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Frequently Asked Questions
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Frequently Asked Questions

August 4, 2017

Here are answers to some of the recent most frequently asked law enforcement questions taken this week by the DNR Call Center.
The Call Center is staffed daily, 7 a.m. - 10 p.m., and offers bilingual service in Spanish and Hmong. The number is 1-888-936-7463.

This is a special Frequently Asked Questions dedicated solely to the issue of what kinds of actions farmers or landowners may take regarding problem wild animals on their private properties.

It is illegal to kill a wolf.

Question 1: When can a farmer or other landowner kill a bear or cougar attacking their livestock?

Bear: There is no specific grant of authority in Wisconsin Statutes to Administrative Rules which states a person may kill a bear outside of the open season or without a valid bear hunting license and bear carcass tag. DNR rules allow a municipality, landowner, lessee or occupant of lands to shoot a bear after first applying for and receiving written approval from the department. The permit will provide conditions and details on disposition of the carcass.

Cougar: On private land, DNR rules allow a landowner, lessee or occupant of the private land, or any other person with permission of the landowner, lessee or occupant to shoot and kill cougar which is in the act of killing, wounding or biting a domestic animal. Any such shooting must be reported within 24 hours to a conservation warden and the carcass of the cougar must be turned over to the department.

When not specifically authorized by law: If a person observes a wild animal that is demonstratin or threatening the clear intent to attack a person or live domestic animal, they must take reasonable steps to scare the animal away without resorting immediately to shooting at or killing the animal. It is not possible to describe all circumstances when a person would be justified in shooting a wild animal out of season, without a license or without prior legal authorization. However, like the authority to shoot a cougar which is in the act of biting, wounding or killing a live domestic animal, it would be reasonable for a person to shoot and kill a bear or other wild animal which is not a threatened or endangered species under similar circumstances, or when there is an immediate and inevitable threat of attack demonstrated by the wild animal at that specific time and location. If a person does shoot or kill a wild animal which they felt was justified and when left with no other reasonable alternative, the person must immediately contact a conservation warden and report the killing. The warden will investigate the incident and all available evidence at the scene for the purpose of documenting the circumstances of the shooting.

The DNR will not seek prosecution of a farmer, landowner or other person who legitimately and in good faith shoots bear or cougar that is attacking a live domestic animal or a person. This does not mean any person may shoot at or kill every bear or cougar that they may encounter. A warden investigating such a shooting will consider the totality of the circumstances involved and carefully look at factors such as where the animal was killed, presence of domestic animals nearby, any injury or stress evident in animals, distance from buildings or animals, and other relevant factors. It is important to keep in mind that there is no carte blanche approval for farmers, landowners or others to shoot a bear or cougar simply because it is present on their property.

Question 2: How does a person apply for a permit to kill wild animals that are causing depredation or a nuisance?

Answer: Landowners, lessees or occupants may apply for a written permit to remove from lands under their control wild animals causing damage or constituting a nuisance. Since 1991, USDA Wildlife Services has been the lead agency in Wisconsin for providing assistance with nuisance bears and wolves. For problems with these species, a person should contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Wildlife Services. The two district offices in Wisconsin are located in Waupun and Rhinelander. Contact Information: USDA-WS, Waupun district - 1-800-433-0663, USDA-WS, Rhinelander district - 1-800-228-1368. For problems with suspected cougar depredation, a landowner should contact the local DNR Wildlife Manager or the department's mammalian ecologist, Adrian Wydeven at Adrian.Wydeven@wi.gov or 715-762-1363.

Question 3: What can be done when killing is not authorized or justified?

Answer: Without a permit, or when a bear or cougar is simply present near livestock or people and not in the act of attempting to attack, bite, wound or kill a person, livestock or other domestic animals, steps other then attempting to kill the animal should be taken to frighten the animal away. This could include making load noises, yelling or shooting into the ground or other safe area where discharge of a firearm is allowed.

Question 4: Who does the farmer need to notify the DNR if they kill a bear or cougar? Who do they call?

Answer: If a landowner, lessee or occupant of land without a written wild animal removal permit determines there is a need to kill a bear or cougar which is biting, wounding or killing their livestock or pets, or is threatening a person, they should report the killing to a conservation warden as soon as practical, but not later than 24 hours after the killing occurs. A warden can be reached by contacting the local DNR Service Center, the local sheriff's dept., by calling the DNR Call Center at 1-888-WDNR-INFO (1-888-936-7463), or by calling the DNR Hotline a 1-800-TIP-WDNR (1-800-847-9367).

Last revised: Monday August 07 2017