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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wildlife Advocates Condemn Twin Falls ID Wolf/Coyote Killing “Derby”

January 7, 2010

Hailey, Idaho
Wildlife advocates condemn Twin Falls ID wolf/coyote killing “Derby”
Wildlife advocates are condemning a wolf/coyote killing “Derby”, scheduled this Saturday, January 9, at Twin Falls, organized by the Idaho Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife (SFW).
“This event has no place in the 21st Century”, says Rich Hurry of the Boulder-White Clouds Council, a conservation group based in Central Idaho. We are urging citizens to contact event sponsors to protest this barbaric event.”
Last November, a coalition of groups including Boulder-White Clouds Council and individuals asked Nikon to withdraw their sponsorship of a SWF predator derby in Pocatello. Nikon agreed. The company’s name no longer appears on the Idaho SFW website.  Among the businesses sponsoring the Twin Falls SFW Predator Derby are Sportsman’s Warehouse, Cabela’s and a local restaurant, the Grubbin’ BBQ.
Grubbin’ BBQ owner Sean Cluff is listed on SFW’s site as an event contact person. Another contact is SFW Executive Director, Nate Helms, an outspoken opponent of wolves in Idaho.  For the first time, wolves will be included as one of the moving targets sought after by hunters paying $50 each to enter the event. According to the SFW website, there will be points and prizes awarded to participants for shooting the most predators. A wolf is worth three points, while coyote, fox and bobcat are worth two points. When contacted about the fact that wolves were now part of SFW’s Idaho predator derby, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game said they had not heard this, but it was not illegal.
Hunters displaying dead coyotes with a Sportsman’s Warehouse banner behind them, are shown at the  SFW Website:
“Predator killing tournaments are ecologically unsound, ethically indefensible and antithetical to conservation biology and ecosystem-based science,” states Camilla Fox, Founding Director of Project Coyote and Wildlife Consultant for the Animal Welfare Institute.
Jerry Black, a member of Wildlife Watchers says: “There’s no fair chase in trapping or calling in wolves or coyotes, and nobody’s feeding their family with wolf or coyote meat. This is a blatant example of animal cruelty, indecency and shows a total lack of respect for life. I’m surprised and disappointed that any businesses would sponsor an event that celebrates the needless pain and suffering of an animal.” Black adds, “I won’t be shopping at Cabela’s or Sportsman’s Warehouse again, until they stop sponsoring predator contests. And, I certainly won’t be eating ribs at the Grubbin’ BBQ.” Hurry agrees and is urging his friends and relatives to do the same. “Coyote killing contest are a totally ineffective management strategy given the species’ resiliency and ability to biologically rebound,” said Fox.
The groups opposing the contest say that while coyotes will prey on larger mammals, their diet consists mainly of small mammals including mice, voles, rats, ground squirrels and rabbits — providing free rodent control services to ranchers. They also point out that progressive cattle and sheep ranchers are living with coyotes using non-lethal methods. Hurry, a deer hunter adds: “Predator hunters might believe they are helping deer numbers to increase, but in reality there are many factors that impact deer survival. These include weather, winter range, starvation, quality of summer habitat, disease, poaching, hunting mortality, wounding and roadkill.”
He goes on to say that predators help keep elk and deer herds genetically robust  by culling the weak, sick and diseased, unlike hunters who seek out the largest “trophy” bulls or bucks.
Much like wolves, generally, unexploited coyotes may live in social family groups, with only the alpha pair breeding once a year in mid-February and giving birth 63 days later. Other females, though physiologically capable of reproducing, are “behaviorally sterile.” Coyotes respond to lethal control with a number of biological mechanisms, which can result in increased pup survival.
In a predator “contest”, so-called hunters slaughter coyotes (or wolves) using various techniques to attract the coyote into rifle range, including a distress call that sounds like an injured animal. Wolves and coyotes, who generally mate for life, feel a strong bond to other members of their species, and when they hear a cry for help, may come to investigate. Coyote and wolf hunters have also been known to bait in coyotes and wolves for “sport” shooting, using livestock that have died from old age, illness, or injury.
Coyotes have no protection whatsoever under current Idaho law. Coyotes can be run over with a vehicle, including being chased to exhaustion and flattened with a snowmobile. When this happened in the Sawtooth Valley near Stanley in 1999, a photo of the pancaked coyote received widespread negative press for the state of Idaho.
Predator killing contests are being protested all over the United States, most recently in Maine, and in Fallon NV this weekend.
Read more about the Twin Falls “Derby” at:

More information about the contact groups: 

Wildlife Watchers seeks to educate and encourage the ethically and socially responsible enjoyment of wildlife.

Project Coyote is a national non-profit organization that promotes educated coexistence between people and coyotes and fosters respect for and understanding of America’s native wild “song dog.” More information on the web at 

Read a recent Editorial: “Coyote Logic”, January 6, 2009, Bangor Maine Daily News:

Animal Welfare Institute is a non-profit charitable organization founded in 1951 to alleviate the sum total of suffering caused to animals by humans. On the web at
Boulder-White Clouds Councilhas worked for over two decades to protect and defend wild lands and wildlife in Central Idaho. BWCC’s website has extensive information and rare photos of Idaho’s gray wolves.
Top Photo: Wolf Wallpaper
Bottom Photo: Wiki Commons
Posted in: Predator Derby, Idaho wolf hunt, wolf wars
Tags: Idaho wolf hunt,  coyotes killing contests, trophy hunting wolves
Published in: on January 8, 2010 at 12:01 am  Comments (7)  


December 25, 2009

NIKON has dropped out of the SFW-Idaho Derby sponsorship

But they’re still the sponsor of:

Predator Masters

Hunting the Hunters

NIKON sells Coyote Scopes:

I would continue to call and write NIKON asking them why they support the killing of our predators?  The fact they actually make coyote rifle scopes pretty much answers that question.

Nikon Inc.
1300 Walt Whitman Road
Melville, NY 11747-3064, U.S.A.

Corporate Inquiries:

Nikon’s corporate media relations person: (thanks Rich!)
Tara Naughton


CABELA’S unfortunately has decided to continue to sponsor this “Derby”.  Contact them!

Also don’t forget to write to Idaho’s commissioners about extending the wolf hunt until March 31. Please write or call and express your opposition to this.

Posted in: Predator Derby

Tags: wolves in the crossfire, wolf intolerance

Published in: on November 26, 2009 at 4:14 am  Comments (7)  
Tags: ,


December 21, 2009




SFW-Idaho is planning their fifth annual predator derby.  The derby is a contest that assigns two points each to coyotes, bobcats and foxes, 3 points to wolves (sadly wolves have been added this year.)  The team that collects the most points by hunting and killing those specific animals, wins.  There are prizes awarded to the winning team and proceeds from the hunt are donated to the wolf litigation fund.

I thought hunters were responsible stewards of the land? How then can a group of hunters go out into the woods, with the sole purpose of competing to see who kills more animals than the other and then get prizes for it? How can this be considered responsible hunting stewardship?

I hope hunters and everyone that finds this practice unsavory and disgusting will speak out about it.  I have friends that are hunters and have never heard of any of them participating in an event such as this.  All the sponsors of this event are listed here.

The next derby is scheduled for January 8th-9th, Twin Falls, Idaho

If you want to voice your concern please use the contacts list posted on the Idaho wolf  hunt extension alert or contact the sponsors directly.


NIKON has dropped out of the SFW-Idaho Derby sponsorship

BUT They Still Sponsor:

Predator Masters….Hunting the Hunters

NIKON Sells Coyote Scopes:

They are listed on the sponsor page:

Nikon Inc.

Nikon Inc.
1300 Walt Whitman Road
Melville, NY 11747-3064, U.S.A.

Corporate Inquiries:

 Nikon’s corporate media relations person: (thanks Rich!)
Tara Naughton



Cabela’s has decided to continue sponsoring this “derby”

Contact them

308-254-5505  corporate headquarters


Sportsman’s Warehouse 

Contact them


Grubbin’ BBQ

Sean Cluff Owner

Contact Click Here





Governor Baldacci publicly announced that they are calling for an end to this hunt in response to our efforts and called the killing tournaments “inhumane.”

Wildlife Coalition Condemns Coyote Killing Tournament
as Ethically and Ecologically Indefensible:

Killing tournaments, disguised as either recreation or wildlife management, are a very poor commentary on those who partake in them,” said Daryl DeJoy, executive director of the Wildlife Alliance of Maine. “We would like to see Governor Baldacci to emulate the late, great Governor Percival Baxter who felt that Maine’s wildlife’s should not be wantonly destroyed for recreation or entertainment.”

“These events exhibit a blatant disregard for wildlife and the integrity of ecosystems by encouraging mass killing for prizes,” said Andrew Page, senior director of the Wildlife Abuse Campaign at The Humane Society of the United States. “Killing coyotes will do nothing to increase the white-tailed deer density or decrease coyote numbers — it will only advance an archaic idea that the value of animals is their dead weight.“

Derby’s or contests held solely to kill as many predators as possible in a certain time period, IMO,  is wrong and disgusting.  This gives hunting a bad name. 


Right now in Northern Maine (Jackman), predator hunters are killing coyotes as part of a contest “tournament.” Sponsored by the Jackman-Moose River Region Chamber of Commerce, the “kill” runs from December 16th through January 30, 2010. Prizes are awarded for those hunters who kill both the most coyotes and the largest individuals. Ethics aside, random coyote killing will do nothing to protect Maine’s deer herds, as tournament sponsors contend. A copious and growing body of literature shows that coyote population reduction efforts through lethal control are futile, given the species’ resiliency and ability to biologically rebound.

A peculiar virtue in wildlife ethics is that the hunter [or Wildlife Manager] ordinarily has no gallery to applaud or disapprove of his conduct. Whatever his acts, they are dictated by his own conscience, rather than a mob of onlookers. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of this fact.”   Aldo Leopold

Photo: Courtesy Nature

Posted in: Predator Derby,  Idaho wolf hunt

Tags: trophy hunting wolves, wolves in the crossfire

Published in: on November 21, 2009 at 1:13 am  Comments (11)  
Tags: ,

SFW-Idaho Predator Derby

September 19, 2009

Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife-Idaho are holding their Fifth Annual Predator Derby. What is this you ask?  The purpose of the derby is to see which team of hunters can kill the most coyotes, bobcats, foxes and wolves in a certain time period. The rules: Each animal is worth points: bobcats and foxes are two points, coyotes two points and wolves three points. The team with the most points wins.  If there is a tie the heaviest weights determine the winner.  There may even be a special prize for the heaviest coyote.

The proceeds of the derby go to their wolf  litigation fund.

I found two definitions of sportsman:

1. a person who exhibits qualities especially esteemed in those who engage in sports, as fairness, courtesy, good temper, etc.

2. A person whose conduct and attitude exhibit sportsmanship.

Do either of these definitions describe the actions that will be taken in this derby?  Do sportsman have predator killing contests?

Photos: Wikimedia Commons Posted in: Predator Derby Tags: wolves, coyotes, bobcats, foxes, Idaho SFW killing derby,  coyote killing contest, protest animal cruelty

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