By Sierra Gillespie
WISCONSIN (WBAY) — This past weekend, four dogs were attacked by wolves, in four different Wisconsin counties.
Action 2 News ran a story on the attacks on Wednesday, August 1. After that, the newsroom was flooded with calls, emails and messages about the story. With that, our crews decided to dig deeper into the narrative.
While three dogs were injured, and another killed, in Sawyer, Burnett, Douglas and Onedia Counties over the weekend – we found that three-fourths of the dogs were in known wolf caution areas.
On top of that, of the 11 dogs injured and four more killed in 2018, only one dog was a “family pet.” All the other dogs were being used for hounding.
“These packs of dogs charging through the woods. They’re being trained to kill other wildlife. There’s going to be conflict. And it’s really, I mean, it’s devastating,” says Melissa Tedrowe, Wisconsin State Director, Humane Society of the United States.
It’s a practice known as “hounding,” where hunters take their dogs out in search of bears but often come across wolves.
“Being out in the woods, that brings dogs into a wolf habitat,” explains Scott Walter, Large Carnivore Specialist, Department of Natural Resources. “Most encounters happen with hunting dogs, often hounds, that are out in the field and often chasing game.”
Most of the attacks happen in “wolf caution areas,” where the DNR says wolf attacks have happened before.
“The dogs last week, three out of four of them were in wolf caution areas. It’s really kind of inexcusable,” says Jeremy Parish, a representative for Wolf Patrol.
Parish is part of a group called Wolf Patrol, a volunteer organization that says it “monitors hunting practices.” He says when hound dogs are killed or injured by wolves, their owners get payback form the state.
“If the dog’s killed, they get reimbursed $2,500 from the state, or if their dog is injured, the state pays their vet bill,” Parish tells Action 2 News. “If you’re running in an area where you’re that concerned about your hound getting attacked, why are you even running in that area?”
In response to politicians calling for “population control” for grey wolves, experts say there’s really no need.
“The fear and hysteria around wolves, perpetuated by Senator Johnson and other legislators is greatly exaggerated. Wolves, statistically, do very, very little damage,” Tedrowe says. “The reality is, Wisconsinites value wolves. We don’t want them hunted. We want them around.”
Tedrowe explains wolves are actually of value to Wisconsin’s ecosystem: “They overall help balance our ecosystem so that all the populations, from their species on down are healthy, in check and thriving.”
In the end, DNR experts say there’s no real reason to panic, unless you’re headed to a known wolf rendez-vous site, or come near a mother wolf and her pups.
“Wolves tend to focus on areas away from humans habitation,” Walter says. “So they’re interested in hunting wild game, so they tend to stay away from backyards and things like that.”
Of the 11 dogs injured, and four more killed, DNR representatives say that number is on par with attacks they’ve seen in recent years.