(Warning: This is not a happy holiday tale. I write it only because it is about an important issue, and something I’ve been involved in for almost two years. I wish more than I can say that I didn’t feel a need to tell you this story.)
On January 22nd, 2016, Frannie and Gary were shot and killed by a coyote hunter. Frannie, a joyful, luminous Husky, was shot in the chest. Her lungs collapsed, and she died on the trail at Badfish Creek Wildlife Area in Dane County, WI.
Gary, described as a 75 pound, slap-happy, yellow-furred, Mastiff cross, was shot from behind. His pelvis was shattered, and he died a few days later after extensive efforts to save him.
The hunter, who thought the dogs were coyotes, was charged with two misdemeanor counts of mistreatment of animals and one count of reckless handling of a firearm. At his trial this week in Madison, WI, proceedings were paused because the court reporter began crying as the dog’s owner, Veterinarian Dr. Deanna Clark, described the heartbreak of leaving Frannie on the trail as she died in order to try to save her other dog. She thought Gary might have a chance to survive. He didn’t.
Heartbreaking doesn’t begin to describe this case. Dr. Clark loved Frannie and Gary like I love my dogs, and like many of you love yours. In court, she described her dogs as “her life.” She was running them that night, with reflective vests on, in preparation for a 200-mile skijoring race in one of the few places where dogs are allowed to be off leash in Dane County. The sign at the entrance to the area says that hiking and skiing are allowed and that dogs are allowed most of the year, except during the spring/summer nesting season of some ground-nesting birds. That’s not all that is allowed at Badfish: You can hunt coyotes there too, day or night.
You couldn’t set up a recipe for heartbreak better if you tried: Allow rifle hunting at night, when it’s dark and difficult for a hunter to identify his target. Allow night hunting of coyotes, canids who are often mistaken for domestic dogs or wolves. Allow rifle hunting in areas that also encourage hikers, dog walkers, star gazers and bird watchers. Allow rifle hunting (and trapping) in areas that, prior to a new law passed in 2015, were previously 100% safe for those of us who love the out doors, who cherished being able to share them with all of our loved ones, whether two or four-legged.
This is why this case is not just about a locally beloved veterinarian and the unbearable death of her dogs. She and I now live in a state where safe access to public land, including in county parks and associated areas, has been so compromised that many of us have lost the ability to enjoy the beautiful land in which we live. The current legislature is obsessed (there is no other word) with hunter’s rights and their access to every possible piece of public property, including land where hunting was historically not allowed. The “Hunting Heritage Bill” of 2012 opened up our state parks to hunting and trapping. The WI Department of Natural Resources authorized year-round 24/7 coyote hunting in areas utilized by hikers, skiers and bird watchers. As of 2015, over 97% of DNR property is now open to hunting and trapping, along with 5 million acres of federal and county properties which previously did not allow hunting. The results have been predictable: Several dogs were shot by coyote hunters in 2016, and over 90 dogs were caught in traps.
But the beat goes on. This month a law has been proposed to exempt hunting hounds from having dog licenses and proof of rabies vaccinations carried by their owners while hunting. These dogs are allowed to run loose across the countryside, far away from their owners, and out of their control. (However, all non-hunting dogs, including dogs who are never let off leash and who live in the city, must show proof of a license and rabies tag.) Another law would make it illegal to enforce any and all laws relating to endangered species (read “wolves”). Wrap your head around that: The only way to enforce the law is to break it. To quote a line from the play, Hamilton, “The world turned upside down.”
I am grieving for what all of us in Wisconsin have lost. Dr. Clark is no longer able to enjoy walking outside. Neither am I, at least off my own property. Because of the new laws that opened up so much public land to hunters and trappers, most of us have no idea where it is safe to walk, whether with dogs or without. According to trial testimony by a DNR warden, it was not legal for Deanna to have off-leash dogs in Badfish Creek. However, he agreed that the sign at the entrance suggested the opposite. In addition, according to a representative from Dane County Parks who spoke at a community education event I attended, it IS legal to have dogs off leash in such areas. As a matter of fact, he told me in person that he runs his dogs off leash in similar areas. Confused? Who isn’t? As a result of this confusion, many of us have significantly curtailed our use of public land, land that used to be closed to hunting and trapping.
And that is everyone’s heartbreak. Our land has been stolen from us. I say that in complete support of responsible hunting. As a biologist, I have no problem with the responsible use and management of game animals. I have venison in my freezer. But there is nothing responsible about the state of Wisconsin opening up millions of acres of public land to uses that inherently create risk, and has the effect of keeping most citizens of the state out of our own public lands. My only hope is that the deaths of Frannie and Gary will not be in vain, and lead to a reconsideration of these contradictory uses of public land in Wisconsin. Here’s to the two of them, may their joyful, trusting spirits that live on in Dr. Clark’s heart prevent more tragedies in the future.
Here is a photo of Frannie and Gary from Dr. Clark’s Facebook page:
[Note: Two things. First, you may be wondering what you can do. I am too. Right now, the best course of action for citizens of Wisconsin is to contact your local legislators and talk to them about this issue. You can also stay tuned; after the holidays I’ll be working with others on this issue and I’ll keep you posted. Second, the jury found the hunter, Kurt Rausch, guilty of one count of mistreatment of animals. Sentencing will be in February of 2018.]
Alice R. says
I almost cannot process the horror of what Dr Clark has experienced. The hunter shot dogs in reflective vests with almost complete immunity, and could have just as easily shot a person in a vest. I cannot imagine anyone thinking the new laws you described are not insane. Please. I will be looking for your information and a way to help.
It is so sad that the WDNR is interested only in making money, that’s what it’s all about. It is a department that is and has always been out of control.
Paula S. says
Night hunting with rifles. Unimaginable. Wisconsin treats hunters like Iowa treats farmers. Untouchable.
I hope you can get things changed, but it will be dangerous for a long time, even if the laws are changed back.
I can’t remember the last time I saw a coyote in a reflective vest yet that moron shot them anyway and got away with it. A double standard in law benefits no one but hounders tend to think they own the woods and your lands too I know cause I have to deal with them all the time. Only when the laws are equal for every one will this horrible stuff stop happening.
Kaye wickenberg says
Last winter our very obedient border collie wander off our property trail about ten feet only to be entangled in a coyote snare trap baited with a canine pheromone. Fortunately my husband was close by and heard him howl. The trap was around his neck. He sat quietly while the neck snare was removed and was fine.
First of all we were concerned that he may have eaten poisoned bait so contacted our neighbor who said it was not and that his friend had been given permission to bait traps along the Kettle moraine Forest land which borders our woods. Apparently this fun sport involves shooting trapped animals!
These traps have been removed as far as we can tell but know that we keep a close watch on our dog when walking even in our own woods. Deer hunting season is totally crazy so we keep a reflective jacket on him at all times even though our land is posted.
Donna T says
Night hunting. It is beyond belief this is supported by anyone – most especially a government agency. Public lands are managed/owned by the government in the best interest of the people – right? We pay taxes to support the upkeep of those lands. What liability does the government have for endangering innocent people and their pets by allowing night hunting?
The hunter allegedly told the investigator he “saw the eyes of what he believed to be a coyote and a face and pointy ears and pulled the trigger.” What if it had been a child with a funny knitted cap? Would it still be a misdemeanor? I simply cannot imagine the horror Dr. Clark experienced that night and since.
Nothing to say except I’m really sorry. If there is anything non-Wisconsinites can do to help please let us know. The country’s going crazy right now, hope it comes to its senses soon.
John Reynolds says
This is so sad and so completely unnecessary. Maybe the solution is to take the WI DNR to court?
In MN the state is pitting a very small group of trappers against 2 million companion dog owners and 300,000 bird hunters. So far the trappers have been able to obstruct any changes to the regulations even though it won’t prevent them from trapping or using body grip traps. It’s legal to set 220 body grips baited with dog food on the ground right on hunter/hiking trails.
I no longer hunt grouse when bobcat trapping opens and most years I don’t hunt at all. Many other grouse hunters have told me that they no longer hunt or if they do it’s very restricted.
Shirley Elliott says
All of these hunters shooting, trapping, knives, etc. slaughtering, killing with torturous death, for no reason needs to be made to stop. There is no reason to kill off our wildlife. There are so many that want to protect them not make them extinct! Leave them alone. Stay away from their homes. They have a right to live as much as these blood thirsty inhumane hunters do. Really more!
doug lundy says
maybe we should SHOOT BACK!
As an owner of dogs that have been referred to as coyotes or coyote-like by people who don’t know better (we have a Shiba and a Hokkaido Ken, with similar pricked ears, body shape, size, and coloring of a coyote), this scares the hell out of me. We live in Oregon, so it’s time for me to go read up on our hunting laws and what’s legal and not legal where. That, of course, only assumes we have to deal with people following those rules all the time; we’re continually reminded in the news doesn’t happen with stories of poaching and hunting rule violations.
Patricia from Brazil says
I am so sorry for Frannie and Grey, they are beautiful angels and I wish I could do something to bring them back I would without a blink. I am crying so much, I am so, so sorry. If my dog was shot I would wish nothing but to end this unerthly suffering, oh god this suffering is killing me just to having heard of it. Criminal politicians have set this up for our dear animals of the world and I wish so hard everyone involved in gun killing will pay triple the price, for eternity and beyond.
Mona Lindau says
Sad beyond endurance. I thought we had progressed a bit when some states started recognizing a dog as something of value, more than a thing, more than a four-legged chair. What is it with men (well, mostly men) being so obsessed with killing? Never mind what he kills, as long as he can shoot and kill. What is with that?
It almost makes me glad to live in Illinois…how horrible for this dog owner.
Karen DeBraal says
WI appears to have lost its mind with regards to hunting and trapping. The state is rife with torture and the fostering of a violent culture. Want to give your toddler a gun? You can legally do that! Bring hounds in to go after dogs with no proof of rabies or vaccinations? Feel free! Bait bears in known wolf denning areas during denning season and fight your dogs with the baited bears and let dogs get killed by wolves in the denning areas? Hoo boy! If your dog gets killed by a wolf, the state endangered species fund will reimburse you — nice way to off the dogs that don’t measure up, too.
And hey, if rabid dogs infect the wolf population, all the more reason to kill more of them. I could go on and on.
Thanks for speaking up, Patricia. I have been a fan for a long time.
Irene A says
Unbelievable horror. I camp in northern Wisconsin. I think this is totally irresponsible for the DNR to allow this. My dogs cannot be off leash even at the campground. I agree a lawsuit on the DR is called for.
I wonder if the explanation for the legislature being ‘obsessed’ with hunters’ rights has to do with massive funding by pro-gun groups. If they want their re-election campaign to be funded they do as they’re told, as bad as that may be for the people of Wisconsin. I worry that logic and evidence are not going to go far, given that our legislature does not represent us well and that they are so beholden. I also wonder why this is so little known and reported on. The details of these rules, their outcomes for animals and humans are MASSIVE. It is changing life in Wisconsin yet, with the exception of people who follow Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf or who are named Patricia McConnell, every single person I talk to is mostly unaware of it, including the WPR fundraiser knocking on doors in my neighborhood. I am so glad you have written about it. I will certainly stay tuned.
Dave Wennlund says
I’m grieving for the beautiful Coyotes too…
Carmen T Mendoza says
As someone who has been documenting all huskies that are intentionally killed for the last 4 years, I find the verdict truly appalling! How can anyone defend this man’s outright carelessness that resulted in the HOMICIDE of two family members? How could the jurors let this one go with one misdemeanor charge and not a double count felony? I mean, how could anyone believe the blatant lie that two huskies wearing vests could be coyotes? This type of cruelty is happening around the country and some people think that it’s ok to kill not only dogs, but family members. They are not property as the laws currently define pets. We need legislation to change that term so that despicable acts of cruelty can be rightly punished. Enough is enough!
Doreen Smart says
Something needs to change!! I have a horse and I won’t go out during hunting season. Even wearing orange and putting orange on my horse I don’t feel safe and that’s during the day! Why on Earth would we allow hunting at night in the first place!? Our beautiful country side of Wisconsin should be enjoyed by her citizens. I come from a family of hunters and they have never gone out hunting at night. A person’s visibility at night is so compromised why on earth would you even say it’s ok for anyone to walk around with a gun or guns in their hands?! Makes no sense. Deanna, you are always in my thoughts and prayers. RIP sweet, sweet dogs.
I live in Illinois, but I spent the weekend in Wisconsin at the opening of deer season. I was there for a herding trial, but only one of my dogs competes. I was wanted to take a nice hike so that both of my dogs could have some fun, but I wasn’t sure of where to go that would be safe. There seemed to be hunters everywhere. I thought I was being paranoid and/or just hadn’t done my homework. It is so sad to hear that there was really no safe place.
When did things get so lopsided? Hunters and trappers had a long history of respectfully using and giving back to the land and its animals. Not so anymore. Trappers, 4-wheelers, snowmobilers, and some hunters now look at all land as theirs to use and any opposition is tagged as elitist. It’s been swinging this way long before our dystopian dictator took over.
Years ago, we were in the Chesapeake Bay area on vacation, and we were walking along this long, thin spit of beach. Our dog was ahead, and she started screaming. She had walked into an old, rusty leg-hold trap. It was too rusty to do any damage but scared all of our wits right out of us.
I can’t imagine what it would be like to be trapped or shot by a gun — it must be especially nightmarish when you’re out in the woods or on a trail, and your mind and emotions have calmed, and you’re exercising and watching your dogs run and admiring how the ecosystems overlap. And then BAM! It’s so jarring as to be PTSD-inducing traumatic.
The sense of entitlement rather than engagement is down right infuriating. (I guess this topic makes me a little passionate.)
I am so sorry for the Doctor and for Wisconsin.
Just days before Dr. Clark’s wrenching story (so sorry) hit the news in ’16, I had my first encounter with the world of trapping in Wisconsin’s Wildlife Areas.* (Long story alert so for the legally informative part, you can skip down to the asterisk.)
I had been visiting them year round without incident for a long time. Then one day I saw a guy head out with a large backpack, the kind you’d wear if you were thru-hiking a major national trail. (It was curious since no camping is allowed in the Wildlife Areas, but I figured that he might be training with a weighted pack for a long hike.) In retrospect, I think he was a trapper. On my next visit the dogs and I found a live coyote snared around her neck in a cable trap. She was jumping up trying to free herself. Bleeding from the cable. It appeared she was distressed at being restrained, but she displayed no aggression (as did the three coyotes who I found trapped along the road between parking lots the following day.) I returned the dogs to safety and hiked back alone. I knelt sideways at a distance from her and in my naivety, wondered if she’d been snagged on fishing/boating garbage and that I could free her somehow. It took me too long to accept that she had been trapped, that there was nothing I could do (safely or legally) and that my presence was more harmful than anything. Both helpless. Sobbed for her and apologized before leaving. I put up a sign at the trailhead that read Dog Walkers: Live coyote in snare just past woods on left side next to trail. Trappers: Really? I went back early the next morning and she was gone. But on my way there I passed the 3 coyotes in traps only a few minutes walk from the car, with cables long enough so that they could snap and lunge at the dog walkers and labs ahead of me on the gravel road, and do the same to me too. One of the craziest things I’ve ever seen. I had no idea such things were possible and was mentally and emotionally unprepared.
I talked to the DNR and learned a lot about our system. One of the wardens committed to checking up on the traps, and I believed he would. I haven’t found a single trap found in the years since, so I wonder if trappers traveled the state after the law change…
*Wildlife Areas here are considered undeveloped and as such, have no formal trail system. So while laws exist regulating the proximity of traps to trails, a trapper can legally set anything anywhere within a Wildlife Area. This particular area has two parking lots, one closed for winter, with a gravel road that connects them. It’s a main winter trail for a regular group of dog walkers. There are also mowed trails maintained by the DNR throughout the vast property. Yet on paper they have no trails. They also have sections deemed Wildlife Refuge, with signs that state no entry permitted from Nov. 1 thru Nov. 24 (pardon if the dates aren’t exact), except for Deer Gun Hunting and for that purpose alone (essentially, the wording escapes me.)
So we have trails that aren’t trails and refuges that are only a refuge for animals other than deer.
I come from a hunting family and have no problem sharing our areas with different types of activities. I seek out places where no one is parked, and I don’t want my presence to affect you anymore than yours should affect me. I’ll abstain from certain areas completely when deer gun season begins, then enjoy a bit of a break before the hyper vigilance of scanning ahead for traps during the coldest months when the furbearers pelts are at their peak. Then leash up the dogs during nesting season in April. I hope we figure something else out here, and many, many thanks to anyone involved in doing so.
CK Thomas says
I just don’t know what the world is coming to. The majority at the mercy of a strongly opinionated, strongly lobbied and strongly financed minority. What kind of a fool thinks a coyote wears a reflective vest. Considering he was able to hit both dogs – he sure could see what he was shooting at. Guns and stupidity just don’t mix, and it sounds like Wisconsin has found a really horrid recipe to invest in. I live in Virginia – hunting season usually leaves me too scared to take my horse or my dogs off property – and sometimes I’m even scared about being on supposedly safe property when folks are hunting on the farm next door. Too many people are too quick on a trigger. All you get is heartbreak.
Cindy Noland says
In NY state a person shot their neighbor woman after dusk, claiming he thought she was a deer. Finally, someone is being held accountable and the man is being charged with involuntary manslaughter. I hope this sets a precedent and more hunters are held responsible for their “hunting accidents”.
Michelle McMillen says
This story just adds to the despair I feel for my country. I suppose several people, maybe children, will have to be shot before the legislators pull their heads out and make safer and more sensible laws.
This is beyond hideous. This is a retrograde step for humanity, ecosystems and nature. I can imagine that you must feel sick to your stomach as a nature lover and a biologist. I can not for the life of me imagine what that would feel like to have your dogs slaughtered and fatally wounded while out running in nature. My heart goes out to Deanna Clark.
Without wanting to appear smug I am so relieved to be living in the UK where we have sensible gun laws. We have challenging political issues (Brexit, also regressive, lots of other issues too numerous to mention) but our PM recently announced a commitment to try to see an end to animal cruelty and set the example for animal welfare. That remains to be seen and as a cynic I am somewhat sceptical, but then I can walk my dog off lead in the countryside without fear of either of us being shot and killed. Long may that continue.
Killing for sport is not to be condoned whether traditional or not. It is psychopathic slaughtering. I do not feel safe with people who take pleasure in killing sentient beings with carnage inducing weapons. What a past time. Try video games.
100 yards. She was the length of a football field from her door.
What a nightmare. This is an issue in so many areas. Night hunting is such a terrible idea.
Dorte Nielsen says
So very sad.
Rest in peace, beautiful dogs.
Carl Spitzweg: Der Sonntagsjäger (1845)
Amber Wiseman says
Wow, that is so scary and sad! I’ve been wanting to visit Wisconsin and go camping with my dogs and was looking at staying at a state park, but maybe I will reconsider 🙁
Sadly it is not just Wisconsin, The hunting fervor is in most states with tragic consequences. 1986. The coyote hunters in Washington state did not see my purebred Morgan mare behind the coyote they were aiming at when they shot across my pasture. I was not home at the time and returned wonder why my beautiful 15 year old girl was only on three legs. What followed was several weeks of frantic medical emergency treatment including soaking her lower leg in a bucket of hot water many times per day until the vet consented to load up and bring his mobile x-ray machine. That was when we found her lower leg was totally shattered with only a slight mar on the Corona of her hoof to indicate there had been any injury. There was nothing that could be done for her. I will never get the sound of her hoofs hitting the ramp on the knackers van out of my mind. I only discovered what happened to her weeks later when the neighbor came over and said he sure missed seeing that beautiful bay mare in my pasture and we pieced the story together.
Both in Washington state and South Dakota that I later moved to, I never took my dog sled team out in November without wearing an orange vest and still fearful I would be shot.
Beth Rodgers says
Heartbreaking indeed. I left Wisconsin because of the direction so many such rules were taking and the devastating effects on quality of life, the environment, conservation, etc. Unfortunately I have learned that Wisconsin was just at the leading edge of a broader movement along these lines. We need to see that all of the stores of devastation, loss, and tragedy are shared and we must never give up in our effort to do what is right to counter the heartless destruction of so many precious resources, including our own beloved family members. Thank you for sharing this. My heart goes out to everyone affected by these thoughtless actions and policies.
Steph B. says
This story is so terribly sad, and could be prevented if laws were changed. More lands being open to traps in Wisconsin is a growing problem. My family is from that area, and my aunt’s dog (a lovely little Bichon) was caught in a coyote trap set in a treeline very close to a roadway – an area they had walked many times before. The result was that the dog’s leg was broken, and the trap snapped across her face as well, breaking several teeth and puncturing from her mouth straight through to her nasal cavity. The area my aunt was walking her dog is a common and legal area for pedestrian/canine traffic, and is ALSO now a legal area for trapping. What could possibly go wrong? 🙁
Unfortunately, your Governor is a carbon copy of the man in the oval office, and your Congressman who leads the house. Wisconsin needs to get people who care about their state to get out and vote reasonable people into office.
We have a system for shared use that works reasonably well. There is a (very real) need to control the feral pig population and a strong hunting culture. The State park is parceled into hunting and non-hunting areas. Hunting pigs is allowed year round, but limited to weekends and holidays…
An advocacy group in your state might get the most support if you can avoid an us (animal lovers) against them (hunters) label. Maybe something like, ‘Citizens for Public Safety?’
Traps should be registered, just like any lethal weapon, and removed by the owners on non-hunting days.
The proposed rule change concerning hounds/rabies vaccinations so defies any sort of logic or commonsence, – I’m speechless!
Perhaps the problem is we are not thoroughly vetting people who can be allowed to run in politics.
Your current President is a moron. And that is the nicest word I could think of to describe him. Other words are – Incompetent, cruel, narcissistic, dangerous, foolish, reckless, abusive and selfish.
He embodies the dominant toxic regressive male stereotype. Judgemental and ruthless. He is the living embodiment of an example of a human who should NOT be leading a progressive nation to face the challenges of the 21st century. He will continue to deny the science that is informing us on the challenges for life on Earth due to climate change. His son loves killing mammals for pleasure. Hideous.
Perhaps Wisconsin residents need to take action to vote these imposters out and to ensure our children, animals and wildlife will be safe. This is a global issue and the consequences of this fool’s actions doesn’t just affect people in America. It’s a global issue.
This is heartbreaking. It makes me happy to live in a part of the country that is not obsessed with hunting. Where I live it is the opposite. There is no where to take your dog off leash (outside of a dog park) and the public land is so regulated it’s hard to find anywhere to go that isn’t bound by a lot of rules. But I’d rather have that than your situation. I’m often envious of where and how you live, but not today. I commend you for fighting back and wish you the best in your efforts to make things right. Something that is not easy to do these days.
Barb Stanek says
I’m with you, Trish. Our laws here in Wisconsin have pushed us past the edge of mutual use of public land.
I have had a dog get caught in a trap that I could not remove. I had to leave him to get help. I so relate to Dr. Clark’s anguish at leaving her dying dog.
When the law to allow traps on public land was proposed, I was a vocal opponent, as one might imagine. Alas, when I related my story of my dog in a trap, I was dismissed and my experience was labeled a rare occurrence.
I am hoping for people more understanding of my experience and Dr. Clark’s experience in Wisconsin’s future governmental positions. The present group of people seems to be uninterested in representing my experience. I am hoping for a more understanding group as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, I will watch for any opportunity to change the current laws.
Another factor that keeps our equation more balanced is our state’s economic dependency on tourism. While Wisconsin may not have a tourism authority with as much lobbying clout as Hawaii, isn’t there some state level agency that seeks visitor revenue? Even local chamber of commerce’s, that advertise outdoor activities in their areas, would probably align behind common sense ‘safety zones.’
This story just breaks my heart. I can’t imagine the anguish and helplessness Dr Clark experienced in witnessing the killing of her beloved companions. Having to leave a dying dog to try to save a dying dog seems like more than anyone could bear.
My heart breaks for the people of Wisconsin and all of us who find ourselves caught up in inexplicable circumstances. It certainly seems like the end of common sense and safety for any of us.
Jo Ann Wheatley says
Please don’t make this a political, devisive subject. I hunt and in 72 years have NEVER heard of night hunting being legal except for this and wild pigs in FL. A truly lazy and stupid person is responsible for this tragedy and should be punished severely.
michael guest says
No! How dumb. This will put our people and pets in danger. After the recent dog deaths, this proposal will make things worse and unsafe. It’s too dangerous. We can’t let this continue.
Jenny H says
Here’s what I sent the DNR. I’m including in case it gives others ideas with their communication. I’m also wondering, does Wisconsin have an animal lover PAC?
I’m writing to you today regarding the economic impact of your public land policy in hopes that you will reconsider some management choices.
I live in a city that has a strong reputation as a place where pet lovers are welcome – so strong, in fact, that a recent study commissioned through the University of Denver stated that the economic impact of our policies measured in excess on one hundred million dollars. This was a conservative estimate, and most of that comes from brand equity.
At first I thought this was an exaggeration, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was probably accurate. Google specifically mentioned our pet-friendly reputation when they chose to expand to our area. Our city is rich with pet-related goods and services, and it accounts for a lot of economic activity.
Of course, that can go the other way as well. If a state has a reputation for *not* valuing people’s pets, it can cost the state dearly in lost bids and business. I’m sorry to say that that seems to be what’s happening in Wisconsin, with it’s legendarily callous attitudes towards hunting and dog ownership.
I love Wisconsin. I have fond memories of enjoying the state as a child, and I would love to visit again. But there’s no way I would consider visiting a Wisconsin park right now. It’s frankly way too dangerous. Your policies place a careless, dishonorable form of hunting over human and canine life.
My state, while far from perfect, is able to manage the needs of it’s hunting and tourist communities with some very basic, common-sense seasonal laws and as a result, all of us are able to enjoy our parks, with or without our beloved dogs. I encourage you to reconsider your current policies and practices and I will gladly visit and spend money once that happens.
Best wishes for a safe and successful year,
Beth Phillips says
I wholeheartedly agree – I no longer feel safe hiking on trails on Wisconsin public lands – not only for my dog’s safety, but for mine also. The state of Wisconsin has lost the income of one of it’s own residents, as I no longer by a state trail pass, nor do I spend my money frequenting the businesses near the public lands, as I now go elsewhere.
Fantastic letter Andy, thank you so much. And Merry Christmas!
Beverly Alba says
In addition, Wisconsin is the only state that I know of that allows hunting with dogs, usually hounds. That domestic dogs are exploited like that disgusts me. Many dogs are injured, many are killed. Wisconsin DF W expects dogs to be killed, and compensates, with taxpayer dollars, up to 2,500.00 per dog. This, and totals approaching 100,000.00 are public. Wisconsin should be ashamed. It is truly heinous public policy.
What next??? I believe this is a result of the current administration in office federally locally as well. If as a society we don’t care about children being shot in a classroom at school, I don’t know why we are surprised at shooting pets! I believe in responsible hunting and fishing. I eat fresh caught fish, venison, pheasant and rabbit. But I do believe this all goes back to gun laws, and the idiots in office who cannot strike a balance between responsible hunting and safety for citizens and pets. I refuse to shut up any longer, we must stand our ground for our pets and people. Please encourage your readers to call and write their legislators on a weekly basis! Doing nothing is akin to agreeing! Is it too much to co-exist???
Joy Perry says
I knew the basics of this story but couldn’t bring myself to read this post until now. I have no words for how this makes me feel. I DO have some words about the condition of the state of Wisconsin, though, and a suggestion for taking an action to resist our downward spiral. Your Wisconsin readers will all too well know what’s happening to environmental protection and regulation, that the DNR has been gutted and incapacitated. Please know also that a new organization, Wisconsin’s Green Fire – Voices for Conservation, has formed to fight to regain our state’s conservation legacy. Dozens of former DNR professionals are members, but the public is welcomed to join as “General” members. Please check it out and consider joining to help in the fight: http://www.wigreenfire.org
Green Fire is a GREAT organization. I am a member. As a matter of fact, Jim and I spent an evening stuffing envelopes for the group a few weeks ago. Thanks so much for the reminder to us all.
Let’s see …
… hunters may bait and feed wildlife, no one else may.
Hunters and their dogs (during hunting season or not) may legally chase and harass wildlife, the general public may not.
Hunting dogs may run off-leash, non-huntings dogs may not.
Hunters may “harvest” birds and animals from state land, non-hunters may not disturb or remove any plant or animal.
At a time when the great majority of people really want to enjoy non-hunting outdoor activities, Wisconsin has it all backward, in fairness and economically.
Wisconsin voted for Scott Walker – what did you think was going to happen ?
Seems all people like the easy trails especially along lakes and river. April 15 through July 31 dogs are to be kept on lead for the nesting season and the only place I’ve read this law in a hunting rule book so if you don’t hunt it doesn’t apply ?
“Mistreatment” of an animal??? When in the hell are these stupid little charges going to include something such as the slaughter of a companion animal resulting in severe trauma to a human being? Easily has potential to cause lost time from work…. need for therapy services… PTSD…. physical illness brought on by grief etc. ? Ridiculous, archaic laws re charges. These are killings of family members, not car break-ins. Thank you Patricia for working on this!!! You continue to be my hero time and time again…
This is unfortunate, but keep your pets in your house. I know guys who have been attacked by domesticated dogs for no reason other than they were standing outside. I have seen so called domesicated dogs attack and kill deer just like a coyotes as well as domesticated cats attacking birds some of which are endangered. Keep your domesticated animals in a kennel or in your house or on a leash if in public. This goes for those people who run hunting dogs as well, keep them on your hunting property.
I disagree S.A. First, we would all be safer if we stayed in the house. We have to balance safety and quality of life. Of course dogs should be on leash and well behaved if out with the general public, but all-dogs-on leash-all-the-time outside of the house? How very sad that would be for so many dogs. It is true there are trade offs, and it is never acceptable for domestic animals to kill wildlife, but that doesn’t mean that well behaved dogs who stop on cue and come when called should never be allowed outside off leash.
I feel for your loss (I am the owner of multiple hunting dogs) and do not support irresponsible hunting, but your attempt to equate the death of two dogs to “bad” legislation is both inaccurate and unrealistic. The opening of more public land to hunting is essential and what Wisconsin did was both right and good for its citizens and the future of hunting and all the jobs it supports. More states need to follow suit. What Wisconsin did that was not good was to not properly post site use regulations at each site. To this day, there is still very poor signage as to what activities can take place in a particular area at any given time. Proper signage outlining what activities can take place and when is essential for the safety of everyone. During active hunting seasons, these areas should be closed to other activities to protect both the hunter and the non-hunter.
While it is true that coyote hunting is pretty much open year-round (except during the 9-day gun deer season) any serious coyote hunter would not hunt coyotes outside the standard fur-bearing seasons as their pelts (the main reason to hunt coyotes) are worthless if harvested in the warm weather. The reason the season is open year-round is to help control coyote populations and allow farmers and citizens to legally protect livestock from predation (this should also be the case with the Wisconsin Timberwolves that have gotten out of control in the northern part of the state). In the case you have described, the fault does not lay with the Wisconsin legislature or the Wisconsin DNR. It is squarely on the shoulders of an irresponsible “hunter” (I put “hunter” in quotes as anyone who shoots before properly identifying their target and what is beyond their target, is not truly a hunter). This “hunter” should have faced much more serious consequences for being irresponsible and shooting a non-target animal.
Public lands are there for the use of the public; all of the public, not just certain segments of the public. If that means that hunters cannot hunt in the summer while the hikers/nature lovers are using the lands that is fine, so long as those hikers/nature lovers understand that during open hunting seasons their use is restricted and hunters get to use the land.
In the end, this is a story of a terrible tragedy but it is not an excuse to blame the Wisconsin legislature for something that is not their fault. Place the fault where it lies… on the irresponsible individual.
It’s simple keep your dogs on a leash. If you didn’t have hunters then your dog’s would get attacked by the coyotes. Dogs are not humans although a lot of people seem to think they are
This is not about hunting and how terrible you think it is. It is about an idiot that was shooting at what he/she didn’t identify, or shot on purpose. This is an attack on ALL hunters, instead of an attack on the moron that did this.
Kinda of like me saying all anti hunters and liberal are in need of mental health screenings.
Bill. I have no problems with responsible hunting, as I hope I made clear in the post. However, allowing night hunting in a place that encourages hiking, skiing, owl and bird watching seems to me to be a set up for trouble. I agree this is in part about one irresponsible hunter, but some of the laws in WI are seriously problematic and should be changed. My post was not in any way an attack on “all hunters,” but on some of the laws that set up tragedies like this. Now, I’ve got to go, put on my Blaze Orange parka and fry up some backstrap.
Frank Higgins says
DOGS BY LAW ARE TO BE ON LEASH OR IN A KENNEL; NOT TO BE ALLOWED TO CHASE DEER OR ANY GAME NITE OR DAY! NO ONE SHOULD BE PROSECUTED FOR SHOOTING THESE ANIMALS THAT ARE ON THE RUN!
Actually, dogs are allowed off leash in this area certain times of the year. In addition, the hunter shot in the dark in an area that encourages people to hike, go on night walks to listen for owls, etc etc. All the hunters that I know, and I know many, have said that, knowing the details of the case, this hunter did not follow basic procedures to identify the target. These dogs were on the trail, not chasing anything, close to the owner who miraculously was not shot herself, and had reflective vests on.
Coyotes are bloodthirsty, relentless killers. If you frequent areas with your dogs off it’s leash and coyotes are present, they will tear your dogs to pieces. I’ve had friends lose dogs to coyotes. It’s not pretty. But the coyote is only living it’s life, doing what comes naturally to it.
Hunting coyotes controls the population and also puts fear into them in areas hunters frequent. If left to overpopulate and overrun an area, livestock, pets, and other animals pay a heavy toll. If you ban hunting of coyotes, they will quickly begin to deplete the area of other animals. Do these other animals have a right to life? To live without the constant threat of being hunted down by a ruthless killer?
All these liberal comments on this thread show that they truly don’t understand natural balances or the way nature works. Predators MUST be controlled to keep their populations in balance. Do you feel bad for all the deer fawns that have their throat ripped out only days after birth? About the farmers who have lost hundreds of lambs and other livestock to these eating machines? How about your neighbors cat Fluffy?
All this willfull ignorance because a few people want to let their precious little dogs run unleashed in a WILD area. Which I think is ILLEGAL on state lands anyway. But we all know how liberals think, laws are for everybody else. If you want to keep little Sparky safe, keep him in your yard or ON A LEASH! That is the law! It’s there for a reason. Just like there is a law to allow the hunting of coyotes. People have become so disconnected from the natural world and it seems the ones that understand the least are the ones that squawk the loudest.
Typical lib. Censor my post because you don’t agree with it. Pfft. Proud of your Biden vote yet? LOL
Actually, TPo (or Keith?), I didn’t censor your comment. I monitor all the comments and approve them when I am able. I was visiting grandchildren and am just able to post comments. One note: I live in an area with a heavy concentration of coyotes, and walk my dogs off leash all the time. Coyotes are not “bloodthirsty, relentless” killers, that would be a terrible ecological strategy. It takes a lot of energy to chase and kill animals, so they do it when they need to. Do they kill things? Yes, they are omnivores who kill animals for food. They would have been happy to kill our newborn lambs, except our guard dog successfully kept them off of our farm (by barking and scent marking, nothing else needed). In future, I’d also note that being opposed to certain laws that create dangerous situations has little to do with one’s political affiliation, or shouldn’t. One can be in favor of hunting in general, but not specific laws that are unnecessary and can cause harm to people and companion animals.
See my earlier comment, Keith. Or TPo.