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.
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.
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.
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