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article imageWhy the last legal form of dog fighting is taxpayer-subsidized Special

By Justin King     May 5, 2014 in Environment
Madison - The practice of hounding is centuries old and represents an example of one of the earliest forms of cooperation between man and dog. In Wisconsin, it is legal to turn a pack of dogs loose on predators such as wolves and bears.
While supporters of the practice often cite the historical precedence of using animals to hunt dangerous game, animal rights activists state that the dogs are often mistreated and are being unnecessarily placed at risk for the sake of sport. The Humane Society produced the video above. The Animal Liberation Front, a group known for engaging in direct action, also produced a fact sheet speaking out against the practice.
The practice is indeed dangerous for the animals involved. About fifteen dogs are killed each year in Wisconsin alone while hounding according to the state's Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) statistics. The statistics are kept because when a dog is claimed to have been killed by a wolf while hunting other animals, the taxpayers pick up the tab for reimbursing the hunter for his hobby. Each dog is valued at $2500.
Since 2004, WDNR has paid out just shy of $400,000 dollars to subsidize hounders. The program was established in 1985 to offset ranchers for livestock losses due to wolf attacks. In its almost thirty year history, the program has paid out roughly $1.6 million, making the $400,000 paid to hounders over the last ten years 25% of the expense of the entire program. The payments are made regardless of whether or not the hunter was in compliance with the law when the dog’s death occurred.
Digital Journal spoke with the founder of Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin, Rachel Tilseth, about the practice of wolf hounding.
The interview
Black bear
Black bear
First, could you explain what wolf hounding is to the readers?
What is wolf hounding? It is a form of hunting that uses dogs to chase the wolf to the hunter so he can kill it. Wolf hounding is a barbaric practice and a return to the time when wolves were considered vermin. Wolves are far from vermin status as they were allowed to recover on their own in Wisconsin starting in the 1970s. Wisconsin monitored wolves and allowed them to establish territories free from human interference. That is until 2011 when the Wisconsin legislature enacted law, Act 169, which allowed wolves to be hunted once they were taken off of the endangered species list. Wolves were now designated a game animal that could be hunted and killed. Wisconsin became the only state to allow wolves to be hunted with the use of dogs.
How does it work exactly?
Hunters use packs of free ranging dogs to chase the wolf to the hunter/hunters and kill them. (six dogs allowed at one time by WDNR wolf hunting regulation) Wolf hounders send out six dogs at a time replacing tired ones with fresh dogs (if they can catch them if not then the pack of dogs could be up to 20). These dogs are equipped with high tech radio collars and the dogs' handlers follow along with radio telemetry antennas. Wolf hounders typically release hounds on fresh wolf track/tracks. The dogs pick up the wolf’s scent and chase after it until they corner it or the wolf turns to fight. Then this can either be a kill shot for the hunters or a huge fight between wolf and dogs. In Wisconsin it is illegal for packs of dogs to kill wildlife and the hounds' handlers must kill the animal the dogs are chasing.
Mexican wolf pup trying out his howl.
Mexican wolf pup trying out his howl.
How long does it take for the dogs to bring down a wolf?
This can depend on many factors. Typically dogs chase the animal until it is exhausted and wolves can trot up to 40 miles per hour in order to conserve energy, but when being chased by a pack of dogs is a different matter altogether. The wolf then becomes the prey of the dogs. If an older more experienced (alpha) wolf is being chased by dogs, he leads them away from his family. The alpha wolf will lead the pursuing dogs into a low area and then turn on them to fight for his life.
Do the dogs kill the wolf or does the handler?
The handler, by law, is supposed to kill the wolf. But suppose handlers are nowhere in sight when the dogs corner the wolf. Then this could end in a blood bath resulting in a fight between up to six or more dogs to one wolf.
How is this any different than dog fighting?
The only difference is they are in a contained area called a pit [in dog fighting], while hounds are out in the wolf territory.
How does the state justify this being legal?
The US Congress delisted wolves in 2011, without any scientific testimony or federal agency testimony. This was the beginning of the end for science driven legislation and this opened the door for wolf hunting. Then in Wisconsin they already hound bears so for the hounders, it was a natural progression for them to hound wolves.
What happens when a wolf kills a dog?
Hounders are not required to report any injured or killed dogs in the pursuit of a wolf kill. There is no way of really knowing this as it is a purposeful lack of information on the WDNR’s part. Citizens are kept out of the process and they don’t want us to have any evidence to shut them down. WDNR claimed this year’s wolf hunt with dogs was a success without any incident.
Wisconsin gives out depredation payments to people whose dogs were killed by wolves. Do they make those payments even if the dogs were turned loose to hunt a wolf or some other predator?
Wisconsin pays out up to $2,500.00 for each dog killed by wolves out of wolf hunting season. Wolf hounders are not reimbursed if their dog is killed while running them on wolves in the hunt. [The payments are made if the dogs were killed while hunting bears.]
According to one source about a third of that money over the last year went to people who intentionally put their dogs at risk by using them to hound. Does that sound right to you?
Yes, that sounds exactly right to me as hounders are given proper warning of where wolves keep their pups. WDNR gives out these warnings every year during bear hounding seasons and these are repeatedly ignored by the hounders. Last summer, 2013, 23 bear hound dogs lost their lives to wolves because owners ignored these warnings.
What can people do to get involved in the fight against this?
Keep calls & emails going to your Wisconsin legislators and tell them you want dogs out of the wolf hunt.
Wolves of Douglas county Wisconsin is in the midst of preparing paper petitions, and keeping up the media blitz to call attention to the barbaric sport. Email us at Citizens are the best lobbyists!
Is there anything else you want to tell the readers?
Wolf hounding is a barbaric, in-humane, and archaic practice that has no place in civilized society. Help us ban it!
More about Dog fighting, Wolves, Wolf, Wisconsin, Dogfighting
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