A spate of hunting hound deaths after encountering wolves, including several in or near known wolf 'caution' areas as dogs are being trained for the upcoming Wisconsin bear hunt raises a lot of questions about our state's hunting practices; here's why experts say the dog death toll is much lower in neighboring Michigan:
Joseph K. Bump, a Michigan Tech wildlife ecologist; Dean Beyer Jr. and Brian J. Roell from the Michigan DNR, and students Chelsea Murawski and Linda Kartano report their findings in the April 17, 2013 issue of the Public Library of Science (PLOS) journal PLOS ONE.
The researchers analyzed and compared a variety of factors in Michigan and Wisconsin, from regulations on bear baiting and compensation for hunting dog attacks to statistics such as the ratio of hunters to wolves and percentage of hunters using dogs to hunt bear.
They found that the neighboring states, with similar wolf and bear populations and similar numbers of bear-hunting permits issued per wolf, report dramatically different numbers of wolf attacks on hunting dogs.
Wisconsin’s relative risk of attack is two to seven times higher than Michigan’s.
Bear baiting begins earlier in Wisconsin and lasts longer, the scientists note. “The longer you bait, the more opportunity you provide for wolves to discover and potentially defend bear-bait sites,” says Bump.
“Most hunters release their dogs at bait sites, and the longer the bait has been around, the more likely hunting dogs are to encounter territorial wolves who have found and are possibly defending the bait. So it appears that baiting is an important factor.”
Wisconsin also compensates dog owners $2,500 per hunting dog killed by wolves. In fact, the Wisconsin DNR data show that compensation for wolf attacks on hounds costs the state more than it has spent for wolf attacks on any other category of domesticated animal, including calves, missing calves or cattle.
Michigan does not compensate dog owners for wolf attacks.
“Compensation can have multiple effects,” Bump points out. “ It is a reporting incentive, but it also creates an incentive for abuse. The net effect of compensation is far from clear, and it is an important factor to study further.”