Wisconsin’s first grey wolf hunt closed weeks before its deadline.
However, debate over a component of the new law remains fierce.
Friday a Dane County judge could rule on that contested point – the use of dogs in future hunts.
Some outdoor enthusiasts such as the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association believe using dogs to track wolves is safe and appropriate.
A bevy of animal rights organizations is leading a crusade to prevent confrontations between wolves and dogs, including a new group.
Environmental Reporter Susan Bence learned about, called “Wisconsin Mainstream Hunters.”
Bobbi Rongstad didn’t intend to speak out; in fact, she never thought she’d pick up a rifle, let alone a bow and arrow.
“I grew up in a family of hunters and I was against it for a long time and was quite disgusted with the whole thing,” Rongstad says.
But evolution commenced when she married a hunter and moved to far northern Wisconsin.
“You know, I started to go into the woods with him and sit in a tree while he was sitting in a tree and I really enjoyed watching the animals,” Rongstad says.
Then, walking through the forest one day, Rongstad encountered 15 deer that had starved to death.
“They’d not been chewed on by predators or anything. So I just thought I’d much rather kill that deer and put in in my freezer than have it starve to death. That’s when I started my hunting career,” Rongstad says.
When the debate about deploying dogs to track wolves started brewing in Wisconsin, Rongstad sat down and wrote a letter to the DNR.
She thought it ought to hear from a concerned citizen who is NOT a tree hugger. She bumped into other hunters who feel the same way – they don’t oppose the hunting of wolves, but do object to “the unrestricted use of dogs” in the pursuit.
Rongstad says if she had her way, dogs would not figure into wolf hunting at all.
“We spend a lot of times in areas where there are wolves, we know there are wolves; we found their tracks in the winter, we hear them howl and we don’t let our dog....
A chocolate-coated bird dog, named Marley.
“,,,run lose when we’re in the woods; we live in the woods by the way, so that’s home too. ,” Rongstad continues.
Rongstad maintains what she considers a healthy-respect for the habitat.
“I think that if dogs become a constant enemy and constant harass of the wolf, the wolf is going to strike out at dogs and I don’t want to fear for this little guy just because we’re we’re walking down the trail in the woods or because my husband takes him out grouse hunting and he’s doing his job by running through the brush along side of the trail, trying to put up a grouse. I think that if we allow dogs to chase and attack wolves; the wolves are going to fight back by attacking dogs when they see them, instead of turning tail and running like they do now,” Rongstad says.
Rongstad believes many hunters feel as she does, but is less sure why more have not made their voices heard.
“Maybe they don’t know how to make the contact; maybe they just haven’t taken the time; maybe they don’t feel like they’re really going to be heard,” Rongstad says.
When I ask if some hunters may feel intimidated, she hesitates before responding.
“Well, yeah, in some circles,” Rongstad says.
Still, Rongstad says she’s glad she’s gone public.
“Yes, I haven’t heard any negative repercussions of it I guess,” Rongstad says.
Rongstad thinks there a lesson to be learned from Wisconsin’s first wolf hunt.
The season closed early because hunters met the quotas and without the use of dogs.
At its meeting last month, the Natural Resources Board voted unanimously to hold public hearings about permanent wolf hunt regulations in Wisconsin – including, the training of dogs.
In the meantime, a judge has issued a temporary injunction against their inclusion until the court case is decided.