Wolf Patrol Summary of Bear Baiting & Hound Training Activities in July 2015
In July, Wolf Patrol set out to gather information about Wisconsin’s bear hound training & baiting activities on public lands. Our focus was to learn more about the conflict that exists as a result of bear hunting hounds being trained in wolf habitat in early July when the predators’ are leaving their dens with new pups to areas known as “rendezvous sites” where their parents can teach them to hunt and explore their habitat. Last year in Wisconsin alone, over 25 hunting hounds were killed by wolves as they hunted or were trained on public lands.
Although bear hunting in Wisconsin does not begin until September 9th, it is legal in Wisconsin to begin baiting for bear in mid-April, and training bear hounds on July 1st, thus bear hunters through intentional feeding, are conditioning bears to behave in ways that are in the bear hunter’s own self interest. This is not only the opinion of Wolf Patrol, but the scientific findings published recently by researchers who investigated Wisconsin’s liberal bear hunting policies, comparing them to Michigan’s, where a much more regulated baiting season exists. What we found in our two weeks of on-the-ground investigations reinforces the findings of researcher Joseph Bump and others in, “Bear-Baiting May Exacerbate Wolf-Hunting Dog Conflict” published in 2013.
Early Summer is not only a time when bears and wolves are active, but other wildlife as well. The presence of “free-feeding” bait sites throughout bear habitat, means not only bears are influenced by these artificial feed sites, but other animals as well. Most notable in our findings was the presence of deer at bear bait locations. Deer and other animals are attracted by the calorie-rich foods placed in the field by bear hunters, and anywhere there are deer congregating, you can expect predators and other wildlife to gather as well. What we are witnessing is a “trophic cascade” whereby, bear hunters intentionally set out baits for bear, the bait becomes exposed, and other wildlife feeds from it, also contributing to predator attention to bear baiting sites.
One particular bait supplier, “Northwoods Bear Products” uses the by-line: “Turn Nocturnal Bears into Daytime Bears” taking pride in the fact that their artificial baits and lures cause bears to alter their natural behavior. Bear baiting is a big business in northern Wisconsin, where guides are able to “guarantee” that their clients will have the chance to shoot a bear, only because the animal has become conditioned to feed at an artificial feed site.
Another recent finding from researchers is that the artificial calorie-rich diet often provided in bear baits (chocolate, breads, candy, cookies, and other randomly-sourced sweets) is contributing to larger litter sizes amongst black bears fed from bait stations. Continue reading