Wolves blamed for 13 dogs deaths in state

Crandon, Wis. — The months of August and September have not been kind to those seeking to train their hunting dogs, harvest a bear while using hounds, or perhaps take their dogs for a walk in the woods. As of this writing last week, 13 dogs had been verified as killed by wolves in 2014, including six during roughly the first three weeks of August.

In 2013, a total of 27 dogs were killed and several others injured by wolves from 18 identifiable packs roaming 10 northern counties. Eighteen of those 27 incidents occurred during August and September. While pack names are not listed on the depredation summary in 2014, last year’s listings did indicate the names of the wolf packs involved. The Flag River pack in Bayfield County was responsible for three killings.

Sawyer County led all counties with four wolf kills in 2014, two by the Venison Creek pack and one each by the Black Lake and Little Moose River packs. A fatality in Bayfield County also was attributed to the Black Lake pack.

While most incidents include a single dog, Darrell Jonet, of Iron River, Mich., had not just one, but three (two were killed) of his Plott hounds attacked while on a training run in the Nicolet National Forest in Forest County on Aug. 1.

Emma was a 4-year-old female that, in addition to hunting, also has been used for breeding purposes as part of Jonet’s kennel operation, Jonet Plotts. The other dog killed, Dixie, was a 11⁄2-year-old Plott, while the third, a 4-year-old male Plott, is recovering from its injuries.

According to Jonet, the value of the dogs lost in this case easily exceeds the $2,500 maximum payout offered by Wisconsin DNR if the USDA Wildlife Services team verifies a dog loss as a wolf kill.

“These are high-end dogs worth about $10,000 apiece,” he said, while explaining that he travels throughout the country training and acting as a guide for other hunters.

“I’ve hunted them all over the country.”

Jonet, 40, has developed his own bloodline of Plott hounds. His dogs have been delivered to a number of states and to several foreign countries, he said.

“There are people from Norway that will pay that kind of money for the dogs that were killed,” Jonet said

Jonet is upset not just over his dogs, but also because access is limited within large tracts of federal land.

“We weren’t able to get to them in time,” Jonet said. “The national forest roads are blocked off, which makes a section of land a lot bigger, and it makes it tougher to get to the dogs.”

Jonet moved from Green Bay to Iron River to hunt and guide, but is concerned about the future of hound hunting.

“People need to know that it is going to get ugly,” he said, adding that there will be more pets, hunting dogs, and farm animals lost to wolves as their numbers grow.

Dick Krawze, of Laona in Forest County, has been hunting with hounds since the 1950s, and he also expresses concern about the number of wolves on the landscape.

“I spend a lot of time in the woods. The area we hunt is full of wolves,” he said. “I’ve seen eight wolves in the last three weeks. One pack had a big male with a female and three pups. They showed no fear at all,” a concern shared by Jonet and others.

“I carry a Ruger .44 all the time anymore,” Jonet said.

Krawze echoes the concern about access to federal forests.

“You have a much better chance if you are in an area where there are ample logging roads,” he said.

Krawze points out that most hound hunters know exactly where there dogs are by using GPS technology. But that doesn’t always help.

“I don’t know anybody today that doesn’t have GPS,” he said, adding that wolves attack and kill dogs quickly. If hunters can’t reach their dogs, they are of no help in staving off an attack.

Wayne Smith, of Darlington in Lafayette County, agrees that dogs are at greater risk today than ever before. His story is similar to many from throughout the state who are facing a “gut check” regarding the use of dogs in northern Wisconsin. After 45 years of hunting with dogs, he’s winding down the activity he loves.

“I stopped taking dogs up north eight years ago because the wolves were starting to get bad,” he said. “We had some close encounters. It ruined my bear hunting.”

Thinking maybe things were getting better with the recent wolf seasons, he decided to take another shot at it recently, but it didn’t work out.

“I had a litter of pups (treeing Walkers) two years ago. They love to hunt, so I took them up there.” After letting one of the dogs loose, Smith said he couldn’t relax. “It was constantly on my mind,” he said. “I knew she would find her way back to the road. But, would the wolves get her before she got there?”

Krawze is also concerned about the impact of wolves and other predators on the deer population that he says has crashed.

“We worked up three food plots in (the old) Unit 40 and haven’t seen one deer track. Normally you wouldn’t be able to walk anywhere without stepping on a deer track,” he said. “Between tough winters and wolves, the poor deer don’t have a chance.”

When wolves attack dogs in hunting or training situations on public land, the DNR will create “wolf caution areas” to warn hunters that a specific pack has attacked a dog or dogs. The DNR website contains a summary of dog depredations by wolves with links to caution-area maps.

DNR officials warn against releasing dogs in areas that show evidence of being used as rendezvous sites, described as forest openings or edge areas, where lots of wolf tracks, droppings, and matted vegetation are apparent and where pups will reside while the adults hunt for food. A pack may use up to six or more rendezvous sites during the summer, from mid-May to late September, according to the DNR.

Smith scoffs at the idea that wolves kill dogs just in rendezvous sites when wolves are visiting bear bait sites. He also said it’s impossible for hunters to avoid areas where wolves will not interfere with hunting or training activities. “Where can you go where there aren’t any wolves?” he asks. “They’re everywhere.”

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