Friends of the Clearwater Respond to Forest Service “Investigation” of Wolf Torture Incident….


PO Box 9241 Moscow, ID 83843
pH (208)882-9755


Rick Brazell

April 4, 2012
Supervisor Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests
104 Airport Road
Grangeville, Idaho 83530

Dear Supervisor Brazell,

As you are undoubtedly aware, there has been considerable public outcry over a recent wolf-trapping incident on the Nez Perce National Forest. Mr. Josh Bransford, the Fire Management Officer (FMO) on the Red River Ranger District of the Nez Perce National Forest, posted a picture on a website of a grey wolf that he had trapped. The wolf was apparently alive, with a pool of blood surrounding it, with Mr. Bransford posing in front of the wolf with a big smile.

Whether one finds this behavior deplorable–which we do, and most Americans most likely do as well–or acceptable may not be a concern of the Forest Service. Nevertheless, according to an article that appeared in the Missoulian on April 4, 2012 Missoula-based group gets threats over post on Idaho wolf trapper, Mr. Phil Sammon from the Forest Service Region One office stated that an investigation into this matter has concluded that no violations occurred. Based on what has been reported in the media, and
what we know about the incident, we have some questions about the agency investigation that we would like to be answered:

First, what prompted the Forest Service to conduct an investigation? When did the Forest Service conduct an investigation, and who conducted it?

Second, how did the Forest Service determine that Mr. Bransford set his traps on his own time, versus government time? Mr. Bransford has admitted to setting his traps on Friday March 16th. Did Mr. Bransford make a statement during your investigation as to when he set the trap(s)?

Third, Mr. Bransford posted the following statement on a web site called (which can no longer be accessed without having an account), “I got a call on Sunday morning from a FS [Forest Service] cop that I know. You got one up here as there was a crowd forming. Several guys had stopped and taken a shot at him already.” Which Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) responded to the incident, and did that officer type up an incident report?

We understand that the incident occurred on private land. Why was a Forest Service LEO on the scene, and where did this occur? Can you please explain why the LEO gave Mr. Bransford a phone call on March 18th telling him that he had a wolf in his trap? How did the LEO know that the traps belonged to Mr. Bransford?

Fourth, it has been reported that the pool of blood that surrounded the trapped wolf was caused by people that had stopped and fired shots at the wolf. Did the LEO witness and/or make any attempt to stop the individual(s) from shooting at the trapped wolf? Idaho Code 36-1510: Interference with hunting, fishing, trapping or wildlife control clearly states that it is illegal for an individual to tamper with an animal trapped by another individual. If the officer at the scene did not witness the alleged shooting incident, was he or she able to confirm that an individual(s) had fired a gun at the trapped animal? Based on what the law enforcement officer witnessed or learned during questioning, was anyone at the scene cited, and charged for violating this law?

Fifth, Idaho Code 36-1508: Shooting from public highway specifically prohibits individuals from discharging firearms across a public road and/or from its shoulder. Did the law enforcement officer witness  any individual(s) shooting from the road and/or its shoulder? If the officer was not there to witness the alleged shooting, was he or she able to confirm that shots were fired from the roadway? Were any individuals cited and charged for violating this law?

We look forward to your response with regards to this very important matter.

Gary Macfarlane
Ecosystem Defense Director

cc: Tom Tidwell, Chief US Forest Service via US mail
Jane Cottrell, Deputy Regional Forester, Region One via US mail
Terry Nevius, District Ranger, Red River Ranger District via US mail

Published in: on April 5, 2012 at 2:08 pm  Comments (36)  

CBD Calls For Further IDFG Investigation Into Idaho Wolf Trapping Tragedy….

April 4, 2012

Via Facsimile Only
Virgil Moore, Director
Idaho Department of Fish and Game
Fax No: (208) 334-2148

Re: IDFG Investigation of Wolf Trapping and Shooting from Road

Dear Director Moore:

I am writing in response to media reports that the Idaho Department of Fish and Game has investigated the events in connection with Josh Bransford’s trapping of a male gray wolf during the weekend of March 16-18, 2012.

According to media accounts, an investigation of this incident has been concluded already, with Mr. Bransford being cleared of any wrongdoing and no investigation of any other individuals involved. Mike Keckler, IDFG’s communications chief, told the Missoulian that Bransford did nothing wrong because he possessed the proper tags, had attended a wolf-trapping class, was trapping on private land with permission from the landowner, and was checking his traps daily.

Yet, by all accounts a crowd gathered on the road and shot at this wolf before (and possibly after) Bransford arrived, wounding it and causing it to suffer and bleed into the snow. Mr. Keckler acknowledged both that this occurred and that shooting from the road is against the law, but stated that IDFG did not investigate further. Mr. Keckler then speculates as to whether those involved violated the law.

Notwithstanding Mr. Keckler’s baseless speculation, those who shot at this suffering wolf violated IDFG rules prohibiting shooting of animals from the road. As their actions violated IDFG rules, they should be investigated for animal cruelty as prohibited by Section 25-3504 of the Idaho Code.

These individuals were not hunting for population control – the purported basis for allowing for sport hunting of wolves in Idaho – or any other legitimate reason. They were being intentionally cruel. They violated IDFG rules. An unnamed Forest Service law enforcement official evidently witnessed this. In light of these facts, your agency’s failure to follow up and investigate these violations is extremely troubling. Indeed, this is one reason why we requested further investigation by the Idaho Attorney General.

Mr. Moore, millions of Americans are deeply concerned about the welfare of gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains. The Center for Biological Diversity considers these animals to be endangered; but for Senator Tester’s appropriations rider last year, Bransford’s actions would be a clear violation of the Endangered Species Act. Treatment of any animal in this manner is patently cruel and inhumane, but this is particularly so when that animal should be federally protected as endangered.

Indeed, when the State of Idaho supported delisting of the gray wolf, assurances were made that IDFG rules would ensure that wolves would be treated humanely as a “game” animal. Yet, when confronted with this incident, your agency has conducted a truncated investigation, effectively sanctioning this gruesome incident. Either IDFG rules and Section 25-3504 of the Idaho Code were violated, or there is a serious problem with IDFG’s ability to ensure that game animals are not treated
with cruelty.

Please direct your agency to investigate this matter further. A lack of leadership and further investigation by IDFG would be not only unjust to this gray wolf, but an affront to the millions of Americans who care very much about their welfare of these animals.

I look forward to your response. Please call me at 503-283-5474 if you have any questions or wish to discuss this matter further. Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter.

Amy R. Atwood, Senior Attorney
Center for Biological Diversity

cc: Via Facsimile:
Mike Keckler, Communications Bureau Chief
Idaho Department of Fish and Game
Fax No: (208) 334-2148

Via Online Form:
Lawrence Wasden, Attorney General
State of Idaho

Published in: on April 5, 2012 at 1:50 pm  Comments (20)  
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