By Paul A. Smith of the Journal Sentinel
Barring an 11th-hour judicial ruling to stop the practice, effective Monday dogs may be used to hunt wolves in Wisconsin.
The use of dogs is arguably the most contentious provision of Act 169, legislation passed in 2012 establishing a public wolf harvest in the state.
Critics have deemed it “state-sanctioned dog fighting” and a violation of animal cruelty laws. Proponents call it a rare opportunity to utilize hunting dogs with methods used for other more common predators.
The practice was prohibited last year by an injunction issued by a Dane County circuit court. However, the injunction was vacated in January, clearing the way for dogs to be used this season.
The wolf hunting and trapping season opened Oct. 15. Act 169 allows dogs to be used to hunt wolves once the state’s annual gun deer season has ended.
The law was heavily influenced by the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, a staunch supporter of the use of dogs to hunt predators.
It’s not known how many wolf hunters would use dogs. But some hound owners have expressed willingness to use their dogs in a similar fashion used to hunt coyotes. The dogs typically trail the predator, pushing it into crossings or open areas where hunters await with firearms.
Opponents have expressed concern that wolves will be more prone than smaller predators to turn and fight — and likely kill — the dogs.
As of Friday, 213 wolves had been registered in the wolf hunting and trapping season. The statewide harvest quota is 251 wolves.
About 80% of the wolves killed this season have been taken in foothold traps.
Only Zone 3, where 31 wolves had been killed out of a quota of 71, was open. Zone 3 extends from north central to northwestern Wisconsin.
The season in Zone 3 will be open until the quota is filled or Feb. 28, whichever comes first.
A lawsuit seeking to prevent the use of dogs to hunt wolves is in appeals court. The court has given no indication when it might rule on the appeal.
“Our coalition of state humane societies, conservation groups and mainstream hunters remains of the opinion that the use of dogs in this year’s harvest is both unnecessary and unlawful,” said Jody Habush Sinykin, attorney for the plaintiffs.
Wisconsin is the only state to authorize the use of dogs to hunt wolves.
The state authorized 2,510 wolf hunting and trapping licenses through a lottery before the season. As of Tuesday, 1,848 resident and 11 non-resident licenses had been sold.
Cougar killed in Illinois: An Illinois conservation officer shot and killed a cougar Nov. 20 on a farm in Whiteside County in northwestern Illinois. The mountain lion was about 100 pounds and more than 5 feet long, according to reports from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Wildlife biologists will examine the remains of the animal in an effort to learn more about its recent history and origin. There is no evidence of a breeding population in Illinois or Wisconsin. However, cougars have been recorded in both states over the last decade. Most of the animals are believed to be young males dispersing from a large population in the Black Hills of South Dakota.