Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Day In Wolf Country Wisconsin’s North Woods

By Rachel Tilseth, the founder of Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin
 I got involved with the Wisconsin Wolf Recovery Program starting as a WI DNR Volunteer Winter Wolf/Carnavore Tracker in 2000. I spent a dozen winters tracking the shy and elusive wild wolf. Wolves were so leery that they would avoid any scent of humans. Wolves were seldom seen in those days but the tracks they left behind proved they were living in the north woods of Wisconsin.


Wolf tracks in the north woods of WI 2009

I joined the volunteer wolf tracking program under the guidance of WI DNR Head Wolf Recovery Biologist Adrian Wydeven. Wydeven taught me how to track the elusive wild wolf. One very important lesson Wydeven taught all trackers was to do no harm to wild wolves.Wydeven taught us not to disturb them, that meant while you were tracking in wolf range do nothing that would cause them to change their movements, or move away from their normal patterns. The thought of violating tracker ethics of conduct lead me to make the decision to resign tracking wolves in 2013.

Because in 2012 wolves were legislatively made a game animal under Act 169 that mandated a trophy hunt of wolves. Not only were wolves hunted, it was the way in which they were hunted. This was a complete reversal from wolf recovery into being hunted as a trophy animal. An. Endangered species became a mere stuffed, mounted trophy that was chased down through the woods with large packs of free ranging hound hunting dogs. That was where I drew the line in the sand.

Jump to present time the year 2015 and wolves are now back on the Endangered Species List. I’ve decided to get back into tracking wolves because this is what I know  best and believe that I can give Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin a greater voice in how wolves are managed in WI. After all, members of the WI Bear Hunters Association, and WI Wildlife Federation members are volunteer wolf trackers.

 I spent the day in wolf country on July 19, 2015


On the way to wolf country July 19, 2015 Rachel Tilseth

I headed to wolf country on July 19, 2015. I found tracks that included, bear with cubs, wolf with pups and scat. Wolf scat is what wolves leave behind.
 Wolf Scat



Noth Amercan Black Bear Track photograph by Rachel Tileth


I found this memorial to a hound hunting dog in the north woods along a rural road.

Memorial to a bear hunting hound 1984 . Photograph copyrighted Rachel Tilseth

This memorial was made for Oscar a hound hunting dog in 1984. Was this hound hunting dog loved? Or was he a hunting implement? The thought of any dog dying in a hunt is sad. Finding this memorial proves that hunting hounds do die while chasing bear.  Is this sporting?

At the time this memorial was made in 1984 there were less than 100 wolves in the north woods of Wisconsin.

Today dogs are trained to hunt bear starting in July when wolves are very defensive of their pups that are young and vulnerable. The day I was in the woods a five year old bear hunting hound lost her life (in another county north of my location).

North American Black bears are fed sweat treats such as Cheerios starting in April. Baiting black bear is a big business for local economies living in the north woods. There is bear bait sold at local service stations.

Is bear baiting even sporting? Is using hound hunting dogs that are equipped with radio collars, consider ethical and fair chase? If wolves are taken off of the endangered species list wolf hounding is a legal method used to hunt wolves. Read  more here:  http://wolvesofdouglascountywisconsin.com/2014/08/13/wodcw-faq-sheet-on-wolf-hound-hunting/


I spent the day tracking wildlife in the north woods. It’s was a beautiful day with plenty of sunshine. I relished in the smell of sweat fern and the magnificent vistas all around me. But I was not able to conduct a wolf howl survey because it was so windy. I took photographs and videos for you to view. I had to endure the many pests that are abundant during warm weather. Biting flies and mosquitoes were everywhere. It’s true that one needs to take the good along with the bad when traveling through the north woods of Wisconsin.





I will be making more trips into wolf country as a volunteer Wolf Tracker keeping Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin readers fully informed.


A Day In Wolf Country by Rachel Tilseth



A Day In Wolf Country by Rachel Tilseth

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