Conservation group questions accuracy of Idaho wolf numbers

copyrighted wolf in river

“Since 2009 more than 1,300 wolves have been hunted or trapped in Idaho, and another nearly 500 have been lethally removed from Idaho’s landscape,” Andrea Santarsiere, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “In the face of these astounding numbers, it’s no wonder that Idaho may have experienced a nearly 50 percent drop in breeding pairs.”

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game in a 70-page report released April 3 said there were at least 770 wolves in the state, with a minimum of 26 breeding pairs, as of Dec. 31, 2014. The Center notes that’s a steep drop from the 49 breeding pairs in 2009, when wolves in Idaho reached their peak.

The Center also questions the state agency’s estimate of 6.5 wolves per pack, a key number as it’s part of an equation — when multiplied by the number of packs in the state— to tally the overall population.

Jim Hayden, a biologist with Fish and Game, defended the state report’s estimate of the minimum number of wolves in Idaho. Hayden is listed as an editor of the report.

“The 770 is a number we’re very confident with,” he said. “We know the actual truth is higher than that, we just don’t know how far higher.”

He said the agency stopped counting breeding pairs of wolves after surveying 43 packs because it’s expensive and the number had cleared the minimum as required by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The federal agency could retake management control of the Idaho wolf population if numbers fall below certain criteria.

If the state fails to maintain 15 breeding pairs and 150 wolves over any three-year period, or if the population falls below 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves in any year, the federal agency could take over.

Mike Jimenez, Northern Rocky Mountain wolf coordinator for Fish and Wildlife, said the federal agency reviewed Idaho’s methodology and is confident in the numbers.

“From our perspective, they are far above recovery goals,” he said. “How to manage wolves and hunt wolves — that’s a state issue.”

The wolf population has grown so much, Jimenez said, that biologists can no longer rely on using radio collars when doing counts.

“We’re way past that,” he said. “We have a very large wolf population in the Northern Rockies. We’re trying to reduce the need for radio collars.”

Fish and Wildlife estimates that a minimum of 1,783 wolves in more than 300 packs roamed the six-state region at the end of last year.

Hayden said that radio collars on 32 packs in Idaho were used by Fish and Game to come up with 6.5 wolves per pack, which is an increase from 5.4 wolves per pack the previous year.

But he said the agency is relying more on remote cameras and, this spring, will be collecting scat at wolf rendezvous sites to get DNA samples. The DNA can help determine pack size and the number of pups. He noted the wolf population is expected to jump 40 percent with the addition of pups this spring.

The DNA can also be used to help determine harvest levels by hunters.

Some groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, would rather there be no harvest.

“We don’t think wolves should be hunted at all,” Santarsiere said. “But with such aggressive killing of a species so recently considered endangered, there at least needs to be careful monitoring.”

What’s next and when will it end? Idaho officials kill 19 wolves to boost elk herds

[Yesterday it was reported that Alaska killed 18 wolves to boost moose (for humans, of course), today, Idaho officials announced that they killed 19 wolves to boost elk herds (also for the benefit of humans). What’s next and when will it end?]

copyrighted Hayden wolf walking

LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) – Idaho officials say 19 wolves have been killed in northern Idaho in an effort to reduce wolf numbers and increase the elk population.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game on Monday announced the killings carried out last month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services in the Lolo Hunting Zone.

Jerome Hansen of Fish and Game tells the Lewiston Tribune in Lewiston that elk numbers in the region have dropped dramatically over the past 26 years.

Fish and Game says the area had an estimated 16,000 elk in 1989 but that the agency now believes the population could be as low as 1,000.


Could Fewer Wolf Kills Mean Fewer Wolves?

Trappers in Montana have killed 77 gray wolves and hunters have shot 127 so far this winter — a total of 204 animals — as the season for the animals nears its end.copyrighted wolf in river

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Ron Aasheim said the final tally for this winter’s wolf harvest is expected to fall short of the 230 wolves killed in the 2013-2014 season.

The trapping season closed Feb. 28, and Montana’s rifle hunting season for gray wolves ends March 15.

Six of the predators have been killed by landowners, under a new state law that allows wolves to be killed if they are considered a potential threat to livestock or human safety.

In neighboring, Idaho hunters have shot 113 of the animals so far this winter and trappers have killed 92.

The state’s total harvest of 205 wolves is well short of the prior year’s total of 302 animals killed.

Idaho’s wolf season ends March 31 for most of the state but continues year-round in some areas.

Wyoming did not have a wolf hunting season this winter. After losing their federal protections across the Northern Rockies in 2011 and 2012, wolves were put back on the endangered species list in Wyoming in September under a court order.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson sided with wildlife advocates who said Wyoming’s declaration of wolves as unprotected predators that could be shot on sight in most of the state afforded insufficient protection.

Legislation pending before Congress would nullify the judge’s decision.

There were 1,691 wolves in the Northern Rockies at the end of 2013, the most recent data available.

ID Wolf shooter turns down deal

January 28, 2015 12:00 am | Updated: 12:31 am, Wed Jan 28, 2015.

COEUR d’ALENE – The man who shot a wolf on Rathdrum Mountain turned down a plea deal offered by Kootenai County prosecutors that would have had him pay a $200copyrighted wolf in river fine in exchange for a guilty plea.

He has opted instead for a jury trial.

“I said, ‘Nope,'” Forrest Mize said shortly after his arraignment Tuesday morning. Prosecutor Barry McHugh confirmed the offer was made.

Mize is representing himself on the misdemeanor charge of possessing a wolf without a tag. He doesn’t plan to hire an attorney at this stage.

“It’s going to be really hard to find a jury in North Idaho that finds me guilty for shooting a wolf to save my stinking dogs,” he said.

Mize, 53, shot the wolf Dec. 30 while he was out hiking in some fresh snow with his three dogs, all Labs, named Maggie, Jenny and Katie.

He was carrying a gun – a Kimber .22-caliber Hornet – with him for protection when he spotted the wolf, which he said looked like it was about to pounce on his pets. The dogs were 100 yards in front of him.

When he shot the wolf in the side through its heart, his three dogs were all close enough to be visible within the picture of his gun’s scope, he said.

He bought a wolf hunting tag later that day for $11.50 at a Rathdrum pharmacy. He is not a trophy hunter, he said, but wanted to keep the pelt.

According to Mize, two Idaho Department of Fish and Game officers showed up at his house a week after the shooting.

The officers, he said, were suspicious that he had purchased a wolf tag for 2014 on the next to the last day of the year, leaving him only one day to get a wolf.

At that point, he said, he admitted to having shot the wolf before buying the tag.

“I did the right thing, I just did it in the wrong order,” he said. “I’m not going to buy a tag (in advance), because I don’t hunt for wolves.”

He didn’t know there was a wolf near his home on the mountain.

Additionally, he said, he figured the officers would have some “understanding” for his perceived need to shoot the wolf in defense of his dogs.

Fish and Game declined a records request from The Press for any incident report that might have been created detailing the agency’s investigation findings.

Fish and Game confiscated the wolf’s pelt, which was already at a taxidermist, after finding Mize had killed the animal prior to purchasing a tag.

20 years later: What if wolves weren’t reintroduced?

copyrighted wolf in water

From another list:

January 14, 2015 12:01 a.m.

The date was Jan. 14, 1995, when Moon Star Shadow, a 90-pound, silver-tipped black male, stepped out of his cage at Corn Creek and urinated, marking his new territory in Idaho.

Moon Star Shadow and three other wolves released at the edge of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness were the first of 66 wolves brought to Idaho and Yellowstone National Park from Canada in 1995 and 1996.

By 2009, the wolf population had grown to more than 1,500 in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming and today has spread to Washington, Oregon and Utah — even California and Arizona.

In 2011, Congress delisted the populations in Idaho, Montana, northern Utah, western Oregon and western Washington. That removed them from protections under the Endangered Species Act and led to wolf-hunting seasons. Today more than 600 wolves are thought to live in Idaho and the haunting howl of a pack of wolves is an almost common sound in Idaho’s back country, pleasing the people who pushed to restore them.

Idaho hunters and trappers harvest hundreds of wolves every year, but many complain that traditional elk-hunting areas no longer are as productive because wolves kill, move or stress the big game.

Ranchers have the right and means to kill wolves that attack their livestock, but they remain bitter that they aren’t compensated for losses that can’t be definitively linked to wolves. Ranchers also say elk and other big game are streaming out of the backcountry to raid their pastures and haystacks as they get away from the wolves.

But what if the federal government had decided not to reintroduce wolves to Idaho and Yellowstone in 1995?

Folks who love wolves would have fewer to see or hear. And the folks who hate wolves might have fewer options to manage wolves or kill wolves that come into contact with humans and livestock.

A mind of their own

Wolf biologists and managers who led the recovery program that began a decade before the wolves were released agree that Idaho would have wolves today, possibly hundreds, even if the reintroduction never took place. But they doubt that Yellowstone National Park — the place the public associates most closely with the new population of wolves — would have a wolf population today.

Wolves were moving on their own from Canada into Montana and Idaho, beginning in the 1960s. But a lack of safe corridors for the animals between Northwest Montana and Yellowstone would have hindered or stopped natural recolonization of wolves from Canada there. Today, 400 to 450 wolves live in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem.

“There would be wolves in northwest Montana, there would be wolves in central Idaho, but I doubt we would have more than a few (scattered) in Yellowstone,” said Ed Bangs, a retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gray wolf recovery coordinator in charge of the reintroduction.

They were reintroduced under a legal provision that allowed relaxed rules for an “experimental population.” That enabled federal officials to kill wolves that repeatedly attacked livestock and exempted officials from requiring that every federal action in the habitat be shown not to hurt the wolves.

That approach was based on the premise that there was no wolf population — no breeding pairs — in the areas targeted for reintroduction.

As the wolf population in British Columbia and Alberta grew in the 1980s, several packs showed up in Northwest Montana, making that area ineligible for reintroduction. Many wolf sightings also were reported in Idaho.

An Idaho plan

The drive for reintroduction in Idaho came from Republican U.S. Sen. James McClure.

McClure believed the return of the wolf to Idaho was inevitable. He wanted to put in place rules that would protect ranchers from the powers of the Endangered Species Act that restrict the killing of depradating wolves and other management. In 1988, he proposed federal legislation that would have reintroduced a few packs and stipulated that no wolves would be allowed to live outside of Yellowstone and Idaho’s wildernesses. His bill would have restricted wolf expansion more tightly than did the final reintroduction rules.

“He wasn’t a wolf-lover,” said David Mech, an internationally known wolf biologist who was one of the early voices for reintroduction.

McClure not only feared the costs to ranchers if more wolves showed up in Idaho. He believed loggers, miners and recreationalists would end up facing stricter limits under the full powers of the federal Endangered Species Act.

Ranchers weren’t convinced.

Brad Little, who today serves as Idaho’s lieutenant governor, came from a long line of sheep ranchers. In 1988, he was active with the Idaho Woolgrowers and an opponent to McClure’s bill, which went nowhere because of strong opposition from Wyoming ranchers and lawmakers.

“He was pretty darned convinced that his bill would have been far and away superior to what we eventually got,” Little said.

The return of wolves forced Little, like most ranchers, to change the way he operates. He gave up private grazing leases in the Cascade area due to the rate of depredation on his cattle. But he said ranchers in Custer and Lemhi counties that deal with the largest wolf populations have had the hardest time maintaining their livelihoods.

“The central Idaho ranchers are in the same place that the West Coast loggers were with the spotted owl,” Little said.

‘The sweet spot’

Suzanne Stone, now with Defenders of Wildlife, was contracted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife in the early 1990s to look for wolves in central Idaho.

Stone soon learned how difficult life would be for wolves in Idaho, both then and now. Biologist Steve Fritts was teaching her to howl in 1991 near Warm Lake east of Cascade.

“On my second howl, we literally (had) rifle bullets go over our heads so close I could hear them whistle,” Stone said.

She wanted reintroduction to be called augmentation, because she knew wolves already were living in Idaho. But she also believes that if the naturally moving wolves had been given the full protection of the Endangered Species Act, we would have wolves in Idaho, Yellowstone and at least Wyoming without reintroduction.

The wolf recovery program today would not be as divisive, Bangs said, had the delisting occurred several years earlier — before wolf populations had reached their peak and affected so much livestock and big game.

“We lost the hunting constituency because of that,” he said.

Steve Alder agrees.

Alder heads Idaho for Wildlife — the group that sponsored this month’s wolf- and coyote-hunting derby in Salmon.

“From our perspective, (the delay in delisting) really got people rallied,” he said.

So what ended up happening?

Wolves captured in northern Alberta were released Jan. 14, 1995, after a federal judge lifted a temporary restraining order.

In Idaho, the 35 wolves simply were released from cages into the wild.

At Yellowstone, packs captured together were kept in enclosures to allow the animals to acclimate to their new environs. The enclosures were opened in March and the wolves reluctantly left to take over their new home. More wolves were released in 1996.

From the beginning, Idaho’s great wolf habitat — lots of undeveloped spaces and lots of food such as elk and moose — meant that the wolf population grew faster here than anywhere else.

By 2001, the Idaho population had reached the 10 to 15 breeding pairs that federal biologists said was necessary for recovery.

After years of debate, lawsuits and failed efforts to remove Idaho wolves from protections under the Endangered Species Act, Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson added a rider to a fast-track federal budget bill in 2011. The rider inserted language to allow Idaho and Montana to manage

New WDFW Pick is Former Idaho Gun-Nut

The following is an open letter by an anonymous reader…

The Fish and Wildlife Commission’s recent choice for the Director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is an inappropriate choice for Washington.

The new director is from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, which is known for its brutal archaic wildlife management style.  They support many practices, which have been banned here by state initiatives because of the cruelty involved.  These practices include bear baiting, hounding, and the use of steel-jaw traps.  They promote the killing of wolves in all kinds of despicable ways and put little emphasis on protecting endangered species.

The primary mandate for WDFW is to protect, preserve, and perpetuate our state’s wildlife.  The Commission’s choice of director is inconsistent with this mandate and is ill suited for our state.  I fear for the future of our wildlife.

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Idaho game management killing elk after killing wolves

By Justin King     Jan 26, 2014 in Environment
Boise – Ranchers in Idaho are asking the state government to help eliminate some of the state’s elk population. The state is halfway through the wolf season, which was said to have been introduced to stop the wolves from attacking elk.

A group from Mayfield claims that Idaho’s Department of Fish and Game has been unable to protect their livelihoods from elk herds which they say10846355_862436173776474_7314160412610807927_n are trampling their fences, crops, and causing other problems. The department currently allows a small group of hunters to participate in “depredation hunts,” in which the hunters are allowed to kill animals while hoping to drive the herds away.

Elk hunters have actively encouraged thinning the wolf population. Some have established co-ops to shoulder the cost of trapping wolves that are eating the prized trophy animals. Wolf trappers are paid up to $500 per kill.

Conservationists unsuccessfully attempted to stop the wolf hunts and predicted an explosion in the elk population if the wolf, an apex predator, was hunted. Tim Preso, an attorney representing the conservationists said of the wolf hunting efforts last week:

There is every reason to believe that this is not going to be a one-off, they have set a goal of inflating the elk population by removing wolves. According to their own plan that’s a multi-year undertaking. So I see every reason to believe that this is going to be a recurring activity.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, almost 900 wolves have been killed since they lost federal protection.

One of the proposed solutions to Mayfield’s problem is to move the herds closer to the areas where wolves roam.

Read more:

No Wolves Killed in Contest Means Too Many Wolves Already Killed

Hunters here need to get a life. For over a week now, I’ve been receiving comments about the wolf/coyote contest hunt addressed in the January 2nd article, “ID Gun Nuts Start New Year With Three-Day Mass Slaughter Of Wolves And Coyotes.”   

I don’t know if it’s the insinuation that they might be “gun nuts” (I would think they’d gladly fess up to that) or what, but long after the derby has played itself out, they’re still trying to get their vitriolic comments approved. So far, over 500 of their 180,000+ viewers have left comments that will never see the light of day (except in the occasional post like this one, meant to expose just how malicious they really are).

And they really do all sound alike—believe me when I say you’d never want to sit through 500 of their repetitive statements, such as the ever-popular catch phrase:

“Smoke a pack a day!”NT wolf bumpr stickr

It wasn’t funny the day the first guy blurted it out and it just gets more tedious—and more carcinogenic—with each repeated use. However, it does point out their universal sentiment about doing away with wolves at every chance they get. With all the anti-wolf mawkishness it’s hard to imagine there are many wolves left in Idaho. Each licensed hunter there can legally kill up to five wolves per season and trap and an additional five individuals, so recovering wolves would conceivably have suffered considerable losses by now.

But these would-be commenters seem keenly concerned about controlling the wolves’ population (as if they need it) while at the same time, indifferent about their own. Here are some of their views on the subject of overpopulation:

“There is nothing wrong with the killing of these animals it’s a all in an order to control population.”

“Their numbers are unsustainable. Wolves will kill for the thrill and not just because they are hungry.”

“haha kill them all! Wolves are one of the biggest problems we have in Idaho, wyoming and Montana!”

“if we don’t thin out these packs it could turn bad for everyone they are already over populated…” 

And yet, according to post-contest articles like, “Wolf Population Unaltered By Controversial Hunt,” “Nobody even saw a track. We had fresh snow, and we were just in shock,” Alder said. “No sightings, no tracks.” He noted that there was an increase in coyote captures this year—30, compared with 21 during last year’s derby.

Not to give them credit for achieving anything whatsoever, but it would seem wolf-killers have been proactive about gettin’‘er done well before the contest’s start date.

The article goes on to say, “One team of hunters killed 12 coyotes over three days and sold their pelts to a fur buyer who attended the event. The team walked away with a $1,000 cash prize for most coyotes killed.

“Thirty coyotes were killed during the three-day hunt, and—for the second consecutive year—zero wolves.”

The derby, organized by executive director of Idaho for Wildlife Steve Alder, was created to help curb predator populations.

Considering the burgeoning human population, Alder and his ilk would do well to look in the mirror before calling any kettles black. Are they blissfully ignorant of the fact that another human is born every eight seconds in this country alone? Meanwhile, 350,000 humans are born each and every day worldwide.

How many of them will grow up to be predator hunters? Talk about “unsustainable” numbers. This isn’t just about them or their rancher buddies. This is about a world-wide loss of biodiversity—their part in the sixth mass extinction. It’s really not something to be glib over or proud of.


Hunt or be Hunted?

And the hits just keep on coming. Yet again today I find comments from hunters on the pre-coyote/wolf-kill-contest post that really seemed to get their goat, the article, was posted over a week ago, and still the hunters are coming up with (unapproved) comments such as this one from today (printed verbatim):

…”‘Hunt or be hunted’ all u tree hungers don’t understand… if we don’t thin out these packs it could turn bad for everyone they are already over populated… if we left the wolves an coyotes alone next thing u know are children’s an even adults we become hunted and killed by them it’s called animal control an besides the department of wildlife knows when they will.need to shut the hunting down all it is ‘control of the packs’”



Environmentalists Couldn’t Stop the Slaughter at Idaho’s Annual Coyote and Wolf Derby

Environmentalists Couldn’t Stop the Slaughter at Idaho’s Annual Coyote and Wolf Derby

Last year I learned that anti-predator activists were organizing a predator killing derby to take place in Salmon, Idaho – a place smack dab amidst one of the largest and most breathtakingly diverse public landscapes in the country. A few of us infiltrated the event with the aim of exposing the extent of the depravity to the public (See: VICE: How to Kill a Wolf), and hopefully aiding any litigation and legislative efforts that may follow in the future with factual support.

This year the event garnered a great deal more attention from the environmental community. Lawsuits were filed but, unfortunately, the existing state of the law has yet to secure protections that would effectively curtail this very public wanton infliction of suffering, destruction of life, and appalling disregard for the potential impacts to ecological communities inhabiting this profound public landscape.

A brilliant and courageous group of activists (including: Stephany Seay of Buffalo Field Campaign, a person whose adept insights and experience working with BFC largely provided the model and know-how for this year’s effort; Ritchie Eppink of the ACLU of Idaho, a person and organization that has ably protected Idaho citizens’ rights to practice journalism, expression, and the full suite of constitutionally protected methods of civic engagement; Lynne Stone of the Boulder White Clouds Council, who first blew the horn on last year’s derby, organized information, and whose years on the ground advocating for wolves on the landscape at issue provided invaluable support; among others) came together and committed to bear witness the events that would transpire during the derby again, this time with a very particular aim: We would counter their heavily armed violence and hate openly – with cameras, with light.

Derby participants attempt to obscure line of sight with tarp. Photo:

On the third day of the wolf-killing contest, an earthquake shook the mountains near Salmon, Idaho. “It’s Mother Earth revolting against the cruelty, the violence, the madness, of what’s happening here,” said Brian Ertz, president of the nonprofit advocacy group Wildlands Defense.

Read about the rest in VICE.  Environmentalists Couldn’t Stop the Slaughter at Idaho’s Annual Coyote and Wolf Derby – VICE Magazine – by Christopher Ketcham

January 6, 2015

On the third day of the wolf-killing contest, an earthquake shook the mountains near Salmon, Idaho. “It’s Mother Earth revolting against the cruelty, the violence, the madness, of what’s happening here,” said Brian Ertz, president of the nonprofit advocacy group Wildlands Defense. A year ago this week, Ertz and I went undercover for VICE in Salmon to infiltrate that town’s annual Coyote and Wolf Derby, an event as primitive as it sounds: Dozens of contestants compete to mow down as many coyotes and wolves as quickly as possible, piling up the cadavers in their trucks, vying for $1,000 prizes for most animals killed. Kids as young as ten are invited to join in the slaughter with their families, with special awards handed out to the children who shed the most blood.

This is not hunting for meat. It is not hunting to prevent threats to human safety. It is killing for the sake of killing. To join in the derby was an unnerving experience for me, an immersion into the ugly side of rural mountain folkways in the American West.

I had thought, quixotically, that exposure of Salmon’s atavistic blood rites in an international magazine would have helped put an end to it. After all, much of the derby hunt occurs on federal public land, which is subject to federal law and oversight by agents of the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. A year later, however, the derby was on again, and with great fanfare. Government regulators had done nothing to stop it, and environmental groups had failed to galvanize public opinion against it. The event’s organizer, the ironically named Idaho for Wildlife, had announced, proudly, that the derby would be expanded to four days from the previous year’s two. By the end of day one, derby-goers brought in 17 coyotes to a warehouse in Salmon where their bodies were measured, weighed, and skinned, the pelts sold to fur buyers on hand for the nightly bringing-in of the dead.

Not a single representative from the environmental groups that had publicly criticized the derby—and litigated unsuccessfully to shut it down—showed up to confront the bands of hunters. The sole exception was the ad hoc crew of eight hungry young activists that Ertz, 32, had organized, among them a staff member of the ACLU of Idaho, Ritchie Eppink, who joined in the mission as a legal observer, and Stephany Seay, media director of the Buffalo Field Campaign in Montana.

There was good reason to shy away from confrontation: The folks in Salmon hate environmentalists. It’s a small town, and the people, thin-lipped and narrow-eyed, easily sniff out strangers. On the first day of the derby, Thursday, Ertz stood at a gas station in Salmon when a local ranch hand approached to offer a warning. “All these people know you’re here,” said the man, according to Ertz, “and they’re gonna be looking for you. I’d keep your head down, and, if I were you, I’d get out altogether because what they’re gonna do to you ain’t good.” By Friday, one of the activists had fled a hotel in Salmon after Idaho for Wildlife organizers called the owner and warned about environmentalists holing up there.

I asked Ertz why he was taking the risk when he could’ve tried again to go undercover. Last year, disguised as hunters in camouflage, rifles on our backs, blood thirst in our mouths, we had been welcomed in Salmon. This year, he and his colleagues broke up into teams of two; armed with video cameras, they trawled the hills in their cars to document the slaughter for a future lawsuit.

“The objective,” said Ertz, “is to be very much in their face, to let them know we’re out here on patrol, looking for violations of federal law. We want to project the image that we could be anywhere, everywhere.”

A related objective was to stand in open defiance of what Ertz described as “a culture of death.” Salmon, like many small towns in the rural West, is a ranching society. Ranchers who run their cattle on the open range have historically regarded wild predators not as majestic creatures but as vermin to be exterminated. Investigative journalist Jack Olsen, writing in his 1971 Slaughter the Slaughter the Animals, Poison the Earth , concluded that the livestock industry’s hatred of predators—wolves and coyotes foremost, but also cougars, black bears, grizzlies, wolverines, lynx, bobcats, hawks, eagles, and on and on—went “so far beyond the dimensions of reality as to be almost pathological in origin.” Indeed, the desire to annihilate the enemy is not based on a rational assessment of the threat to cows and sheep. The number of rangeland livestock lost each year to carnivore depredations is insignificant—less than a half of a percent, according to the Department of Agriculture.

“These people honestly believe that sterilizing the landscape of predators will enrich their economy and preserve their culture,” says Ertz. “Events like the derby validate those who have been conditioned to believe that their way of life, or more accurately their way of death, is under assault by environmentalists. They’ve got a point. Americans in general are becoming more compassionate toward nonhuman animals, and our appreciation of ecology and the contributions of wildlife communities is growing. This awareness and compassion threatens any culture that predicates itself on wanton destruction and an appalling disregard for the suffering of sentient beings.”

By the final day, Sunday, the hunters had killed 30 coyotes, according to the event’s Facebook page. (No wolves were taken, either by trap or gunfire.) At the awards ceremony that afternoon, Ertz’s crew in separate parties attempted to enter the warehouse where the cadavers had been hung on meat hooks. One of the teams, which included Eppink of the ACLU, carried a hidden camera. They were stopped by an imperious little man in a big cowboy hat. “Are you guys entered in the contest?” he asked.

“No, we just came to see the ceremony,” said Eppink.

“Out!” said the cowboy. “There’s all kinds of animal terrorists here taking pictures and harassing us!”

When Natalie Ertz, Brian’s sister, approached to capture the spectacle of the awards with her Nikon, one of the members of Idaho for Wildlife, a woman with funny blackened teeth named Billiejo Beck, cut off her passage. “No cameras—this is private property,” she said.

“What are you hiding?” asked Natalie.

“Absolutely nothing,” said Beck.

“Where’s the property line?”

Beck pointed beyond the fencing of the parking lot, and yelled for assistance to a county sheriff who was standing nearby. So Natalie and her brother and the rest of the crew stood at the fence line. Natalie howled three times like a wolf and smiled.

When Beck again emerged, Natalie called to her: “Billiejo! I’d love to talk to you. What does wildlife mean to Idaho for Wildlife? What does wilderness mean? Wolves and coyotes are wildlife! Where’s your ethical line in killing?”

There was no response. “Why won’t you talk to me if you’re so proud of what you’re doing?”

The protesters had a partial view into the warehouse—they could spy the coyotes tossed from trucks and hung on the hooks—but Beck at last placed a bloody tarp across the doorway to obscure the line of sight.

“It’s no different from last year,” said Brian Ertz, “except in one way: This year they were forced to hide their carnival. This year they feared the cameras and scurried like cockroaches to avoid the light.”

This year, in other words, there was shame. That’s progress.

Christopher Ketcham is a contributing editor at Harper’s magazine. Write him at