Conservation groups say Idaho trapping violates state laws
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — A rhetorical, and ideological war over wolves in the northern Rockies intensified last week with the internet posting of photos suggesting that a trapped wolf was tortured before being killed, with the involvement of U.S. Forest Service personnel.
Following the official de-listing of wolves as an endangered species, hundreds of the predators have been slaughtered in the northern Rockies under state wolf management plans aimed at reducing populations to a bare minimum.
Wildlife advocates are not exactly pleased with the direction of those state plans, and the recent flare-up over the wolf trapped in Idaho seems to reinforce their arguments that the quest to kill wolves is based on a pathological fear and hatred of the predators.
This week, the Center for Biological Diversity sent letters to both the Forest Service and Idaho Attorney General, Lawrence Wasden, today requesting investigations into the actions of Forest Service employeed Josh Bransford, who posted photos of a wolf he had trapped in northern Idaho that had been maliciously and non-fatally shot by people who spotted the animal from a nearby road.
“A year ago, that wolf was protected as a member of an endangered species, but last month he was trapped, tortured and killed thanks to an underhanded congressional rider that’s also responsible for the deaths of hundreds of other wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains,” said the Center’s Michael Robinson. “A lack of respect for the balance of nature is leading to a war on wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains.”
The posting, on trapperman.com, shows the Forest Service employee smiling in front of a still-living wolf surrounded by snow that is bloody from the animal’s gunshot wounds. Idaho state law makes it a crime for a person who “causes or procures any animal to be cruelly treated, or who, having the charge or custody of any animal either as owner or otherwise, subjects any animal to cruelty.”
It also requires that “destruction of animals for population control” (the supposed reason for wolf trapping) be carried out humanely. Making it possible for potshots to be taken at a captive animal — and photographing the results — before ending the wolf’s suffering appears to violate this law, as well as common decency.
“These photos make plain that the trapping and hunting of wolves being allowed by the state of Idaho are less ‘wildlife-management techniques’ than scapegoating of wolves,” said Robinson. “This egregious torture of a wolf needs to be investigated by Idaho’s attorney general and the Forest Service, and Josh Bransford should be fined and dismissed from his position.”
Removal of Endangered Species Act protection for the wolf was premised on the fact that state game agencies could be counted on to manage wolves. Idaho has since abandoned the targets of its state plan and instead said it will seek to reduce the population from roughly 1,000 wolves to as low as 150 wolves, effectively creating an open season on the species. So far, 375 wolves have been reported killed in Idaho and 166 in Montana. Idaho’s wolf hunt remains open in portions of the state.
“The disturbing photos of this animal’s needlessly painful death are a symbol of the loss of hundreds of wolves in Idaho and Montana and the unraveling of their ecosystems as a consequence,” said Robinson. “Last year’s wolf-delisting rider was premised on trusting the states to treat wolves like other wildlife. But that trust was clearly misplaced by Congress. Without the safety net of the Endangered Species Act, Idaho’s very clearly persecuting wolves, not ‘managing’ them. It’s brutal and it has to stop.”