Monday, 2 April 2012

Dead wolf photos stir tensions in West


SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - Photos of dead and maimed wolves have pervaded the Internet in recent weeks, raising tensions in the Northern Rocky Mountains over renewed hunting and trapping of the once federally protected animals.
Escalating rancor between hunters and animal rights activists on social media and websites centers on pictures of wolves killed or about to be killed. Many have text celebrating the fact that Western states are allowing more killing of the predators.
Commenting on a Facebook-posted image of two wolves strangled to death by cable snares, an individual who identified himself as Shane Miller wrote last month, "Very nice!! Don't stop now, you're just getting started!"
A person going by the name Matthew Brown posted the message, "Nice, one down and a BUNCH to go!" in response to a Facebook image of a single wolf choked to death in a snare.
Such pictures and commentary have intensified online arguments over the ethics of hunting and trapping wolves. The debate took a threatening turn this week with an anonymous email warning thatanimal rights advocates will "be the target next."
In Idaho and Montana, hundreds of the animals have been killed -- mostly through hunting -- less than a year after being removed from the U.S. endangered species list.
Stripping the wolves of federal protection last spring opened the animals to state wildlife management, including newly licensed hunting and trapping designed to reduce their numbers from levels the states deemed too high.
Since the de-listing last May, Idaho has cut its wolf population by about 40 percent, from roughly 1,000 to about 600 or fewer. Some 260 wolves have been killed in Montana, more than a third of its population, leaving an estimated 650 remaining.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has also proposed lifting the protected status for another 350 wolves in Wyoming.
The threatening note received by an anti-trapping group based in Missoula, Montana, this week has drawn scrutiny from federal and local law enforcement.
The group says it was likely singled out because it had criticized and widely circulated a snapshot of a smiling trapper posed with a dying wolf whose leg was caught in the metal jaws of a foothold trap on a patch of blood-stained snow.

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