Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, January 19, 2023

Contact:

Collette Adkins, Center for Biological Diversity, (651) 955-3821, cadkins@biologicaldiversity.org
Melissa Smith, Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf and Wildlife, (608) 234-8860, msmith@wiwolvesandwildlife.org

Petition Seeks Hounding Ban in Wisconsin’s Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest

Chasing Down Bears With Dogs Threatens Wolves, Public Safety

MILWAUKEE— Wildlife conservation and animal protection groups petitioned the U.S. Forest Service today to ban hounding in Wisconsin’s Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Hounding is the practice of training and using dogs to hunt and chase down black bears and other wildlife.

“Wisconsin’s national forests should be safe for wildlife and visitors, but that can’t happen with packs of hunting dogs running through the woods,” said Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “With lax rules that let hunters chase wildlife nearly year-round, Wisconsin is way worse than most other states. I hope this petition pushes the Forest Service to finally take a stand against this state-sanctioned abuse of our federal public lands.”

Every year, hundreds of dogs are unleashed in packs to chase and harass black bears and other wildlife in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in northern Wisconsin. The hounds may trail an animal for hours — sometimes over multiple days — and cover miles of off-trail terrain. Hunters use GPS to track the chase remotely from their trucks or all-terrain vehicles, often unaware of who or what the dogs encounter during their chase.

Today’s petition explains that hounding harms protected wildlife in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest and threatens the safety of those who visit it. Wisconsin residents have been surrounded by hounding dogs when hiking or camping in the forest. Numerous attacks on people by hounding dogs have occurred in other national forests and parks, with some resulting in severe injuries.

In 2019 a pack of hunting dogs wearing GPS collars repeatedly attacked a couple and their leashed puppy in Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont. Over 30 minutes after the attack began, the bear hunters followed GPS signals indicating that the dogs had likely surrounded a bear and instead found them attacking the screaming woman, who was hospitalized with more than 20 puncture wounds.

In February 2021 an estimated 1,200 people used dogs to hunt wolves in Wisconsin, with hunters killing more than 200 wolves in just three days. Because wolves are now federally protected, they can no longer be lawfully hunted. But violent encounters between hounds and wolves occur even when hunters are targeting other wildlife like bears, bobcats or coyotes. These encounters can result in serious injury or death for both the dogs and wolves.

The legal petition requests that the Forest Service issue an order prohibiting hounding throughout the national forest, or alternatively in the Washburn District, where many of the state’s federally protected wolves live.

“Running packs of hounds in our national forests not only risks violating federal law, it violates the ethic of fair chase hunting,” said Melissa Smith, executive director of Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf and Wildlife. “While hounds cannot know that federally protected wolves shouldn’t be chased, the Forest Service does know how to prevent bloody interactions between dogs and wolves. To uphold federal law, the Forest Service needs to ban hounding on Wisconsin’s national forests now.”

Until the Forest Service acts, state rules govern hounding on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Currently, hunters can use hounds to chase down black bears for roughly one month each year, beginning in mid-September, and can train dogs by chasing wildlife other than bears nearly year-round.

The Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf and Wildlife authored the petition, which was submitted on behalf of more than 20 organizations with members who live in Wisconsin.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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