[Updated from Tuesday, 12:21 a.m.] Wisconsin projects a tourist-brochure image to the outside world, and comforts itself with mythologized memories of its Great Founding Naturalists, like Aldo Leopold and John Muir, but the reality when it comes to certain legalized hunting and dog-training practices is sad, dark and downright ugly.
Take the jail-free wrist slap delivered by a Wisconsin federal judge to a whooping crane killer (see government news release).
Fines and loss of hunting and fishing privileges for two years? Who knew that even whooping cranes came that cheap, especially here, where conservationists and scientists at Baraboo have worked tirelessly to help these magnificent birds survive.
Ugliness in the woods is a widespread Wisconsin norm because legislators and regulators are in thrall to aggressive, one-track gun and hunting lobbies which treat public wildlife as their disposable, personal property - - even enabling bear-poaching in excess of the thousands of bears shot here legally after being run up trees hounded literally to exhaustion.
More disregard for Wisconsin wildlife begins July 1, when "hounders" - - hunters using dogs - - will be allowed to let loose their GPS-equipped dog packs on bears for training purposes before the actual bear killing season begins in the fall.
The hounders and their dogs-in-training will be permitted to race and romp down the roads and through the woods, panicking bears and animals of all sorts which are resting, or feeding, or simply existing in their natural habitat which belongs to all the people of the state.
And it is impossible to monitor all the outcomes of the hounders' dog training practices.
Also in the hounders' path, their swirl of chaos - - with the Legislature and DNR's approval - - people and families out for a walk or a photo shoot or a birding hike.
Then, after the deer season ends, wolf hunters not content with using traps and long guns will be allowed to let their hounds loose to chase down wolves, with wolf/hunting dog fights possible.
No other state allows dogs in wolf hunting, nor does any other state follow Wisconsin's lobby-driven practice of paying bear hunters up to $2,500 with state funds for a dog killed by a wolf - - even if the hounder has let the dog loose in a known wolf area, or in an area to which the wolf was drawn in the first place by the hunters' placement of legal bait.
The state Natural Resources Board meets in Milwaukee tomorrow, Wednesday, and setting the upcoming wolf hunting season kill quota is on the agenda.
This year's proposal is 156. Last year it was 251; some wildlife advocates say the numbers are an unsustainable attack on the species, and are based on unscientific beliefs that wolves take too many deer which human hunters want reserved for their hunt, too.
More information about the Wisconsin wolf hunt is available through the DNR website.
Now here's the part of the wildlife cruelty story that is less well-known:
Wisconsin hunters are also allowed to train their dogs against a variety of living, captive, caged wild animals.
In some cases, small animals, like trapped raccoons, are allowed to be put into cages that roll - - so-called "roll cages" - - as part of the dogs' training.
Here is someone's You Tube video of the practice. Viewer discretion advised.
Yes, I am sure that there are some of you reading this who say I am naive and don't get what is required traditionally to train dogs for hunting. You are entitled to your opinion.
I think it's worth the discussion.
And, yes, there are requirements in the state rules to protect the caged wild animals from injury or death during the dog training - - but not traumatization (see video above, commons sense, etc.) - - but who is around to monitor and enforce those rules' effectiveness, given that DNR wardens are spread awfully thin statewide, and the training periods can legally run up to 18 hours a day?
Who will actually make sure, for example, that a hunting dog is not allowed to get closer than one foot to a caged bear - - yes, that's the allowable practice - - or that if the cage is hoisted in the air for training purposes, it has to be 10 feet off the ground?
And that throughout the hours and hours straight of such hoisting and dodging and other movements that the caged bears are given the food and water and rest they are supposed to have"
And why, if the protections in the rules are effective, are there protocols in place to account for and dispose of wild, captive animals injured or killed during the training?
You can decide for yourselves if the excerpts copied from the DNR's website listed below (the copying did not work well, so feel free to read the entire document) constitute animal cruelty, and should be enabled through licensing by the state, in our name, with our funds.
A hound dog training license allows you to purchase, possess and use captive raccoon or bobcat for dog training purposes, and use captive black bear possessed under the authority of a captive wild animal farm license for dog training purposes.
In addition, rabbit/hare, coyote and fox may be purchased, possessed or used for dog training purposes if held in a permitted hound dog training enclosure…
Captive raccoon, rabbit/hare, coyote, fox, bobcat or bear possessed for dog training purposes shall be treated in a humane manner and confined under sanitary conditions with proper and adequate space, shade and freshwater...
Any coyote or fox injured during a dog training exercise shall be submitted to a veterinarian for treatment at the owner or operator’s expense, or euthanized and shall be reported to the department within 24 hours. Primary and transportation enclosures shall meet the requirements in § NR 16.30 to 16.38, Wisconsin Administrative Code...
Captive bear, bobcat and raccoon, if lawfully obtained, may be used for dog training and trials, provided:
- Any bear is also possessed under authority of a captive wild animal farm license.
- Bear, bobcat and raccoon, when not being used for trailing purposes, are housed in accordance with s. NR 16.30 and 16.38.
(See separate DNR informational pamphlet on Captive Wildlife Pen Specifications & Transportation Standards for details.)
- The bear, bobcat or raccoon is kept in a cage at all times...
- When the cage is elevated in a tree or on a pole for training or trial purposes, the cage shall be raised a minimum of 10 feet off the ground. All individuals except the owner of the captive animal, the owner's designee or the dog handler shall be kept at least 4 feet from the cage...
- Dogs shall be kept a minimum of one foot from the cage at all times by restraint, cage design or barrier fence except where the cage is
covered by solid material, which prevents all physical contact between the dog and the captive animal. The one foot minimum distance does
not apply to raccoon training or trials with the use of roll cages..
- Roll cages may not be used for dog training with bear or bobcat.
- Training & Trialing periods: a. The length of time that captive wild bear, bobcat or raccoon may be used for training exercises may not exceed 12 hours within a 24-hour period. b. Captive wild bear, bobcat and raccoon shall be provided with a minimum of 8 consecutive hours of rest within a 24-hour period.
Captive rabbits/hares, coyote and fox, if lawfully obtained and possessed, may be used for dog training and trials...
- c. A bear, bobcat or raccoon used for training, may not be housed in an enclosure that does not meet the primary enclosure standards in s. NR
16.30(4), Wis. Adm. Code for a period of more than 72 hours.
REPORTS, RECORD KEEPING AND PROOF OF LEGAL POSSESSION REQUIREMENTS
Each person holding a bird dog training license, a hound dog training license, a dog club training license, a bird dog trial license, or a hound dog
trial license must keep a record by date of all captive wild animals that are purchased, acquired, transferred, died, killed or escaped, including:
1. Complete name and address and the number of any captive wildlife license of the person from whom the wild animals were purchased or acquired. 2. The date of the transaction and the number and species of the wild animals.
3. All captive wild animals that have died, have been killed, or have escaped.Records must be kept up to date and all transactions must be recorded within 7 days. and must be made available for inspection by DNR personnel upon request...
All records and reports must be kept for at least 3 years [including]...The total number of each species of captive wild animals that were killed, escaped or died during the reporting year...
Generally, all coyote, fox, rabbit, raccoon and bobcat used for hound dog training may only be obtained from a legal Wisconsin captive bred source. No free-ranging wild animals captured from the wild may be used for hound dog training purposes, except:
1. Coyotes and raccoons that are live trapped on a Wisconsin licensed wild fur farm.
2. Coyotes and rabbits that are causing a nuisance or damage and which have been live trapped for relocation under the authority of s. NR 12.10(1)(a)5. and (b)5...
DOG TRAINING AND TRIALING ON FREE-ROAMING WILD ANIMALS
Except as described in ‘Prohibitions’ below, any person may train dogs on free-roaming wild animals without a dog training or trialing license.
Except where prohibited in state parks, campgrounds, natural areas and other posted areas, from July 1 to the following April 14th, hound dogs may be trained on free-roaming raccoons and rabbits on department lands without a leash.