The central figure of Joe Brown’s environmental documentary Operation Wolf Patrol is Rod Coronado. While watching it, I kept thinking about where I had heard of Coronado before. He was featured in an episode of Penn & Teller’s Bullshit about environmental activists. He was convicted of felony arson and labeled an eco-terrorist after he firebombed a laboratory experimenting on animals. After serving his time in prison, Coronado’s passion for protecting animals is still his driving force. He’s mellowed out now, fighting within the parameters of the law, though he is still willing to challenge unfair laws that suppress his efforts.
In Wisconsin, hunters use hound dogs to hunt their prey — bears and bobcats. The hounds are then let loose with tracking devices to subdue the animals. Then the hunters come in to kill the bear, but that’s not the problem. The problem is the wolves.
Once on the endangered species list, the wolf population has made a serious comeback. So much so that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has allowed the hunting of wolves to “thin the pack.” Wolves roam the forest and essentially kill the hunters’ hounds. The hunters then become enraged and seek revenge on the wolves with a high level of venom and hatred.
After seeing videos of wolves being slaughtered on Facebook, Coronado and Operation Wolf Patrol decide to venture into the forest with cameras and document the hunters’ activities. They don’t like being filmed, so they convinced the state legislature to enact Hunter Harassment Laws, making it illegal to film or video hunters hunting. This new law is the fight of the film.
“…Coronado and Operation Wolf Patrol…venture into the forest…and document the hunters’ activities.”
Director Joe Brown accompanies Rod Coronado as he goes about his mission. On every trip, the activist drives up and down, documenting the activities of hunters from the road. He then becomes involved in a verbal altercation with the hunters, who then illegally detain him by blocking his car and calling the police. When the police arrive, Coronado is overly compliant with their requests. He offers to show them his ID and gives them a business card. When told that he is violating the law, Coronado asks for a citation. When the officers go to write it, no appropriate law can be found to cite him for.
As Operation Wolf Patrol progresses, every element of the fight intensifies. Coronado continues to film hunters and their activities from what he believes is a legal location and distance. The hunters become angrier and angrier to the point that a Native American hunter wants to fight him to the death. On another occasion, a physical altercation almost breaks out. As the heat gets hotter, I couldn’t turn my eyes away from the action. If you want to see angry a******s with guns in their natural environment, this is the documentary for you.
There are plenty of side discussions as well. One is Coronado’s past, as he is a felon and takes full responsibility for his actions. He paid his debt to society, but that isn’t enough in the eyes of the hunter and the police. Then there’s the all-important legal question. How can filming hunters hunting be illegal and not infringe on one’s first amendment rights to free speech?
I don’t think I’m all that politically aligned with Rod Coronado, but my admiration level for his work and his current approach to fighting animal cruelty is high. He has that rare quality of having a cool head, being friendly, and wanting to have a conversation while standing up for his beliefs, and to me, that’s admirable. For that reason alone, Operation Wolf Patrol is my kind of activism documentary and worth watching for anyone wanting to take on the system.
"…my kind of activism documentary..."