The story of a Montana woman who recently killed and skinned a domestic dog, then proudly posted photos on her social media pages, has sparked an outpouring of public outrage.
It should. The woman allegedly mistook the dog for a wolf, saying she was delighted to share that she had “smoked a wolf cub”. When others pointed out that she had in fact killed a dog, probably a husky and not a young wolf, she doubled down on her actions, saying that if she found herself in that situation again, she would have pressed the button anyway. trigger.
The photos are heartbreaking. In one, the woman holds the dead dog’s head and smiles. In another, she poses next to the dog’s flayed body, apparently prepared as a trophy rug for wall or floor display.
Media reports said the husky and at least 11 others had been abandoned in the Doris Creek area of Montana’s Flathead National Forest. The local sheriff’s office reported that several of the dogs tested positive for parvovirus, a highly contagious disease transmissible to dogs, foxes, coyotes and wolves. An investigation is underway.
The woman who killed the husky defended her actions by saying she didn’t kill anyone’s pet. In a way, that’s no excuse.
But the context here points to a larger, troubling reality about the status and persecution of wolves in the West. They are killed daily during trophy hunting seasons in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. In Montana, trophy hunters can kill up to 20 wolves each and in Idaho there is no limit.
This is how killing is done in 2022: wolves are hunted down with packs of radio-collared dogs, shot at night using night vision goggles, or captured in steel jaw traps and strangling collars.
In Idaho, even mothers and young in their dens can be killed year-round. They are slaughtered by the hundreds every year – both legally and by poachers and lawbreakers who live by the “shoot, shovel and be quiet” code of killing wildlife.
The killing of a husky under these circumstances is a tragedy, born out of a trigger-happy mindset to kill wolves, and now, it seems, any canine that could be mistaken for one. In that sense, this is part of the greatest tragedy facing America’s wolf populations, a tragedy that we could prevent by restoring federal protections for them.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service is currently considering whether or not to re-list wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains under the federal Endangered Species Act.
If the authorities can identify and punish anyone responsible for abandoning the dogs, or find a way to hold the woman who killed the husky accountable, they certainly should. As companions at home and in the field, dogs are special, and a society that does not protect them is unenviable. But we can also think about how we treat wolves in light of this incident.
In the West we know that wolves are ecologically important as well as a huge magnet for ecotourism. Their presence is literally worth billions of tourist dollars every year in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.
It is the height of folly to destroy their populations, and western states with their disturbing and vicious policies are not simply out of step with the majority opinion regarding the hunting trophy of wolves. They are also cut off from everything we know about the value of wolves for the ecological balance of the region.
Killing wolves through misplaced zeal threatens to undo decades of progress toward recovery. That’s why it’s vital that the federal government restore protection for wolves in the northern Rockies now.
(Amanda Wight is a contributor to Writers on the Range, writersontherange.org, a nonprofit organization dedicated to stimulating lively conversation about the West. She is the wildlife protection program manager for the Humane Society of the United States. United.)