Survival Animal Attacks

Two Hunting Dogs Were Attacked by Wolves in Wisconsin Just Days into Summer Training Season

“The hound had been mostly consumed leaving only the chest, both front legs, and head/neck”  
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A bluetick hound sniffs the base of a tree.
One of the attacks involved a bluetick hound (like the one pictured here) that was killed and fed on by wolves. Photo by Daniel Teetor / Adobe Stock

On July 3, just a couple days into Wisconsin’s hound training season, two hunting dogs were attacked by wolves on two separate occasions in the northern part of the state. One of the dogs, a two-year-old bluetick trailing hound, was killed, while the other dog, a four-year-old Walker trailing hound, was injured, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Both attacks took place in Bayfield County.

“When I mapped them out, the two depredations were approximately 10 miles apart,” DNR wildlife damage specialist Brad Koele tells Outdoor Life. “One occurred early in the morning, around 5 a.m. The other one occurred a little bit later around 10 a.m.”

Koele says the DNR received reports from the dogs’ owners later that same morning, and follow-up investigations by USDA Wildlife Services confirmed that both hounds had been attacked by wolves. This is typical procedure, Koele explains. Because gray wolves are federally protected in Wisconsin, all investigations into suspected wolf depredations on livestock, pets, and hunting dogs are conducted by the feds. If a wolf attack is confirmed, the owner of the animal is then eligible for compensation through the DNR’s wolf depredation program, which Koele oversees.

The USDA’s investigation reports, which were obtained by Outdoor Life through an open records request, show that both attacks occurred after the hounds’ owners released them near fresh black bear sign.

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The earlier July 3 attack on the Walker hound took place in the Chequamegon National Forest. Shortly after releasing multiple dogs on a black bear track, the owner heard the hound being attacked from the road. The owner ran to the location and saw two wolves attacking the hound, biting into its back and tail. The owner scared off the wolves and took the dog to a vet, who performed a successful surgery and expects the dog to make a full recovery.

The other July 3 wolf attack occurred on land near the Red Cliff Reservation, where the owner released the bluetick and four other hounds on a freshly hit bear bait. (The report does not specify if the land was public or private.) Roughly 30 minutes into the chase, the owner saw on their GPS that two of the dogs had stopped moving, while the rest had scattered. The owner followed the signal and found the carcass of the bluetick hound, which had already been fed on by wolves. Another hound was hiding under a nearby log.

“I observed a drag trail 20 yards long leading to the remains of the hound,” the USDA investigator writes in the report. “The hound had been mostly consumed leaving only the chest, both front legs, and head/neck.”  

Due the straightforward findings of the investigations, Koele says both hunting dog owners can be compensated for their losses. The owner of the bluetick hound is eligible for up to $2,500 in compensation, which is the maximum amount set by the state for a hunting dog or pet that is killed by a wolf. The owner of the injured Walker hound is also eligible, and Koele says there is no limit on compensation for veterinary expenses.

“Under state statute, [hunting dog owners] are eligible for damages for death or injury. So, they would submit vet invoices to us, and we would reimburse them for those,” Koele explains. “In the past, we’ve also had some animals that were injured, and then later succumbed to those injuries. So, in that case, we would pay for both the dog and the vet care that the animal received for those injuries.”

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Wolf attacks on hunting dogs are relatively common in Wisconsin. The state is home to a thriving population of more than 1,000 gray wolves across six management zones, according to the DNR’s most recent monitoring report from 2023.

“We do see these depredations annually, and looking at our numbers, we had 28 hunting dogs killed [by wolves] and seven injured last year,” Koele says. “We’re just at the start of our bear training season here, so hopefully we don’t have too many of these events. But, you know, it is pretty normal for us to see these.”

The area around Bayfield County, which falls under Zone 1, is home to highest density of wolves in the state, with an estimated 360 gray wolves split into 70 or more packs. Not coincidentally, this is also where most wolf depredations on hunting dogs, pets, and livestock occur. (The DNR keeps close track of these events with an updated map that shows exactly where they take place.) Out of the 26 wolf depredations that the agency confirmed between April 2022 and April 2023, 22 of them were in Zone 1, and 18 involved dogs that were killed while actively hunting.