Guest Blog: A Tale of Compassionate Transition and Unconditional Love

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The following post was written by a personal friend, Jim McFarlane, about how he came to see animals as more than food and as living, feeling, and integral parts of our lives. He lost a dear member of his family this week and each and every one of us that has ever loved or been loved by a dog will understand this. Dogs are our family and we are a part of theirs. I am not so sure we humans deserve what our canine companions give us considering how so many are horrifically treated both domestic and wild. 

A week or so ago, my friend asked me if I would consider writing a guest entry for his blog, with the topic being basically how I had been a life-long carnivore for almost 47 years but as of last December (2016), I finally made the commitment to transition to a meatless lifestyle. I agreed to write this and thanked him for the opportunity to do so, but admittedly, I was having difficulty getting started. For the last six months or so, I’d already fielded the usual questions about why I had “suddenly” become a vegetarian, as if anyone suddenly wakes up one day with such an epiphany, and so I didn’t necessarily want to waste my opportunity to tell my story here rehashing the same old fodder.

In fact, I would bet that my general story is similar to that of most people. Although I believe that I will eventually realize a general improvement in my overall health and wellbeing, my decision was more of an ethical decision than health-related. That’s not to say that I feel morally superior to my carnivorous brethren, or anyone else, for that matter, I can promise you that; well, people who are not trophy hunters or bull fighters, that is. Regardless, it has been my observation that most of us Veggies gradually transition from carnivorous to meatless lifestyles after finally allowing the scales to fall from our eyes, being open-minded enough to take in the shocking information that is readily available to us, and comprehending what horrors, tortures and abject cruelty are inflicted on the animal population on a daily basis, all in the name of full bellies and entertainment.

After reading articles and watching documentaries about how our various clothing and cosmetic products, such as lipsticks, perfumes, fur coats and fuzzy boots are made, all in the name of vanity; how our factory farm systems treat our cattle, poultry, and porcine friends, all in the name of (mostly overly) full tummies; and the unspeakable behavior displayed by humans as we utilize animals as mechanisms for our fleeting concepts of amusement, such as canned game farm “hunts,” bull “fights,” trophy hunts, and organized greyhound racing, to name a few, the idea of railing against such abhorrent activities on paper while continuing to eat meat seemed…well, disingenuous, to say the least. So, after “taking the plunge,” as it were, last year and going completely meatless, it has been surprisingly easy to stay “on the wagon,” and I’m happy I did it and hope many others will consider doing so as well.

All that was well and good, of course, and I’m sure most people who read this blog are sympathetic and well aware of, and probably even more knowledgeable about, such animal welfare issues, and would react affirmatively to any reiteration of such visceral and shameful incidents. However, my friend who owns this blog informs us of just such information on a regular basis, and does so better than I ever could. So, I still struggled with how I could properly describe my feelings on the importance of animal welfare. That is, until something occurred this weekend which slammed into me at 100mph. I hope my story won’t be too long and that you will stick with it until the end, as it is important to me and I would appreciate it very much if you did.

In 2008, we brought a German Shepherd/(Beagle? Retriever? Who knows?)-mix puppy into our family. His given name was Boogie Boy, he was about 6-8 weeks old, and he was a rescue dog. Of course, the very first thing we did when we were out of earshot of the nice lady who rescued him from a kill-shelter in Indiana was to promptly rename him JJ, after the then-Milwaukee Brewers shortstop JJ Hardy. JJ was as cute a puppy as you could imagine, with big floppy ears and that classic German Shepherd tan/black coloring. As he grew during the following year, he was so full of energy and became very aggressive, biting and generally not being very nice to our daughter, damaging our property, etc, to the point that I feared we may have to give JJ to a different family. I hated that idea with a passion because our daughter loved JJ so much; even though he was aggressive toward her, she is just that kind of wonderful, loving, kind soul. It seemed like he was just being playful, but it was too rough for humans, and if he couldn’t assimilate into our family and realize that we couldn’t play with him like other animals could, that would have to be the necessary outcome. After we did some research on the matter, we came to believe that the final thing that could possibly help us was obtaining another dog to serve as a companion to JJ and hopefully, that would save his spot in our family.

In 2009, almost exactly a year after finding JJ, we found a Dodge County animal shelter listing for an approximately 1.5-2yr-old black and white female German Shepherd, who was rescued after being found roaming the streets of Milwaukee for an unknown period of time. Her backstory wasn’t really known by the staff at the Dodge County shelter—even her name wasn’t known; they said they thought she looked like a “Sophia”—but it was clear she was extremely anxious, nervous, untrusting, etc. She would bark her fool head off whenever anyone even came close to her kennel in the shelter, and it seemed as though she definitely mistrusted males in general. It didn’t seem promising at first, but she was so beautiful, and of course our daughter was smitten with her (as was I, if I’m being honest), so we decided to at least meet with her at the shelter and say we tried.

The shelter’s policy is such that you complete an adoption questionnaire/application, and then meet with an adoption specialist who reviews your app and works with you to find the right animal for your individual situation. After that is squared away and both the family as well as the adoption advocate agree upon an appropriate animal to work with as well as the ground rules of adoption, the family and animal can meet a few times and get acquainted to see if they are a good match. For the first meeting, the prospective new family are to wait in a room and the dog is cautiously brought in to meet them and the shelter employee stands by, ready to remove the animal if the meeting proved overly upsetting to either party, or even potentially dangerous.

Well, nothing could have been further from the truth in our case—“Sophie,” as we eventually decided to call her, strutted into the room, sniffed us all, turned around once or twice, and plopped down on the floor in front of our daughter, comfortably panting/smiling and crossing her paws daintily in front of her as many large breed female dogs often do when they are obviously fully content in their surroundings and with the company they are currently keeping. And yes, even though she would spend the rest of her life showing everyone in our family more love than any of us could ever imagine or probably deserved, for whatever reason, Sophie took to me in particular. That, of course, makes the end of this story all the sadder for me personally, but let’s press on—it’s so worth it.

After ten minutes or so of Sophie allowing us all to hug her and pet her and basically fall in love with her (as if that took even ten minutes), the shelter staff, as well as our family, were confident that Sophie would bond with us humans and assimilate into our family quite nicely, and unless we wanted more time with her, everyone agreed that this single meeting was sufficient proof of that. Therefore, the second hurdle to Sophie finally being placed into her forever home had been accomplished.

Now, the final obstacle is whether or not the prospective animal candidate can get along with any other animals in the family’s home; in our case, that meant the aforementioned infamously difficult, but loveable-in-his-own-way, JJ. It was the shelter’s policy that the adoption advocate observe actual in-person interactions between the animals, so there was no avoiding bring JJ to meet Sophie before we could bring Sophie home with us. Yikes! Well, that was the whole reason for us searching for a second dog in the first place, and since this was a firm shelter policy, there was no avoiding it, so we brought JJ to the shelter for the arranged meeting. Fingers crossed…

Sophie saw JJ for the first time and charged up to him, and JJ…well, Mr. Big Shot froze in place, just as nervous and curious (and frightened?) as we were to see how this meeting with this twice-his-size dog was going to go. Again, in retrospect, it’s now laughable how worried we were then—a couple of chest bumps, a butt sniff or two later, and they were chasing one another around the large, grassy front yard of the shelter, lovingly yipping and yapping together all the way. With that final hurdle cleared, Sophie found her forever home, and I met the best friend I have ever known (my wife and daughter both being the human equals to this relationship, of course).

Did JJ’s behavior improve after Sophie finally arrived at our house to stay? Did it ever! It was like a switch was flipped inside of JJ—as soon as Sophie took him under her wing and became not only his playmate, of sufficient size and weight to easily withstand his aggressive onslaughts, but also as his big sister, JJ’s demeanor toward humans (and other animals, truth to tell) instantaneously changed, transforming him into the docile, loving and adorable creature that we all knew lurked just beneath the surface. Sophie, for her part, easily and readily assumed the duties of loving family protector, conversational centerpiece, neighborhood ambassador, and the best buddy and companion I could have ever asked for.

As much as JJ has remained aloof but somewhat begrudgingly became loving of our daughter, Sophie immediately adopted her as if she was her own, loving her with all of her considerable heart and soul and being her best buddy, too. If there was ever such a thing as an instant bond between a human and another living creature, I experienced that with Sophie—I’m not sure who was as excited for me to come home from work and reuniting, Sophie or me. But that’s how she was with everyone she met and trusted; they couldn’t help but fall in love with her instantly, and if you fell into her circle of trust, she loved you unconditionally, forever. That’s how it was for us, blissfully living our near-perfect lives together for the next 8 years.

Fast forward to the very early morning hours of June 25, 2017, in the Veterinary Emergency Service Center in Madison, WI. We had to bring Sophie in for examination because she was acting so un-Sophie like—listless, no strength to walk, no sparkle in her eyes, etc. It was so strange because the day before, she was acting perfectly normal—energetic, loving us up/licking us half to death, barking at the UPS truck and driver and anyone else who dared get to close to our yard, playing with JJ, etc. The doctor on duty gave her a short examination, and we were informed that Sophie had been harboring a large growth on her spleen that had basically exploded and she was essentially beyond any meaningful help at that point. So, after spending more than an hour holding her in my arms, and crying more tears in that time (and I have had to stop more than a few times during the writing of this to dry my eyes) than I ever believed I could have produced in a lifetime, she gave me a final weak lick on my nose and laid her head on my shoulder, and we finally made the decision to let Sophie go and be at peace.

Now, as I write this and look down at JJ laying here next to me, breaking my heart with every sad hoot and drooping-head glance that tells me that he finally comprehends that his sister and best friend isn’t coming home to him, I know that he, like me, wonders how life is going to be from now on, and I don’t really know how to answer him, except to say that in time, it will; it always does, regardless of how hard it can be sometimes. I certainly don’t mean to imply that JJ is any less important in my life than Sophie, but everyone in the family knows that JJ is “mama’s boy,” and as such, has bonded to my wife as much as Sophie bonded with me, my daughter and my wife. I wonder if JJ and will grow even closer now to both me and our daughter in Sophie’s absence? I think so.

I relate this intimate story not to garner any sympathy or tug at your heart-strings, but in order to relate to anyone who will listen that Sophie was as sentient a creature as has ever existed; as warm, loving, caring, generous and giving a being as any human I’ve ever known. I have never felt such profound, utter and complete sadness as I am currently experiencing, and I do not recall ever feeling such pain and sense of loss. I know that eventually the emptiness in our hearts caused by the loss of a loved one is almost always replaced with nothing but happy and loving memories, and loss is an inevitable part of life, but her passing has impacted me as intensely as any human’s could. If that is the case, and I promise you with all my heart that it is, doesn’t she, and others like her, deserve the same expectation of treatment with kindness and respect, including any legal protections as needed, as any human does? After seeing the calm look of love, comfort and contentment in Sophie’s eyes, which could only be due to her comprehension of being in the presence of her loved ones in her last moments before she closed them forever, I will never be convinced to the contrary.

I know not everyone agrees with the humanization of animals, and so maybe would not agree with my characterization of my relationship with Sophie, but no matter; interchange her in my story with one of your own human loved ones. Now, imagine eating his or her flesh. Again, I certainly am not judging anyone for their decision to eat meat (so long as it is humanely and responsibly sourced), and I’m really not trying to be incendiary, but as I said goodbye to my best friend of 10 years, my decision to transition to a meatless lifestyle was reaffirmed and slammed home to me in an instant, and I don’t regret a thing, regarding neither my dietary decisions nor all of my time spent with Sophie.

Dogs have convinced me over my past 47 years that they, and all similar beings as they, possess highly developed, if not always overtly recognizable by we stupid humans, cognitive reasoning skills, conscious and educated thoughts, deep-seeded memories, feelings, and yes, certainly viable and measurable emotions that, while maybe not as sophisticated or definable, are still just as valid and viable as that of any human I have ever met. So then, if I was able to have formed such a fiercely loyal and lasting bond with such a being as Sophie, a bond which, I can assure you kind readers, will never dissipate with time, shouldn’t she and others like her expect and enjoy the same level of respect and humane treatment at the hands of humans as other humans do, even if it must be enforced by the pens of our legislators? If we are to agree on that concept, then shouldn’t the same be said for wild animals as well as their more domesticated kin? How do we know that wolves, coyotes, fox, bobcats, bears, deer, and so forth do not possess the same level of cognition that their more domesticated brethren?

After experiencing the copious research studies filmed, posted and published by not only members of well-respected universities and research institutions worldwide, but also from the anecdotal observations from simple layman such as me providing ample evidence of animals living sentient lives with sophisticated and developed interpersonal relationships, both with their mates as well as offspring, I personally find it difficult to believe otherwise. Regardless of all of my own personal observations and experiences with animals that may or may not influence opinions, I am certain of a few things, and I implore everyone to hear me, please.

I am certain that the maltreatment of animals by humans, whether via neglect or intentional harm, only weakens us as a species, making us less sensitive to the pain and suffering of all living creatures other than ourselves, including humans, and more and more inconsiderate to life itself, really. As we continue to commit such intentional atrocities against animals of all shapes and sizes, I believe we diminish our own species immeasurably; hopefully, not irreparably, but considering much of the news reports I’ve read in the past few years, who knows?

I am certain that vegetarians will never convert all carnivores, at least not in my lifetime, but hopefully we will grab a few more of you in the coming years.

I am certain that we will not shame or guilt most trophy hunters into ceasing and desisting their awful and disgusting activities, but maybe we can convince a few others who share the concept of basic common decency to try to help us do so. Even one or two of them is better than none.

I am certain we will never eradicate “legitimate” (non-trophy seeking) hunting altogether, but maybe we can convince its practitioners to observe responsible and humane tactics if they insist on wanting to kill other living things, until such time as they look into one too many eyes and watch precious life drain away, and hopefully they consider converting to a meatless diet as well.

Maybe all of this will happen some day, and maybe none of it will; I can only that hope some of it will. May you all be so fortunate as to have even one Sophie in your entire lifetime. If so, maybe some of my wishes will come true.

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Jim McFarlane is a Marine, two decade long law enforcement officer, vegetarian, and resides in Fall River, Wisconsin. 

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Wisconsin Hounders Poised to Get Immediate Payouts for their “Depredation” Scam

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Plott hound. This is the type of dog often used by bear hounders to fight other wildlife. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Just when you thought that Wisconsin’s “hound depredation payment” scam couldn’t get anymore ridiculous along comes this. From the Wisconsin State Journal:

Under a budget provision approved by the Joint Finance Committee, the DNR would write a check as soon as it was confirmed that a dog was killed by a wolf instead of waiting until after the start of a new calendar year. The delay had been designed to determine if enough funding was available for full payments or if they would be prorated.

In other words the already reckless legal animal fighters will have another incentive to encourage more wolf on dog fights and to make sure that their “disposable” dogs end up on the losing end so that those $2500 checks from the DNR just flow right in. In the past couple of years the Wisconsin legislature has removed the license requirement for bear hounders and baiters opening the door for an endless stream of legal animal fighters to flow into northern Wisconsin for the almost four month hound “training” season that begins July 1st of each year. This includes many hounders from states both near and far all hoping to cash in on those $2500 checks that seem to have become some sort of hounder welfare/lottery.

Let’s put this into another context. The hounders are practicing their sick “sport” of their own free will and with no oversight from the government in the form of a license. When something goes wrong while they freely participate in their “sport” it somehow becomes the responsibility of the government to pay them for their “loss.” How does that make any sense? Does the government pay you if you crash your bike on a bike trail? Does the government pay you if you sprain your ankle while playing basketball at a government owned park? Does the government pay you when you strike one of the deer that they insist remain at artificially inflated levels? No they don’t. So why do hounders continue to grift on the government for their own reckless behavior and the practice of their depraved “sport?”

The “hound depredation” payouts began as essentially a bribe to keep hounders from poaching wolves as they were filtering back into Wisconsin from Minnesota. The hope was that by paying off the hounders for dogs killed by wolves they would refrain from poaching. Nice message to send. “We know that you hounders will break the law and poach a protected species so here are some bribe payments so that you don’t.” The hounders must be such upstanding citizens that the government has to bribe them to follow the law. Does the government bribe bank robbers so that they don’t rob banks? Does the government bribe rapists, so they don’t rape? Murderers so they don’t murder? Thieves so they don’t steal? No, so why are hounders paid off so that they don’t commit crimes?

The latest action by the legislature to further encourage legal dog fighting at no risk to the hounders is appalling and shows that this state is incapable of “managing” wolves or any other form of wildlife. Wisconsin should be embarrassed that these legal animal fighters have such pull in our system of government and that you and I pay them for their reckless acts. What’s next? Placing an ATM in the middle of the woods for even faster payouts? This scam needs to end and end soon.

Read more here:

As payouts from dog-wolf conflicts reach new record, quicker payouts sought for hunters

Wisconsin WildCare: A Ray of Sunshine in Our Brutal State

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Nursing mother raccoon that the blog author photographed last week.

Being a wildlife advocate is not easy. The day after day losses and exposure to the endless cruelty is heartbreaking, demoralizing, and can often push one to the breaking point. This is why every once in awhile we must be able to cling to rays of sunshine in an increasingly cruel and bleak world for our wild friends. One of those “rays of sunshine” exists in our own state in the form of Wisconsin WildCare.

What is Wisconsin WildCare? This description comes from their website:

Wisconsin WildCare is made up of a network of licensed rehabilitators and volunteers who work together to educate the public about the benefits of and how to live with our native wildlife. Together, we strive to help people not only notice, but appreciate, the wildlife around them.When wildlife comes into conflict with people, we work with both the humans and the animals towards a humane solution. Our goal is to reduce conflict through education and prevention.Wisconsin WildCare also provides rehabilitative care to orphaned and injured wildlife. Our licensed rehabilitators and trained foster volunteers prepare the animals in our care for eventual release back into the wild.

In a state as brutal toward wildlife as Wisconsin is, Wisconsin WildCare provides a lifeline for so many innocent victims so that they get a chance at life. Each year an untold number of wild animals become casualties of Wisconsin’s brazen and endless war on wildlife or from being hit my cars. Wild babies can end up as orphans for a myriad of reasons but more often than not it is due to Wisconsin’s war on wildlife or by misguided property owners who believe that killing is the only solution to perceived “nuisance” animals. If the babies are lucky enough to be discovered following the death of their mother, Wisconsin WildCare and their passionate volunteers step in to provide 24/7 care to these babies.

Not everyone is cut out to be a volunteer foster for orphaned wild animals. For those who are Wisconsin WildCare is always in need of kind and caring individuals to help give these orphaned and injured animals a chance at life. If you can’t physically volunteer there are other ways that you can help.

The easiest way is to set up your Amazon.com account as an AmazonSmile account. AmazonSmile allows a percentage of your purchase to go toward the charity of your choice. You can set up your charity of choice to be Wisconsin WildCare.

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You can also directly donate on the Wisconsin WildCare website. Please also follow Wisconsin WildCare on Facebook.

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These are some truly wonderful people doing amazing things to give a chance at life for so many injured and orphaned wild animals, but they need your support. Please consider volunteering, making a donation, or setting up an AmazonSmile donation from each Amazon purchase. In the world of wildlife advocacy we keep going because people like these exist to help salvage life amidst the rampant and heartless death that this state promotes. Each life that is saved is a victory for our side and we need all of the victories that we can get.

How is Breeding, Raising, and Releasing Non-Native Birds to be Killed, “Conservation?”

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Female and male Chinese ringneck pheasants. These are the type of birds that are raised and released by the Wisconsin DNR for “hunter opportunity.” Photo via Wikimedia Commons

One of the most ridiculously framed arguments that the killing cartels use to justify their wanton bloodlust is that if they don’t kill wildlife, they will die. Yes that is their chief argument along with a myriad of other absurd statements. The modern “great white hunter” would lead you to believe that they are doing you a “favor” by killing millions upon millions of animals each and every year. They will also tell you they “fund conservation” through their meager killing license fees. Another fallacy. The money from those killing licenses go to fund the agencies that exist only to provide more killing opportunity. Why do I say this? Each year in Wisconsin an untold number of hand-raised and fed non-native Asian ring-neck pheasants are bred, raised, and released by the Wisconsin DNR at taxpayer expense with one goal in mind. That goal is to provide living targets to help satiate the bloodlust of the modern “great white hunter.” A question that seems elusive here is, how does raising tens of thousands of NON-NATIVE Asian birds bred only to be shot have anything to do with “conservation?” It doesn’t despite what the Wisconsin DNR and killing cartels will tell you. The state of Wisconsin has made the breeding of this non-native species of pheasant into a money maker for them to “produce” more and more birds only for the purpose of being blown out of the sky or off the ground by “great white hunters” and their shotguns strictly for “recreation.” The Wisconsin DNR, by providing facilities, staff, and taxpayer money is in the canned “hunting” business and has been for a very long time.

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Screenshot from the Wisconsin DNR Facebook page.

The DNR and killing cartels will tell you that this is “conservation” in action. I ask what exactly is being “conserved” other than the money being brought in by the “hunters” waiting at pheasant release sites with dog and shotgun in hand? In my view there is nothing even remotely related to “conservation” with this program and it exists to further exploit the sick and twisted blood cult that “hunting” in Wisconsin has become. There aren’t enough WILD animals to kill in Wisconsin? There aren’t enough “hunter opportunities” when there is one killing “season” or another open for 365 days a year? Apparently not enough to satiate that good old Wisconsin “heritage” of recreational killing. Of course should this surprise anyone? The DNR, like every other state or federal killing agency, likes to pretend that their obsession with killing, killing, and killing some more is all just “wholesome family fun” and “conservation.” If their world animals are not born, they are “produced.” In their world animals do not grow up, they are “recruited.” In their world animals are not killed, they are “harvested,” or in the most recent example of fluffing up the act of killing they are a “target animal reduced to possession.”

Kill, kill, kill some more, and if there isn’t enough to kill, the Wisconsin DNR will just “produce” more non-native animals for you to kill. Excuse me. I meant for you to “reduce to possession. As I have asked before: How is this “conservation?”

 

The NRA Wants “War” Against Animal Advocates….Bring it On

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Image from rationalwiki.org.

When not shilling for money on the backs of ruthlessly murdered grade school children or giving dystopian filled fear mongering speeches about the dangers of the “left wing” to “real” Americans, the gun industry/far right front group, the National Rifle Association (NRA), has decided to “declare war” against animal advocates.

From the article:

The gun group is rolling out a new ad campaign geared toward hunters, a segment of firearm owners whose concerns have been eclipsed as the NRA transformed into a political powerhouse and threw its weight behind fights over self-defense and access to weapons. To sway its audience, the NRA is deploying its favorite tactic. It is trying to scare them.

“To save hunting, you must understand the terms of the battle,” a landing page for the campaign reads. “Because the animal rights extremists fighting to destroy hunting have an even more destructive goal: the systematic diminishment of humanity itself.”

The ad campaign consists of 10 videos paired with essays, featuring appearances and bylines by notable hunters and outdoorsmen like David Draper, a well-known writer for Field & Stream magazine. Put together, the package paints a picture of a world where hunting is under threat by animal rights activists.

I find it quite amazing how one minute killing cartels like the NRA and their members label animal advocates as “bunny huggers” or “snowflakes” while in the next breath compare us to terrorists like Al Qaeda.

From the article:

The NRA handed off Weaver’s hunting outreach duties to Josh Powell, now the national spokesman for NRA Hunting, who is not shy about being political.

“We are in the middle of a war,” he says in one of the campaign’s videos, before comparing tangling with organizations like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Humane Society to “dealing with Al Qaeda.”

I can’t name any wildlife advocates that affiliate with PETA and even fewer that agree with their belief system. Actually it seems to me that the NRA and the famous chickenhawks that lead them or sit on their board are once again using fear and division to raise money. This kind of inflammatory rhetoric and calls for “war” against animal advocates may very well raise a lot of money but not in the way that they think. Calling millions of people “terrorists” and comparing them to international terror outfits hasn’t worked to well for other far right zealots, has it? In fact, as a veteran, I have a real problem with an organization with cowardly draft dodgers at the helm calling myself and others in the animal advocacy movement “terrorists.”

We are not the ones using FEAR to raise money. We are not the ones using FEAR to pass anti-free speech laws at the behest of “affiliate groups.” We are not the ones using FEAR to push for the eradication of imperiled predator species like wolves and grizzlies in Congress and through the courts. We aren’t the ones using FEAR to make every rube believe that over the last eight years the “scary black man” in the White House was going to knock on your door and take your precious guns. Instilling FEAR is a component of TERROR thus leading to terrorism. Terrorism is a tactic most often used to achieve political gain. Remind me again who look like the REAL “terrorists” here? It sure isn’t the millions of animal advocates. Could it instead be the behemoth gun industry/far right front group that uses FEAR to rake in the dollars?

Pot meet kettle NRA. It’s actually quite pathetic that these big tough, rugged, and “patriotic” Americans are so scared of the little snowflake bunny huggers like myself and the millions of other animal advocates. I guess they better just go buy more guns………

 

Man That Tortured Three Coyotes With a Snowmobile in 2009 Received $5000 in 2016 for “Hound Depredations”

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Coyote photo via Wikimedia Commons

Last week I wrote about a hounder by the name of Michael Wood from Amery, Wisconsin that received $5000 from the Wisconsin DNR in 2016 for two hounds that were allegedly killed by wolves. In the post we pointed out that a subject with the same name out of Amery had a conviction on three counts of intentionally mistreating animals in 2009 out of Bayfield County.

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Screenshot of OPEN RECORD from the Wisconsin Court System Circuit Court Access 

Upon further research we found that the same subject was also under open charges for poaching a bear and resisting a warden in September of 2016, two months after the alleged “depredation” of his hounds.

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Screenshot of OPEN RECORD from the Wisconsin Court System Circuit Court Access 

Through an open records request we were able to obtain the original criminal complaint for the 2009 incident that Wood was convicted of and it is even more horrifying than we imagined.

From the criminal complaint:

Complainant is a Conservation Warden with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. She makes this complaint on information and belief from the records and reports collected and maintained in the ordinary course of business. On Friday, February 20, 2009 at approximately 4:41 p.m. Egstad was at the Bayfield DNR Office when she received a phone call concerning a snowmobiler chasing what the caller thought to be a wolf on the ice of Lake Superior on Bark Bay, west of Cornucopia in the Town of Bell, Bayfield County, Wisconsin. Egstad left the office and proceeded towards the site of the complainant. Egstad spoke by phone with Dan and Sharon Sheldon who stated that they had watched one person on an orange snowmobile chase around what they believed to be a wolf on the ice at Bark Bay and had hit the animal with his snowmobile. They observed the person pick up the animal and drive to the Bark Bay point boat landing. They stated that they had observed the snowmobiler chase the animal for 30 minutes at least and hit the animal a couple of times with the snowmobile. At approximately the same time Egstad was contacted by Mark Hanson, Bayfield Department of Natural Resources Creel Clerk who stated that he had observed a snowmobiler chasing coyotes and hitting them as well as picking them up when they were laying on the ice. Hanson stated that he had taken digital photos of the pick-up truck that the snowmobiler was driving. The plate of the vehicle came back registered to Michael J. Wood of Amery, Wisconsin, the defendant herein. Egstad had previously been advised that the truck in question was at a residence in the area. Egstad went to the location and met with Michael Wood. Egstad was advised by Wood that he had been out fishing on the ice during the day and had gotten three coyotes that were in his trailer. Egstad asked Wood how he had gotten the coyotes and Wood stated that he had shot them with his .22. Egstad observed the coyotes and believed them to be suffering from much more damage than if they had been shot with a .22. Wood denied using his snowmobiles to hit the coyotes but admitted to following them until they were tired and then shot them. Egstad observed Wood’s snowmobile and the track and belly pan had blood under the front end skis and track consistent with the animals having been run over. Egstad seized the three coyotes and subsequently had them skinned. No bullet hole was found in the carcass or skin or coyote number one, however, major trauma was located throughout the body. Coyote number two was also skinned and again evidence of severe trauma was located, however no bullet hole was observed. Coyote number three showed severe trauma throughout the body, however, trauma was also located in a restricted area near the location of one bullet hole.

Download the entire criminal complaint:

Michael Wood Criminal Complaint 2009

This person received $5000 of taxpayer money for two separate hound “depredation” incidents in 2016 despite having this type of history. Then two months after the “depredations,” Wood allegedly poached a bear and is also charged for resisting a warden. Did this stop the DNR from this year paying out the $5000 for 2016 AFTER the new charges were filed? No it did not. Once again we have not only a convicted criminal being rewarded for TWO separate incidents where his hounds were allegedly killed by wolves, but he still receives the payment from the DNR after allegedly poaching a bear and resisting a warden. This guy tortured three coyotes with a snowmobile and was convicted for it. Then he allegedly poaches a bear and resists a warden. Is it any surprise that he is also a hounder that recklessly puts his dogs in danger and gets two of them killed? That sure doesn’s surprise me.

Have we had enough yet Wisconsin? Contact your state legislators and tell them ENOUGH of this scam and ENOUGH of rewarding reckless hounders and convicted criminals for their behavior.

Find your legislators HERE

 

 

Guest Blog: What happens in the woods should not stay in the woods…the secret must be told

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What is the secret?

Baiting bears begins April 15th and continues until bear hunting season ends around mid-October. Baiting is allowed in Wisconsin 145 days before the bear hunting season begins. This means unlimited bait sites, 10 gallons per site, to total six months of junk food to condition bears each and every year. Anyone may bait bears as long as they are not fed for viewing purposes. Baiting is also used to train bear hounds beginning July 1st. Packs of up to six, usually GPS-collared hounds, are used for dog training by releasing them at bait sites. In 2016; 41 hounds were killed; mostly by wolves as hounds were released at bait sites to chase bears. Wolves also bring their three to four month-old pups to bait stations that are often near their rendezvous sites. Protective wolf parents often are forced to attack marauding hounds to protect their pups. Wisconsin is the only state which compensates hounders for hounds killed by wolves. Each hound death amounts to a $2500 payout for the hounder along with any veterinary fees for injured hounds. Wolves are often targeted with very real threats of retaliation from bear hounders for the deaths of their hounds despite the monetary compensation. Hounding bears began in Wisconsin in the 1960’s. No license is needed to hound bears in Wisconsin. No permit is needed to bait bears in Wisconsin. Michigan also hounds and baits, but in 2015 only five hounds were killed in Michigan compared to 23 in Wisconsin. An MTU study was even done to sort this disparity out. The conclusion was the number of hounding days allowed, excessive baiting days, and the generous reimbursement created the difference and likely exacerbated the conflicts between hounds and wolves.

So how does this affect me?

Baiting has already to come to your neck of the woods. You just might not be aware of it. Baiting is allowed throughout most of the state even in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Each baiter averages 437.4 gallons of donuts, frosting, pie filling, jam etc. in a season. Spread that around Wisconsin and you have a lot of bait spread over our public and many private lands. 4.6 MILLION gallons worth.

Do other animals feed at bear baiting sites?

Deer, raccoon and other animals have been documented feeding at these bait sites. Congregating wildlife increases the risk of disease transmission and human scents becomes associated with food causing wild animals to lose their natural wariness. Other concerning factors related to baiting include law enforcement receiving complaints of nuisance bears, trespassing hounds (often miles ahead of the hounders), baying hounds at night, and abandoned hounds. Mother bears often do not bring their cubs to bait sites and bear cubs may be orphaned as their mothers flee packs hounds. The bears are often running miles for several hours in the heat of summer. The mother bear may never be able to return to her cubs potentially causing the orphans to die of starvation.

Is it possible to for wildlife advocates and hunters to agree on a bear baiting resolution limiting days of baiting & number of bait sites?

Yes, there is! A resolution limiting baiters to 3 permitted sites; with baiting 30 days prior to bear hunting season was passed at the Jackson County Spring Conservation Congress hearing. 48 voted for the resolution with nine voting against. Most of the voters were hunters including some bear hunters. Jackson County is rural with a wide array of wildlife including bear, wolves, and elk. If the resolution were to be passed by the Wisconsin Conservation Congress (WCC) bear committee it would then be placed on the 2018 Spring Conservation Congress ballot to be voted on. The resolution itself is not a victory, but it does serve to draw attention the impact that bear baiting is having on Wisconsin.

Does the Wisconsin Conservation Congress have the ability to make policy changes?

I have attended the Spring WCC meetings for around  20 years. I have vied for the position of a WCC delegate four times and was not elected. I have proposed two resolutions which have passed. I view this as my opportunity to represent the voiceless of Wisconsin-our wildlife. The WCC is a citizen advisory board to the DNR. They are tasked to represent Wisconsin ALL residents regarding matters of wildlife, land, air, and water. Unfortunately, the annual WCC hearings are very poorly attended by citizens other than hunters, trappers, and fisherman. Most questions voted upon are meant to enhance fishing, trapping, and hunting opportunities with WCC delegates most often representing the above listed special interest groups. A resolution voted for in the Spring Hearing will be taken under consideration by two WCC committees, the DNR, the Natural Resources Board, and finally may be subject to legislative action. When a proposal reaches the level of legislative action Wisconsin has a history of allowing undue influence from lobbyists representing but not limited to various hunting groups such as The Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, the NRA, and big agriculture entities such as the Farm Bureau Federation among others. Change does not come easy.

How many states allow bear baiting?

Bear baiting is illegal in 40 states. Bears are hunted in 27 states; 17 states allow hounding, and seven states including Wisconsin allow both hounding and baiting. Michigan allows three bait sites per hunter with baiting occurring 11 to 30 days prior to the bear hunting season. Minnesota allows baiting 14 days before the hunting season at three permitted sites per bear hunter and does not allow hounding. In recent studies only 27 percent of Americans approve of hunting over bait. It is also believed baiting increases bear litter size.

So, what can I do about it?

We are at a tipping point in Wisconsin with a greater number of bears, baiters, hounds, and bear hunters on the ground than ever before. People need to tell everyone that they know what is really allowed here in Wisconsin. Talk to your local DNR wardens and legislators. You can also contact Dave MacFarland, the DNR’s carnivore specialist at 715-365-8919 regarding questions about ho Wisconsin “manages” predators.  Many residents and even hunters are unaware of the baiting situation. Perhaps when a comment is made about a bear roaming around a city or backyard let people know bears are baited for six months of the year and may be looking to keep that reliable food source coming. Maybe you will hear someone sickened by the hounds that are killed by wolves. That would be a prime opportunity to let them know the wolves side of the story. Perhaps deer hunters are lamenting over deer baiting bans. Try to make them aware that despite deer bait bans that bear hunters are still allowed to bait despite documentation that deer will appear at bear bait sites. The secret must be told…

Diane Cain is a small business owner, registered nurse, and a strong advocate for our wildlife and wild lands. Diane grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm and currently lives on a small farm of her own.