When Montana opened its six-month general rifle hunting season for wolves on Monday, hunters found themselves watching their backs, but not because of the threat of a wolf attack. Instead, sportsmen and women in the Absaroka-Beartooth wilderness area just north of Yellowstone kept an eye out for animal rights activists. According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, nine members of the newly-formed Yellowstone Wolf Patrol claimed they would shadow hunters for about 10 days during the hunt. The group’s leader, Rodney Coronado, said that they will be videotaping hunting activity and prevent hunters from chasing wolves into the park, where hunting is not allowed.
“We are not opposed to hunting. I’m not opposed to people filling their freezers with elk or venison, but killing apex predators that aren’t eaten and aren’t directly responsible for livestock predation, I just don’t think that’s right,” Coronado said.
The group will not be interfering with the hunt itself, which is illegal. Still, the prospect of being followed through the Montana wilderness has some hunters outraged, and even other animal rights groups are alarmed by the group’s actions. Local activists say that the Yellowstone Wolf Patrol—which is comprised of members from many different states—is jeopardizing existing efforts to halt Montana’s wolf hunt. Others worry that the group’s presence will lead to conflict. Montana wildlife officials told the Associated Press that it is legal to follow and document hunters, as long as no action is taken to disrupt a hunt. Harrassment of hunters, however, can be punished by a fine of up to $500 and 30 days in jail.
Coronado said that no disruptions will happen on his watch. He said his goal is to promote awareness of the hunt and draw enough attention to pressure Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to limit or close the season.
“So, we’re here on the ground, and if hunters kill any of these wolves, we want to be here to document it, share it with the world and hopefully, all the tourists that come to Yellowstone to see the wildlife will pressure and lobby their politicians to change this policy.”
Yet the Associated Press reported that Coronado has a history of direct confrontations, including spending four years in prison after setting fire to a Michigan State University animal research laboratory in 1995. The activist has since stated that he will no longer use illegal actions to get his message across, but some hunters are less than convinced. So far there have been no reported confrontations between the group and hunters. Coronado stated that they will stay in the area and document hunts as circumstances allow. The group is also hoping to go to Wisconsin when the wolf season starts there in October.