The Wolf and the Hound

The use of prolonged baiting for bears increases the chances that wolves will attack hunting dogs, scientists report.

Some hunters use bait such as sweets to attract black bears. But these traps also draw wolves, which may defend their territory against hunting dogs. Since the dogs often are let loose near bait sites, they sometimes fall victim to wolf attacks.

The team compared wolf-dog conflicts in Wisconsin, which allows hunters to start baiting in April, and Michigan, which does not allow it until August. (Dog training starts in July in both states.) The risk of a wolf killing or injuring a dog was two to seven times higher in Wisconsin, the team found. The attacks were most likely to happen at the beginning of dog training with bait.

Factors such as the number of wolves, bear hunting permits per wolf, method of hunting, and amount of time spent hunting didn’t explain the difference, the study authors say in PLOS ONE. Instead, Wisconsin’s longer baiting period may have given wolves more time to find the bait sites — and claim them as their own. Roberta Kwok | 18 April 2013

Source: Bump, J.K. et al. 2013. Bear-baiting may exacerbate wolf-hunting dog conflict. PLOS ONE doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0061708.

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