Wolf Activists with Video Cameras Follow Hunters into the Montana Wilderness

A small group of activists armed with video cameras has been shadowing and filming wolf hunters with two backcountry outfitters in Montana's Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness since the September 15 season opener. They are hoping to document the killing of any wolves and use the footage as propaganda.

This year marks Montana's fourth annual wolf season since Congress removed the species from endangered species protection, but an article from the Great Falls Tribune says that some wolf advocates, like Rod Coronado of the newly formed Yellowstone Wolf Patrol, still want the season shut down. "We're hoping our presence here and taking video of it and photographing evidence can persuade Montana citizens to ask their governor to shut down the hunt outside the park," Coronado said. The team plans to stay in the wilderness for about 10 days, if their food supply lasts, and are planning similar stunts in Wisconsin and Idaho this fall.

So far, he and his eight volunteers haven't broken any laws, and have promised not to directly interfere with the hunt, which would be illegal. Harassment of hunters in Montana is punishable by a fine of up to $500 and 30 days in jail. In 1995, Coronado was sentenced to more than four years in prison for an arson attack on an animal research facility in Michigan. He says he no longer believes that illegal actions help his cause.

There is currently a six-wolf limit in two areas north of Yellowstone National Park, a quota put in place after park scientists worried hunters were killing too many wolves just as they crossed the park boundary, but there is no limit on the number that can be taken statewide. Last season, hunters harvested 230 wolves, but only one has been taken since opening day last week.

Montana is considering a proposal to sell $20 wolf stamps as a way for the non-hunting public to support wolf management efforts. According to the Flathead Beacon, wildlife officials received over 50,000 comments on the proposal and opted to withhold any decision for at least another year. "With so many different points-of-view expressed, many unanswered questions and divergent expectations remain," said Ron Aasheim, a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman in Helena. "We want to get this right the first time, and don't want to compromise the obvious potential of offering an opportunity to those who don't hunt and fish the chance to contribute to wildlife management."

Photo: National Park Service