Earth Island Journal: Trappergate Update by James William Gibson Josh Bransford with the black wolf he trapped. (Earth Island Journal)

Blog: The EnvironmentaList

Idaho Fish and Game Report Says Trapped Black Wolf Not Shot, “Just Nicked”


Trappergate Update: Conservation Activists Encouraged. “Our Moment is Coming,” They Say

Why me, Bill” asked “Elizabeth.”. “Why should anyone care about what I think the Bransford photos accomplished?” I’m just a wee, grubby misfit. I don’t even have one fancy title to my name.” Elizabeth (not her real name) lives in northern Idaho. She grasped that the photos showing smiling hunter Josh Bransford with a trapped black wolf standing in blood-drenched snow in the background would soon disappear. She saved the images and through the North Idaho Wolf Alliance network, got the photographs to Earth Island Journal in late March (Read the original story, Wolf Torture and Execution Continues in the Northern Rockies).

A light has been released, a light beyond my expectations,” Elizabeth says. “We have many new eyes peering into the gap between the ethical treatment of wildlife and legality in the state of Idaho… Josh Bransford is the face of but one man being used to render wolves functionally extinct region-wide, and since his disturbing actions are legal, officials won’t budge unless we the people demand change.”

Despite the worldwide publicity, the Bransford pictures got little attention in the  Idaho news media for the first two weeks after the story’s release. Bill Ross, a wolf handler at the Wolf People sanctuary in Cocolalla, Idaho, observed, “I don’t think the story’s really gotten off the ground yet. It’s not circulated among the general public here.” Ross fears that Bransford and the black wolf are “today’s news” and that “a week from now it won’t be news anymore.” Still, Ross soldiers on. “It can be discouraging, but if we don’t continue to fight, obviously there won’t be a fight,” he explains.

But Ross and the other Northern Rocky advocates got unexpected help on April 12, when the Idaho Fish and Game Service released its official report on Bransford’s “Wolf Trapping in the Red River area.”  (Bransford is a Nez Perce National Forest employee.)

photo of a man in the foreground kneeling, behind him a wolf is chained by a trap, a circle of bloodstained snow beneath
The photo in question. (Earth Island Journal)

While the photograph clearly shows the black wolf standing in a large blood-stained pool of snow, fish and game officials concluded the blood came from “nicks,” not bullets. Moreover, the report says: “the Forest Service officer and the deputy did not observe anyone shoot at the wolf and did not receive any indication that any of the individuals they contacted shot at the wolf.” Thus, since no law enforcement officer saw the wolf shot, and no one confessed to the shooting, then the wolf simply suffered “nicks” to its lower hind legs, and the nicks bled.

The report ignores Bransford’s own blog account about the incident on Trapperman: “I got a call on Sunday morning from a FS [Forrest Service] cop that I know. He said that You got one and you better get up here as there was a crowd forming. Several guys had stopped and taken a shot at him already! Lucky they were not real good shots.”   Bransford, writing under the name “Pinching,” explains that once on the scene he talked to the boys who fired: “I was not mad, and when the boys told me the story I kind of chuckled… I would have done the same I think. They also did go out of there (sic) way to make sure I was called, and they didn’t hide from what they were doing.”

There’s also a serious problem between the report’s conclusion and the pictures of the black wolf. Gary MacFarlane, Ecosystem Defense Director, of northern Idaho’s Friends of the Clearwater, contends that only two possible circumstances could lead to a wolf’s losing so much blood. One, the wolf could be shot. Second, the wolf could have tried to chew off its trapped leg.  But look at the photo of the wolf’s paw caught in Bransford’s trap. “It doesn’t look like the animal is trying to chew off its leg,” he says. “Somebody is lying. There’s a contradiction in the accounts.

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Photos: Courtesy Earth Island Journal

Posted in: Wolf Wars, Idaho Wolves, Animal Cruelty, Howling for Justice

Tags: Earth Island Journal,  Bill Gibson,  IDFG, trapped and tortured wolf,  Trappergate


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26 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I made the same conclusion yesterday. As usual IDF&G continues not to do their job accurately or well. I’ve lived in a couple of other nearby states and all agencies have politics. However, IDF&G is the most dishonest and crooked agency around. I’m really disgusted!


  2. I think this guy is one big jerk! That poor wolf trapped and sickos taking pot shots at the poor creature,shme on them too arseholes are what they are!


    • Well stated!


  3. The point of the story is he is a federal employee and to lie to the public he should be fired, in the employment part of’s interview they review such situations ,and people aren’t selected for employment ,why is Josh better than others out there looking for work, its just another example of the gov taking care of their own so like the federal gov,”quid pro quo”


  4. That disgusting man,smiling in the pictures like he’s won a trophy,cruel and barbaric is the name for these people,a wonderful and majestic creature killed just for pleasure.


  5. IDFG is under the black boot of the Idaho legislature and the governor’s predator-hating IDFG Commissioners. IDFG staff go along or get the shaft.


  6. I know a USFS employee who spoke up for wolves and an IDFG wolf biologist complained to her higher ups and she was reprimanded. I think this is called a “double standard”. Wolf killers can say and do almost anything and get away with it. Wolf supporters better be ducking the iron fist & quiet or be prepared to lose their jobs with a state or federal agency.


    • Mankind is rather pathetic!


      • Politics and politicians are pathetic It is specifically distasteful that people in the USA can be manipulated during a period of high unemployment. To me it just shows how twisted and greedy the State government’s top people are. Don’t forget Abbey that every nationality, tribe or gathering of persons, have their share of the good, the bad and the down right ugly. It is a pity that some states seem to their share of the ugly in power. Then one must ask – who voted them in?


  7. There’s a guy who works for the U.S. Postal Service who parks his pickup truck in the employee parking lot in such a way that his anti-wolf bumper stickers don’t show to passerbys. When he’s waited on me at the window, he’s sarcastically remarked about wolves – knowing that I am a wolf supporter. It’s Idaho – apparently even a postal employee can get away with making a trip to get mail unpleasant. If anyone has suggestions on how to deal with this jerk (his boss is anti-wolf, too) welcome advice. Sorry to get off track from Earth Island report, just trying to show that the cover up in Elk City, is not a big surprise to me.


    • Conceal a mobile phone camera, film him, let him speak his bile, dont egg him on, stay calm and then stick it on the web, if you feel strong enough to do this.


      • Excellent idea. Record what he says and then file a formal complaint with the postal service. I am sure they have something in their policies about harassing their customers.


      • Its really no different to being disabled and the guy has a go at you for that. If it was done in ‘banter’, fooling around type of thing, well, I guess thats different, but to harass with vigour….shouldn’t be allowed.


      • I think that we need to start using laws and policies to our advantage against these people. The bully and harass people on our side with impunity. Don’t stoop to their level, but use laws and policies against them.


  8. The humanity seems to be lessening in humans!


  9. The killing is bad enough. But when the war on wolves includes torture and people grinning over their trophy– an animal caught in a trap, frightened and suffering–then we’re dealing with sadistic jerks who are using the hatred of wolve to vent their meanness.


  10. can you say coverup, sure you can


  11. I can see that he is sadly, completely empty behind that smile. OMG, what a shame for that wolf. You know these guys will have to pay some heavy karma either in their lifetime or the next for things like this. Instead of sending bad vibes towards these people though, we need to put our energy into more positive ways of helping the wolves. Politics are going to get worse in the future for these agencies and one way we can get things changed for the wolf is to get hired into them or in general become politicians in these areas while still keeping our values.
    On a good note, the protest in Albuquerque went smoothly yesterday and more events are planned this summer! Please get involved with the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, and Wild Spririt Wolf Sanctuary here in NM to find out more.


    • WONDERFUL on the protest. One good thing to celebrate with all this going on. I’m leary of reporting to this wonderful group that I am a fed employee (EPA) and I know how they repremand if you go against anything they says is right. Had one regional administrator who was originally from Idaho (they are placed by elected officials in this capacity) who allowed actions at a Superfund site to go on, to the detrement of the environment and people. Staff were so pissed we turned him in to the IG. He quit. Got a lucrative job in Idaho after that. I wonder why? (gag me) Not all feds are gutless wonders. I wear my Wolf Howl Coalition shirt to work. I wear my Stop the Slaughter of Wolves in Idaho bracelet and have even given one away to a co-worker who asked. But political pressure is what is going to change this. It has to come higher than the State. Problem is….States rights seem to trump many decisions now. I cringe folks when I see this happen. I am so embarrassed to be a fed of 28 years. But I will continue to fight on. It’s in my heart and soul. Always will be. Peace to all. Michele


    • One can only hope that Karma will come back around. You are right, we cannot stoop to their level; we must get involved on the political level and with local agencies. This is a good fight to have for our future.


  12. The Forest Service is not an institution that shelters woods and animals. Far from this the Forest Service destroys woods (including Redwoods) by selling it to the lumber industry, admits activities like oil and gas extraction and sells permits for killing wild animals. What kind of destructive things they have done already in the past and still doing the presence you can read in the book “A walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson.


  13. The bastard hides behind a gun!


  14. porque esto que sentiria el señor bransford si el estuviera en el lugar del lobo? y los de fauna tienen que defender a los animales salvajes no vender permisos de cazeria


  15. To whom do we go to continue the fight? Obviously they are lying. Josh Bransford NEEDS TO BE FIRED and lose his license to trap and his gun FOREVER. The folks who “nicked”/shot at the wolf (he knows who they are)…need to be ARRESTED AND IMPRISONED. All the folks at IDFG and the commission and the government who give them a “pass” are accessories to the crime and need to lose their jobs and be prosecuted and imprisoned.
    Here’s a link to petition the Canadian folks to stop using leg iron traps:

    Wish there was something more I could do. I write the Pres everyday to do two writs – to put wolves back on the Endangered Species List and to ban all lethal/leg iron traps and snares….and I write msnbc to the ed lawrence and rachel shows and individually email them too every day to do a story about this….to get public attention/media to get public outcry to get these things to finally happen….

    Any suggestions for who we can get to get justice for the wolf and see Josh Bransford and the shooters get their instant karma?


  16. I am signing petitions. I am so disappointed no action taken against this horrible man


  17. It’s important to keep the pressure repeating. Guerilla…Keeping the photos and pressure repeating – just when it seems to abate, repost. Images that show the savagery of trapping and snaring must keep surfacing. I keep seeing the Black and the eyes of animals in traps. A particular image of a bobcat fighting as it is being clubbed with a pipe, is very powerful, horrible.
    Are there enough images among blog members to have a vimeo file that can be compiled and the url used to contact legislators/campaigns? Is anyone interested? Please post.


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