Animal protection group offers $10K reward to hold Wisconsin wolf poachers accountable
Groups point to social media posts while wolf hunt advocates say people are frustrated with the lack of a season
An animal protection group is offering a $10,000 reward for any reports of illegal wolf killings that lead to an arrest and conviction of any poachers.
Since Wisconsin's wolf hunt has been on hold, Paul Collins, of Animal Wellness Action, said threats of poaching have picked up on social media.
"We perfectly accept freedom of speech and people saying what they want, but we also want to realize that if they're going to make these types of threats, they are going to be looked into," said Collins, the group's Wisconsin state director.
Dane County Judge Jacob Frost issued a temporary injunction in October blocking the season that was set to begin Nov. 6. The order came after Animal Wellness Action and other wildlife groups filed a lawsuit to stop the hunt.
Collins said his group has been following Facebook posts about killing wolves since the Trump administration delisted the wolf from the federal endangered species list in January. He pointed to the Wisconsin Wolf Hunting Facebook page , which include comments like "smoke a pack a day."
Other comments referred to the legal battles as "games," and said the wolf population can't go "unchecked and unmanaged."
Collins acknowledged most people posting to the page are "blowing smoke."
"Even if 0.1% of those turn out to be real, we think we're doing our due diligence by putting the offer out there to get the information to the proper authorities," said Collins.
State law in Wisconsin requires the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to hold a wolf hunt from November through the end of February when the animal isn't under federal protections.
Adam Jarchow pushed for the wolf's delisting and advocated for state wolf management as a former Republican state lawmaker. Jarchow, who is running for Wisconsin attorney general, said the comments illustrate people's frustration with the growing number of wolves in Wisconsin and lack of a season.
"I suspect those people that are saying things are just saying it out of frustration," said Jarchow. "Obviously, nobody should be breaking the law or killing wolves illegally. But it does illustrate the importance of having a regulated hunt so that we can control this predator."
Jarchow was among a group of Republican lawmakers from northern Wisconsin that proposed a bill that would block game wardens and police from investigating illegal wolf killings in the state in 2017.
DNR spokesperson Sarah Hoye said the agency hasn’t encountered any trend of illegal killings this fall.
"Meanwhile, we read and monitor all comments on the department’s social media. We send any comment that mentions poaching to law enforcement for investigation," wrote Hoye in an email. "Additionally, if someone mentions that they know of someone who is poaching, we encourage them to report the information they have via our violation hotline."
Three wolves have been shot in the "act of depredating" a domestic animal this year, according to DNR officials. The wolves were shot in Price County in August and September. Since the wolf's delisting, landowners are allowed to shoot wolves in the act of biting, wounding or attacking their animals. Shootings must be reported to the DNR within 24 hours.
Agency officials have said they haven't had any recent reports of illegally killed wolves.
In February, state-licensed hunters killed 218 wolves in less than 72 hours, taking nearly double the wolves allowed under a 200-wolf quota.
The DNR’s report on the February harvest found four wolves were illegally taken during the hunt, which were presented at registration. The agency detected 16 illegal killings of wolves from April 2019 to April 2020.
Research has shown that illegal kills account for around 9% of deaths each year. One study by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers, found that around 100 wolves were killed on top of the 218 wolves that were harvested during the February wolf hunt.
The DNR encourages people to report any suspected violations to its violation hotline: 1-800-TIP-WDNR.
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