The Big Business of Bear Baiting in Wisconsin

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A commercial bear bait supplier in Ladysmith, Wisconsin.

“I bought a trailer load of 10,000 pounds of licorice, parked it in my garage, ran an ad in the local shopper and sold it all.” says one of the largest bear bait suppliers in Minnesota who sells about three million pounds of bait per year to bear hunters in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and Maine. According to the most recent survey in 2014, Wisconsin bear hunters dumped an estimated 4,639,700 gallons of bear bait in over 82,340 bait sites, much of it on public lands.

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Bear baiting is not a sport. It’s a business. And with the start of bear hunting season over bait which begins today, millions of gallons of fryer grease, cake icing, caramel, syrup and other human food waste will be dumped in the north woods of Wisconsin to attract bears. But bears aren’t all that is being attracted to these dump sites, many on public lands, federally protected wolves, deer, raccoon and other wildlife are becoming conditioned to expect food handouts from humans as well.

Anyone unaccustomed to bear hunting “tactics” in Wisconsin would be forgiven for believing that such dangerous practices are highly regulated by any governing wildlife agency, such as the case in Minnesota and Michigan, where bear baiting is only allowed a few weeks before hunting season and baiters are required to register their bait sites with local wardens. Such is not the case in Wisconsin, where the Department of Natural Resources allows hunters to dump as much food as they want in the forests, beginning in mid-April until the end of bear season in mid-October. Registration of sites? Not required in Wisconsin.

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From Wisconsin Bear Hunting online forum.

The lack of any truly substantial regulation of bear baiting in Wisconsin has led to a wildlife nightmare, where the natural balance of our public lands is thrown heavily out of whack, all so Wisconsin hunters can kill thousands of bears annually, easily and legally. Last year, 4,198 black bears were legally killed in Wisconsin. Of those, 3,478 were killed over bait, or with dogs tracking bear from bait sites. The only thing different in 2016, is that starting today, more bears will be killed. The statewide quota is set at 4,750 animals.

 

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Bear baiting is rampant in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

The huge gaps in standard forms of hunting regulations and bear baiting has led to a boom in selling human food waste as bear bait. Bear bait suppliers readily find sellers in the factories that produce the food, which are sometimes factory close-outs, outdated, off-color or misshapened. The food waste is sold by the semi-load to bear bait suppliers, who turn around and create their own blends and mixes that they believe will condition bears to readily expect food from humans.

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Online ad for Wisconsin bear bait by the shovel load.

In most hunting, altering the natural habits of your prey to increase your chances of success is considered unsporting and downright unethical. But in Wisconsin, it is encouraged. And if simply dumping millions of gallons of food in the forest is not enough to condition bears, one of the preferred tactics is called “banging the bucket.”

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A typical Wisconsin bear baiters “kitchen”

Bear hunters say it best themselves: “…experienced guides swear by this trick. Bears aren’t stupid; they understand that the bait site is not a naturally occurring phenomenon, and that humans are the reason for the smorgasbord in the middle of the woods. After filling the bait station, bang hard on the bucket a few times. Chances are, the bears that are frequent flyers are bedded within earshot and it will create a “Pavlov’s Dog” type of effect. The bears will associate human activity on the bait site with food, and if they hear you enter the woods during open hunting hours, they will relate it to food instead of fear.” Taken from a recent bear hunting online forum.

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The statement that bear baiters are striving to condition bears to associate humans with food, not fear, should be alarming to public lands managers. Anywhere you travel on U.S. Forest Service land outside of the midwest, you will be told repeatedly, that a fed bear is a dead bear, because once a bear has become conditioned to associate food with humans, they are destroyed because of the threat they pose to public health and safety. Not in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, where it is only illegal to bait for bears if you DO NOT intend to kill them.

In Wisconsin, bear hunters are encouraged to make their own bait too, from waste oil collected from restaurants, “Grease is great! It’s widely available (many restaurants and fast-food chains change oil supplies daily), and it’s handy (mixes conveniently with wheat and oats in a five-gallon bucket). Moreover, get grease on the pads of baited bears, and you’ll advertise your bait’s location to the rest of the clan.” One such individual bear baiter online said he goes through thirty 55gallon drums of bait each season.

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Fryer grease for baiting bears being sold on Craigslist Northern Wisconsin.

Encouraging or allowing non-target animals to feed from bear baits is illegal, but every bear baiter knows it happens, and it only took a day of researching online bear hunting forums to discover that it is indeed a regular practice, “When you first start the bait, leave the stump open, so the scent of the bait can get into the air, and the “Little Critters”can drag some bait around leaving a scent trail.Another trick I employ,is to pour corn syrup on the nearby trail.The animals get this “sticky stuff” on their feet, and wherever they travel,they leave a scent trail to your bait!”

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Gray wolf feeding off of bear bait in northern Wisconsin.

Wolf Patrol has been reporting illegal bear baiting practices to DNR for over a year now, but the practice is still continuing. During the 2015 Wisconsin bear hunt, I had a conversation with the DNR’s Chief Conservation Officer, in regards to exposed bait we were discovering throughout the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. He said that as long as the bait was covered initially, bear baiters are not responsible or libel for other wildlife feeding from such spilled bait.

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From Wisconsin DNR’s bear baiting regulations.

But the lack of regulation and enforcement of bear baiting is contributing to the violent conflict between gray wolves and bear hunting hounds, which are routinely released near bait sites. This Summer, 26 such bear hounds were killed by wolves, before the hunting season even began. Why are so many wolves choosing to occupy lands being baited for bear? Its simple, they are beginning to identify the bait sites as a food source of their own or as an attractant for prey animals such as deer.

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Bear hunting hound visiting bait site during this year’s training season.

Bear baiting isn’t helping. Just listen to what these bear baiters say is their standard practice: “I took a brand new paint brush and simply smeared the peanut butter and cake frosting all over the trees and stumps around my bait site. Keep in mind that this counts towards your 10 gallon limit, and also, DO NOT put it on any trees that you wouldn’t want damaged, like oaks or apple trees. I found that the peanut butter oil seeps into the bark and stays through rain for months afterwards. Coon and bear will lick, claw, and chew these spots on the trees, sometimes killing the tree in the process.”

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Craigslist ad reported to DNR by Wolf Patrol.

Another bear baiter says, “Throw grease all over the bait site. The grease soaks into every leaf, tree, stump and log in the area. When you enter the woods, the smell of grease is lingering throughout the canopy. Bears that visit the bait site will have greased soaked into their pads and the thick fur on their legs and feet. Upon leaving the bait/area and tracking grease all over the woods, they are creating a Hansel and Gretel bread crumb trail, for other nomad bears to follow.”

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Chocolate, which is known to be toxic to both wolves and bears, is regularly and legally sold as bear bait.

The response from bear hunters whose hounds have been killed as a result of bear baiting and hound training isn’t a commitment to clean up their act, its to demand another wolf hunt. Many of these same hunters are those who want federal protections lifted, so they can resolve these reported problems without having to give up their “sport.”

 

Wolf Patrol is respectfully requesting that DNR:

1.) Require the registration of bait sites.

2.) Place a limit on the number of bear baits allowed.

3.) Restrict the practices of bear baiting and hound training in known Wolf Caution Areas.

Wolf Patrol is also asking national forest managers to ban bear baiting & bear hound training in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

Please join us in our call for action to resolve this preventable mis-management of our public lands and wildlife. You can also join us in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest on September 14, when we will be patrolling known Wolf Caution Areas during the hound hunt for bear.

The Great Lakes Wolf Plummet

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Wolf captured on bear bait trail camera.

Don’t ever believe wolves are protected just because a lawyer or judge said so. In Wisconsin, bear hunting practices such as baiting and hounding (most of it on public lands) has created a major conflict with wolves. Not only are bear hunting hounds routinely invading rendezvous areas and den sites and fighting to the death, but these dogs’ owners also have a vendetta against wolves, even though they are paid up to $2,500.00 for their loss from the state’s Endangered Species Fund.

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Hounds chasing bear during training season.

Since gray wolves were returned to federal protection in December 2014, Wolf Patrol has documented a rise in online threats against wolves. We also uncovered three illegal baiting sites intended for wolves and other predators, last winter on the eve of an organized hound hunt for coyotes in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. And now with 25 bear hunting hounds dead from wolves during this year’s two-month training season, we believe the wolves of northern Wisconsin are facing as great a threat as they did when they were legally hunted.

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Facebook poaching threats following bear hound depredations.

Since Wolf Patrol began documenting bear baiting and hound hunting practices in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in the Summer of 2015, we’ve uncovered legal practices that researchers say are contributing to violent encounters between wolves and hunting dogs. An early bear hound training season when wolves are most active, the annual dumping of millions of gallons of grease and food waste in wolf territory, dozens of active bear baits in the areas where bear hounds have been killed, as many unregistered bait sites as a hunter can handle, these are all human behaviors that we believe are putting wolves and humans at risk.

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Wolf Patrol believes that the DNR needs to impose more restrictions, such as prohibiting bear hound training in Wolf Caution Areas and restricting the dumping of food for bears on national forest lands. Yet, whenever I have a conversation with bear hunters about wolves, it always ends with the attitude that, if wolves cannot be hunted, we will take matters into our own hands. Never has there been the attitude that maybe their behavior in the national forests and other public lands needs to be cleaned up. Instead they lobbied for a law that would make documenting their bear baiting and hound hunting activities illegal.

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Adam Jarchow, author of The Right to Hunt Act at Governor Scott Walker’s signing of bill into law at this year’s Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association’s annual conference.

Last winter, at the DNR’s Wolf & Bear Advisory Council meeting, I heard mention that during the state’s three wolf hunting seasons, bear hunters who also trapped, were pooling their wolf tags, and going after entire packs that had killed their hounds. Whether this is happening anyhow, is a good question (considering that’s what some of these guys are saying on Facebook right now) but this is what Adam Jarchow, Tom Tiffany and the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association want to be legal again.

Indigenous Wolf Hunt Protestors

If you don’t believe me, go to the Great Lakes Wolf Plummet, oops, I mean Summit to hear it for yourself, or better yet, join Wolf Patrol, and come visit the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest yourself on September 15, and see for yourself how these bear hunters want to manage gray wolves and our public lands.

Oh, and in case you were wondering if anyone from of any of ALL the Great Lakes tribes that are against wolf hunting were invited to speak at the conference…

Why Wolf Patrol Supports Wisconsin Conservation Officers

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I want other wildlife advocates to know how Wolf Patrol operates in case we ever actually change anything. One of our strategies is targeting illegal hunting practices by finding them in the field or online and then reporting them to wildlife law enforcers. I know they can’t do a damn thing about snares and traps that are legal, but if we see anyone violating the liberal laws that govern killing wildlife, we report it .

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Illegal baited fish hooks found in Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

Besides busting illegal hunters, what us doing this has done, in just two years, is create a relationship between Wolf Patrol and our Wisconsin DNR law enforcement contacts. For two years now, those very same wardens have heard bear and wolf hunters crying to them about Wolf Patrol “stalking and photographing” them on public lands, but what they’ve actually seen, is Wolf Patrol providing valuable tips that their often overworked and overstretched officers can’t possibly find on their own.

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Winter patrol in Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

One warden told me last month that they tell bear hunters, Wolf Patrol has a right to be out there as much as they did, and then told me, DNR wanted us out there, because we provide credible tips, some of them on guys they’ve been investigating for years.

So when we find an ad on Craigslist for bear bait in Wisconsin, advertising that it will also attract wolves in summer, we think something illegal is going on, but we maintain our protocol. We reported it, to the USFWS, to WI DNR’s hotline, and also to my own DNR contacts. Had we been told that it was indeed illegal, Wolf Patrol would have withheld reporting on it, as I’ve told DNR, we do not want to jeopardize any ongoing investigations into illegal hunting.

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After our tips to federal and state agencies, USFWS law enforcement emailed me back to thank Wolf Patrol for the tip, a DNR warden called me to say that there wasn’t anything illegal about the ad, but the email I received from my own DNR contact provided more of a detailed explanation. Once again, we were thanked for our support and communication, and it was explained that as long as the attractant being sold was being sold as bear bait, that it was legal. But our DNR contact said they’d be willing to have a talk with the seller anyhow, to clarify that baiting for wolves was indeed, illegal.

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Illegal hound hunter reported to DNR.

So while this particular bear baiter might not get cited, he will be talking to a warden, and you can be certain that they will keep him on their radar, and if any illegal wolf killing takes place in his baiting area, they will already have a suspect. And you can also be certain that this particular bear baiter will be talking to other bear baiters, and they will know that these days, its not just the DNR wardens you need to worry about, but Wolf Patrol as well.

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Bear hunter training hounds in Polk County.

To us, that’s a victory. And it cost us only the time it took to research baiting laws and sending a couple emails and posting a few things online. And most importantly, a willingness to get out into the field and find the truth. We’ve been researching and collecting data on bear baits for just over a year now, and we’ve find a valuable role that we can play as private citizens, to help preserve the integrity of our national forests and remind wildlife agencies and public land stewards, that its not just hunters that care about wildlife.

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Wolf Patrol investigating bear bait in Polk County.

Wolf Patrol works with law enforcement officers, who themselves were told two years ago that a convicted eco-terrorist and his gang, would be going into the Wisconsin woods and harassing wolf hunters. They were told that because 12 years ago, agents such as themselves were arresting me and my crew in Arizona, for interfering with a mountain lion hunt. I did ten months in federal prison for that one, and I don’t regret it, but we do need to break out of the shell that has people seeing us as extremists, and demonstrate a sincere “paws on the ground” commitment that we care about wildlife.

Its time we evolve as activists, and recognize that we accomplish little for wildlife when we always operate in attack mode, and viciously judge and name-call people who do things we disagree with. For me, that means sitting down with anyone who equally demonstrates a commitment to protecting wildlife, while at the same time spending more and more time in the wild places that I love and work in, so I can better understand the needs of the land and its inhabitants.

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Hound hunting for coyote & bobcat.

The people who enjoy killing wolves and bears with guns, traps, dogs and bait saw the danger in their sport being exposed to the public, so they organized and got The Right to Hunt Act passed in an effort to prevent Wolf Patrol from continuing its valuable work. People asked us, “What’s Wolf Patrol going to do now?” I told them, exactly what we’ve been already doing for the last two years, continue documenting illegal and legal hunting practices that we believe negatively impact federally protected wildlife, and work with the appropriate agencies to try and affect positive change.

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So rather than running from the law, Wolf Patrol is running to the law,  when those laws are the only recourse we presently have to protect wildlife. What others do is up to you, but this is one of the ways I’ve carved out a place for Wolf Patrol at a table that we were initially very unwelcome to. So if I, a convicted felon, with a criminal record as long as a cougar’s tail can team up with wardens to snare illegal hunters, just think what you might be able to do for the wild animals that you love and respect.

Happy Hunting!

Welcome to Wisconsin… Where You Can Buy a Hound Hunt for Bear on Craigslist

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Craigslist ad offering a hound hunt for bear in Wisconsin.

Hound hunting for black bears in Wisconsin isn’t just a tradition, its a business. While some hunting guides and outfitters run very professional operations, others simply offer their services and bear bait on Craigslist. This Summer, the training of bear hounds in Wisconsin, which is essentially when it becomes legal to loose hundreds of packs of dogs into the forest to chase bears, has resulted in territorial gray wolves killing 20 bear hounds so far, and the actually bear hunt hasn’t even begun.

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Wolf Caution Areas in Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (only southern Bayfield Co.)

This hasn’t prevented the training of bear hounds in areas where they’ve been repeatedly killed, such as is the case in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in Bayfield County, where as of this writing, there have been eight separate violent encounters between bear hunting hounds and federally protected gray wolves. In these Department of Natural Resources (DNR) designated, Wolf Caution Areas, hound hunters continue to loose their dogs in wolf territory, with not only the knowledge that they might be killed, but also knowing they will be compensated from the state’s Endangered Species Fund.

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Small bear taken over bait from Craigslist ad.

One of the black bear hunts offered in Bayfield County on Craigslist is by a professional bear baiting company that prides itself on being, “Wisconsin’s premiere bear hunting guide service”. Charging $2,000, this bear hunt guide runs 35-40 bear baits, monitored by trail cameras, with a success rate of nearly 100%.

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Bear bait for sale on Craigslist. Chocolate is toxic to bears and wolves, but still legal to use as bait in Wisconsin.

How do you achieve such a high rate of kills? By dumping thousands of gallons of food and grease in bear country for months in advance of opening day, in bait sites that capture images of every bear that visits them, so you can not only promise success, but guide your “hunter” to the exact location you know a particular bear will be. Another guide on Craigslist offers hunts over baits that are filled from July 1st until the end of the season in October, many of them on national forest lands in known Wolf Caution Areas.

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Active and camera-monitored bear bait in Bayfield County Wolf Caution Area.

Not only are all of the above practices legal, but they are currently allowed and happening in northern Wisconsin’s principle gray wolf habitat, during Summer months when wolf packs are traveling with young pups to rendezvous areas away from their dens. What this Summer’s increase in run-in’s between wolves and bear hunting hounds tells us, is that there are more hounds and bear baits than ever in Wisconsin’s north woods.

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Bear baiter & hound hunter operating in Bayfield County Wolf Caution Area.

While a 2014 DNR survey tells us that bear hunters dumped over 4.6 million gallons of bait in approximately 82,340 bait sites, no one, not even DNR knows for sure how many bear baits are operated in Wisconsin, as no law requires bear hunters to provide their location or the number of baits used.

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Bear hound taking a break in Bayfield Co. Wolf Caution Area (note three collars, gps, shock, and restraining collar w ID)

If you believe that the dumping of millions of gallons of oil and food to attract bears and running packs of hounds through wolf territory on our public lands is a problem, please contact the DNR’s Directors and respectfully ask that they restrict the use of hounds and bait in DNR Wolf Caution Areas and also require the registration of bear baits so game wardens have a better chance of monitoring the sites. Its not only the right thing to do, its the most effective and easiest way to solve this wildlife emergency.

To learn more about this Summer’s gray wolf/bear hound conflicts, check out the DNR’s:

http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/wildlifehabitat/wolf/dogdeps.html

Contact information for DNR Directors:

http://dnr.wi.gov/about/secretarysdirectors.html

To support Wolf Patrol’s bear baiting and hound hunting monitoring efforts:

https://www.gofundme.com/bk1big

 

2016 BEAR HOUND TRAINING & WOLF FIGHTING SEASON: The death toll so far: 34 hounds, but what about the wolves ?

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Where the wolf/dog fights are happening July 5- August 31, 2016.

Since Wisconsin’s 2016 bear hound training season began, deadly encounters between hunting hounds and gray wolves have reached an all time high. Why is this such a problem? Because Wisconsin allows not just its residents, but those from out of state to come and train their hunting hounds to follow bear earlier than any other state in the nation, beginning July 1st.

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Bear baiting begins in earnest in July as well, earlier than both neighboring states with wolves and bears, Minnesota and Michigan where both baiting and training are only allowed for a short time before the actual fall hunting season. Scientific studies have proven that wolves may become habituated to using bait sites, which are also areas where hound hunters will release their dogs to follow the scent of a bear that visited a bait site.

And while it is illegal to hunt of bait for wolves, Wolf Patrol reported that at least one bear bait supplier is advertising that his bait will also attract wolves in the Summer, strengthening our suspicion that bear hunters are taking matters into their own hands to deal with these conflicts created by their dangerous business and sport.

July is a proven time when gray wolves are also traveling to rendezvous areas with pups and can be fiercely protective and territorial, seeing other dogs running through their territory as a threat and invasion. Many of these violent conflicts are occurring in the same areas, yet bear hunters continue to run their hounds in the areas. Bear hound training and bear hunting season continues until October 11th.

PDF maps of Wolf Caution Areas can be found at the DNR’s gray wolf page.

http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/wildlifehabitat/wolf/dogdeps.html

From Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Gray Wolf Depredation Updates

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How to Remove Bear Baits from Public Lands

 

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07/05/16: Illegal bear bait discovered in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

According to the most recent Department of Natural Resources (DNR) bear hunter survey, bear baiters in Wisconsin placed over 4.5 million gallons of bait in over 82,000 bait sites in 2014, much of it discarded fryer oil and human food waste, and much of it on public lands. Of the 52% respondents in that survey, most Class A & B permit holders (hunters and those licensed to assist…) baited their sites twice a week. Class B permit holders placed an average of 437 gallons, while Class A permit holders averaged 154 gallons.

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Another illegal bait found on USFS road 424.

That’s a lot of food waste and oil to be dumping on our national forest lands! Like many outdoor enthusiasts, I was raised on the ethic that feeding wildlife while your camping was a no-no, and feeding bears was definitely a bad idea. Feeding bears has led to many public safety issues for national forest managers and countless deadly encounters (mostly for the bears), when bears are conditioned to expect human hand-outs. Although its still legal in a handful of states like Wisconsin, bear baiting is a problem that is growing in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (CNNF) as more and more people take advantage of Wisconsin’s liberal bear baiting regulations.

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Black bear visiting site of illegal bear bait.

Bear baiting is completely legal in Wisconsin. With a Class A or B license, anyone can clear some public forest land and start dumping food waste and oil at as many of these sites as you can (or can’t) manage. In northern Wisconsin from late June until mid-October, trucks and ATV’s loaded with 55 gallon barrels and five-gallon buckets of bait are plying the dirt roads of the CNNF, filling hollowed logs, holes in the ground or simply dumping on trees, fryer grease, pie filling and anything else they can get bears to come back and eat.

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Deer visiting illegal bear bait with exposed bait.

 

While Wolf Patrol reports on the impact these baits are having on not just bears, but wolves and bear hunting hounds, we are also discovering a very effective way of combatting illegal baits on public lands. Starting in June 2016, we began collecting data on bear baits in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Our hope is that with solid data that shows bear baiting is negatively impacting public lands and wildlife, national forest managers will do the right thing and end bear baiting in the CNNF.

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Out-of-state bear hunter/baiter near Hoist Lake, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, Wisconsin.

Until then, we are looking at active bear baiting sites in the national forest, especially those in DNR Wolf Caution Areas, and collecting data on the type of bait being used, how close they are to maintained roads and bear hound depredation sites, and when appropriate, reporting this information to DNR law enforcement when we suspect illegal bear baiting activity.

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Measuring a bear bait in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

Such was the case in July, when we were collecting data on bear baits in the Washburn District of the CNNF, on USFS Road 424, where on any weekend after July you can find loaded bear hound trucks driving slowly looking for signs of where bears have crossed the road to visit a bait. Wolf Patrol monitors are not tampering with baits, so our presence in the area isn’t a secret, we openly park where bear hunters park when refilling their baits, and walk designated trails to bait sites to measure the locations.

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Contents of illegal bear bait visible and accessible to other animals.

At the first site we visited on the morning of July 5, we immediately noticed that a large crevice in the bait log left the contents accessible to deer and other animals. Standing on the trail leading to the bait, we could easily see the bright colors of what would later be identified as Lucky Charms, the breakfast cereal. We took measurements and photographs, and proceeded to the next site.

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The path leading to a bear bait in the national forest.

We identify bear bait sites by driving less than 10mph on US Forest Service roads we have seen bear hunting trucks driving, looking for the tell tale sign of a human, not animal path. Humans walk flat-footed, (plantigrade), leaving an impression where they have repeatedly walked, as is the case on trails leading to bear baits. When we suspect a bait site, we pull over, and walk the trail. If its a bear bait, we’ll find the site within the first 100 yards. We have never found a bait site further, with the average distance being the legal minimum of 50 yards.

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The next three baits we visited on USFS RD 424, that we suspected were operated by the same bear baiter, were all less than fifty yards from the road. Not by much, but enough to make them questionable, its not Wolf Patrol’s job to determine what is legal or not, but once we identify any activity that is a clear violation of DNR bear baiting regulations, we will report it.

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Formerly active illegal bear bait, reported, now defunct and abandoned.

 

Within 24 hours of filing a report with DNR’s hotline, I was contacted by the Conservation Officer (game warden) for the area and questioned further. Wolf Patrol provided GPS coordinates, photographs and other evidence that helped DNR carry out its investigation.

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Cleaning up the site of abandoned bear bait.

 

On August 12, we returned to the sites of the reported bear baits and found them all to be abandoned. At the first site, the bait log with the crevice had been destroyed. We spent about 15 minutes cleaning up the broken fragments of the now defunct bait, picking up pieces of pink flagging left by the baiter, and essentially helping nature return the site to its original condition.

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Former illegal bear bait site.

 

Two years ago, Wolf Patrol didn’t know about bear baiting on public lands. Last year we discovered it, and this year, our efforts have led to the investigation and shutdown of bear baits that were active last month. Any citizen is encouraged to provide information on illegal hunting activity, and it is our hope that other members of the public will adopt their own bioregion, and begin patrolling Wisconsin’s public lands for illegal activity. We may not end bear baiting overnight, but with citizen vigilance, we can help bring illegal hunters to justice and reign in those who operate outside of public view.

The DNR’s 2014 Bear Hunter Survey can be found: http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/wildlifehabitat/documents/reports/bbquest.pdf

Wisconsin’s Bear Baiting & Feeding: Regulations:http://dnr.wi.gov/files/pdf/pubs/wm/wm0457.pdf

Wolf Patrol’s Gofundme page:

https://www.gofundme.com/bk1big

18 Bear Hounds Killed by Wolves in Wisconsin’s Summer Training Season

 

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08/13/16: Two truckloads of bear hounds being trained in Wolf Caution Areas inside of Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

Summer 2016 is quickly becoming the deadliest on record for bear hunting hounds killed by wolves in northern Wisconsin, where a July training season means regular clashes with wolf packs traveling to summer rendezvous areas with new pups. Wisconsin is the only state in the country to allow early hound training and bear baiting, despite the loosely regulated practice leading to an increasing number of bear hound deaths each year. While reasonable efforts are made to prevent livestock depredations in Wisconsin, the legal practice of training bear hounds to chase bears (which begins every July 1st) has led to an increased number of violent encounters between federally protected gray wolves and bear hunting hounds.

MORE MOQUAH HOUNDS

08/14/16: Bear hounds training in Wolf Caution Area near Sunken Camp Lakes, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

Hunting black bears in Wisconsin is a big business. In 2016, Wisconsin will host the largest hunt in the nation, with a statewide quota set at 4,750 bears. Last year, 4,158 black bears were legally killed in Wisconsin, of these 4,088 were killed with the aid of bait and/or dogs. Bear hunters regularly release their dogs from bear bait sites, where they can most easily pick up the scent of an animal. Research has also proven that in areas with a large number of bear baits, wolves may become habituated to recognizing baits as a food source of their own, resulting in aggression towards bear hounds following bear trails from baits.

DELTA VIII

08/13/16: One of thirteen active bear baits found in Wolf Caution Area near Rainbow Lake Wilderness, on same day that three more bear hounds were killed by wolves in the area.

Since Wisconsin’s bear hound training season began, and as of the time of this writing (7 weeks), 19 conflicts between bear hounds and wolves have been reported in the northern third of the state, resulting in 18 hunting hounds being killed and three injured. The impact of these deadly clashes on local wolf populations is unknown, but they are occurring while gray wolves are extremely protective and territorial as they travel with pups to rendezvous areas for the first time.

8.16 WCAS

08/13/16: DNR Gray wolf depredation map showing Wolf Caution Areas established following clashes between wolves and bear hounds in northern Wisconsin as of mid-August.

Once wolves are confirmed to be responsible for killing a bear hound, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) designates a four-mile circle around the attack site, defining the zone a Wolf Caution Area (WCA). According to the DNR’s website, hound hunters are then encouraged to, “move two or three miles from any rendezvous site, if possible, before releasing dogs (and) avoid releasing dogs at bear baits recently visited by wolves”.  Instead, many of these attacks are occurring in the same areas because no law exists to prevent bear hunters from continuing to set baits and loose their hounds in areas designated by DNR as Wolf Caution Areas.

ME FILING FORM

08/15/16: Collecting data on active bear baits in Bayfield County Wolf Caution Areas in Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

DNR regulations also do not require bear baiters to provide the locations of their baits, and are allowed to have an unlimited amount, making enforcement difficult if not impossible. In 2014, according to a DNR survey, bear hunters in Wisconsin placed over 4.5 million gallons of bait in over 82,000 bait sites, much of it discarded fryer oil and human food waste. Wisconsin’s early bear hound training season also  has meant an increase in the number of out-of-state hunters coming to Wisconsin to train bear hounds. In both Minnesota & Michigan, (where many hound trucks documented training dogs in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest were registered), bear hound training and baiting is not legal in summer months, partially because of the risk of conflict with wolves.

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07/05/16: Out of state bear hunter checking on bear bait in Wolf Caution Area near Hoist Lake, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

Since July 2015,Wolf Patrol has been investigating bear hound training & baiting in the Washburn District of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, which has a history of conflict between wolves and bear hounds, with dogs dying in each of the last four years. Last year, DNR designated four WCA’s following the depredation of seven bear hunting hounds in the area.

MOQUAH WCA HOUND TRUCK 8.16

08/14/16: Bear hounds training near Horseshoe Lake Campground, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

Since Wolf Patrol’s investigation began, we have identified over 60 active and historic bear baiting locations in Wolf Caution Areas, reported illegal baits to the DNR, and have repeatedly documented deer feeding from legal bear baits. Wolf Patrol members also are DNR-certified carnivore trackers, participating in the winter 2015 DNR wolf survey that identified an estimated nine wolves in at least two different packs in this region of the national forest.

Moquah WCA 8.16

08/13/16: Bear hound training party encountered in Bayfield County Wolf Caution Area, near Sunken Camp Lakes, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

On August 13, 2016, Wolf Patrol began monitoring a Wolf Caution Area in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, where wolves killed a bear hound on July 30th, with the intent of documenting hound training and bear baiting in areas with recent bear hound depredations. We drove to an intersection of US Forest Service roads near Sunken Camp Lakes and parked our vehicle to listen for hounds. Within 30 minutes, we encountered a hound training party of three trucks, each loaded with bear hounds.

MOQUAH WCA TRUCK W DOGS 8.16

08/14/16: Another loaded bear hound truck training in Wolf Caution Area near Horseshoe Lake Campground, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

We followed and parked our vehicle on the road shoulder approximately 75 yards away, and observed as the hunters gathered dogs that had been following a bear’s trail. As we continued to patrol this particular WCA, we not only encountered the same hound training party, but six other loaded hound trucks as well. Each truck was driving the many unpaved roads, letting their dogs catch the wind while the hunters watched the road for bear tracks. On at least two separate occasions we encountered bear hunters with loose hounds in the nearby Wolf Caution Area. By the end of the day, we had counted 8 different loaded hound trucks operating in the Wolf Caution Area.

BAYFIELD WCAS 8.16

08/13/16: DNR map showing multiple Wolf Caution Areas overlapping following five separate bear hound/gray wolf encounters this Summer.

Our next patrol took us to a portion of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest near Delta, WI, where five Wolf Caution Areas overlap each other and seven bear hounds have been killed so far during this year’s bear hound training season. We drove as close as possible to the attack site where two bear hounds were killed by wolves on August 6, (and another three on August 13, the same day of our patrol) just west of the Rainbow Lake Wilderness Area. In a quadrant around the approximated attack site, we located 13 active bear baits.

DELTA WCA I

08/13/16: Posting Wolf Caution Area signs near Rainbow Lake Wilderness, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, outside Delta, WI.

This is the same area of the national forest where Wolf Patrol was monitoring bear hunters last year, and heard a bear baiter complain on opening day of the hunt, that there were over 45 active bear baits in the area. In four days of patrolling Wolf Caution Areas, not once did we encounter bear hounds equipped with “wolf bells” or any other wolf deterrent.

DELTA WCA IV

08/13/16: Wolf Caution Area map and warning posted by Wolf Patrol near Rainbow Lake Wilderness, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

In all of the Wolf Caution Areas visited in Bayfield County, Wolf Patrol documented bear hound training activity. We also found multiple active bear bait locations, all within an estimated mile of recent bear hound depredation sites. At these active bait sites, we also documented deer regularly returning to feed on residual and spilled bait. While it is unknown whether wolves are feeding directly from bear baits in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, it is known that they will prey on the deer that are.

DEER TRAX

08/15/16: Multiple deer tracks at bear bait in Wolf Caution Area, near Lake Lenawee, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

Wolf Patrol believes that bear hound depredations in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest since Summer 2013 are an indication that gray wolves are becoming increasingly conditioned to hunting and feeding at or near bear baits. We also believe an increase in the number of hunters using and training free-roaming hounds on our national forest lands, not more wolves, is the greatest cause of bear hound depredations.

DELTA HOUNDS WCA 8.16

08/13/16: Bear hounds being trained in Wolf Caution Area near Rainbow Lake Wilderness. Three hounds were killed by wolves in the area that day.

Wolf Patrol believes both state and federal officials are negligent in addressing the problem of bear hound/wolf conflicts. On December 5, 2015 our crew was in attendance at the Wisconsin Bear Advisory Committee meeting where Citizen Resolution #270215 – (restricting bear baiting to 14 days before the season) was presented and shot down by the entire committee. We believe such an unwillingness to acknowledge and discuss a problem with Wisconsin’s early bear hound training & baiting season is a public policy disaster that will continue to lead to more wolf-related depredations.

BAIT IN MOQUAH WCA 8.16

08/15/16: Documenting an active bear bait in Wolf Caution Area established following July 30, bear hound depredation. Note oil residue on tree from historic baiting activity.

In the interests of preventing more deadly conflicts between bear hunting hounds and gray wolves, Wolf Patrol is asking the US Forest Service to prohibit bear baiting and bear hound training and hunting in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. We also believe it is in both the interests of reducing wolf/hound conflicts and public safety to request that  forest officials no longer allow the intentional feeding of bears on the same public lands where other citizens camp and recreate.

MOQUAH HOUND TRUCKS 8.16

08/14/16: Another bear hound training party of three trucks, crisscrossing Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest roads near Pine Lake looking for bear sign.

Wolf Patrol would also like to request that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) act immediately to restrict bear hound training and hunting activity in Wolf Caution Areas where multiple depredations have already occurred. It has been only seven weeks since training season began and 18 dogs have been killed, with another seven weeks of training and hunting season to come, we respectfully request that wildlife officials act now to prevent more bear hound and wolf injuries and deaths.

DELTA VIIII

08/13/16: Active bear bait in Wolf Caution Area near Rainbow Lake Wilderness. Note historic oil residue from bait being poured on tree.

Wolf Patrol will continue to monitor Wolf Caution Areas throughout the bear hound training season and bear hunting season which begins in early September and runs into mid-October. Our crew will continue to report on and provide DNR officials with credible information on any illegal hunting activities we document on national forest and public lands.

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07/09/16: Bear cub photographed visiting illegal bear bait near Hoist Lake, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

To send a generic comment to the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, please visit:

http://www.fs.usda.gov/contactus/cnnf/about-forest/contactus