An investigation by Idaho Fish and Game determined that a wolf, which is pictured in several controversial photographs alongside a grinning employee of the Nez Perce National Forest, was "killed legally." The grisly images, depicting the badly injured and dying wolf, went viral earlier this month. A number of environmental groups asked for a formal investigation into possible animal cruelty.
"Reports of shooting at the wolf by other people and other reports regarding this matter appear to have no basis in fact or are otherwise distortions of events," wrote Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore.
According to Moore's summary of events, the wolf was legally trapped on private land in the Elk City area. The man in the photographs, Josh Bransford, said he had been told by a Forest Service law enforcement officer that a wolf was in the trap. When he went to the scene to confirm, he posed for photographs. According to the Fish and Game report, several people were in the area at the same time the wolf was discovered.
But Moore said the photos were inappropriate.
"The taking of the photo of a trapper with a live, trapped wolf and the trapper's posting of this photo online are contrary to the ethics and humane responsibility that Idaho Fish and Game teaches in wolf trapper and hunter education classes," wrote Moore. "This action reflects poor judgment. However, the trapping and harvest of the wolf were lawful, according to our investigation."