A picture of a USDA Wildlife Services airplane decorated by its pilot and gunner with decals of wolf paws to signify kills has shined a spotlight on the agency it would rather avoid.
In fact, the paw prints have been painted over for two years, said Todd Grimm, western district supervisor for the federal agency in Idaho. The agency kills and controls predators including wolves that attack livestock and in some cases big game.
The prints, which look like the kill symbols World War II fighter pilots painted on their planes, were ordered to be removed by agency managers.
“It became apparent it was bothering somebody,” said Grimm.
The picture was put up on the Wildlife News blog and became viral on the Internet.
“I just think the agency is unprofessional,” said Ken Cole, who posted the pictures.
Today Kim Murphy of the Los Angeles Times ran a story and a picture from the blog with reaction from both sides of the issue.
The reaction is predictable. Pro wolf folks hate it, Anti-wolf people love it.
Th hoopla comes as the Idaho Department of Fish and Game announced plans to have aerial gunners kill wolves this winter in the Lolo area of northcentral Idaho. Grimm doesn't know if his agency will participate.
"That was the first I heard of it," he said.