Documenting the Intentional Feeding of Deadly Foods to Wisconsin’s Black Bears

As we await word on whether the Polk County District Attorney will prosecute Wolf Patrol for photographing bear hunters on public lands, we continue to locate dozens of bear baiting stations in the heart of Wisconsin’s wolf country, some with chocolate which the Department of Natural Resources warns can be toxic or lethal to bears and other wildlife, especially cubs.

Media Release: Wisconsin Wolf Activists Face Hunter Harassment Charges for Monitoring Bear Hunting Hound Training & Baiting Season

Since July 4th, members of the wolf preservation group, Wolf Patrol have been in northern Wisconsin peacefully monitoring the annual bear hound training season and the baiting of bears by hunters. As part of a campaign to address continued threats to wolves in Wisconsin, Wolf Patrol is asking the Department of Natural Resources to stop the intentional baiting of bears because the practice, which begins in May is resulting in an increase in deadly conflicts between hunting hounds and wolves. Last year, over 20 hunting hounds were killed by wolves. Since being returned to federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, hound hunters are being paid $2,500.00 for each hound killed by wolves with money from the state’s Endangered Species Fund.

Members of Wolf Patrol have documented the presence of wolves near bear baiting sites, where hound hunters take their dogs to chase bears and also place food baits to habituate bears to artificial feeding so they will be easier to kill in September, when bear season in Wisconsin opens. Since Wolf Patrol’s campaign began on July 4th, bear hunters have responded by filming and following Wolf Patrol members in Douglas, Washburn, and Polk Counties as they carry out their monitoring of bear baiting and hound training on public lands. Last December, Wolf Patrol met with DNR wardens in Madison, WI to inform them of the monitoring of hound hunting of wolves, coyotes and bears, including communication with wardens as recently as July 8th.

At approximately 8:15pm on July 8th, while setting up camp at the Trade River State Campground, Wolf Patrol members heard hounds barking from Evergreen Road adjacent to the campground. Members began following and filming three truckloads of bear hunters and baiters with hounds from a safe distance and were soon approached by Polk County Sheriff’s deputies who informed them that it was illegal to follow and film bear hunters on public roads and lands, which is in direct contraction to Constitutional rights of free speech. Wolf Patrol told law enforcement officials that we welcomed prosecution which we believe will create more awareness towards the unethical and unsportsmanlike behavior of running down wildlife such as wolves, coyotes, bears, fox, bobcat and raccoon with dogs on public lands for sport.

Polk County Sheriff deputies were unable to issue citations due to what they said was a lack of a statute number and also said their computers were down. Deputies suggested that the three Wolf Patrol members go to the Polk County Clerk’s Office in Balsam Lake, WI to receive their citations. “In every national park in America it is illegal to feed bears, but only in Wisconsin can a person be charged for filming hunters while they feed bears on public lands so they will be easier to kill in the Fall.” said Rod Coronado, founder of Wolf Patrol. Coronado and two other patrol members, Stephanie Losse and Benjamin Haas, will be at the Polk County Clerk’s Office on July 9th to supposedly be charged with hunter harassment. “The intentional feeding of bears not only leads to their habituation to an artificial food source, but it also leads to wolves claiming the sites as their own food source, and defending them by killing bear hunting hounds that are released into the woods to run down wildlife.” Coronado continued.

Wolf Patrol is asking DNR officials to amend bear hunting regulations to reduce the deadly conflict between wolves and hunting hounds.

CONTACT: teamwolfpatrol@gmail.com

Wolf Patrol Finds Bear Bait Site – Douglas County, WI 7/7/2015

Wolf Patrol is currently monitoring the annual July training of bear hounds in northern Wisconsin. This is when many hunting dogs are killed by wolves, who are defending family groups and bear baiting sites, where it is legal to pile food in public forest to attract bears for hunters to kill, beginning in September.

Wolf Patrol is asking Wisconsin DNR to change the dates of bear baiting to avoid habituation of wolves to the area which they defend as a food source. Last year, over 20 hunting hounds were killed in northern Wisconsin.

Why Wolf Patrol are documenting hound hunting of coyotes

With gray wolves returned to federal threatened status in the Great Lakes, hunting them with hounds, traps and guns is now illegal. Yet many threats against their continued recovery remain. In December 2014, after two wolves were illegally killed in Michigan, Wolf Patrol launched a reward program to help combat poaching which continues to be a serious threat to wolves, especially in Wisconsin where many hunters have bragged on social media about continuing to shoot “big coyotes.”

Identifying the continuing threats to gray wolves has led Wolf Patrol to the conclusion that in addition to poaching and recreational hunting, one of the greatest unidentified threats to wolves and other wildlife is Wisconsin’s liberal hound hunting season. Wisconsin DNR allows hound hunters to run their trained GPS-equipped hunting dogs across public lands nine months of the year. Hound hunters in Wisconsin can legally chase rabbits, raccoons, wild turkey, bobcat, bear and coyote. Last year, over 26 hunting hounds were killed by wolves while hunting and their owners are compensated to the tune of $2,500 which is drawn from the state’s Endangered Species Fund. Hound hunters are pushing for this to be increased to $5,000 per hound. This year, six hunting dogs have been killed by wolves, including three which were chasing coyotes.

In Wisconsin, hound hunters can hunt coyotes year-round and there is no bag limit, so there are no statistics on how many coyotes are killed by hound or other predator hunters. Hound hunting for coyotes in Wisconsin is primarily a winter activity, at its peak from January to March, which is also the breeding season for wolves and when the predators can aggressively protect breeding female wolves. According to hound hunters, often their dogs are allowed to tear at live coyotes, especially at the beginning of the season, or when training new dogs so that they might acquire the scent and taste of coyote blood. Without any regulation, the hound hunting of coyotes is not only inhumane and unethical, but also a threat to wolves and other wildlife which is constantly harassed on public lands by hound hunting.

On March 5th, Wolf Patrol launched its campaign for the end to hound hunting of coyotes by entering a popular hound hunting area in western Polk County, not far from where we encountered wolf hunters using hounds in December. We found three trucks of hound hunters actively on the trail of a coyote and witnessed as the hunters carried their shotgun into the field to kill the cornered coyote. The next day we encountered the same hound hunters, including a known wolf hound hunter. We spent two hours trailing the hound hunters, never approaching closer than fifty yards, except when the hunters approached us.

Although the hound hunting of coyotes takes place on public roads and lands, when we located the hound hunters the second day, one of the hunters yelled and gave us his middle finger. In their attempt to escape public scrutiny and documentation, the hound hunters drove in excess of 90mph down residential country roads and then chastised us for creating a “traffic hazard” by parking on the shoulder of the road.

While we did not document any kill, our presence in the hunting fields of Wisconsin is a reminder to hunters and poachers that Wolf Patrol will continue to document all threats to wolves and other wildlife. Wolf Patrol will continue to report any legal violations and also gather evidence of the inherent cruelty involved in coyote hound hunting so that we might provide documentation to organizations and individuals interested in ending this practice.