Judge puts hold on Wisconsin’s plans to hunt wolves with dogs

Has a bloodfest been averted?

Madison. Plans to allow wolves to be hunted with dogs, as part of Wisconsin ‘s first wolf hunt, have been at least temporarily set aside by the ruling of Dane County Circuit Judge Peter Anderson.

No other state has permitted dog hunting of wolves, but the Wisconsin legislature directly inserted the provision when the wolf lost endangered species status in Wisconsin this year. Wisconsin’s’ planned wolf hunt has been controversial, but its quota of 200 dead wolves out of 800 or so in the state is moderate compared to Idaho and Montana’s hunts. Idaho has a year round hunt in at least some part of the state with no overall quota. Montana has a more limited season, but is otherwise similar. Dogs hunting wolves, however, is unique, and the Republican bill for the wolf hunt in general shows a lot of hostility to wolves and no notion of fair chase, e.g., hunters can bait, trap, hunt at night as well as use dogs.

The legislature’s plan raised immediate anger from dog organizations, animal welfare groups and wolf conservationists. They went to court seeking to halt that part of the hunt. The state’s Department of Natural Resources imposed almost no restrictions how the wolves would be hunted with  dogs, citing the legislature’s mandate to have this kind of hunt. The law allows use of from one to six dogs to track wolves after the deer rifle season ends (November). That is the sum of limitations from the legislation. DNR argued this prevented them from adding any regulations, but Judge Peter Anderson judge ruled, no. The DNR also argued the plaintiffs had no standing to sue, but the judge rejected  that argument too. The Humane Society argued the DNR could not allow violation of Wisconsin’s animal cruelty law, and by having a regulation free hunt using dogs would violate the law.

Anderson  has now ruled twice against the DNR, stopping the dog/wolf hunting until more regulations are devised. For example, questions such as the following are important.  Can any kind or number of dogs be used?  Will the dogs be permitted to kill the wolf or wolves, or are they strictly limited to tracking? What kind of medical attention does the dog owner owe wounded dogs? What is the liability for a wounded wolf that attacks domestic animals or people?  Do the dogs have to be trained in any way?

Historically wolves have been hunted for sport by a few specially bred dogs such as the Irish and the Russian wolfhound. The Irish wolfhound, a gentle dog, unless trained otherwise, is the world’s tallest dog, standing up to 7 feet high on its hind legs.  They are very loyal and affectionate pets, though very short lived.

Opponents of the hunt argued that the DNR’s plan was a “recipe for carnage.” In the backcountry of Idaho, Montana,Wyoming and the Great Lakes states, non-livestock related wolf-dog confrontations almost always end up with same way — a dead dog. There have been many interactions and dead dogs, although trained sheep guard dogs do survive wolf attacks and often drive the wolves from the sheep.

Supporters for the hunt said they would use the dogs to find lone wolves, not packs. It isn’t clear how this could be done with any reliability because tracking wolves by scent is as likely to find a pack as a lone wolf. It is also not clear how they would get dogs to track wolves at all because dogs have a natural fear of wolves.

A leading proponent of the hunt said wolves were the only possible effective way to hunt wolves. This is obviously untrue. Many hundreds of wolves have been killed in the Idaho and Montana wolf hunts.

Hunt supporters said they would use the dogs in conjunction with ATVs to corral the lone wolves.

Plaintiffs are the Wisconsin Federated Humane Societies, Dane County Humane Society, Wisconsin Humane Society, Fox Valley Humane Association, Northwood Alliance, National Wolfwatcher Coalition, Jayne and Michael Belsky and Donna Onstott.




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  1. ma'iingan Avatar

    “Will the dogs be permitted to kill the wolf or wolves, or are they strictly limited to tracking?”

    It’s unlawful in Wisconsin to allow a dog to kill any wild animal, and the language of the rule states that dogs are permitted to “track or trail” wolves. One of the plaintiffs’ primary points is that unless the dogs are under firm control (leashed) there is no way to prevent confrontations beyond the specified “track and trail” activity.

    “Supporters for the hunt said they would use the dogs to find lone wolves, not packs. It isn’t clear how this could be done with any reliability because tracking wolves by scent is as likely to find a pack as a lone wolf. It is also not clear how they would get dogs to track wolves at all because dogs have a natural fear of wolves.”

    With the exception of trailing bear off baits with hounds, virtually all hound hunting in Wisconsin requires snow cover. The houndsman locates tracks, judges how fresh they are, and sets his dogs on the trail. Of course, there’s no guarantee that that lone wolf is not going to join up with his packmates 1/2 mile into the chase.

    Houndsmen claim that their dogs have already unintentionally run wolves, without fatalities or injuries to the dogs. They say this with such confidence,my gut feel is that these incidents have resulted in fatalities to the wolves – due to “lead poisoning”.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan


      But as a Republican state legislator said yesterday that these laws don’t apply to hunting. It think that is doubtful, but if the election doesn’t change the majority party in the Wisconsin legislature, I would predict that next year they will make it legal that any laws that interfere with dogs hunting wolves are set aside for that purpose.

  2. JB Avatar


    Thanks for the careful wording in your post. Indeed, it seems the DNR’s hands were largely tied by the legislature. This is important to keep in mind when folks are evaluating how they should respond.

  3. Larry Keeney Avatar
    Larry Keeney

    Hunting wolves with dogs certainly separates those that have devotion to dogs from those that do not. Those hunters probably think more of their ATV than a dog. Bet they wouldn’t use their ATV for wolf hunting if wolves had a propensity to attack and shred the ATV. What political party did this bill come from again?

    1. Mark L Avatar
      Mark L

      Just as importantly, what happens if the dogs encounter an unintended animal, like a puma or bear or wolverine? Is it considered a ‘take’ if the unintended animal is injured? What if it’s pregnant?

  4. Barb Rupers Avatar
    Barb Rupers

    It does not seem that legislators or legislatures, national or state, are doing well at enhancing “game management”.

  5. Immer Treue Avatar
    Immer Treue

    I said this someplace else, but what has occurred is exactly the reason for a year or two post delisting that a hunt would occur. It’s more than obvious that this plan, with the reduction in take to 200 (not favored by those they wrote the bill?)is moderate in number, but I’ll conceived and an open door for law suits.

    Ma’iingan, lead poisoning has and will probably always occur. The exposure I have had to bear hounding is the dogs are set loose and followed (radio collars) by road networks or ATV’s, using roads to intercept pursuits, or closing in on treed bears. Doing this with wolves, with snow/ice on roads, much more heavily clothed individuals with less visual awareness will put the “hunters” in jeapardy as well as anyone else on the roads or trails. The dogs still turn in wolf alpo.

    Night hunting. How? Shining? Just asking?

    Baiting? Fair chase?

    Should have waited a year or two.

    1. Immer Treue Avatar
      Immer Treue

      Dogs will turn into wolf Alpo.

  6. Mark L Avatar
    Mark L

    Right, but meanwhile they get access into roadless areas via ATV’s and use ‘fair chase’ as an excuse…”it’s for the safety of our dogs, we need to get in there”. I could see a lot of imaginative uses for compound 1080 and other stuff to deter a wolf attack also (all legal due to phraseology in law?). Everything will favor the dogs…not an even fight or sporting.

    1. Immer Treue Avatar
      Immer Treue


      Wolves won’t tree, and I believe in most cases, they won’t run. I don’t want dogs to get killed, nor do I want to see hounders get hurt, or hurt others. But it will be like dominos falling if the judge had not put a hold on this.

      I’d also like to know the context Irish wolfhounds and Borzois were used. Was the area open or wooded? Did their keepers ride horses during the hunt. Got a feeling it wasn’t like Wisconsin.

      1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
        Ralph Maughan

        Immer Treue,

        The sport hunting of wolves in Europe and Asia was on horseback. Irish wolfhounds almost went extinct when wolves were wiped out of most of Europe, but now people are buying them as pets. I doubt there are any individual dogs in the world currently trained to track or attack wolves.

        1. JEFF E Avatar
          JEFF E

          I do not think that what is known as a Irish Wolfhound today is the same thing as what was one a couple hundred years ago. And Ralph is right that the hunt was done on horseback so as to keep as close as possible to the dogs. Otherwise one would have to continually replace the dogs…..

      2. skippadoodoo Avatar

        Immer, dogs were used in open areas. The hunters rode on horseback. Teddy Roosevelt wrote about some of his Wolf hunting adventures in his out door series of books. You are correct in your assertion that the wooded terrain in Wisconsin is not conducive to traditional Wolf hunting.

  7. Tracker Avatar

    DNR is using the legislation as a cop out – Legislators claim they worked with DNR to create this bill, though won’t say who (strongly suspect Cathy Stepp & Kurt Thiede who did not allow the Wolf Biologist for the state to be involved). Even if Suder is lying (and did not work with DNR), the DNR still had the power and authority to slow and even stop this legislation. They chose not to do so, rather, only gave “informational testimony” never said one word in opposition to the use of dogs and even recommended that tags could be transferred. One additional thought…if this was totally the fault of the legislation, then why are they working so hard to defend it?

    1. MAD Avatar

      Tracker, I’m curious, the State wolf biologist you refer to – was it Adrien Wydeven or Ron Schultz? I’ve worked with Ron in the field on wolf projects in Chequamegon N.F. He’s one of the most knowledgeable people I’ve ever met in regard to wolves. in fact, I’d put him up there with Mech. And he’s a fantastic guy also. Adrien is a bit of a tool though.

      1. jon Avatar

        Not a fan of Adrian huh mad? any reason why?

    2. JB Avatar


      State administrative agencies derive power from the legislature (via statutes); that is, they do what they are directed to do by statute or by order of the executive (governor). It isn’t the agency’s place to speak opposition to political decisions handed down by a democratically elected legislature. At the individual level, overt public opposition would be a good way to change your career trajectory (and not for the positive).

      1. louise kane Avatar

        a good, responsible legislative body will and should look to the experts including state agencies,educational institutions, and the business sector in some instances…. in crafting legislation, that has been my experience as a policy advisor in the past.

        1. JB Avatar

          I agree completely, Louise. In fact, a “good” legislature would’ve spent considerable time with agency professionals before ever introducing such legislation. Of course, we know that isn’t what happened in Wisconsin. Instead the legislation was drafted behind closed doors by political insiders and hoisted on to an unsuspecting DNR.

          1. Immer Treue Avatar
            Immer Treue


  8. Tracker Avatar

    One more question…If supposedly they only hunt wolves when there is snow on the ground, then why do they need a training season that last 10 months of the year including during the time wolves are at den and rendezvous sites? Also, if the hunt is done with snow, are they using snowmobiles too?

  9. Robert R Avatar
    Robert R

    Just be thankful they do not allow the training and use of golden eagles to hunt wolves.
    The use of golden eagles to hunt wolves in Mongolia is pretty effective.

    1. Immer Treue Avatar
      Immer Treue

      In open terrain, as per the video I have seen, not in forested areas. Also video was of fairly small wolf. Would be insightful if wolves from Denali or their pups have trouble with Golden Eagles.

  10. Susan Avatar

    This proposal amounts to a backwoods dog fight against poorly matched competitors. Injured and killed dogs are inevitable. The modern Irish wolfhound is not suited. The borzoi (misleadingly called the Russian wolfhound in the early 1900’s) was rarely used to hunt European wolves. Hunting records indicate primary use on hare and fox, typically in open steppe areas. Coyote hunters who use dogs often rely on sighthound mixes referred to as staghounds, longdogs or lurchers. I expect these are the unfortunate dogs that would then be turned loose on wolves if this barbaric law passes.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      Thank you for your comment Susan. Welcome to the forum.

      This “barbaric” law did pass the legislature some time ago.

      1. Susan Avatar

        I misunderstood the header and thought it had not been effected yet. What a shame.

  11. Mark L Avatar
    Mark L

    Mongolian wolves are more like Mexican or red, than gray…not a fast bruiser, but a sly toothy ninja. Goldens can be trained to attack pretty large stuff, but a gray would probably not be fooled after the first try. Goldens in nature would not normally try this…just not worth the risk.

  12. Larry Keeney Avatar
    Larry Keeney

    Wasn’t there a NFL player that went to jail for orchestrating dog fights?

  13. MAD Avatar

    I’m a simple person, straight-forward, with no pretenses. Ron allowed me to stay at his house while I was in Wisconson and was a great teacher and friend. Adrian is the consummate bureaucrat. Yes, he has the PhD, but at the time (15 yrs ago) he had no clue about wolves at all. Yet he was hired by the DNR to run things and Ron got shut out because he only had a Bachelors, despite his wealth of knowledge. Plus, I found Adrian to be a little fake & superficial. Just my impressions dealing with them at the time. Maybe he’s changed, I don’t know. I still speak to Ron every now and then but not as often as I’d like to. He had a beautiful hybrid thingy (dog-wolf) that he kept in a kennel-run outside that was amazing. Ir was a female, can’t remember the name right now but he had rescued her.

  14. Mike Avatar

    It’s embarrassing that this type of insane “hunting” would even be legislated, let alone stopped by the courts.

    Very, very weird folks with a backwards mentality towards animals and other life on earth.

  15. CodyCoyote Avatar

    Sunday September 16: T-minus two weeks till Wyoming’s wolf hunt opens. I say this here only because in 84 percent of Wyoming not in a national park or the so-called Trophy Zone, any wolf can be killed at any time ” BY ANY MEANS ” which presumably could include hunting with dogs – except in Wyoming wolves have won nearly every encounter between the two Canid cousins.
    ‘ By any means ‘ excludes only poison and private aerial gunning to the best of my knowledge.

  16. Richie G Avatar
    Richie G

    To Larry Keeney;
    Mike Vick now with the eagles, came from the falcons, everyone forgets what he did. But he is getting killed in Philly, maybe whaqt goes around comes around.As for this topic Scott Walker gets his way again, but thank the courts. He won, but the dems won the state house by one person I believe.

    1. Larry Keeney Avatar
      Larry Keeney

      Of course my point is that politicians are orchestrating dog fights (lethal) when authorizing wolf hunting with dogs. It is insane, and will result in the same kind of carnage Vick was orchestrating.

      1. Immer Treue Avatar
        Immer Treue

        If this (using dogs to hunt wolves)ever comes to fruition, we can change the name of said state to Vicksconsin.

  17. Susan Avatar

    Dr Patricia McConnell has agreed to be an expert witness in opposition to this law. Here is a link to her article and the comments. http://www.patriciamcconnell.com/theotherendoftheleash/hunting-wolves-with-dogs-in-wisconsin

    1. Nancy Avatar

      Susan – thank you for posting this site. Great article with very supportive comments.

      I wonder if Trisha is doing a lot of “editing” when it comes to comments allowed on her site. or could it be, those “good ole boys, with toys and dogs to waste” can’t muster a comment.

      Maybe some feel just alittle embarrassed (combined with a lack of any real intelligence) when faced with so many real, valid concerns from others, regarding their idea of a great outing (wolf hunting/w dogs) as they throw their best friends/fido under the bus, so to speak, for a few hours of “simple minded” enjoyment?

    2. Louise Kane Avatar

      good article
      amazing to me the number of people outraged at the thought of the dogs being injured by wolves while so few seem equally as disturbed by the idea of hounds and men with guns and every other method to kill pursuing and terrorizing the world’s most beautiful and amazing canid, the wolf.
      however its stopped is fine by me.

      1. ma'iingan Avatar

        “…so few seem equally as disturbed by the idea of hounds and men with guns and every other method to kill pursuing and terrorizing the world’s most beautiful and amazing canid, the wolf.”

        Feeling a little dramatic, Louise? I’m expecting Wisconsin’s inaugural wolf season to be fairly quiet, actually. With 1160 permits spread over almost 40,000 square miles I just don’t see your hordes of “men with guns” terrorizing wolves. BTW, in these parts we call those men with guns “hunters”.

        I am looking forward to fielding the complaints of hunters who can’t find wolves. These, of course, will be the same guys who are complaining to me that they’re overrun with wolves and that the wolves are killing all the deer.

        1. Louise Kane Avatar

          I hope you are right and there are a lot of complaints that the hunters can’t find wolves. Somehow I doubt that they won’t get the quota.

        2. jb Avatar

          We hear this same complaint with coyotes. I actually had one ” gentleman” indicate that there were too many deer where he lived. Then in the next breath he said, ” …and you know what else we’ve got too many of…coyotes, and they’re killing all the damn deer! Priceless.

  18. Larry Keeney Avatar
    Larry Keeney

    Dr McConnell touches on the increased aggression that would be learned by wolves with regard to domestic dogs. Any thinking person would have to agree. So a hiker, bird hunter, farm boy and his slingshot, having a dog with them increases the chance their walks are into unintended jeopardy for their dog companion. As it is now I believe facts show that wolves are quite reluctant to consider dogs with human companions close by as threats worth dealing with. That behavior of course would seem to change with such intelligent predators as wolves when the pack has experienced an attack by man and dog combinations in their past. I would think especially so for a pack that learned they whipped all their domestic canid attackers and left them in a pile of blood and guts. Then Wisconsin will pay $2500 for each dog killed? Hunters will be taking their 15 year old cocker spaniel that has cancer on a wolf hunt. Sounds like Dr Patricia McConnell will be among other sensible and intelligent people testifying. Good luck to all.

    1. Salle Avatar


      That is a very valid point. I would also extrapolate that such a learned behavior would only serve the wolf/hating/hunting crowd by giving them an excuse to point to wolves and say, “See how vicious they are, they hurt Jr. and his puppy or little sister and her dog” …because they learned that people/dog combos are a threat thus going on the offense and attacking such combos when they enter an established range. (Most wolf attacks on humans take place when they are accompanied by dogs and often because they tried to stop the attack on the dog.) Which pretzels its way around to giving them reasons for killing more or all of the wolves. A self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts.

  19. E Fisher Avatar
    E Fisher

    Dogs and hunting for anything but upland birds is just wrong ! I’ve seen it all and hunted too ! A hunter of wolves should be ashamed of himself !

  20. Immer Treue Avatar
    Immer Treue

    The Timber Wolf Alliance put this out May 17.


    As per this thread, the focus is on point#7.

    The TWA is much like the IWC in MN. They come right out with the fact they do not oppose a wolf hunt in WI, however the plan was ill-conceive from the start, and reinforces that not all major stake-holders were present. Thank you so much Herr Suder.

  21. Immer Treue Avatar
    Immer Treue

    Meanwhile, a bit to the North and West.


    Attn: Mike, this writer agrees with you. I do also.

    1. jon Avatar

      deer hunters kill 200,000 deer each year and they are claiming that wolves are killing all of the deer? Seems to me that some hunters feel like the deer belong to them.

  22. HAL 9000 Avatar
    HAL 9000

    Setting dogs loose to tangle with wolves? Oh, PETA would have a field day with that one…

  23. Salle Avatar

    Wolf hunting returns to Wisconsin: But how humane will it be?
    Wisconsin will open its first wolf-hunting season in decades Monday – a testament to the recovery of the Midwestern population. But native American groups are opposed and controversy still swirls about the use of dogs.



Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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