'Operation Wolf Patrol' Documentary Follows Wolf Activists In The Field
This past February, Wisconsin held the state’s first sanctioned gray wolf hunt in almost seven years. The planned week-long hunt was shut down after just 72 hours when hunters blew past the state’s kill target of 119 wolves, killing over 200 wolves. The hunt has since been criticized by biologists and Native tribes for not communicating with Indigenous populations or incorporating proper wildlife management plans.
Rod Coronado is the leader of Wolf Patrol, a group of activists who came together in 2014 to document wolf management practices on public land and fight for the preservation of gray wolves. Coronado says that Wolf Patrol is not anti-hunting but seeks to end hunting strategies like the use of dogs to hunt wolves.
“We’ve always believed if we could show the public for hounds to be hunting wolves that we could stop the hunt,” he says.
Coronado says hunting wolves can look different than what some people expect. He describes the current state of wolf hunting as “mechanized, advanced, lack of fair chase hunting."
“It’s no longer grandpa and his grandson going out with a single-barreled shotgun walking in the woods, you know it’s guys in trucks with GPS-collared packs of hounds operating collectively,” Coronado says.
Coronado says to help more members of the public see what is happening with the hunt, he let filmmaker Joe Brown embed with his team to create the new documentary film Operation Wolf Patrol. Brown describes the film as an exploration of what being in the field with Wolf Patrol looks like and a deep dive into the issues that surround the gray wolf hunt in Wisconsin.
“There are all the animal issues in the film, which are, I think the most important part of the film — the disregard for regulation or the lack of regulation. But I think there’s also a lot of interesting issues in terms of politics and humanity, and entitlement, people who think they own the woods,” says Brown.
The film also touches on "hunter harassment laws," which prohibit interference with hunters and curtail the ability of monitoring groups like Wolf Patrol to document hunting activity. Brown and Coronado see the laws as an infringement of freedom of speech.
Coronado says he would like to see further regulations to help stop issues like baiting wolves or hunting them with dogs.
“That’s one of the things that we’re trying to highlight. The lack of regulations to control a lot of this activities and how that is creating a conflict specifically with wolves that wolves are being blamed for,” he says.
While Brown says he would have liked to release the film before the February hunt, now the film can help to continue critiques of Wisconsin’s wolf hunts that have come out since.
“Now that we’re releasing after the February hunt and potentially before an October hunt, I think the film just provides more ammunition and can bolster criticism of Wisconsin’s handling of wolves and wildlife,” he says.
Operation Wolf Patrol is available to stream through the Milwaukee Film Festival until May 20.