GREAT LAKES WOLF PATROL REPORT: HOUND HUNT FOR WOLVES, NORTHERN WISCONSIN DEC. 2014

Polk County Forest Lands

Polk County Forest Lands

GLWP representatives at DNR Meeting 11/20/14

GLWP representatives at DNR Meeting 11/20/14

Great Lakes Wolf Patrol’s (GLWP) objective in its December 2014 wolf hunt monitoring campaign, was to document the use of hounds to hunt wolves and patrol for wolf hunting violations when Wisconsin’s hound hunting season began on the first of the month. Wisconsin is the only state to allow the hound hunting of wolves, with the 2014 hound hunt being the second in the state’s history, since the gray wolf lost federal endangered species protection in January 2012. The hound hunt lasted five days before the statewide quota of 150 was reached and Wisconsin’s wolf hunt closed.

On November 20th, GLWP met with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wardens to discuss the upcoming hound hunt for wolves. Since our reporting of a trapping violation in October, DNR law enforcement officers expressed a willingness to outline the legality of wolf trapping and hound hunting of wolves, as well as answer questions so citizen monitoring activities can have a greater law enforcement, as well as fact-finding value. GLWP was informed by DNR wardens patrolling the wolf hunt where we monitored the wolf hunt in October, that there were no complaints related to our monitoring activities. DNR wardens also welcomed our illegal hunting and trapping reports to their anti-poaching hotline. GLWP informed DNR officials that in addition to patrolling for illegal wolf hunting in December, that our objective was the video documentation of the legal hound hunting of wolves.

Hound hunter looking for wolf sign...

Hound hunter looking for wolf sign…

Wolf Patrol’s intention is to establish a working knowledge of what hound hunting for wolves is, so that we as citizens might better understand it as a wildlife management tool and additionally understand the logistical complexities involved in enforcing hound hunting regulations and policing the hunt. It is hoped that our monitoring will neither confirm or refute claims, but simply present evidence that citizens could then use to educate themselves accurately. Any evidence obtained is free to be used by any individual or group.

During our November meeting with DNR officials, specific concern was expressed for the stage of hound hunting when a wolf is exhausted from pursuit by hounds. Hound hunting of bears, mountain lions or raccoons often ends with the pursued prey taking shelter in a tree. GLWP questioned DNR wardens about this stage of hound hunting for wolves, and were told that in such instances, the wolf could effectively protect itself. Mention was made of the many fatal conflicts between hunting hounds and wolves, but nothing was provided to assure us that hound hunters could control their hounds when far from their reach and in pursuit, or cornering a wolf.

Hound hunter checking for wolf tracks...

Hound hunter checking for wolf tracks…

Much of the time GLWP observed hound hunters in pursuit of wolves, their hounds were out of the reach of their control and often times, as is quite common, could not be easily located. Much is unknown about the hound hunting of wolves. Yet many speak of the potential for violent interactions between wolves and hunting hounds. Hence, the focus of our December monitoring of the hound hunt for wolves, was to determine whether hounds were indeed biting, attacking or killing wolves while free-roaming public lands in Zone 3 of the wolf hunt area. In the 2013 Wisconsin wolf hunt, 35 wolves were killed with the aid of dogs, all in Zone 3.

On 11/29/14, when GLWP began its patrols in Zone 3, the statewide wolf kill was 146 animals, with twenty-nine wolves reported killed in Zone 3 (with a total allowable quota of 40 wolves.) Wolf Patrol members began patrols, focusing our investigations on wolf hunting activities in the western portion of the zone, along the state border with Minnesota. The same areas where GLWP documented wolf trapping activities in October.

Wolf tracks seen by hound hunter...

Wolf tracks seen by hound hunter…

On 12/01/14, the hound hunt for wolves began with the statewide quota still at 146. The first two days saw sub-zero temperatures, which were not favorable for hunting hounds. Warmer temperatures beginning on 12/03/14 allowed for more favorable hound hunting conditions which resulted in two wolves being legally killed in Zone 3 during Wolf Patrol operations before the season ended on 12/05/14. Of the two wolves killed with the aid of dogs in Zone 3, only one was taken in the Polk County area where Wolf Patrol documented hound hunting for wolves.

Wolf Patrol monitored hound hunts on three separate occasions during the five-day hounding season, on December 2nd and 3rd, when we encountered two separate hound hunting parties in Polk and Burnett counties. On the morning of 12/02/14, patrol members documented wolf hunters operating near the northwestern border of Zone 3 and the state line of Minnesota, along the Burnett and Douglas county line. Two vehicles were involved in the hunt, one with Minnesota license plates. While no dogs were released during our observations, the search for wolf sign and tracks by the hunting vehicles took the hunters frequently across the state line into Minnesota, where a wolf hunting season in the state’s East-Central Zone was open. The monitored hunters were informed that they were being monitored by GLWP, and there were no further interactions during the short encounter when no wolves were pursued with hounds. Continue reading

Media Release: Wolf Monitoring Group Begins Reward Program in Response to Wolf Killings in Michigan

Wolf Patrol Media Release, December 11, 2015: A Michigan based group, Great Lakes Wolf Patrol announced today that it was offering a $1,500.00 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone who illegally kills a wolf in Michigan, Wisconsin or Minnesota. The announcementphoto comes in response to recent wolf killings in the Upper Peninsula and an upsurge in Facebook sites that promote illegal wolf killing, such as “Wisconsin Wolf Hunt & Wisconsin Wolf Hunting” whose public comment logs encourage readers to “SSS” (Shoot, shovel and shut-up) and kill wolves out of season.

Organization members will be circulating reward posters in the areas where two dead wolves were recently found near Newberry and the the town of Gulliver with the hope that the cash reward will provide an incentive for residents to come forward. “We want to assist Michigan and other states’ conservation officers in their investigations of illegal wolf killing.” said Rod Coronado, the group’s founder.

Great Lakes Wolf Patrol was founded this year to document and investigate the recreational hunting of gray wolves in Montana and Wisconsin. The group monitor’s hunters and trappers during each state’s wolf hunting seasons and worked with Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources this Fall to investigate illegal wolf trapping during the October hunt. Last week, Wolf Patrol members documented this nation’s only hound hunt for wolves in northern Wisconsin.

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Postering at the Curtis Area Chamber of Commerce

Wolf Patrol’s First Encounter with Hunters Using Hounds to Hunt Wolves in Wisconsin…and Minnesota

Wolf Patrollers’ Stef & Matt’s Report from the Field…

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Sunrise over Polk County, WI, while in pursuit of hounders in state forest.

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Hound hunting trucks, Danbury, Wisconsin December 3, 2014

The second day of the hound hunt for wolves found us patrolling the far eastern portion of Zone 3, where it borders the state of Minnesota. This is also the area where we witnessed a lot of wolf trapping activity when the wolf hunting season first opened on October 15th. After filling up with gas and coffee at the town of Danbury, where hound hunters are known to converge, we headed north into public forest lands in the far northern portion of Burnett County. Leaving Highway 35, we saw an atypical hounding truck driving along the St. Croix River. We turned around and started following the truck, thinking that the small Geo Tracker had been modified to accommodate two hounding dogs.

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First active hounders spotted on county forest land on the morning of 12/02. Hounds currently occupying boxes in back of vehicle, awaiting a fresh scent.

We followed the truck as it turned off Markville Road and crossed the state line into Minnesota where hunting with hounds is illegal. We could see hounds in the back as they began to stop periodically to check for fresh wolf tracks. After approximately 30 minutes of hunting alone, the Geo Tracker met up with another truck with Minnesota license plates. While Minnesota’s wolf hunting season was also open, the use of hounds to hunt wolves is illegal in the state.

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Fresh wolf track found on 12/02.

After talking for ten minutes, the two vehicles parted, the one Minnesota truck passing us and giving us quite a look. We continued following the Geo Tracker as they continued to look for tracks, while hunting remained relatively uneventful. Over the next hour, the Geo Tracker re-connected with the Minnesota truck a number of times until eventually turning around and pulling up to our driver’s side window, wanting to talk.

Both hunters asked how and what we were doing out there, and we told them we were driving around, enjoying the forest. They then interrupted to ask us directly if we were Wolf Patrol. We immediately answered yes, and both hunters looked at each other and chuckled. “Have you seen any wolves out here?” asked the driver. “I don’t know you tell me?” we responded.

They then asked if we were having any luck finding wolf hunters and it was then our turn to chuckle. After wishing each other a good morning, the hunters drove off. Shortly thereafter, we lost the hunters as they left Minnesota and re-entered Zone 3 in Wisconsin.

The next day, December 03, pictures surfaced on Facebook of the Geo Tracker hound hunters with a wolf they had killed south of Clear Lake in Zone 6, the only other zone remaining open to wolf hunting. “Did you guys run into those assholes who’ve been following around the WI wolf hunters all season at all?” read one of the comments on the Facebook post, while another read, “Shoot a wolf you get (sic) a free Wolf Patrol member tag as well. Don’t forget to fill that one too lol nice kill guys. Keep shooting!”

Hound truck seen rendezvousing with friendly vehicle in the Polk County forest at various points during our monitoring.

Hound truck seen rendezvousing with friendly vehicle in the Polk County forest at various points during our monitoring.

Media Release: Hound hunters file harassment complaint against Wolf Patrol. Wolf Patrol files DNR report on illegal elk kill in same area

Yesterday, members of Wolf Patrol were questioned by Polk County Sheriff’s deputies after receiving a complaint from Wisconsin hound hunters, accusing the citizen-led monitoring project of interfering with their hunt for wolves. On December 2nd, Wolf Patrol located wolf hunters from Luck, WI, running their hounds in the Polk County Forest. The hound hunter was informed that Wolf Patrol would not be interfering with his wolf hunt, but would be monitoring the hunt for illegal activity. The encounter ended without incident.

On December 3rd, Wolf Patrol encountered the same houndsmen, hunting directly from the road, in the same county forest lands, and followed their vehicles during the hunt for six hours.

No wolves were killed during the monitoring of the hound hunt, nor did any members step further than ten feet from their vehicles during the entire encounter. Upon returning to Luck, patrol members were questioned by local Sheriff’s deputies, who said they had received a harassment complaint from the hound hunters in question. Wolf Patrol founder, Rod Coronado informed the deputy that our project had been cleared by the DNR, and that we would cooperate fully with any investigation into whether our actions constituted hunter harassment or any other violation of county, state or federal laws.

“We welcome any investigation into whether the monitoring of wolf hunting in Wisconsin on public lands constitutes a violation of the law. If it does, Wolf Patrol will use the opportunity to further expose the irresponsible practice of releasing hounds on public lands to chase wildlife.” said Coronado, who was the individual questioned by the police. Coronado said the deputy took a “hands off” approach when he was informed that our campaign was not condemned by the DNR. “When I explained what Wolf Patrol was about, the deputy expressed interest in our project and asked to see photos we took that morning of two deer carcasses we discovered dumped at a dead end road.” No citations were issued. The deer incident was reported to the DNR Poaching Hotline.

Day 3 Update: Hounding Hunting Season in Wisconsin

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Wolf hunter / hound truck

Just left four wolf hound hunters talking to the local sheriff, after they spoke to us. Hound hunters filed a harassment complaint after we refused to leave their trail, despite their best efforts to lose us. They continued to run their hounds through the Polk County Forest. We informed the sheriff that we have no intention to break any laws, and that the DNR has been informed of our monitoring project, and that we were within our rights.

I then contacted my DNR law enforcement contact and informed him that we would be continuing with our monitoring of the wolf hunt and would be reporting any illegal activity that we document. DNR Warden thanked me for keeping him informed. We will remain in Zone 3 until the hunt officially closes.

Another wolf was reported killed, bringing the statewide quota up to 147, three shy of being filled. We also documented a possible illegal deer kill that we are first going to confer with DNR before publicizing.

Ten Days Until Hound Hunt Begins in Wisconsin

On November 20th, a delegation from Great Lakes Wolf Patrol met with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officials to discuss the state’s upcoming hound hunt for wolves which begins December 1st.

The meeting with DNR Chief Warden, Todd Schaller, Dave Zebro, (the warden from Zone 2 where WP operated in October) and other enforcement officers began with an update to the investigation launched into a documented wolf trapping violation WP meetingobtained in October. The DNR assured us that they took the complaint very seriously, and sent a warden out to talk to the trapper in question. The trapper acknowledged that he illegally left his wolf trap in the ground after the season had officially closed on October 19th and was given a verbal warning.

WP believes this was an appropriate response by DNR to investigate illegal wolf hunting/trapping activities brought forward to them by the citizen members of our group. DNR staff informed us that the Wisconsin trapping community is very tight-knit, and the fact that a warden did a “stop & knock” visit to a trapper following our complaint, will inform the trapping community that they are being monitored not just by DNR, but Wolf Patrol as well.

DNR staff in attendance also commended Wolf Patrol members for their level of professionalism in their interactions with hunters & trappers, and said they received no complaints about our presence in the wolf hunt area in October. DNR reiterated that the success of their enforcement department depends on the eyes and ears of the public.

meetingpaperThe rest of the meeting was spent addressing the legality of the upcoming hound hunt for wolves. WP was able to clarify what is illegal hound hunting and will use the information obtained from this meeting while observing the hunt in December.

Wolf Patrol stated to DNR officials that while we are opposed to the hunting and trapping of wolves in Wisconsin, our mission is documentation. WP is committed to exposing public policies on public lands that reveal the mis-management of wolves since their loss of endangered species protection. Both the DNR and WP recognize that it is the state legislature, not the DNR that legalized the hunting of wolves, and if we are to change that policy, we need to encite greater citizen participation.

RETURN OF THE FIRING LINE: Wolf Patrol First Report on 2014 Wolf/Elk Hunting Season North of Yellowstone National Park

“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”—Aldo Leopold

Sunset over Gardiner Basin

Sunset over Gardiner Basin

Since the state of Montana took over management of gray wolves from the US Fish & Wildlife Service in 2011, wolves in the state have been classified as a game species. In recent years, wolves from prominent packs have been shot leaving Yellowstone National Park. Most wolves killed in WMU (Wolf Management Unit) 313 are animals following migrating elk out of the park. But in some documented cases, Yellowstone wolves have been intentionally lured towards a specific location with bait. The purpose of Yellowstone Wolf Patrol’s monitoring project is to document Montana’s wolf management policies in the field, where they have resulted in the death of over a dozen wolves from family units that spend the majority of their time within Yellowstone National Park. It is also to investigate hunting practices that while legal, are questionably unethical and against the principles of fair chase.

Image from hellsaroarinoutfiteers.com

Image from hellsaroarinoutfiteers.com

In September 2014, Yellowstone Wolf Patrol began monitoring of Montana’s sport hunting season for wolves outside of Yellowstone National Park. The area along the park’s northern boundary is broken into two wolf hunting units, WMU 313 & WMU 316, each with a quota of three wolves. Our first excursions into the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area were to monitor the September 15th opening of wolf hunting season which coincides with the early elk hunting season in WMU 313 & 316. wolf hunt lottery Research revealed that there are two primary commercial guides offering wolf hunts in WMU 313 & 316, Hell’s A-Roarin’ Outfitters and Absaroka-Beartooth Outfitters, the latter also offered a wolf hunt as a prize in a September online lottery. Our patrols located both guides base camps, and monitored some of their hunting activities. This annual early season hunt takes place in high country where primarily, resident elk on wilderness lands are targeted. While we recorded five separate hunting parties and fresh wolf sign in the area, one bull elk and no wolves were reported killed in WMU 313 on the opening week of the hunt in the wilderness area. One wolf was later reported harvested in WMU 313, leaving two more in the quota of three for that unit. November Wolf Patrol monitoring was planned for the annual winter elk migration that takes place through a narrow corridor that parallels the Yellowstone River, just north of the community of Gardiner, Montana. The Northern Elk Herd that resides in Yellowstone National Park does not leave until colder weather conditions trigger their annual migration to winter ranges outside the park, where they are then subject to hunting.

Elk Hunting Guides in Yellowstone National Park

Elk Hunting Guides in Yellowstone National Park

Based on Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks wolf kill data from past years, this is also the area where wolves are becoming more commonly killed while following migrating wildlife out of the park. This portion of Wolf & Elk Management Unit 313 is easily accessible by paved and unpaved roads in the Gallatin National Forest. Beginning in the late afternoon, during elk season, slow moving trucks spotting for elk drive up and down the road to Jardine. A local told WP that sometimes they want to lean on their car horn as they drive down the Jardine Road that parallels the park boundary, because of the elk hunters hunting from their vehicles. On November 4th, wolves were heard howling from Eagle Creek Campground. With temperatures dropping, and with so many elk leaving the national park at the time, and so many elk hunters congregating in the Gardiner area, it was only a matter of when, not if, wolves leaving Yellowstone would be killed.

One of the Yellowstone wolves killed this November

One of the Yellowstone wolves killed this November

On November 5th, three wolves were reported killed within a 24 hour period, all within three miles from the park boundary. One was killed near the Jardine Road, and another was killed in Cinnabar Canyon, three miles from the boundary. The third wolf was the Alpha Male from the Cougar Creek pack, who was killed near Beattie Gulch, just a few hundred yards from the park boundary. Continue reading