Environmentalists Watchdog Idaho 'Wolf Derby'

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Ertz snapped this photo at the 2nd Annual Predator Hunting Contest. - BRIAN ERTZ, WILDLANDS DEFENSE BOARD PRESIDENT
  • Brian Ertz, WildLands Defense board president
  • Ertz snapped this photo at the 2nd Annual Predator Hunting Contest.

Over the weekend of Jan. 3 and 4, more than 125 hunters took part in the Second Annual Predator Hunting Contest, commonly referred to as the 'wolf derby.' The two-day event near Salmon saw the death of 30 coyotes, but no wolves.

Environmental groups sighed relief earlier this fall when the Bureau of Land Management barred the event from its property, but organizers moved the contest to Forest Service, state and private land. Several environmental groups moved in anyway to capture the killings.

"While environmental groups were not able to stop the derby, eight of us were on the front lines, standing in solidarity for the wild," said Stephany Seay of the Buffalo Field Campaign—based in West Yellowstone, Mont.—in a news release. "We publicized it, documented it, and shamed them into hiding their celebration of carnage."

The activists that went to the derby reported lax interactions between the hunters and Fish and Game officers. They didn't notice any BLM officers nearby, but there's no way to prove if any coyotes were actually killed on BLM land.

Activists like Brian Ertz, the board president of WildLands Defense, split into teams along the boundary of the event, carrying cameras to document the "competitive violence," according to the news release. They were barred from the nightly check-ins and unable to attend the closing ceremony when Lemhi County sheriffs escorted them off the private land.

Natalie Ertz, the executive director of the WildLands Defense, approached the organizer of the derby in the parking lot outside the event, but she said he told her, "No cameras, no journalists, this is private property," and then called the sheriff.

The advocates also noticed contest organizers and participants trying to obscure visibility during the derby, moving trucks that contained carcasses out of view and holding up tarps in front of cameras.

"Our bearing witness and documenting apparently had a significant impact," Seay said. "We shamed them into hiding what they had professed to be so proud of."