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Dog depredations by wolves in Wisconsin

Dog owners are reminded to exercise caution in wolf occupied areas, especially those using their dogs to hunt. Conflicts between hunting dogs and wolves are most common during the bear training and hunting season. Dogs have also been depredated pursuing other wildlife including fox, coyotes, bobcat, rabbit, snowshoe hare and upland birds.

The DNR establishes wolf caution areas where conflicts have occurred. Caution areas can be viewed through the wolf depredation application. Individuals hunting or pursuing wildlife with the aid of dogs should view caution areas and take precautions to help reduce conflicts.

Suspected wolf attack

Anyone suspecting a wolf attack in northern Wisconsin should call USDA-WS immediately at 1-800-228-1368 (in state) or 715-369-5221. In southern Wisconsin call 1-800-433-0663 (in state) or 920-324-4514.

Caution areas, dogs and wolf behavior

When wolves attack dogs in hunting or training situations on public land, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will create wolf caution areas (see below) to warn hunters that a specific pack has attacked a dog or group of dogs. Bear hunters are urged to exercise greater caution if they plan to train hounds or hunt bear with hounds near any caution area, especially if near an actual kill site. Table 1 (see below) contains a summary of the 2019 dog depredations by wolves.

As with other wild canids, wolves are very territorial and will guard their territories from other wolves, coyotes and domestic dogs. Wolves are probably most aggressive toward strange wolves and dogs at den and rendezvous sites when their pups are small, and when protecting a fresh kill. Wolf packs have pups in spring and then later will use rendezvous sites from mid-May to late-September, after the pups are big enough to leave their den. Adult wolves are very defensive of pups at rendezvous sites and will attack other predators, including dogs, which get too close to the rendezvous site or the pups.

A pack will use from two to three to as many as six or more rendezvous sites during the summer. The exact locations vary from year to year and throughout the summer. The sites are usually forest openings or edge areas, with lots of wolf tracks, droppings and matted vegetation. Move two or three miles from any rendezvous site, if possible, before releasing dogs.

In addition, avoid releasing dogs at baits recently visited by wolves. When looking for bear sign near bait, make sure to also look for wolf tracks. Be familiar with your own dog's tracks, so that you can distinguish it from any wolf tracks. If a specific bait site is receiving a lot of wolf use, discontinue using it until wolves have left and concentrate on an alternative bait site. Some hunters have had success with bells on dog collars to reduce wolf attacks, but some dogs with bells have been attacked by wolves.

Pet dogs

Although wolf attacks on pet dogs in residential areas are rare, they do occur and have increased in recent years. These types of attacks represent a special kind of wolf depredation to domestic animals. For additional guidance and information about protecting pet dogs and bear hounds from wolves, see guidance for hound and pet dog owners.

Dog depredations

View the interactive wolf depredation and threats mapping application for locations of wolf depredations and threat conflicts.

Table 1. Dog depredations by wolves for 2020 (listed by date)
Depredation date County Dogs Maps of depredations
02/16/2020 Forest 1 Hunting Dog Killed (Walker, 7-year old female)
2/16/20 Forest County
Forest depredation location map [PDF]
03/14/2020 Wood 1 Pet Dog Killed (Yorkshire Terrier mix, 10-year old male)
3/14/20 Wood County
Wood Co. depredation location map [PDF]
07/05/2020 Jackson 1 Hunting Dog Killed, 2 injured (8-year old female Plott/Walker killed, 7-year old male Plott/Walker injured, 8-year old male Plott/Walker injured)
7/5/20 Jackson County
Jackson Co. depredation location map [PDF]
07/20/2020 Douglas 1 Hunting Dog Killed (5-year old male Plott)
7/20/20 Douglas County
Douglas Co. depredation location map [PDF]
07/21/2020 Bayfield 1 Hunting Dog Killed (3-year old femald Black & Tan)
Bayfield County
Bayfield Co. depredation location map [PDF]
07/25/2020 Iron 1 Hunting Dog Killed (4-year old female Plott)
7/25/20 Iron County
Iron Co. depredation location map [PDF]
07/28/2020 Bayfield Dogs: 1 Hunting Dog Injured (Walker, 3-year old female)
Bayfield County
Bayfield Co. depredation location map [PDF]
08/01/2020 Bayfield Dogs: 1 Hunting Dog Killed (6-year old female Walker), 1 Hunting Dog Injured (1.5-year old female Walker)
Bayfield County
Bayfield Co. depredation location map [PDF]
08/01/2020 Price Dogs: 3 Hunting Dogs Killed (3.5-year old male Walker, 3-year old female Walker, 6.5-year old Walker)
Price County
Price Co. depredation location map [PDF]
08/03/2020 Marathon Dogs: 1 Hunting Dog Killed (9-month old male Walker)
Marathon County
Marathon Co. depredation location map [PDF]

Definitions

Wolf caution areas

When wolves attack dogs in hunting or training situations, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources creates "wolf caution areas" to warn hunters of a wolf attack on hunting dogs. The purpose of these caution areas is to let hunters know that a specific pack has attacked a dog or group of dogs. It is the department's experience that once a pack has attacked a dog in a hunting or training situation, there is a high probability another attack will occur again during the same year or within the following year. These attacks will generally be on trailing hounds used to hunt bear, bobcat and coyote, but such attacks rarely occur on dogs in bird-hunting situations.

Caution areas are not intended to close areas to hunting or training, but rather to advise hunters to exercise greater caution when hunting within these areas. Greater caution can include, staying closer to dogs, avoid releasing at bait sites recently visited by wolves and avoid releasing dogs at or near the site of an attack.

The caution area map is generally considerably larger than the actual pack territory because attempts are made to use highways or easily recognized roads as the boundary of the caution area. Generally, wolf pack areas average about 40-60 square miles (5-10 miles across). Thus, portions of the caution area, especially the far corners, will be outside the actual pack area and represent no more risk than other locations across the landscape. The actual attack site is shown in a red-orange circle about one mile in diameter.

Wolf attacks on hunting/training dogs most often occur at or near rendezvous sites. These sites vary from year to year, but when an attack occurs in July, August, or early September, the attack site should be treated as a proxy for a rendezvous site and is the primary location that should be avoided. The farther away you can stay from the rendezvous site/attack sites, the lesser your risk of attack to your dogs.

Wolf rendezvous sites

Adult wolves are very defensive of pups at rendezvous sites and will attack other predators, including dogs, that get too close to the rendezvous site or the pups. Wolves are probably most aggressive toward strange wolves and dogs at den and rendezvous sites when their pups are small, during the breeding season in January and February and when they are protecting a fresh kill.

Found within a wolf pack's territory, den and rendezvous sites are specific locations used for breeding and other pack activities. Wolves begin moving their young pups from dens to rendezvous sites from mid-March to mid-May. Rendezvous sites are actively used from mid-May to mid-October.

Habitat: Rendezvous sites are generally open areas of grass or sedge adjacent to wetlands, and can be determined by the high presence of both large and small wolf tracks. Sites are characterized by extensive matted vegetation, numerous trails and beds usually at the forest edge. They are often adjacent to bogs or occur in semi-open stands of mixed conifer-hardwoods adjacent to swamps. Sometimes abandoned beaver ponds are used as rendezvous sites.

Description: Rendezvous sites are the home sites or activity sites used by wolves after the denning period, and prior to the nomadic hunting period of fall and winter. Pups are brought to rendezvous sites from dens when they are weaned and remain at rendezvous sites until they are old enough to join the pack on their hunting circuits.

Rendezvous sites may be associated with food sources such as ungulate kills or berry patches. Generally, a series of rendezvous sites are used by a specific pack. Rendezvous sites are mostly used from mid-June to late-September, but use may start as early as mid-May and can continue to early or mid-October. Some intermittent use of rendezvous sites may continue into the fall. It appears that an average of four to six rendezvous sites are used by wolf packs.