Hunters Can Train Dogs for Wisconsin Wolf Hunts


A wild grey wolf pauses in a clearing. A new ruling now allows hunters to train their dogs to track and hunt Wisconsin wolves. (Credit: Jethro Taylor)

Wisconsin hunters can now train their dogs to track and hunt wolves, according to a recent ruling by the state appeals court.

Wisconsin wolf hunts began in 2012 after grey wolves were removed from the federal endangered species list. Legalization of the hunts immediately ignited a court battle over whether or the hunts were safe for dogs. Amidst the controversy, a court ruling last year permitted hunters to begin using dogs for the first time ever in the state’s wolf hunt. However, the ruling didn’t allow hunters to train their hounds to track wolves since existing restrictions were outdated and not specific to wolves as game species. Now, the recent ruling — passed earlier this month — has found that the state’s residents have the right to hunt and therefore the freedom to train hunting dogs. As a result, hunters will be able to train their dogs for the upcoming 2014 wolf-hunting season.

The ruling is a disappointment to an alliance of humane societies and the National Wolfwatcher Coalition — a nonprofit organization advocating for wolf recovery and preservation. The groups have been arguing against the use of dogs in wolf hunts and believe that the practice could result in dangerous confrontations that could harm or kill the dogs


A beagle tracks a scent across a clearing. Many Wisconsin residents are worried about how the new ruling will impact the safety of hunting dogs and the fragile wolf population. (Credit: Karen Arnold)

Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) examined harvested wolf carcasses for evidence of canine confrontations — like bite wounds — after this past 2013 hunting season. The evaluation was inconclusive due to the poor condition of many of the carcasses. However, hunting advocates maintain that wolves should be able to outrun dogs and fights between the two canines will be rare.

Animal rights groups and grassroots organizations are also worried about the impact of the hunts on the state’s grey wolves. Wolf populations were decimated by hunting in the early 1900s and were only just removed from the federal endangered species list in 2012.

“This is going to add another layer of stress on to an already stressed out wolf population,” Rachel Tilseth from Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin told Wisconsin Public Radio after the ruling.

The DNR says it is pleased with the new court ruling. The agency has implemented emergency rules that restrict the use of dogs at night and require hounds to be marked with identifying collars. The emergency rules will help guide hunters while the agency drafts more permanent regulations — such as restricting dog training to daylight hours during the wolf season and continuing to permit hunters to use up to use up to six hounds during hunts. The permanent regulations should be ready by the 2015 hunting season.

This article was originally published at The Wildlife Society, May 28, 2014.