The photograph of a smiling trapper in front of a living wolf in a leghold trap surrounded by bloody snow has angered wildlife groups and captured national attention.
But Idaho Department of Fish and Game official said the trapper broke no laws.
The trapper had all of the necessary permits, permission from the landowners and he had participated in the mandatory wolf trapping class, conservation officers found when they investigated.
“They couldn’t find that he did anything illegal,” said Mike Keckler, Fish and Game communications chief.
Had the trapper followed guidance provided in the trapping class he would not have photographed himself with the live-trapped animal, Keckler said.
“We would have preferred that he dispatched the animal before taking the photograph with it,” Keckler said.
The Center for Biological Diversity sent letters to both the Forest Service and Idaho Attorney General, Lawrence Wasden, today requesting investigations into the actions of the trapper, a Forest Service employee.
Wasden's spokesman Bob Cooper said the attorney general doesn't have the authority to bring criminal charges. That is done in Idaho by county prosecutors.
The picture, first posted on Trapperman.com, is below.
Michael Robinson, a spokesman for the Center for Biological Diversity said Idaho state law makes it a crime for a person who “causes or procures any animal to be cruelly treated, or who, having the charge or custody of any animal either as owner or otherwise, subjects any animal to cruelty.” It also requires that “destruction of animals for population control” be carried out humanely.
“These photos make plain that the trapping and hunting of wolves being allowed by the state of Idaho are less ‘wildlife-management techniques’ than scapegoating of wolves,” said Robinson.
The groups say the wolf also was shot by others, which Keckler said could not be confirmed. That would violate laws against interfering with hunting or trapping said Brett Haverstick, Friends of the Clearwater Education & Outreach Director.
"Regardless of what was in the trap, if an investigation finds that laws were broken, we fully expect those individuals deemed responsible to be prosecuted,” he said.
Making it possible for potshots to be taken at a captive animal — and photographing the results — before ending the wolf’s suffering appears to violate this law, as well as common decency, Robinson said.
The trapper's name and his telephone number were posted on many animal rights sights and he has received death threats, published in comments on web sites.
The Forest Service is not planning any action against him since he did nothing illegal and was trapping on his own time, said Elayne Murphy, a spokeswoman for the Clearwater-Nez Perce National Forest.
The agency has received many calls in Grangeville from people unhappy with the picture and trapping as well as from trapping supporters Murphy said. But they are not alone.