Last week a large party of coyote hunters detained members of Wolf Patrol, a group monitoring their hunting practices outside of Laona, Wisconsin. Since 2016, Wolf Patrol has been monitoring legal and illegal hunting practices in the area, including in the surrounding Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.
In January 2016 during a coyote killing contest in Argonne, WI Wolf patrol monitors found illegal fish hooks wrapped with meat and dangling from fishing line. The baits are intended to lodge in the intestines of wolves and other unsuspecting wild canines, causing a slow and painful death.
In January 2017 an illegally shot wolf was dumped outside of Iron River, Michigan. When Wolf Patrol investigated the following month and were distributing reward posters, an angry coyote hunter threatened monitors in their patrol vehicle on a public highway.
In January 2018 in another portion of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, wolves injured three hounds hunting bobcats. Depredations on hunting hounds can lead to illegal attempts to kill wolves such as the baited fish hooks found not far from this depredation site in Forest County.
All of these incidents were reasons why Wolf Patrol was monitoring coyote and bobcat hunters in Forest County on January 27, 2018 when we came upon a party of hound hunters parked along Highway 32 and Stark Settlement Road. We filmed members of the hunting party standing in the road with shotguns and then decided to drive West on Stark Settlement Rd to film more hunters spread out along the road. That is when the following incident occurred.
When Forest County Sheriff’s deputies arrived, most of the hunting party had fled, but Wolf Patrol’s vehicle remained blocked in by members of the hunting party. After taking statements, a deputy informed Wolf Patrol that cameras were being seized. When we refused to consent to the seizure and asked about a warrant, we were told a warrant would be issued Monday, but the officer was seizing the cameras regardless at that time.
Because of the history of lawlessness and killing directed toward federally protected wildlife and other animals in this part of national forest lands that belong to everyone, Wolf Patrol feels there is a greater need for accountability by hound hunters who feel entitled to violate the rights of others using public roads and lands. Wisconsin hunters who cannot respect the rights of others has led to an increase in violent confrontations with members of Wolf Patrol despite 2017 agreements between county, state and federal authorities meeting to address the violation of our civil rights.
A federal case is pending between members of Wolf Patrol and the state of Wisconsin challenging the constitutionality of the Right to Hunt Act, which was signed into law in 2016 and written in direct response to Wolf Patrol’s citizen-monitoring campaign in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.
At this time we are awaiting to see whether Forest County officials will choose to charge members of Wolf Patrol with violating the Right to Hunt Act for the January 27, 2018 incident.