How To Kill A Wolf: An Undercover Report from the Idaho Coyote and Wolf Derby

Salmon Wolf and Coyote Derby From left to right Bryan Walker_Brian Ertz and Natalie Ertz

“From left to right: Bryan Walker, Brian Ertz, and Natalie Ertz”  (going undercover)

This is a much-needed expose on what wolves are being subjected to in the worst of the worst wolf killing state of Idaho. Four brave souls went undercover to shine a light on this horrific “contest”. I want to thank them for their courage and dedication to the wolves and the coyotes. Predator derbies go on all over the country, often including bobcats and foxes as well. When wolves were delisted, they became a target for these “killing contests”. California is considering a ban on predator derbies.

Warning: Graphic Photos Below


How to Kill a Wolf

An Undercover Report from the Idaho Coyote and Wolf Derby

By Christopher Ketcham

The best way to fatally wound a wolf without killing it instantly is to shoot it in the gut, preferably with armor-piercing ammunition. Unlike soft lead-tipped bullets, which mushroom inside the body cavity and kill quickly, heavy-jacketed AP ammo pierces the target and blows out the other side.

This has two advantages: The first is that, especially with a gut shot, the animal will suffer. It will bleed out slowly, run a mile or so in terrified panic, and collapse. Then it will die. The second advantage is that, if you’re hunting illegally (out of season, at night with a spotlight, or on land where you shouldn’t), there is little forensic evidence for game wardens to gather. No bullet will be found in the cadaver. Most importantly, the animal will have traveled some distance from where it was shot, so that tracing the site of the shooting is almost impossible.

I gleaned these helpful tips from a nice old man at a saloon in Salmon, Idaho, which last December was the site of the first annual Coyote and Wolf Derby. I had come to this rural town—population 3,000—to enter as a contestant in the derby. Over the course of two days in late December, several hundred hunters would compete to kill as many wolves and coyotes as possible. There were two $1,000 prizes to be had, one for the most coyotes slain and the other for the largest single wolf carcass. Children were encouraged to enter, with special awards for youths aged 10–11 and 12–14 listed on the promotional flyer. The derby’s organizer, a nonprofit sporting group called Idaho for Wildlife, advertised that the event was to be historic: the first wolf-killing contest held in the US since 1974.

Hunting for food is one thing, and in some cases hunting helps to keep overabundant species like deer in ecological check. But the reason we have too many deer in the US in the first place is simple: the steady decline of big predators like the mountain lion and—you guessed it—the wolf. The fact is that we need wolves in ecosystems. So why a killing contest to rid the land of them?

After digging into the wolf-hate literature featured on Idaho for Wildlife’s website, I wondered whether the residents of Salmon were looking to kill wolves out of spite. They hated these creatures, and I wanted to understand why.

Besides killing wolves, one of the group’s core missions, according to its website, is to “fight against all legal and legislative attempts by the animal rights and anti-gun organizations who are attempting to take away our rights and freedoms under the Constitution of the United States of America.” The website also suggested that media coverage of the event was not welcome. The only way I’d be able to properly report on the derby, I figured, was to go undercover as a competing hunter. So I showed up in Salmon a few days before the event, paid the $20 sign-up fee, and officially became part of the slaughter.

The derby called for hunters to work in two-person teams. In the weeks leading up to the competition I recruited pro-wolf activists Brian Ertz and his sister Natalie Ertz, native Idahoans who have worked for local conservation groups. Rounding out our teams was Brian’s friend Bryan Walker, a gnarled former Marine and an Idaho lawyer who has studied shamanism and claims to have an ability to speak with animals.

The nice old man in the bar, whose name was Cal Black, bought the four of us a round of drinks when we told him we were in town for the derby. Cal had grown up on a ranch near town, and his thoughts on wolves reflected those of most other locals we met. Salmon is livestock country—the landscape is riddled with cows and sheep—and ranchers blame wolves for huge numbers of livestock deaths. Therefore wolves needed to be dispatched with extreme prejudice. The derby was a natural extension of this sentiment.

“Gut-shoot every goddamn last one of them wolves,” Cal told us. He wished a similar fate on “tree huggers,” who, in Cal’s view, mostly live in New York City. “You know what I’d like to see? Take the wolves and plant ’em in Central Park, ’cause they impose it on us to have these goddamn wolves! Bullshit! It’s said a wolf won’t attack you. Well, goddamn, these tree huggers don’t know what. I want wolves to eat them goddamn tree huggers. Maybe they’ll learn something!”


“Proud derby contestants displaying a pair of coyotes”

We all raised a glass to the tree huggers’ getting their due. I fought the urge to tell Cal that I live in New York part-time, and that in college Natalie trained as an arborist and had actually hugged trees for a living. Her brother, who is 31 and studying to be a lawyer in Boise, Idaho, had warned me about the risks of going undercover when I broached the idea over the phone. As a representative for the nonprofit Western Watersheds Project, which has lobbied for wolf protections, he’d attended numerous public meetings about “wolf management” in communities like Salmon. “Salmon is the belly of the beast,” he told me. “There is not a more hostile place. It’s Mordor.”

Brian’s former boss at the Western Watersheds Project, executive director Jon Marvel, has received death threats for speaking out in favor of wolves and against the powerful livestock industry. Larry Zuckerman, a conservation biologist for the pro-wolf environmental nonprofit Wild Love Preserve, suspects that it was pro-wolf-hunting residents from Salmon who fatally poisoned his three dogs. Many pro-wolf activists across the American West, especially those who have publicly opposed the ranching industry, have reported similar threats and acts of aggression—tires slashed, homes vandalized, windows busted out with bricks in the night. Idaho for Wildlife’s opinion on the situation is made clear on its website: “Excess predator’s [sic] and environmentalists should go first!”

more dead coyotes

“more dead coyotes”

Prepping for the derby, we disguised ourselves according to the local style: camo pants and jackets, wool caps, balaclavas, binoculars, and heavy boots. When he wasn’t mystically communicating with elk, Walker enjoyed hunting them. He didn’t look out of place in Salmon, carrying his M4 rifle with a 30-round magazine and a Beretta .45 on his hip. He loaned me his bolt-action .300 Win Mag with a folding bipod, while Brian carried a .30-06 with a Leupold scope. Natalie, who is tall and good-looking, was armed only with a camera and played the part of a domesticated wife “here for the party,” as she put it.

At the derby registration the night before the killing was to commence, we were so convincing that the organizers didn’t even bother to ask for our hunting licenses or wolf permits. Instead they suggested spots in the surrounding mountains where we could find wolves to shoot illegally.



Photos: Courtesy Christopher Ketchum

Posted in: Wolf Wars, Activism, Predator Derby

Tags: Salmon_Idaho, Wolf and Coyote Derby, Undercover Report, Wolf Activists, killing animals for fun and prizes, dead coyotes, wolf wars

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26 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I read the whole thing today, it truly is a hell hole there. Sick to want to inflict the most pain and delay death for as long as possible for these unfortunate animals. Also talking about how they do things there that are totally illegal and cannot be proven. I doubt that anyone would look into anything that is done illegally any way. They are all in it together. The whole entire town. Each one is as guilty as the next.


  2. Forgot to say I applaud them for their courage to go into that hell hole undercover. That took a lot of guts.


  3. Reblogged this on The Monsters Among Us.


  4. This speaks volumes as to how far down North American society has slid. Gandhi said “you can judge the morality of a nation by the way the society treats its animals”. This shouts we have a long way to go before we can even consider ourselves evolved. How very sad.


  5. Why cannot these as%^h&*$s be charged with cruelty to animals? Is there no group willing to take this on in court?


  6. This story needs to make it to the mainstream media so the cruelty and sadism that is taking place against wolves can be further exposed!


  7. Reblogged this on Mungai and the Goa Constrictor and commented:
    This is guaranteed to incense and upset any reasonable and decent person. These “hunters”/killers can only be considered sub-human. Absolutely shameful!


  8. I certainly applaud these heroes’ exploits. This adventure must have been an enlightening one. I must say that not only did it take guts to walk in the middle of the tempest and staying sane, but also keeping a low profile, was indeed commendable. I would have, undoubtedly signed up for this kind of undercover operations, yet I highly doubt I would have been able to keep my “cool” armed with an M4, well, I guess the derby would have ended differently..I being here stuck in Texas, for now, do not know if I should be enraged, depressed or the sort.. what these people say of wolves and wildlife is dead on nonsense, pathetic! They can call me a tree hugger as much as they want, I have never even been to a place such as new york, I live in TX, thtere are many coyotes here as well and i NEVER hear people around me speaking of them in any way comparable to that proper of the retarded neanderthals of idaho. I have not missed any of this blog’s posts ever, and I can’t help seeing a pattern in which wolves are just plummeting to extinction…Wolves, tigers, lions, cougars….all the would seem that I am very fond of cursing myself, for every day I love all these creatures more, and more and every day it is more and more excruciating to see them slaughtered by the hand of the garbage that pollutes this planet. Again I wish I could have served as backup for these brave souls that ventured into that hell…..yet..haha I should listen to myself, it has no use..i am barely graduating from High School and wolves are already dissapearing..I wonder how will it be like when I’m halfway through college, I wonder if I will be able to see wolves in the wild..while that is still uncertain and the pain of it does not cease; mark my word felolow wolf warriors, I WILL NOT DESIST, even if it is all lost, revenge is better served cold..that I know for a fact..


  9. This is what happens when you let children play with guns.


    • Please Note: I was referring to the nutjobs who participated in this slaughter; stupid people proud of their stupidity.

      Good for the people who infiltrated the derby, your skills in composure are commendable. I hope the names are aliases.


  10. Supposedly, America is a nation of animal-lovers [excuse me if I barf]. We need to get these images into the living rooms of America. Let them witness, what these savage rednecks are doing to wild dogs and to Earth.

    Everyone, check out “trophic cascade” and images of “trophic cascade”. There’s an illustration under “images of trophic cascade”. It shows a wolf howling, and flowing from the wolf’s howl is more butterflies, dragonflies, more greenery and trees, habitats for all the ecosystems’ strands in the web of all life, like more songbirds, more badgers, more wolverines. Wolves even change the course of rivers as they help with soil erosion.

    This film needs to be in every living room in America as well.


  11. Reblogged this on Sherlockian's Blog.


  12. Don’t worry – they may smile and laugh now, but someday, when they come down with a serious,incurable illness and suffer unmercifully, or someone they love most will. Then they will know true misery and suffering, and they will have earned it.


  13. And the coyotes and wolves will still be walking the earth, and pissing on the ground they are buried under. Hooray!


  14. […] See on […]


  15. Reblogged this on "OUR WORLD".


  16. Applaud the undercover peeps, wish I were that strong in that area of control. Sick to Death of these damn freaks of nature brutally killing the innocents!!!!


  17. Reblogged this on redemptionforanimals.


  18. Every time I read a story like this I wonder what happened to humanity. I know most of the hunters are white males but why don’t the females stand up and say enough. Are the females that stupid as well. Only when something wipes out humanity, will the earth be in a better place.


  19. Reblogged this on Mavadelo's mindscape and commented:
    Very disturbing article. from a very good blog. graphic images inside


  20. The killers of these wonderful creatures belong back in the stone age. They have no morals, no conscience or ethics, and most of all, no brains. It’s hard to believe there are still people who talk like they do. What a terrible place Idaho is. And yes, Sue Stack, I always wondered where the wives/girlfriends of these knuckle-draggers were, but the thing is, they are also a part of this slaughter, out there killing too. I wish this earth could be given back to the animals. Humans have destroyed it.




  22. Thank you to these brave souls for infiltrating this outrageous example of “sportsmanship”. Unfortunately, Wildlife Services, supported by our tax dollars, recently went into this area in Idaho and killed 23 wolves. What has happened to morality and ethics in our country? Why are our politicians pandering to the vocal minority? This “War on Wolves” has got to stop!


  23. I don’t understand such hatred. I never will. So hard ti live on this planet 😦


  24. These people should be made to eat what they kill with those licenses. I doubt they even know which amendment truly gives them the right to carry guns.


  25. […] How To Kill A Wolf: An Undercover Report from the Idaho Coyote and Wolf Derby […]


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