Written by James William Gibson
On March 16, a Friday, a US Forest Service employee from Grangeville, Idaho, laid out his wolf traps. The following Monday, using the name “Pinching,” he posted his story and pictures on www.Trapperman.com . “I got a call on Sunday morning from a FS [Forest Service] cop that I know. You got one up here as there was a crowd forming. Several guys had stopped and taken a shot at him already,” wrote Pinching. The big, black male wolf stood in the trap, some 300-350 yards from the road, wounded—the shots left him surrounded by blood-stained snow. Pinching concluded his first post, “Male that went right at 100 pounds. No rub spots on the hide, and he will make me a good wall hanger.”
The Trapperman website went wild with comments. “That’s a dandy!! Keep at it,” wrote Watarrat. Otterman asked, “All the gray on that muzzle make a guy wonder how old he is or if it is just part of his black coloring.” Pinching’s picture of the wolf’s paw caught in the trap got special attention. “Is that the MB750 stamped ‘wolf’ on the pan?” asked one man. “Looks to be a perfect pad catch. Congratulations! Pinching confirmed the trap model and commented, “Oh an [sic] by the way, a wolf is a heck of a lot of work to put on a stretcher! Man those things hold on to their hide like no other!”
By late March some 117 Idaho wolves had been killed in traps and snares, and another 251 shot. Montana saw 166 killed, for a total of 534 wolves out of an estimated 1150 in the two states. Although Montana’s season ended in February, Idaho is not quite done. Both states have announced plans for increased hunting in the 2012-2013, and discussions are underway among hunting groups and state officials to allow private donations to establish wolf bounties.
As recently as the spring of 2011, gray wolves in the Northern Rockies received protection from he Endangered Species Act. But in April, 2011 Congress passed a rider on a federal appropriations bill removing them. Montana Democratic Senator Jon Tester, facing a 2012 challenge from Republican Congressman Danny Rehberg, wanted to show Democrats hated wolves just as much as Republicans. Conservation groups filed suit in Montana’s federal district court, claiming the delisting represented an unconstitutional infringement by Congress on the judicial branch while it deliberated an ongoing lawsuit over federal wolf protection.
Losing in district court, the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Friends of the Clearwater, WildEarth Guardians, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Cascadia Wildlands appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit. On March 14, the appeals court rejected their arguments, upholding the Congressional wolf delisting as a lawful amendment. This decision might well mark the endpoint for the conservation movement’s decades-long fundamental strategy of litigating in federal courts to promote wolf recovery in the Northern Rocky Mountains.
Thus wolves, demonized by the far-right in the Rockies as disease-ridden monsters and icons of the federal government (see my Summer 2011 Journal story, “Cry Wolf”), now face a brutal campaign to radically reduce their numbers so far that extermination can not be ruled out. Idaho’s Governor Butch Otter declared in a March 25 news conference that his state faced a “disaster emergency” from wolves. “We don’t want them here.”
Skirmishing on the web escalates. Footloose Montana, an anti-trapping group, posted the trapped wolf’s pictures on its website, drawing over a 1,000 comments within days. Word spread. Nabeki, founder of Howling for Justice, opined that “This wolf will be the face of the cruelty and ugliness that is the Idaho hunt…Our forests are hiding acts of unspeakable horrors that are being perpetuated on innocent animals.” Protesters called Idaho and Montana tourist bureaus, demanding the hunts end. By Monday, March 26, Trapperman learned that its photos now circulated offsite. The group’s administrator demanded that Footloose Montana remove the photographs.
Footloose staff and board members also received an anonymous death threat in their email: “I would like to donate [sic] a gun to your childs [sic] head to make sure you can watch it die slowly so I can have my picture taken with it’s [sic] bleeding dying screaming for mercy body. YOU WILL BE THE TARGET NEXT BITCHES!” FBI agents and Missoula, Montana police received copies of the threat.
Wolf advocates hope that these pictures will go viral, shaming a nation into facing the torture people inflict on animals and the moral and political failures that promote and legitimize it.
This post was originally published by the Earth Island Journal.
Photo from RickyNJ via flickr