Animal rights group to monitor Wisconsin bear hunters despite new law

The Associated Press

An animal rights  group plans to monitor bear hunters in Wisconsin in the first test of the state’s new hunter harassment law.

Rod Coronado, the founder of group Wolf Patrol, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that members will document bear hunting activity in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

“Our goal is to help law enforcement and record illegal activity,” Coronado said. “Our goal isn’t to harass hunters, but we won’t hesitate to exercise our constitutional rights.”

This year’s bear hunting season is the first to include increased protections for hunters, anglers and trappers under legislation signed in April by Gov. Scott Walker. Starting Wednesday, hunters are allowed to use dogs to hunt bears.

Coronado said the “Right to Hunt Act” impinges on the rights of non-hunting citizens to engage with the public land. He said he believes the law would be deemed unconstitutional if challenged in court.

“A bear hunter’s right isn’t greater than any other person’s right,” Coronado said. “We have as much right to be in the public forest as they do.”

Wisconsin Bear Hunters’ Association president Carl Schoettel said the law will make it easier to enforce harassment by Wolf Patrol and cut back on dangerous encounters.

“We are against anything they try to do to prevent constitutionally protected hunting activity,” Schoettel said.

The law expands protections to hunters during training, scouting and baiting activities. It prohibits actions such as remaining in a hunter’s sight to obstruct and photographing, recording or confronting a hunter more than twice with the intention to interfere.

Department of Natural Resources chief warden Todd Schaller said first offenses are a civil citation with a fine up to $500. If a person violates the law two or more times within five years, he or she would face a maximum fine of $10,000 and a sentence of up to nine months