by Susan Bence
Wisconsin’s second wolf hunt reaches a turning point December 2. Licensed hunters can now use up to six dogs to help track wolves. Wisconsin is the only state to allow the practice. Some celebrate the rules and others take to court.
Lucas Withrow started hunting with his dad years ago. Hunting with dogs runs deep in their family tradition. Today, Withrow raises and trains more than a dozen dogs on his property in Brodhead.
“I have a kennel of 15 hounds. Three or four dogs that I use on coyotes, and that’s all I run them on and the rest are pretty much a mix of bear and coon hounds. “
Hunting bear is Withrow’s passion.
Eight years ago, he joined the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association and now represents the group on the DNR’s wolf advisory committee. Withrow says dogs will serve a valuable function in helping manage the state’s wolf population.
“The function would be to make sure that we use and utilize all opportunities to harvest the quotas that we are responsible for harvesting to help keep the population stable and healthy,” and Withrow adds, “it’s something else that we can enjoy with our dogs.”
Withrow rebuts criticism that the practice subjects dogs to potential violent injury or death.
“From my perspective, I would tell you a dog introduced into the woods with the intention of chasing of wolf, that’s part of the responsibility of assuming the hunt. When you assume the responsibility for pursuing the wolf, you assume the responsibility for what can happen.”
“Allowing dogs to get torn up by wolves for the enjoyment of their owners, seeking to pursue wolves in this fashion, violates animal cruelty law,” Jodi Habush Sinykin says.
She is a Milwaukee attorney and represents a collection of humane societies, conservation groups and what she calls, “mainstream hunters.” She successfully took the issue to court. Sinykin argued that the DNR failed to write rules to protect hounds used in hunting wolves.
At least during Wisconsin’s inaugural wolf hunt in 2012 – a judge issued an injunction against the use of dogs. The lawsuit now rests in the hands of the state court of appeals. Sinykin has been awaiting a decision for weeks.
“Without intervention from the Court of Appeals starting December 2, dogs will be used by their owners with the known risks of what transpires when dogs who are unleashed and unprotected and at significant distances from their handlers encroach on wolf territory,” explains Sinykin. “And as we know from 25 years of depredation payments is that dogs are maimed and killed by wolves.”
For those years, hunting wolves was illegal in Wisconsin because their numbers were scarce. During that time, if a wolf killed a dog, the state reimbursed the owner.
Now that wolves have shifted to ‘hunt and trap status’, the state will not compensate hunters, if their hounds are killed during the chase.
We may not find out how many dogs are killed during the hunt. The DNR wants hunters to report dog casualties, but they are not required to do so.
The season will end on February 28 or when hunters take the state quota of 251.