The central figure of Joe Brown’s environmental documentary Operation Wolf Patrol is Rod Coronado.
While watching the documentary, 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. Coronado was convicted of felony arson and labeled an eco-terrorist when he firebombed a laboratory experimenting on animals. After serving his time in prison, Coronado’s passion for protecting animals is still his driving force. Still, now he’s mellowed out and fights his fights within the parameters of the law along with his willingness to challenge unfair laws that suppress his efforts.
In Wisconsin, hunters use hound dogs to hunt their prey, being bears and bobcats. Hounds are then let loose with tracking devices to subdue the bear, and the hunters come in to kill the bear, but that’s not the problem. The problem is the wolves.
“The hunters then become enraged and seek revenge on 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 hounds hunting bears. 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 by hunters on Facebook, Coronado and Operation Wolf Patrol go into the public forest with cameras and document the hunters’ activities. The hunters don’t like being filmed, so they convinced the state legislature to enact Hunter Harassment Laws, making it illegal to film or video hunters engaged in hunting. This new law is the fight of the film.
Director Joe Brown accompanies Rod Coronado as he goes about his organization’s mission. What fascinating to me about Operation Wolf Patrol is how Coronado takes on angry hunters with guns and even law enforcement. He does it with cool heads and cameras.
On every trip, Coronado drives up and down the public roads through the forest and documents 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 can’t figure out which law was broken to put on the citation, no appropriate law can be found.
“As the film progresses, every element of the fight intensifies.”
As the film 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 when a fellow Native American hunter wants to fight him to the death. On another occasion, a physical altercation almost breaks out. The heat gets hotter and hotter, and I can’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 in the film 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 is that 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 an infringement 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 of his work and his current approach to fighting animal cruelty is high. He has that rare quality of having that 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.
By Alan Ng