Day Four Report from the Wisconsin Bear Hunt

On September 7th & 8th, 2017, on just the second and third day of this nation’s largest black bear hunt, Wisconsin’s hound hunters were again responsible for their dogs being killed by wolves. The first depredation occurred in Sawyer County, in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, where Wolf Patrol is documenting the reckless running of bear hounds in wolf rendezvous areas.

The second bear hound/wolf fight occurred, in Burnett County just south of the St. Croix River, approximately 5 miles from where three more bear hounds have been killed so far this year. In both locations, despite Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), bear hunters continue to loose their hounds in areas where they know there is a likelihood that they will be killed by wolves. Many hound hunters say their dogs are like family members, but I have yet to meet anyone who would let their family members wonder into a known potentially deadly situation.

At the Sawyer County depredation site, we found multiple active bear baits in the middle of an active wolf rendezvous site. In every single bear hound depredation site Wolf Patrol has visited over the last three years, we have documented continued bear baiting and hound running, even though the WDNR warns against it. The Sawyer County location was no different. As we turned West out of Park Falls, headed to the site, we saw a hound truck turning onto the same road where the killing occurred. When we reached the immediate area, we found four more bear hunter vehicles parked and waiting, as other hunters refilled bear baits.

The practice of running hounds from bear baits is a recipe for disaster, for wolves and bear hounds, but also its a lucrative way for hounders to make a couple thousand dollars through Wisconsin’s compensation fund for wolf-caused depredations. Last year, more bear hounds were killed by wolves (41) than in any year previous. 28 of these wolf/dog fights occurred in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (CNNF), where the practice of running dogs through wolf territory begins in July and runs three-and-a-half months, until bear season ends in October.

It’s time to end the practices of bear baiting and hound running through known wolf rendezvous area in our national forests. If you agree, please email forest officials at:

cnnfadmin@fs.fed.us

Day Three Report from the Wisconsin Bear Hunt…

Today, Wolf Patrol monitors are preparing for a swarm of hound hunters entering the woods tomorrow, on the first Saturday of the hound hunt for bear. This first week of bear hunting is traditionally also the time when many bear hounds trespass into wolf rendezvous areas where they are sometimes killed by wolves protecting their young.

Yesterday’s interaction with a non-resident bear hunter who challenged Wolf Patrol founder, Rod Coronado to a fight to the death, however benign it might seem, reminded us of the lengths some bear hunters are willing to go to keep their bloodsport a secret. The Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association has spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to stop Wolf Patrol from sharing the atrocities committed against Wisconsin wildlife, but Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) wardens, the Bayfield County Sheriff, and the US Forest Service have all assured us of our legal right to continue monitoring bear hunting activities on our national forest lands.

Last night, our patrol vehicle broke down at a bear baiting site, and we are currently working with a local supporter from the Red Cliff Nation to get it back on the road by the morning. Thank you to everyone who responded to our pleas for assistance!

Don’t forget! The best way to show your support for our efforts to reign in reckless hunting practices that harm federally protected wolves and other wildlife in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest is to send an email to forest officials asking them to end bear hounding & baiting in our national forests!

SEND YOUR COMMENT TO: cnnfadmin@fs.fed.us

Day Two Report on the Wisconsin Bear Hunt

Today, Wolf Patrol citizen monitors were in the Drummond, Wisconsin area of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (CNNF), where on July 30, wolves killed a bear hound. We traveled as close as we could to the actual depredation site, and were not surprised to find the area heavily baited for bears. We documented the presence of multiple bear baits in the Wolf Caution Area established on July 30, and then returned to the Washburn  District of the CNNF.

At the heart of our concern is bear hunting activities in known wolf territory where wolves have responded with violent attacks against bear hounds. These fights leave not only hounds and wolves injured or killed, but also leave hound hunters wanting retribution against the wolves responsible. The reason we are in the CNNF, is because of the constant threats made against wolves responsible for hound deaths.

Because of active logging activity near our original base camp at Hoist Lake, we moved our camp to another area where we could monitor suspected illegal activities committed by bear hunters in our patrol area. At approximately 5:20pm, a non-resident bear hunter stopped at our campsite to talk to our crew, and we welcomed his willingness to engage in civil discussion, although we had to decline his request to fight to the death.

2017 Opening Day Report on Wisconsin Bear Hunt

Wolf Patrol spent opening day of Wisconsin’s bear hunt in the Washburn District of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, in Bayfield County, where more bears are killed than any other county in Wisconsin. Our campaign focus during the bear hunt is to monitor hound hunting and bear baiting activities in areas with a history of conflicts between bear hunters and federally protected gray wolves.

This morning saw multiple hunting parties operating around national forest lands where they have been baiting to attract bears since early July. Recent logging activity has impacted a lot of areas bear hunters use here, so we saw fewer hunters out today than in the past two years on opening day. At around 10am, we spotted the first bear killed this season being driven out of the forest in the back of a truck, a small bear, maybe 175lbs.

In addition to monitoring bear baiting and hounding activities, we are following up with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the US Forest Service in regards to our earlier reports of illegal activities.

In support of the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility’s legal complaint to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in regards of the use of bear hounds in known wolf rendezvous areas, Wolf Patrol will be closely monitoring national forest lands where we know both bear hunters and wolves currently are, in case of future depredation on bear hounds running in these areas.

 

Wisconsin’s Bear Hunt with Hounds Begins Tomorrow

Thousands of dogs will be released across northern Wisconsin on September 6, signaling the beginning of the nation’s largest bear hunting season. More black bears are killed in Wisconsin than anywhere else in the United States, including Alaska. Last year, 4,682 bears were reported killed, 96% of those animals were killed with the aid of bait and/or dogs. This year’s quota is 5,000 bears, slightly more than in 2016.

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Minnesota bear hunter running dogs in 2016 Wolf Caution Area.

No license is required to bait or train dogs to chase bears in Wisconsin, and both of those seasons have been open since mid-April and July, meaning that for the last two months, black bears in Wisconsin could be legally chased, but not killed. As Wolf Patrol has reported before, the summer training season is traditionally when conflicts occur between bear hounds being trained, and federally protected gray wolves. So far this year, 11 bear hounds have been killed by wolves and five injured.

ANGRY MN HOUNDER II

Minnesota bear hunter demanding film from Wolf Patrol.

While 12,850 permits have been issued to actually kill a bear, there is no way to quantify the actual number of people actively baiting and running dogs for licensed permit holders. In August 2015, Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) was required by state law to remove the license requirement to bait or train bear hounds. This was done to appease the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association who argued that no other hunting group that used dogs was required to have a license to train their dogs, so why should bear hunters?

Hound Truck with 3 Barrells of Bait

Minnesota bear hunter…moving into the national forest.

Wolf Patrol has been investigating bear hunting practices in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (CNNF) for three years running, documenting bear baiting and hound training activities in areas where wolves have historically killed trespassing bear hounds. Because of the lax regulations governing bear baiting and hound training in Wisconsin, many bear hunters come from out of state to train and bait for bear when their home state prohibits both activities.

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Blue dot: Minnesota bear hunter campsite, red dots: bear hounds killed by wolves in 2016.

Beginning July 1st, 2017, Wolf Patrol has been documenting bear hunting practices in the Washburn District of the CNNF, and reporting bear baits found out of compliance to both WDNR and the US Forest Service. In a meeting with WDNR conservation officers, US Forest Service law enforcement, and the Bayfield County Sheriff’s Department, Wolf Patrol was affirmed in our rights to continue to monitor bear hunting activities in Wisconsin in a legal manner. During the 2017 bear hunt, Wolf Patrol will be monitoring hunting activities in past and present Wolf Caution Areas, which are established by WDNR once a wolf has killed a bear hound.

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Wolf Patrol removing bear hound chains from national forest campsite.

One of the activities Wolf Patrol will be monitoring, is the use of the national forest as a temporary kennel for hound hunters traveling from nearby Minnesota. Since 2015, Wolf Patrol has documented out of state bear hunters occupying undeveloped campsites for weeks and even months longer than the allowed 21 day limit.

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Chains used to anchor bear hounds in 2016 Wolf Caution Area.

In early June, Wolf Patrol visited one such site, picked up trash, and removed over a dozen dog chains that had been left by bear hunters the previous year. We also found unused illegal drags at the campsite, that were used in past years to drag the soft surface of forest roads so hunters could see bear tracks more clearly. In July, we again found evidence of illegal drags still in use in the Washburn District of the CNNF, and reported the incidents to US Forest Service officials.

Old Drag @ Basecamp

Abandoned illegal drag at bear hunter campsite.

On September 3rd, Wolf Patrol again discovered that non-resident bear hunters are using the national forest site as a temporary kennel, only now in addition to a trailered camper, and 55-gallon drums filled with bear bait, hunters have re-installed dog chains and added kennels for their bear hounds. Less than a mile from the temporary kennel is the site where two bear hounds were killed last July and August during the 2016 bear hound training season.

WI BEAR BAIT STATS GRAPHIC

While there is no way to know for certain how many hound hunters will be in the northern Wisconsin woods, or how many bear baits are in operation, what we do know is that according to WDNR bear hunter surveys, over 4.6 million gallons of bait was dumped in bear baits in 2014. This July, the Journal of Wildlife Management also published a study on bear baiting done in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest which concluded that in the CNNF, 40% of a black bear’s diet consists on unhealthy food waste used as bear bait.

Moquah Wolf

Wisconsin wolf occupying 2016 Wolf Caution Area.

Wolf Patrol is asking Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest Officials to ban the practices of bear baiting and bear hound training in our national forests. National forests belong to everyone, and should not be treated like a private hunting reserve by bear hunters. Bear baiting and hound training results in the conditioning of bears and other animals to accept human handouts. Running dogs in summer wolf territory is also the greatest cause of conflict between bear hunters and wolves, and also constitutes as the illegal take of an endangered species, “take” being legally defined to include harassment.

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Wisconsin wolf on same road as Minnesota bear hunter campsite.

If you agree that its time to reign in bear hunting practices in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, please email forest officials now: cnnfadmin@fs.fed.us

Wolves vs. Hounds: Fights Expected to Rise in Lead Up to Wisconsin Bear Hunt

 

2016 was a record year for bear hound killings by wolves in Wisconsin, as proponents of a wolf hunt are quick to note, but the undeniable truth all sides agree on is, more fights between wolves and bear hounds are expected, in the lead up to the September 6th opening day of Wisconsin’s actual bear hunt. To date, nine wolf/bear hound “conflicts” have been reported in 2017, since bear hound training season began on July 1st, resulting in ten dogs dying and one being injured.

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

Last year, by mid-August 2016, sixteen wolf/bear hound fights had been reported by Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (WDNR). Do fewer hound deaths by mid-summer represent a downward trend? Let’s hope so, but the statistics don’t look good. Wolf Patrol has compared 2017 bear hound depredation locations and numbers to those in 2016, and this is what we found.

With two more months of bear hound training and actual hunting to go, more fights are anticipated as more hunters prepare for bear season with increased baiting and hound training activity in areas with a known history of wolf/bear hound conflicts. Last year, a total of 23 hounds were killed and three injured by wolves from mid-August to October 1st, with most of the depredations occurring on top of each other, in or near the same location. So far this year, eight of the nine fights between wolves and bear hounds have occurred in areas where depredations also occurred in 2016.

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Sawyer County, large blue: 2017 hound depredations, red: 2016 year-end depredations.

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Bayfield County, large blue: 2017 hound depredation, red: 2016 year-end depredations.

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Washburn County, blue: 2017 hound depredation, red: 2016 year-end depredations.

The simple fact is, bear hound depredations occur when hunters loose their dogs and bait for bear in and near wolf “rendezvous areas” where historically, wolf family groups are known to travel in Summer months with young pups, away from the safety of their dens. When packs of bear hounds trespass these areas in pursuit of a bear, wolves are known to respond with deadly results. These locations are deemed “Wolf Caution Areas” by WIDNR and bear hunters are warned to exercise caution, but not forbidden to continue training or hunting with dogs in these areas.

Since 2015, Wolf Patrol has investigated bear hunting practices in areas where wolves have been known to kill bear hounds. In every single Wolf Caution Area, we have discovered active bear baiting locations being used by hound hunters training or hunting with their dogs. In addition, where there’s bear hound training and baiting, there’s hunters who do not comply with minimal regulations on bear baiting.

In 2016, Wolf Patrol reported non-compliant bear baits to WDNR, and again this year, we reported two illegal bear baits less than the required 50 yards from a road in a July 2017 Wolf Caution Area. WDNR conservation officers have told Wolf Patrol that concerns about compliance with bear hound training and baiting regulations in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest are greatest with non-residents who travel to Wisconsin to train hounds.

Measuring Bait

Measuring a the distance between bear bait and road…this one was less than the legal limit.

Most bear baiting occurring in early Summer is done by hound hunters looking to catch a scent trail that hounds can follow after a bear has visited a bait site. Wisconsin is the only state in the nation where any resident or non-resident, can bait for bear and train bear hounds without a license, in July and August, when wolves are fiercely territorial. But violent fights between federally protected gray wolves and bear hunting hounds aren’t only caused by non-residents, they are caused exclusively by hound hunters in general.

The illegal bait locations we discovered in Ashland County recently, are known as “striker baits” as they are sites used exclusively by hound hunters looking to strike a good scent trail. A Wisconsin bear baiter contacted Wolf Patrol after we reported the discovery of the striker baits in Ashland County, to tell me more about the differences between hound hunters and bait sitters, and why he didn’t support baiting for the purposes of hound training.

Hound Truck with 3 Barrells of Bait

Non-resident hounder & baiter looking for campsite in Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

He wanted Wolf Patrol to understand that its hound hunters who are causing conflicts with wolves by bringing dogs into wolf areas and running multiple striker baits close to roads, and that many of these people are non-residents encouraged by both the lack of any training or baiting license but also by the financial compensation should any of their hounds be killed by wolves.

Remember, in Wisconsin bear hunters can still receive their $2,500.00 compensation for dogs killed by wolves, even if they continue running their hounds in the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) Wolf Caution Areas. On August 2, 2017, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed a criminal complaint with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service alleging that Wisconsin’s Summer bear hound training season amounts to harassment and “take” of an endangered species. That wolves are being harassed by bear hounds to the point of killing them is clearly evidence of a violation of the federal Endangered Species Act.

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Non-resident training hounds in 2016 Wolf Caution Area.

PEER’s complaint also cites evidence that Wisconsin’s bear hound compensation program (which derives its revenue from the sale of endangered species license plates) is illegal as it has compensated repeat offenders and those who were hunting illegally or after their hunting privileges had been suspended.

The Wisconsin bear hunter I spoke with said he’s never had a problem with wolves although he does bait in wolf territory. He believes its irresponsible to run hounds in areas where wolves have killed dogs before, and blames hound hunters for making all bear hunters look bad by doing so. Bear hunters who hunt over bait without dogs try to lure in large bears by learning about the habits of bears visiting their few baits which are often further from roads and tucked away.

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Wolf in 2016 Wolf Caution Area in days leading up to bear hound training season.

The bear hunter went on to explain how Wisconsin’s bear licensing system allows for multiple family members ranging in all ages to apply for kill permits, meaning that as long as one family member has a permit, everyone else and their hounds can hunt as well. Combine the hunting pressure on wolves caused by bear hound training with that of the actual kill season, and it becomes obvious that more fighting with wolves will occur throughout August, September and October 2017.

Probably the best example of the carelessness and irresponsibility of bear hunters that leads to conflicts with wolves can be illustrated by the most recent bear hound depredations incident which occurred on August 11 & 12, 2017 in Burnett County. On August 11th, a Walker bear hound was killed by wolves, just two miles from where wolves killed another bear hound on August 1st of this year.

8.11&12.17 DEPS

Burnett & Washburn County, blue: 2017 hound depredations, red: 2016 end of year depredations.

Both of these bear hound depredations occurred literally in the same area where three bear hounds were killed in 2016. After the August 1st depredation, WDNR designated the portion of Washburn & Burnett County as a Wolf Caution Area. Following the August 11th depredation in the pre-existing WCA, bear hunters returned the very next day to train their hounds, and on August 12th it was reported that two more Walker bear hounds had been killed by the very same wolves.

Wolf Patrol will continue to monitor and investigate bear hound training, hunting & baiting practices in 2017 Wolf Caution Areas within the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest as bear hound training season ends and the bear hunt begins. Please join is and help end the practices of bear hound training & baiting in our national forests and in wolf rendezvous areas.

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Hounder & baiter in July 2017 Ashland County, WI Wolf Caution Area.

It’s now up to us to stop this abuse of public lands and violation of federal endangered species protections. Please send your comment to U.S. Forest Service officials asking that bear hound training & baiting be banned within the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest: cnnfadmin@fs.fed.us