Rich Landers nails it with his blog on the controversy over that picture of the Idaho trapper posing with a trapped, wounded black wolf standing in the background.
While IDFG and USFS investigations found no legal wrongdoing on the part of the man — a local Forest Service employee trapping on his own time on private property — a Department of Fish & Game spokesman told The Missoulian, “we would have preferred that he dispatched the wolf before photographing himself with it. But that is not what he chose to do.”
The wolf had apparently been shot at by passersby before the man arrived to tend his trap; the snow around the animal is flecked with blood. He poses in front of it.
Frankly, it smacks of torture.
Do we take pictures of ourselves with elk or deer or bears struggling with a blown-off leg? Do we take photos of one-winged geese and ducks thrashing in the water in front of our blind? Do we snap images of gut-shot cougars or coyotes?
No. We don’t. We kill them as fast as possible, not letting them suffer.
It’s The Code, and we abide by it, no matter the species, no matter the method of take.
When that’s done, we take our respectful pictures.
An anti-trapping group in Montana lifted the guy’s picture from a trappers’ Web site, got a death threat, someone posted the guy’s address and telephone number, another his bosses’ names and contact info, and local, national and international media have since run wild with the story.
Yesterday, Landers, the longtime outdoors columnist at the Spokane Spokesman-Review, summarized the fall-out for both sides far better than I can.
Pardon, if you will, the long lift, what he posted is thoughtful and ever more relevant as wolf populations and angst builds in Washington and Oregon:
In the world of the Internet, we can close out the rest of the world and forget that half of the people in the country have a different opinion on just about everything.
Also in the world of the Internet, when you do something really stupid and inflammatory, the message can spread like lightning.
Hunters have a right and even a calling to be active in managing wolves.
But it’s a curse on all hunters that some guys live in havens where they can find support for bragging about cruel behavior to wildlife. Any [wildlife]. I know it’s rampant in Idaho, but last time I looked, that’s just one of 50 states.
The tough guy talk is ramping up in Eastern Washington, too. Great. Washington hunters will get what we deserve if that continues, and a black eye isn’t out of the question.
Killing animals is serious business. A hunter or trapper who wasn’t taught as a kid to take an animal’s life as quickly and cleanly as possible needs to go back to Hunting 101 with the grade school kids.
But while I don’t like the wolf-hater hero photos or the wolf-hating stories moving on the Internet, I also don’t like how anti-hunters are rallying this into a campaign to stall wolf management. (Although I can’t blame them for taking a public relations gift on a platter and running with it.)
Idaho likely would [not] have gone to wolf trapping if environmental groups had not gone to court two years ago to stop the second hunting seasons in Montana and Idaho.
That was counterproductive, socially and to the elk herds.
I wrote a story at that time quoting five wolf experts from around the world — all of whom said the social aspects of wolf recovery were as important or more important than the biological aspects.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service experts were saying wolves were recovered and wolf management could begin three years ago.
But some environmental groups pressed on, using wolves as a fundraiser.
This year, for the first time in many decades, Idaho Panhandle hunters will not have an either-sex elk hunting season in units once flush with elk.
This issue isn’t just about cropping the size of prized game herds. It’s also about messing with the fiber of the culture in those small towns — and I’m talking about places where I’ve been burned in effigy, so don’t think I’m out there looking for the love.
When Ed Bangs, the former federal wolf recovery director, said wolves had recovered faster and more thoroughly [than] biologists could have dreamed, some environmental groups wouldn’t listen.
The result is hunters and trappers thinking they have a retaliatory right to act like bloodthirsty thugs.
I don’t like it or condone it, but I can’t be surprised by it nor can I stop it.
Let’s see where the pendulum swings this time.
You get what you reap, on both sides of the wolf issue.
And how in the end does that serve conservation of healthy wildlife and wildlands — what we all want?