At a tense hearing Tuesday on using dogs for hunting wolves — at which one anti-hunting advocate was ordered out of the meeting — critics of the state's controversial wolf hunt argued that violent and fatal fights between dogs and wolves will be impossible to stop if the agency goes ahead with plans to allow dogs in the next hunt.
The hearing took place before the Natural Resources Board, which sets policy for the state Department of Natural Resources. Part of the board's regular monthly meeting, the hearing was held to satisfy an order from Dane County Circuit Judge Peter Anderson, who heard a lawsuit challenging the use of dogs. On Jan. 16, Anderson lifted an injunction against using dogs for wolf hunting in the 2013 hunting season. He also ordered the DNR to decide whether to create more extensive rules — the subject of Tuesday's hearing.
The agency is already considering permanent rules that would limit packs of hunting dogs to six animals, prohibit using dogs at night and limit the training of wolf-hunting dogs to the open wolf hunting season and the month of March. After testimony Tuesday, the board voted unanimously to continue with the permanent rule-making process and not to consider additional rules at this time. More public hearings on the issue will be held in coming months.
But several speakers Tuesday afternoon spoke vehemently against the practice of using dogs, regardless of rules.
"This isn't Rome," said Ron Fitzpatrick, a lawyer and dog owner from La Crosse. "This is barbaric."
Fitzpatrick said it is unlikely hunters will be able to stop fights between dogs and wolves, resulting in the deaths of animals. While the law setting up the wolf hunt makes legal the use of dogs to track and trail wolves, it does not permit hunters to allow the dogs to kill wolves.
Fitzpatrick said it makes little difference what the law says.
"The wolves can't climb trees," Fitzpatrick said. "They are going to turn and fight for their lives. And it's going to be ugly."
Al Lobner, head of the Wisconsin Bear Hunters' Association, said the group is against further rules and said more strict rules would be "discriminating to those of us who prefer to hunt with hounds."
Lobner, questioned by the board, said he has never had a dog killed by a bear while hunting or seen a dog kill a bear. He said he has never hunted wolves with dogs.
Board member Dave Clausen, former chairman, said he agreed with those who testified that fights and fatalities seem inevitable.
"I'm a veterinarian," Clausen said. "I'm a hunter. I know something about animal behavior. There are going to be these interactions. That's my personal feeling. And that's dog fighting."
One speaker, animal rights activist Patricia Randolph, was ordered escorted from the emotional meeting after she testified. Testifying before the board, she displayed a heavy eight-foot pole wrapped on one end with barbed wire and said dog hunters use it to snare game cornered by dogs from culverts and other hiding places.
"Maybe I should use this on some of you," Randolph said.
Board Chairman Preston Cole immediately halted the meeting and ordered Randolph be taken from the room by a law enforcement officer.
"Let me call a timeout," Cole said. "We will not be intimidated."