purposefully ran down a pair of wolves on an interstate highway near the Idaho-Montana border.HELENA, Mont. — A Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks law enforcement official said Friday the agency is "looking into" a Missoula anti-wolf extremist's Facebook claim that he
FWP Region 2 Warden Capt. Joseph Jaquith said they were aware of Toby
Bridges' Facebook post, in which he brags about killing two young wolves
with his wife's van. "We're trying to determine, first of all,
what exactly we can do with something somebody says on Facebook with no
other physical evidence," Jaquith said. "Whether or not it's true
remains to be seen."
Bridges, who runs an anti-wolf website and
Facebook page called Lobo Watch, on Tuesday posted pictures and
described in graphic detail how he accelerated his vehicle in an
apparent attempt to intentionally run down the wolves on Interstate 90.
Bridges did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
described a scene in which he claims a group of wolves were chasing a
cow and calf elk across the highway about 4 miles east of Lookout Pass.
Bridges said he "let off the brake and hit the accelerator." Bridges said his vehicle was driving approximately 55 mph "when suddenly four young wolves shot right out in front of me. "There was no time to hit the brakes (like I really would?) and I heard two distinct loud 'thumps,'" Bridges wrote.
In graphic detail, Bridges described the scene and the sounds the badly injured wolves made in agony. According to his narrative, Bridges then pulled his vehicle over to take pictures of the scene.
I snapped a few photos, I heard the pup howling in distress ... and a
few minutes later I heard quite a ruckus up above ... then all went
quiet. I do believe that the adult wolves finished off their severely
injured (sic) offspring."
Early on in the post Bridges said he
accelerated toward the wolves, but later claims striking the wolves with
his car was an accident. Jaquith said "in general" it is illegal to intentionally run animals down with a vehicle. "It's
very unsporting, regardless of how you feel about wolves or lawful
means for harvest of wolves, certainly running them down on the highway
is not what we would accept," Jaquith said.
Last year a federal
prosecutor charged six members of a Montana Hutterite colony for killing
and burying two grizzly bears after chasing them down in vehicles until
the bears succumbed to exhaustion. The colony was fined nearly $20,000
in the deaths.
Wolves are no longer managed by the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Services after they were removed from federal Endangered
Species Act protections through a rider Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.,
attached to 2011 budget bill.
Brooks Fahy, of the national
wildlife conservation organization Predator Defense, said Bridges' post
is part of a growing online "subculture" of individuals who post graphic
pictures and stories of predators being purposefully maimed, tortured
and killed in online forums and on social media sites.
years, federal Forest Service and U.S. Department of Agriculture
Wildlife Services agents have come under public scrutiny after posting
graphic pictures online of wounded predators in traps. In one instance a
federal Wildlife Services agent posted photos of his domestic dogs
attacking a coyote caught in a leg-hold trap. "To me it's like a hate crime," Fahy said. "You look at the language in these posts and it starts feeling very psychopathic."
also questioned whether state and federal wildlife protection and law
enforcement agencies are doing enough to try to curb the illegal killing
and torturing of wolves and other predators. Fahy said as the
controversy surrounding wolves continues to build, wildlife agencies
appear to be turning a blind eye to disturbing online posts.
Jaquith said FWP is taking the matter seriously, but at the same time he defended Bridges' "right to free speech." "This
is a very recent thing. We're not going to rush into it," Jaquith said.
"We're going to look at it, we're going to see exactly where it falls.
We've had incidents where it takes a little bit of time to figure out
what we're going to do about something. We're taking a look at it. We're
not turning a blind eye to it."
Adams also reports for the Great Falls (Mont.) Tribune