On July 4th, 2019, the first week of Wisconsin’s bear hound training season, Langlade County hound hunter Tyler Belott was part of a large group of hound hunters that went out to train dogs to chase bears at 10pm. The hunting party chased bears all night and near dawn, a small bear was bayed and reportedly began attacking the pursuing hounds. Belott would later testify that he retrieved a shotgun from a truck and shot the bear, only wounding the animal. He then reloaded and killed the bear it was reported during his trial in early 2020. Three bear hounds required medical staples for their wounds, and Belott originally admitted that the bear was taken back to the hound hunter’s home where it was eaten. Later, in Langlade County Court, Belott changed his story, saying he was earlier mistaken and the bear was left at the scene of the crime. The illegally killed bear was never recovered.
Belott was charged with “Hunting Bear During Closed Season” by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) conservation officer, Timothy Otto. For reasons unknown, the charge was later changed to “Hunt/Pursue Bear Without a License.” On January 22, 2020 Tyler Belott pled no contest to the charge and was later sentenced to three years of revoked hunting privileges.
When Wolf Patrol read of Belott’s conviction in a local Wisconsin paper in February 2020, we began monitoring his Facebook page and soon began collecting evidence of Belott’s continued use of hounds to hunt bear, coyote and bobcat in Wisconsin, in clear violation of his court ordered loss of hunting privileges. In February 2021, during the state’s reckless wolf hunt, Belott began posting comments encouraging his friends to continue killing wolves, despite the quota having been filled. Belott also included photos of himself holding a dead wolf with a large Langlade County hound hunting party on February 24, 2021.
Wolf Patrol reported Belott’s violations to WDNR conservation officer Timothy Otto in late February 2021, and the case was investigated by WDNR conservation officer Bradley Dahlquist. Immediately after reporting Belott to WDNR conservation officers, the guilty hound hunter quickly shutdown his Facebook account.
On March 23, 2021 WDNR’s investigating officer contacted Wolf Patrol to inform us of WDNR’s findings. Dahlquist said though some hunts Belott’s shared pictures of on Facebook occurred before his court-ordered revocation, many did indeed take place when he was legally prohibited from hunting. When confronted with the facts, Belott claimed to have misunderstood his sentence, believing he still could run his hounds following a stipulation agreement he made with the Langlade County Court.
Officer Dahlquist reported to Wolf Patrol that WDNR decided to issue a warning to Belott and “he has been advised he cannot train or hunt his hounds during revocation. Mr. Belott now knows this activity is prohibited, and any future involvement with training or running hounds could result in enforcement action. If you obtain any more information as to Mr. Belott illegally hunting in the future, please feel free to reach out to me or our Tip-line.”
On September 15, 2021 Wolf Patrol’s online investigations again found photos of Belott with his hunting hounds operating during bear hound training season, which is also when his original crime of killing a bear out of season occurred. We quickly contacted the WDNR investigating officer to report the violation. The following day, conservation officer Dahlquist again contacted us to provide an update, saying that following our earlier conversations, WDNR Legal looked into the stipulation agreement Belott made with the court and, “DNR legal decided that based on the stipulation and training laws in the state, Mr. Belott could continue to train his hounds because this activity is not hunting. Mr. Belott’s revocation is for hunting approvals and privileges only.”
Officer Dahlquist again tried to define what the WDNR’s understanding was of the court ordered revocation of hunting privileges saying, “Therefore, he can continue to train his hounds on bear during both the training season and harvest season (training is allowed during this season as well). However, he cannot be associated with turning his dogs loose (or participating in any other aspect of the hunt) while trying to harvest game. This activity would be considered hunting and would be in violation of his revocation.”
For example, under the current interpretation of Belott’s revocation, he could be involved in the pursuit of a bear, wolf, bobcat or coyote and if confronted by a warden, can simply claim to be training his hounds. An investigating warden would have to enter each hound hunter’s name into a database to determine if they were in possession of a kill tag, or search every vehicle for weapons to actually determine if any pursuit was for training or killing purposes. Allowing a convicted poacher to continue to pursue wildlife is not only a violation of the law, it contributes to the growing lack of public trust in the WDNR’s ability to manage bears, wolves or any animal in Wisconsin.
In 2016, Wisconsin’s governor Scott Walker signed into law “The Right to Hunt Act” amending the state’s hunter harassment statute to include baiting and hound training as hunting associated activities. Now, WDNR claims to not recognize hound training as a hunting activity, even when a known violator such as Belott committed his crime while training hounds. What WDNR does not refute or defend is Belott’s involvement in Wisconsin’s last wolf hunt and the fact that it was a clear violation of his court ordered revocation.
Wolf Patrol is calling on Wisconsin’s Chief Warden Casey Krueger to enforce the revocation of Tyler Belott’s hunting privileges and prosecute him for participating in the February 2021 wolf hunt. We understand that WDNR cannot undo the stipulation agreement Belott made with the Langlade County Court that gives Belott the legal right to still run his hounds on bears and wolves. But WDNR can still rebuild public trust and confidence in their competency by appropriately prosecuting Belott for illegally hunting wolves in Wisconsin.
Please call or email Chief Warden Casey Krueger and politely ask that Belott be cited for violating his revocation order during Wisconsin’s February 2021 wolf hunt. Convicted poachers should not be allowed to participate in any legal wolf hunt and deserve to be punished when they do!
Every year in Wisconsin’s Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, bear hounds are killed by wolves which have become habituated to feeding from the unlimited bear bait sites that hound hunters use to attract bears. Wisconsin allows unlicensed and unregulated bear baiting from April until October, with most hound deaths occurring in Summer months when bear hound training is allowed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In August 2021 alone, seven separate incidents were reported to Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) of wolves killing bear hounds in heavily bear baited areas. Six of the depredations occurred in Bayfield County alone, with four bear hounds having been killed in four separate attacks in the same portion of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. National forest lands in Bayfield County are baited for bears all Summer long, and despite a long record of wolf depredations on bear hounds, Bayfield County bear hunters continue running their dogs in active Wolf Caution Areas established by WDNR.
Hound hunters in Wisconsin are paid up to $2,500 when one of their dogs is killed by wolves. Compensation is still paid when hounds are killed in areas already established as Wolf Caution Areas by WDNR. Wolf Patrol believes Wisconsin’s hunting dog compensation program encourages, rather than discourages, hound hunters from continuing to run dogs in areas where hounds have recently been killed. While investigating WDNR Wolf Caution Areas from 2015-2020, Wolf Patrol found that bear hunters continue to operate bear baits and run their dogs in Wolf Caution Areas despite warnings to avoid those areas.
The escalating conflict between Wisconsin bear hunters and wolves has fueled the state’s push for an aggressive wolf hunt. Pro-wolf hunt advocates say a hunt is needed to reduce conflicts, but both the WDNR and Wolf Patrol’s evidence shows that a major contributor to wolf conflicts in Wisconsin is the unlimited and unregulated number of bear baits on mostly national and state forest lands.
Wolf Patrol supporters have for years introduced citizen resolutions to Wisconsin’s Conservation Congress (WCC) to address unlimited bear baiting, but every year those resolutions are disregarded and dismissed by the WCC Bear Advisory Committee whose mission statement is to increase bear baiting and hunting opportunities in Wisconsin.
U.S. Forest officials don’t know how many bear baits are on national forest lands because no licensing or registration is required to bait bears in Wisconsin. The last survey of bear baiters by WDNR revealed that over 4 million gallons of bear bait is dumped on Wisconsin’s forest lands annually. It’s not wolves in Wisconsin which are the cause of deadly conflicts, but bear hunters and their intentional feeding of wildlife and training of hounds in known wolf territory.
Join Wolf Patrol in calling for an end to the intentional feeding of bears and wolves in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest!
On August 11, 2021 Wisconsin’s Natural Resource Board, chaired by term-expired Fred Prehn, an anti-wolf farmer and dentist who refuses to vacate his seat in order to push a political agenda, voted in favor of a 300-wolf quota during the next state sponsored wolf hunt which begins in 80 days.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) biologists and officials recommended a much more conservative quota of only 130 wolves, but Prehn’s refusal to allow his governor-appointed replacement to vote allowed anti-wolf board members to approve a hunt twice that size.
Wisconsin’s Natural Resources Board, led by Prehn, rubber-stamped the February 2021 slaughter of almost twice as many wolves as the February quota allowed. His current agenda is to reduce the state’s wolf population by over half of the current population to just 350 animals. On August 17, 2021 Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul filed a lawsuit to remove Prehn from the board saying, “Dr. Prehn’s term is over. His attempt to remain on the Natural Resources Board indefinitely, in defiance of the will of the voters, is fundamentally undemocratic.”
The Wisconsin Department of Justice Complaint filed in Dane County Circuit Court on August 17, 2021 to prevent Fred Prehn from continuing to serve unlawfully on the state’s Natural Resources Board:
As long as Fred Prehn remains the illegitimate chairman of Wisconsin’s Natural Resources Board, Wolf Patrol will not recognize the authority of the state agency and it’s approval of a 300-wolf quota for the November 2021 wolf hunt. Prehn’s actions reinforce our belief that the February 2021 overkill of wolves was not a mistake, but the intention of Prehn and others who believe that the state’s wolf population should be reduced by two-thirds.
Wisconsin’s plan for a wolf hunt beginning in less than three months also disregards the sovereignty of indigenous nations and treaty rights that allow tribal governments across Wisconsin, the right to claim up to half of the wolf quota. In February 2021, Wolf hunters across Wisconsin ignored the tribal quota reduction and kept on killing beyond what was legally allowed. Prehn’s actions set the stage for another over-quota wolf hunt with as many as half of the remaining 900-1,000 wolves in Wisconsin set to be killed this fall and winter alone.
Meanwhile in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, bear baiting and hound training remains the number one source of violent conflicts between humans (bear hunters) and wolves. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources allows unlicensed and unlimited bear baiting beginning in April and running until October. Most bear baits are used by hound hunters to attract bears to where hounds can easily pick up their trail.
Unfortunately, wolves have become habituated to also feeding from bear bait sites and defending them as a feeding site. When bear hounds are released to chase bears, they can be miles away from handlers when wolves attack and often kill them. Despite Wisconsin’s unlimited bear baiting policy contributing to dozens of bear hound deaths annually, the state and U.S. Forest Service continue to allow bear baiting on both public and private lands.
As can already be seen this month in Bayfield County, despite the knowledge that wolves are aggressively defending territory, Wisconsin bear hunters continue to run their hounds on national forest lands where other bear hounds have recently been killed. The only reasonable explanation for such reckless behavior could be that hound hunters are compensated $2,500 for any hunting dog killed by a wolf in Wisconsin.
Prevent Deadly Wolf Conflicts
Ban the Intentional Feeding of Bears and Wolves in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest!
Please contact U.S. Forest Service officials and let them know feeding the bears is unacceptable!
With international attention continuing to shed light on Wisconsin’s reckless and grossly over quota February 2021 wolf hunt, the Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) remains tight-lipped about recent scientific reports that as many as a third of the state’s wolves were killed legally and illegally since losing federal protections in January of this year. Instead, WDNR officials are simply moving forward with plans for the next hunt in November 2021, while bear hunters continue to feed bears and wolves from thousands of intentional bait sites.
In 2020, more bear hunting hounds were killed by wolves than livestock in the state. Despite arguments for the February wolf hunt centering on the reported impact wolves were having on livestock producers, the biggest conflict that has hunters hating wolves more than any other game animal, is the killing of an average of two dozen bear hounds a year in mostly state and national forests.
Wisconsin allows bear hunters to pour up to ten gallons of bait into hollowed out logs, in as many bait sites as the hunter cares to create, often in the vast Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest that stretches across the northern portion of the state. No license is required to bait bears in Wisconsin, which begins in April and ends in October. No license is required to also train bear hunting hounds to chase bears, which is why hound hunters use baiting to attract bears that their dogs can then pursue from the recently visited bait site.
Wisconsin’s bear hound training season begins on July 1st, and runs until the kill season in September. It is also the time when wolves are looking for an easy food source and fiercely protective of growing pups that have only recently left their dens. Bear hounds released from bait sites are seen as trespassers to wolves conditioned to feeding on bear bait, and are regularly killed. So far this Summer, only two bear hounds have been reportedly killed by wolves in Wisconsin, but those numbers are expected to grow.
Wisconsin’s wolves have successfully recolonized most of northern and even central Wisconsin in the last 40 years. But in their absence grew a culture of hound hunters unaccustomed to the threats a large wild carnivore poses to hunting hounds loosed into the forest to chase bears for miles and hours at a time. Than in 2015, under pressure from the state’s bear hunters, the state requirement of a license to bait bears and train bear hounds was removed, opening the door to not only unlimited baiting and hound training by resident hound hunters, but nonresidents as well.
In Wisconsin, hound hunters are paid up to $2,500 for any injuries or death caused by wolves. If the hunter has already claimed compensation for a hound killed, but chooses to continue to run dogs in what the WDNR establishes are “Wolf Caution Areas” they are still eligible to collect additional compensation. In 2020, a hound hunter in Forest County, Wisconsin had three bear hounds killed on three separate occasions less than a mile apart from the hunter’s bear bait locations. He was able to collect $2,500 for each dog killed despite the depredations beings easily preventable.
Bear hunters, not wolves are to blame for the continuing conflict caused by the intentional feeding of bears. If Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources won’t reign in unlimited bear baiting and hound training, then Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest officials should act now to restrict bear baiting on national forest lands.
Join Wolf Patrol in calling for a total ban on bear baiting in our national forests before more wolves and bear hounds have to die!
Email Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest officials at:
In response to the blatant disrespect for Wisconsin’s February 2021 gray wolf hunting quota by hound hunters who openly encouraged late reporting and illegal killing, Wolf Patrol is calling on the Natural Resources Board to adjust the November 2021 wolf hunt quota, to reflect the overage in the last hunt which saw 99 wolves killed beyond the quota of 119 animals.
No segment of Wisconsin’s hunting community should encourage the intentional overkilling of a game animal, as was evidenced in the last February wolf hunt. Holding wolf hunters accountable for their intentional violation of Wisconsin’s state-licensed wolf quota by reducing future quotas to account for over quota kills would discourage future delayed reporting as a tactic to extend the wolf hunting season.
In Wisconsin’s February 2021 wolf hunt, a total of 218 wolves were reported killed in less than 72 hours of hunting. Hound hunters were responsible for 188 kills, with the remaining wolves taken with the aid of foothold traps, snares and electronic callers at night. A total of 160 wolves were killed on public lands.
The following is a video compilation of Wolf Patrol’s reports from the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest and documentation of illegal wolf hunting practices our crew investigated, documented and reported to Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources law enforcement division.
DANE COUNTY, WI Wolf Patrol, a volunteer conservation group that has monitored each of Wisconsin’s wolf hunts since 2014, will host an informational event at the Goodman Center in Madison, June 13 2021 at 1 pm. The group will premier their video documentation of the February hunt, when 218 wolves and as many as 54-100 packs were killed in less than three days.
The group’s volunteers monitored hounders and trappers in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest during the controversial hunt, which allowed traps, snares, the use of hounds, electronic calls, hunting at night, and hunting over bait. Their video footage documents violations of the “Emergency Rules” for the hunt, which they reported to law enforcement. Violations documented include the participation of those legally barred from hunting for prior poaching convictions. Wolf Patrol also reported trapping violations that resulted in investigations and warnings.
Members will demonstrate legal wolf trapping methods, as well as how to free a pet from a trap. Bear baiting regulations and methods will also be discussed. The group hopes to encourage more citizen monitoring on Wisconsin public lands.
The film premier and informational program will take place Sunday, June 13, 2021 from 1-3 pm at the Goodman Center, 149 Waubesa St, Madison, Wisconsin. This is a free event, donations gratefully accepted. Masks required for building entry.
Wisconsin is one of the many states that still allow wildlife killing contests, where contestants compete by killing as many coyotes, bobcats, raccoons, rabbits or crows as possible. Most popular among these contests are coyote killing contests of which they are dozens that take place in Wisconsin each winter, usually organized from a bar or restaurant.
The largest coyote killing contest in Wisconsin is called Moondog Madness and takes place in two rounds in central Wisconsin every January and February. The contest offers thousands of dollars in prizes as well as being a benefit for a veterans organization. Dozens of two-person teams pay an entry fee to the event of $100, and all coyotes killed are given a thorough examination at weigh-in to ensure competition rules restricting hunting to the weekend of the event were obeyed.
Proponents of coyote killing contests argue that their competitive killing of coyotes helps reduce their predation on local farmer’s livestock. Yet, in a Wisconsin killing contest every coyote responding to a hunter’s electronic calls is a target, not just those posing a threat to livestock or pets. Coyote killing contests target animals that are ecologically beneficial to the landscape because the vast majority of coyotes prey on mice and other rodents whose populations are held in check by such natural predation .
Many of the coyote killing contests in Wisconsin are small, with hunters taking sometimes as few as a dozen coyotes. Other contests offer higher dollar prizes thus drawing more hunters, often from out of state. Hunters participating in killing contests are sometimes allowed to use hounds or traps, but with larger contests, hunting is restricted to electronic or mouth calls and mostly night hunting with rifles outfitted with thermal imaging scopes to see coyotes at night.
Coyotes killed during this winter’s Moondog Madness competition were responding to remote-controlled electronic callers hunters place away from their hidden position. The sounds they are emitting are often those of another coyote in distress or a wounded prey animal like a rabbit. Often in this kind of hunting, coyotes are mortally wounded but escape to die an agonizing and slow death. Other times, a shot aimed at the animal’s vital organs results in the leg being broken or even blown clean off. Many of the coyotes at the Moondog Madness weigh-in exhibited such conditions.
All that is required to kill coyotes in Wisconsin is a small game license. The season on coyotes is year around with no bag limit, giving some hunters plenty of opportunities at hunting in what would normally be the off-season. Coyote killing contests aren’t always about utilizing the animals they kill. Fur quality late in the winter combined with damage to the pelt by the rifle round mean that most coyotes killed in late winter contests are commercially worthless.
Wolf Patrol sent an undercover group of activists to Moondog Madness Round One in Nelsonville, Wisconsin on January 10, 2021 to document the weigh-in and observe the condition of the coyotes killed in the two-day round of hunting. We believe that wildlife killing contests for money and prizes encourages the worst kind of hunting at the expense of our public trust wildlife.
Please join Wolf Patrol in calling on the state of Wisconsin to end wildlife killing contests. Wisconsin’s Conservation Congress has repeatedly dismissed citizen resolution’s to end the contests, we need to fight legislatively. If you are a Wisconsin resident, please contact your elected officials and let them know that killing wildlife for fun and prizes is a cruel and wanton waste of wildlife.
Let Governor Evers know it’s time to end wildlife killing contests in Wisconsin!
Now that Wolf Patrol has reported convicted poacher Tyler Belott’s wolf hunting activities to Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources, the Lily, Wisconsin hound hunter has begun removing his posts depicting his participation in Wisconsin’s recent recreational wolf hunt from his Facebook page. All of his removed posts have already been forwarded to authorities by Wolf Patrol so his attempts to hide evidence are simply an admittance of his guilt.
Tyler Belott’s willingness to violate his three-year prohibition from hunting in Wisconsin and post his illegal hunts on his Facebook page is typical for the kind of hound hunters Wolf Patrol monitors. Such hunters openly call for illegal wolf killings and during the 3-day wolf hunt in February 2021, were loud voices encouraging license-carrying wolf hunters to not report their kills on time as the law requires.
Without being held accountable for their actions, illegal wolf hunters like Tyler Belott will brazenly continue their illegal hunting activities which is why Wolf Patrol has decided to publicize his case. In addition, we are providing the incriminating posts Belott removed from his Facebook page on March 11, 2021:
A Langlade County hound hunter convicted in 2020 for killing a black bear during the Summer bear hound training season without a license, was one of hundreds of unlicensed wolf hunters joining in Wisconsin’s three-day wolf slaughter, that saw over 170 gray wolves killed with the use of hounds. Tyler Belott pled no contest to a charge of illegally killing a bear on July 5, 2019, which resulted in his hunting privileges being revoked for three years.
But that hasn’t stopped the convicted poacher from continuing to join in the hunting of bears, bobcats, coyotes and now wolves in Wisconsin. Belott also traveled to Wyoming in December 2020 to participate in a mountain lion hunt with another Wisconsin hound hunter, Brian VanDeWall. Traveling to another state to hunt when your hunting privileges have been revoked in your own home state is a violation of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, of which Wisconsin and Wyoming are both members.
On February 24, 2021, Belott posted pictures on Facebook of a large Wisconsin hunting group with three dead wolves. In the picture, Belott is holding one of the dead wolves by its leg. On February 25th, Belott posted a screenshot of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ (WDNR) then tally of the over quota wolf hunt, with his caption, “If you don’t like this, please hit the unfriend button.” In the following comments, Belott says to another wolf hunter, “nice to see we had almost all the kills in zone 4 lol.” The post attracted 32 other comments, all celebrating wolf hunters pushing the kill far beyond the legal quota.
After rushing into a poorly organized recreational wolf hunt, Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources must now answer for why the hunt went so horribly over quota and why so many unlicensed individuals like Belott were allowed to participate. The public was told the day the hunt began, that the wolf kill quota had been reduced from 200 to 119 to account for tribal allotments, but when all was said and done, the final kill tally was 216, almost double the intended kill (82%). Yet, the example of Tyler Belott shines a light on the widely documented case of Wisconsin wolf hunters calling on each other to not register their kills, or delay registration in order to extend the length of the hunt.
Wisconsin’s wolf hunt law states that hunters must be given 24 hours notice by the WDNR before a wolf hunting zone becomes closed to hunting due to its quota being reached. For example, in Zone 2 where Wolf Patrol was monitoring hound hunters and trappers, on February 23rd, the quota of 18 wolves was reported surpassed by one wolf by midday. That initiated the Zone closure, yet hound hunters and trappers continued legally pursuing wolves another 20 hours until the Zone officially closed on February 24th, the next day at 1000am. Such a delay in closures combined with an effort by successful wolf tag holders to delay or simply not report their kills largely contributed to the almost double legal kill of 216 wolves.
The truth is that while the WDNR wasn’t ready to conduct a February wolf hunt, special interest groups like Hunter Nation and Wisconsin’s hound hunters could have cared less. With no scientific justification or biological argument, Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association member & state Senator Rob Stafsholt lobbied the Natural Resources Board to implement an immediate wolf hunt. When pro-hunt advocates were told by WDNR’s legal representatives that such a hunt would violate the state’s own laws, the Kansas-based trophy hunting group filed a lawsuit that forced the state into the February hunt, which was planned with less than two weeks notice. For years, pro-wolf hunt advocates had decried the role of judges in determining the fate of wolf hunting in Wisconsin. In the end, it was that very tactic that hunt advocates used to achieve their objective of a February 2021 hunt, rather than wait for the State mandated November 2021 wolf hunt.
With no biological precedent for the hastily organized slaughter so late in the winter or even a qualified WDNR Large Carnivore Specialist (the current position is held by Randy Johnson, is a mountain lion biologist) Wisconsin’s DNR is already preparing for the next recreational wolf hunt in eight months, one that won’t last only three days, but four months. With as much as 20% of Wisconsin’s estimated wolf population already eradicated in just three days, one can only guess how high over quota the Fall 2021 Wisconsin wolf hunt will be. Of note, 99 of the 216 wolves killed were females, many its presumed were pregnant as the hunt fell towards the end of the gray wolf breeding season.
Wolf Patrol documented the wolf hunt in northern Wisconsin’s Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, an area with a high wolf density and as a result, a long history of deadly conflicts between wolves and bear hunting hounds. Wolf Patrol monitored the three-day hunt on national forest lands where last Summer, three bear hunting hounds were killed by wolves while being trained to chase bears in Wisconsin’s three month unregulated bear hound-training season, when no license is required, as is the case during the actual Fall hunting season.
On the first day of the hunt, February 22, 2021, Wolf Patrol encountered an 8-truck wolf hunting party with at least 3 rifle-carrying hunters aiding the hunt from snowmobiles. We were at the North Otter Creek State Natural Area, within the WDNR Wolf Caution Area where the three bear hounds were killed by wolves. That is where we encountered approximately 12 people as they returned from a successful hound hunt for wolves. For over an hour, we had sat in our trucks listening to the hunter’s orchestrating the wolf hunt over their radios, before they arrived back at their vehicles with their kill.
As the hunt drew to a close, one wolf hunter was describing the scene on the ground as his hounds chased a wolf through private cabin properties closed down for the winter. The dogs were tiring and cornering the wolf in what the hunter called, “a vicious battle.” While the wolf tired from the hours-long hunt, the pursuing hunting hounds were replaced with fresh hounds. Each snowmobile in this wolf-hunting property was equipped with a small dog box on its back, thus allowing hunters to intercept an exhausted hound and replace it with another.
Wisconsin’s wolf hunting and general hound hunting regulations allow for up to six dogs at a time to be in pursuit of a wolf or any game animal. Many more dogs can be on the ground, on leashes or in their boxes, but only six can be involved in the actual pursuit at one time. Another wolf hunting party was encountered by Wolf Patrol in the national forest the following day, on February 23rd, off of County Road “O” just outside of the Wolf Caution Area. This second hunting party had 13 vehicles with 10 of the trucks outfitted with partially full dog boxes, all were actively participating in the hunt, strung out along a long dirt road, watching for the wolf to cross followed by their hounds.
Wisconsin’s wolf and general hound hunting regulations allow for unlicensed individuals to aid an actual wolf license holder (or any other hunter) with the pursuit, baiting and trapping of their prey. Thus, it was perfectly legal to see literally dozens of people with dozens more hunting hounds in the pursuit of one wolf, as Wolf Patrol documented on both February 22 & 23, 2021 in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. This is why hound hunters were responsible for over 80% of the legal kill.
In addition, during our observation of one wolf hunting party’s return to their vehicles at the Otter Creek trailhead, one non-licensed hunter was recorded saying that “they had shot at the wolf four separate times” indicating that others were not only assisting in the support of the hunt with additional hounds, but also discharging firearms at a game animal they do not personally have a license for. Wisconsin hound hunters like Tyler Belott and Andy Nowkowski also bragged on Facebook about the ability to participate in multiple wolf hunts, despite neither hound hunter having an actual permit to kill a wolf.
While just over 2,300 wolf licenses awarded to non-tribal hunters, (some reports are that many were not purchased by those who successfully drew them in the lottery) WDNR reported soon after the hunt that most wolves had been taken with the aid of hounds. When you consider that each hound hunt for a wolf in Wisconsin involved a dozen or more individuals, the actual number of wolf hunters pursuing just 113 animals was easily in the thousands. Using multiple packs of fresh hounds equipped with GPS collars that allow hunters to watch remotely as wolves are run down with snowmobiles driven by armed men, the issue of fair chase was not a factor in the February 2021 wolf hunt.
Wolf Patrol also monitored two separate traplines operated by at least three individuals in portions of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in Forest and Florence counties. On February 21st, 2021, the day before the hunt, our hunt monitors located a fresh deer carcass that had been dragged off the forest road with a sled. The next day, the carcass was gone, but in the immediate area were three wolf traps, all baited with portions of the deer carcass as well as butter, oil-soaked bread an an artificial scent lure.
While the WDNR’s 2021 Wolf Hunting Regulations clearly state that animal by-products cannot be used to hunt or trap wolves, Wolf Patrol was told by the regional WDNR conservation officer that emergency rules had allowed for the use of carcasses and animal by-products to trap wolves despite the glaring contradiction in the regulations made available to the public just days before the hunt.
In another portion of the national forest on February 24, 2021, the last morning of the hunt, Wolf Patrol discovered another wolf trap baited with a beef calf leg. When we drove down the next forest service road to the east, we discovered the remainder of the beef calf carcass placed just yards from three wolf traps. Even under the Emergency Rules cited by the WDNR’s conservation officer it clearly states, “The disposal of the carcasses of domestic animals is regulated by the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and they are not legal for use as bait for trapping wolves.”
Yet in a recorded conversation with Wolf Patrol, the WDNR conservation officer charged with enforcing Wisconsin’s wolf hunting and trapping regulations insisted that the use of livestock carcasses to trap wolves and other predators in Wisconsin was perfectly legal.Ironically, one of the argued justifications for this haphazardly organized hunt was to prevent future livestock depredations by wolves, yet in Forest and Florence counties none have been reported, but livestock carcasses were used to bait wolves by licensed trappers.
Link to Wisconsin’s 2012 Emergency Wolf Hunting Rules:
Wisconsin’s hound hunters and other anti-wolf advocates believe there are thousands more wolves than the WDNR annual Large Carnivore Survey suggests, which is just over 1,100 (previous to the hunt). Toward that end, they want numbers brought down to the decades old original wolf recovery goal of 350 animals. Some still argue that they were eradicated for a reason and they should be again.
What’s certain is that the state of Wisconsin is unqualified to manage its own wolf population as the February 2021 wolf hunt clearly demonstrated. The hunt went against every promise made to the public in December 2020, when WDNR officials issued a press release and posted on their website that no wolf hunt would be carried out without a new management plan, tribal obligations honored, and a diverse group of stakeholders formed as a new Wolf Advisory Committee. None of these things happened. Instead we saw a rush to authorize a slaughter during a breeding season with literally thousands of unlicensed individuals allowed to participate and aid in the killing of a recently federally delisted endangered species.
Wisconsin’s November 2021 wolf hunt will only be worse. The season will encompass Wisconsin’s 8-day firearm deer season, allowing the tens of thousands of deer hunters entering Wisconsin’s Northwoods to add wolf to their list of prey. In addition, after November, it’ll be hound hunters again that heavily target wolves until the end of February. In the February 2021 wolf hunt, trappers and hunters using electronic callers accounted for just 5% of the total reported kill of 216 animals.
It’s also important to point out that Wisconsin’s hound hunt for wolves overlaps the already legal hound hunt for coyotes in Wisconsin. Throughout the winter hound hunters in the state are already pursuing coyotes with hounds with no season or bag limit. This allows any illegal hound hunt for wolves in Wisconsin to simply be explained to a game warden as a coyote hunt in order for it to be perfectly legal, unless a dead wolf is present.
Without greater public oversight and demand for accountability, Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources offers little to no resistance to the demands of sport hunting special interest groups. The February 2021 wolf hunt is just the latest example of how the state will manage the recently federally delisted gray wolf. It’s now up to the rest of us to get involved in the planning process for the November wolf hunt and demand that hunters dependency on snowmobiles, back-up hunters and hounds be regulated. In the absence of responsible State management, we are witnessing politically influenced policies intent on the extirpation of the gray wolves from Wisconsin once again.
The Wisconsin wolf hunt closed in Zone 2 at 10am this morning, and Wolf Patrol was at trap sites in three different locations to ensure that they were pulled once the hunt officially ended. This morning WDNR reported that the Zone 2 quota had been more than doubled, from the allotted 18, to the actual reported kill of 40. In Management Zone 6, hunters, trappers and hounders have so far reported a kill of 40 where there was quota of 17.
All zones are now closed to wolf hunting as of 3pm CST today, but overall numbers in all zones are expected to rise as successful hunters report belated kills. Social media was full of Wisconsin wolf hunters comments calling on tag holders to delay reporting their kills with the hope that the season would remain open until February 28th as previously planned.
Unlike other predator trapping in Wisconsin, it is perfectly legal to TRAP but not hunt wolves over bait. So the full carcasses of a deer and a beef calf that we found at two separate trap sites was perfectly legal. As long as the traps are 25 feet away.
The wolves of this particular region have never tasted beef cattle, and here are Wisconsin’s lazy trappers bringing in dead livestock to use as bait to attract wolves. It’s a good way to encourage, not discourage wolf predation on livestock, but these trappers don’t care, as long as they get to kill a wolf. All in a hunt that was authorized to address the “emergency threat” wolves were posing to people’s livestock and pets (hunting hounds).
As Wolf Patrol was checking on the 14 wolf trap sites we discovered in the last two days, two WDNR conservation officers showed up as we were removing our trail cameras from the trap sites, we spoke for almost an hour about the hunt and to report a trail camera of ours that had been stolen this morning, we suspect by the same trapper who turned off our trail cameras monitoring his bait on the shoulder of a public road. The WDNR wardens took my report and informed me that tampering with our trail cameras was illegal.
According to the wardens, the theft and tampering with our cameras wasn’t the only crime in the Wisconsin wolf hunt, the warden told me WDNR had also received numerous reports of both wolf trap thefts and the springing of traps. He asked if we had any part in it, and I told him we had been at over a dozen trap sites filming, but that was all.
Ending the wolf hunt this morning, as Wolf Patrol and also WDNR wardens joined in checking for traps still in the ground, was a fitting end to this expedited wolf hunt. Wolf Patrol informed the wardens that it was our intent to continue monitoring not only wolf hunting, but also bear hunting practices that have been causing conflicts with Wisconsin’s wolves for years. After reporting illegal hunting & trapping activities for 6 years now, these wardens like so many others in Wisconsin know Wolf Patrol are allies not enemies.
Wisconsin’s conservation officers are essential workers, they’ve been the only ones representing wildlife in the field in Wisconsin long before Wolf Patrol, and they can tell you of the atrocities they see committed by hound hunters, trappers and hunters.
Also, not all hound hunters, trappers and hunters agreed with this hunt. While most opposed it because it would impact their chance to hunt later in the year in November, some shared some of Wolf Patrol’s concerns. One hound hunter told me that he wouldn’t be hunting wolves because his dogs are his family, not just pets and he won’t put them at risk. He’s lost dogs to wolves before and the loss is too great to justify a day’s hunt for him. Individuals like he and his son are our allies not enemies.
An amazingly loud wolf howl to all the beautiful people who rose up and released their frustration and anger at this hunt through direct action. We received 13 Wisconsin wolf tags through the lottery system, all were destroyed. While over 2,300 licenses were won by those with an intent to kill, Wolf Patrol’s supporters winning a few of those licenses sure did give wolf hunters something to cry about. More news from the wolf hunt coming!