Wolf Patrol has returned to Forest County Wisconsin. We will be monitoring continued threats posed to federally protected wildlife on public lands, and using our evidence to lobby for reforms to Wisconsin’s ultra-liberal hound hunting regulations. Beginning in January 2016, Wolf Patrol was first alerted to a coyote killing contest organized by local hound hunters that would take place in the surrounding Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.
When we investigated human activity on forest lands, we discovered six illegally set baits composed of meat wrapped around treble fishing hooks dangling a foot of the ground and intended for unsuspecting wolves and coyotes. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) conservation officers were immediately notified, and the baits removed. Wolf Patrol offered a $5,000 reward for the capture of the poachers, but to date no arrests have been made.
In January 2017, Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers discovered a illegally shot wolf dumped immediately north of Forest County, just over the Wisconsin state line. Wolf Patrol responded with another investigative patrol that resulted in a confrontation with a coyote hound hunter who angrily threatened retaliatory action if we harmed any of his hounds or interfered with his hunt. WDNR conservation officers interviewed Wolf Patrol about the incident and no charges were filed.
It is not illegal to photograph hunters in Wisconsin. That is why in July 2017, Wolf Patrol met with county, state and federal law enforcement to discuss the escalation of confrontations from hound hunters who believe otherwise. The meeting ended with the agreement that Wolf Patrol would respect the rights of hound hunters and in later meetings, the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association agreed to inform its members that they must also respect the rights of citizen monitors to document their legal hunting activities on public lands.
On January 27, 2018 Wolf Patrol returned to Forest County, in part to investigate a recent wolf depredation on three hunting hounds by wolves in the surrounding Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, but also to investigate the large amount of hound hunting taking place in the area. It didn’t take long for us to encounter the kind of resistance that has allowed Wisconsin to become a haven for unethical wildlife killers.
At approximately 0600hrs on January 27, 2018 two Wolf Patrol vehicles departed Iron River, Michigan headed south across the Wisconsin state line and into Forest County on state highway 139. We turned west onto state highway 70 and located a party of hound hunters running dogs in the CNNF in the Alvin Creek drainage. After photographing the hounding party, we continued south on the Windsor Dam Road without incident.
Returning to state highway 55, we traveled south to US Forest Road 2168, then east back to state highway 139, turning east back into forest lands near the Popple River. We passed two more hound hunting rigs, photographed them, and continued southeast without incident. We decided to return to the Peshtigo River area where the baited fish hooks were discovered in 2016, turning south onto Browns Road. At approximately 1100hrs, we came onto US Forest Service Road 2136 and noticed three hound hunting trucks driving slow in the area.
Both Wolf Patrol vehicles converged in Blackwell Junction, just south of Laona, Wisconsin where we heard hound hunter communications over our scanner indicating that there was a hound hunt taking place close enough to state highway 32 to warrant concern that hunting hounds would enter the highway. Both vehicles drove east on County Road “T” to its junction with Highway 32, turning north towards Laona.
At the junction of Stark Settlement Road (USFS Rd 2144) and Highway 32, less than a half a mile from downtown Laona, a Jeep Liberty was parked on the northbound side of Highway 32 with a GPS tracking device held outside his driver side window. On Stark Settlement Road itself was another vehicle parked and idling, with an individual cradling a shotgun in his arms as he stood against the grill of his car.
Wolf Patrol’s vehicles split up at this time, with one driving down Stark, as the vehicle I was in stationed itself at the intersection with Highway 32, keeping an eye on the armed hunter. Multiple snowmobiles were also on the road, and a child could be seen playing basketball on his driveway that spilled onto Stark Settlement Road.
Wisconsin Legislature: 167.31(2)(a)(d) Except as provided in sub. (4) (a), (bg), (cg), (e), and (g), no person may discharge a firearm or shoot a bolt or an arrow from a bow or crossbow from or across a highway or within 50 feet of the center of a roadway.”
I informed the other members of my crew that we should document the armed individuals standing in the road and the decision was made to follow the other patrol vehicle West down Stark Settlement Road. The following is an account of what transpired next, written two hours after the incident occurred:
“As soon as we began driving West, a green Jeep Liberty swerved in front of our truck, effectively blocking our passage. When I reversed and tried to drive around the vehicle, he again swerved in front of me. There was enough room still on the road, so I attempted to pass the Jeep as its tires slipped on the ice as the driver attempted to block my path again. As soon as I passed the Jeep, the driver pulled up extremely close to my rear bumper, rolled down his window and started screamng and swearing that he wanted to kick my ass and asked me to take a swing at him. I remained in the vehicle.
We had entered the portion of Stark Settlement Road where other hound hunters were retrieving dogs from the road and immediately, other vehicles began to maneuver to block our passage. A full size white truck with a snowmobile and hound box backed up to horizontally block both directions of traffic on the road as at least three other hound trucks boxed us in from the back. Individuals were getting out of their trucks to film us with their smartphones, and they all started to surround us and continued yelling that if we ran over their dogs, there’d be hell to pay. They also were citing my past criminal history, calling me a terrorist while continuing to goad me into getting out of the truck, putting my camera down and fighting them.
At this point, I decided to get of our patrol vehicle so I could climb on top of the back of the cab to film how the hunters were blocking us in, preventing any movement, even though our truck was still in the middle of the road. As I was standing on the rear cab floorboard filming the surrounding vehicles, an individual in a full size truck began driving towards me and laying on his horn and yelled for me to shut my open rear cab door. I stepped down and as soon as I did, he pulled forward and I became afraid that he might try to smash me between our two trucks.
Our patrol vehicle was facing West, his facing East, but with only about 12 inches of space between them. The limited space prevented me from opening the driver side door of my vehicle from between the two trucks, so I began to walk around the front of the hunter’s stopped truck, and thats when he began to inch forward with me right in front of him. I made eye-contact with the driver and put my hands up in a stop gesture, but he continued to inch forward until his truck was actually pushing my body. I slammed my open palm of my right hand down on his hood and he stopped and began yelling that I was going to jail for damaging his truck.
The driver of the truck was gesturing wildly at me and yelling curses and tried to open his door as I was right next to it. The door hit me, so I pushed against it, as I was back between the two trucks again, still trying to return to my vehicle. I noticed videographer Joe Brown had moved up to the offending truck and began yelling at the driver. As Joe was being surrounded by the mob of hunters, I slipped back into the cab of my truck. I could hear Joe and Matt yelling for everyone to calm down. A man came up to my window and was yelling at me and said that his wife worked for the judge, and that I’d be going to jail.
At this point, we were surrounded by vehicles on all sides and were at the mercy of the hound hunters. We were told the police had been called, and there was a younger woman amongst the hunters who was much more calm than any other hunter, so I told her that I wanted to pull my truck out of the road to await the police, which she said was ok. Once on the shoulder, we rolled up our windows and waited for the police.
After about five minutes, two Forest County Sheriff’s vehicles arrived with their lights flashing, and the officer in charge started asking questions. First he questioned the hunters, then he asked me to exit the vehicle and speak to him by his patrol vehicle which was parked behind the hound trucks blocking our rear escape.
After speaking to me, the officer told me I could wait in my vehicle, so I started to walk towards my truck, when the hunter who hit me with his truck started walking towards me mumbling at me. I placed my outstretched open palm hand towards him and said, “Sir, please do not come towards me.” The sheriff’s deputy intercepted his trajectory towards me and talked to him in calming tones. I returned to my vehicle to await law enforcement instructions. After about 30 minutes, the officers returned to our vehicle to inform us that the Forest County District Attorney had authorized him to seize our cameras.”
Wisconsin hound hunters are violating the rights of others wishing to access public lands and roads. We can’t in good standing refer to these people as hunters anymore. They are killers of public trust wildlife, using packs of dogs, large parties of armed men, satellites, trucks and snowmobiles to chase a single wild animal, often shooting the animal from the road as they stand next to their vehicles. And if other citizens opposed to their behavior try to document their activities, we are threatened and assaulted on public roads.
We are awaiting word from Forest County officials, who have said they will review the evidence of the confrontation from cameras seized, and will then determine whether any charges will be filed against anyone. Wolf Patrol believes our video evidence clearly demonstrates that we were acting within our rights, to be driving on a public road photographing a hunting party operating in a densely populated area.
We also believe our video clearly shows that one hound hunter used his truck in a menacing and illegal fashion, threatening to run over a Wolf Patrol member and pushing his body with his truck. We intend to press charges, and hope Forest County officials will chose to send a message to local hound hunters, that you cannot legally assault and detain people taking pictures of your hunting practices on public roads and lands.
If Forest County officials decide to charge Wolf Patrol with violating the Right to Hunt Act or any other law, we will then use the county courtroom as a platform to expose the kinds of hunting activities Wisconsin’s politicians are willing to defend. Hunting and shooting from public roads, closing public roads while they are being used for hunting, and assaulting and threatening anyone who tries to expose those practices in northern Wisconsin.
The dangerous incident in Forest County will not deter Wolf Patrol from continuing its mission to investigate, document and expose controversial hunting practices in Wisconsin. This was the third year we were patrolling public hunting areas in Forest County, and its the third year we encountered angry hound hunters who willingly express their desire to not only kill wolves, but assault those hoping to protect them. We will not be deterred from exercising our constitutional right to lobby for changes to public policy on public lands.
HOW YOU CAN HELP EXPOSE THE INJUSTICE AGAINST WILDLIFE AND ACTIVISTS:
Please join us in the battle to bring an end to unethical hunting practices in Wisconsin! You can contribute to our campaign, or join as a volunteer and train to become a citizen monitor in your own home area. Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to represent public interests on public lands and to stand for the wolves and the wild. Once we have heard more about the incident, we will post an update immediately.
WOLF PATROL LEGAL DEFENSE FUND
If you would like to earmark a contribution specifically for legal defense, please specify! Currently, legal representation has been provided pro bono to videographer Joe Brown by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, but Wolf Patrol founder Rod Coronado is represented by a civil rights attorney in Wisconsin not covered in our federal challenge to The Right to Hunt Act. Support for Wolf Patrol at this time, is also support for every Wisconsin citizen wishing to exercise their constitutional rights to monitor hunting activities on public lands. We refuse to be intimidated by the armed thugs invading public lands with bloodthirsty hounds to kill all of our wildlife. Together we will persevere and one day see an end to these horrible legalized hunting practices!