield, WI
17. Leon Gall, Pierz, MN28; depredation occurred in Bayfield, WI

18. Duane Fansler, Balsam Lake, WI; depredation occurred in Bayfield, WI 19. Larry Leer, Ettick, WI; depredation occurred in Bayfield, WI
20. Gary Sprague, Mason, WI; depredation occurred in Bayfield, WI
21. Steven Kolbach, Iron River, MI; depredation occurred in Florence, WI 22. Mike Wood, Amery, WI29; depredation occurred in Douglas, WI30

Each of these listed individuals has engaged in the impermissible criminal “take” of a federally listed endangered species under § 9 of the ESA.

Conclusion

The twenty-two listed individuals have knowingly violated § 9 of the Endangered Species Act by engaging in activities which on their face amount to the “taking” of a protected species.

We respectfully request that you launch a criminal investigation of these alleged violations, and if they are substantiated refer them to the U.S. Department of Justice for prosecution.

Sincerely,

Adam Carlesco, Staff Counsel
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) 962 Wayne Avenue, Suite 610
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Cc. Jeffrey H. Wood, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Environment and Natural Resources Division, U.S. Department of Justice

28 Mr. Gall was paid $7,500 for three separate hound depredation events that occurred within the same nine day period.
29 Mr. Wood submitted three claims within the same two week period. DNR denied one claim, but paid $5,000 for the two accepted claims. Mr. Wood is a convicted criminal with three misdemeanor convictions for intentional mistreatment of animals, one misdemeanor conviction for illegal poaching of a bear, and another misdemeanor conviction for resisting a conservation warden. Though Mr. Wood’s behavior is clearly demonstrates a reckless disregard for the law, he continued to receive financial payouts.
30 It should be noted that this depredation event occurred on land managed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

7

Second Bear Hound Depredation in Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest

 

On July 22nd, a bear hound was killed by wolves as it was running through a wolf rendezvous area in northern Wisconsin’s Chequamegon-Nicolet National forest, where last year 19 bear hounds were killed by wolves. This marks only the third time this year such an attack have happened, but more are anticipated.

Wolf Patrol has been documenting the continuing use of bear hounds and baiting practices in known Wolf Caution Area’s (WCA), and this month we have visited two sites where hounds have been killed. In Ashland County our investigators also found two illegal bear baits that were reported to state and federal authorities.

Over the last three Summers, Wolf Patrol has been documenting the deadly practice of training bear hounds in active wolf territory. Last year was by far the worst, with over 40 bear hounds killed by wolves in over 32 separate incidents. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) designate bear hound depredation areas as “WCA’s” as a means of cautioning hound hunters, but most ignore the warnings and continue running dogs in WCA’s.

Part of the problem may be that for every hound killed by wolves, hunters receive as much as $2,500.00 in compensation from the state’s Endangered Species Fund, which derives most of its revenue from the sale in Wisconsin of endangered species license plates. Another problem is bear hunters are helping create conflict with wolves when they not only run their dogs through summer rendezvous areas, but also by baiting for bears in areas where wolves live and hunt.

Deer are the principal prey of wolves in Wisconsin, and on multiple occasions Wolf Patrol has documented deer regularly visiting and feeding from bear baits. Research has shown how in northern Wisconsin, wolves can become habituated to visiting bear bait sites, and identifying the baits as their own food source. Bear baiting is minimally regulated in Wisconsin, with over 4 million gallons of bait dumped in forests across the state at an unknown number of sites.

In addition, bears fleeing from bait sites have been known to run into dense vegetation when chased by bear hounds, often right through areas where wolves are resting with their young families. The vast majority of the WCA’s that Wolf Patrol has visited are surrounded by bear baits used by hound hunters as beginning points to train their hounds from. Many of these young hounds are just 8 months old and easily are separated from more experienced hounds in their pack. This is when they become easy prey for wolves protecting their young.

Wisconsin’s allowance for bear hound training in summer months, when wolves are most territorial and protective of new pups, has created a deadly conflict with wolves for years now. The increase in bear baiting practices, and the removal of license requirements to bait for bear or train hounds in the summertime, has meant an increase in the number of hound hunters training dogs in our national forest.

Since July 1st, when bear hound training began, Wolf Patrol citizen monitors have documented hound training activities in their patrol area within the Washburn District of the CNNF, 24 of the last 30 days of the season. Bears that are being chased on the average of six days a week, are forced to burn calories and fat that they should be storing for winter hibernation. Many of the bears being chased are mothers with cubs, causing stress to both, even though its illegal to actually kill a sow with cubs.

Bear baiting & hound training in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest needs to end. Recent studies proclaim that 40% of a black bears diet in the CNNF is from human food waste fed to bears in hunters’ baits. The intentional feeding of bears so that they can be later killed is not a practice that should be allowed in our national forests. It creates a nuisance for humans, wolves, bears and all the other wildlife affected by bear hound training in Summer months.

Please support Wolf Patrol’s call to end bear baiting & hound training in the CNNF by sending an email to forest officials now at:

cnnfadmin@fs.fed.us