Dogs were allowed alongside hunters during the wolf hunt that opened this week, despite efforts from legislators to ban the use of dogs in wolf hunting with a new bill that still has not gone to hearing.
Bill author Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, said he believes the practice should be banned because it is both unnecessary and unsafe for the dogs.
“It seems to me that hunters can go hunt with their guns and their bows and arrows but they don’t need dogs,” Risser said. “This is sort of a brutal sport, as far as I see, it looks like authorizing dogs and wolves to fight, and there’s no need for that.”
Risser added Wisconsin is the only state in the country that allows the use of dogs in wolf hunting today.
In order to go to hearing, the bill must be taken up by Committee on Natural Resources Chair, Sen. Neal Kedzie, R-Elkhorn, Risser said.
Risser added he believes Kedzie’s refusal to address the bill may come from personal preferences.
“My suspicion, because I’ve asked him for a hearing and he just doesn’t want to hold it, is that he just doesn’t agree with it,” Risser said.
The bill has also received support from the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, who voted against the use of dogs, Risser added.
Risser said because Kedzie himself is a hunter, he may simply not like the bill.
“The way our process works over here in the legislature is that the chairman has almost dictatorial powers over whether or not to hear a bill, regardless of how the public feels,” Risser said. “And if the chairman doesn’t like the bill, he just doesn’t hold a hearing on it.”
University of Wisconsin forest and wildlife ecology professor Timothy Van Deelen said this year’s wolf hunting season is only the second wolf hunting season in Wisconsin since the wolf population began to rebound around 1978.
Van Deelen said this year dogs are allowed to be used now that the nine-day firearm deer season has ended. However, last year, the practice was banned.
“The courts prevented the use of dogs during the first wolf hunting season because stakeholder groups sued, saying essentially that hounding wolves was the same as dog fighting which is illegal in Wisconsin,” Van Deelen said.
Van Deelen added dogs are regularly injured and killed by wolves, even during the wolf population’s recovery period, and it’s relatively safe to assume that using hounds is going to create similar incidents and injuries to the dogs.
In the hunting of bears, bobcats and other animals, the dog’s role in a hunt is to chase the animal and hold it at bay, often in a tree, until the hunter can come kill it, Van Deelen said.
“I frankly don’t know how it works with wolves because wolves don’t climb trees and are likely to fight back against the hounds,” Van Deelen said.
Risser echoed Van Deelen’s statements and said a wolf is far more likely to fight back or defend itself than other animals that dogs are used to hunt.
Risser added in fights between dogs and wolves, dogs typically lose.
“I think it’s an inhuman situation,” Risser said, “Not just that there’s no need for it, but that it’s not really the human way to go at it.”
Calls to Kedzie’s office were not returned.