She mistook a dog for a wolf—and fired

By Amanda Wight

The story of a Montana woman who recently killed and skinned a domestic dog, then proudly posted photos on her social media pages, has sparked a flood of public outrage.

It should. The woman allegedly mistook the dog for a wolf, saying she was excited to share that she had “smoked a wolf pup.” When others pointed out that she had actually killed a dog, likely a husky and not a young wolf, she doubled down on her actions, saying that if she were in that situation again, she still would have pulled the trigger.

The photos are gut wrenching. In one, the woman holds up the dead dog’s head and smiles. In another, she poses next to the dog’s skinned body, seemingly prepared as a trophy rug for a wall or floor display.

According to media outlets, the husky and at least 11 others had been abandoned in the Doris Creek area of Flathead National Forest in Montana. The local sheriff’s office reported that several of the dogs tested positive for parvovirus, a highly contagious disease transmissible to dogs, foxes, coyotes and wolves. An investigation is ongoing.

The woman who killed the husky defended her actions by saying that she hadn’t killed anybody’s pet. Somehow, that’s not an excuse.

But the context here points to a larger and troubling reality about the status and persecution of wolves in the West. They are killed every day during trophy-hunting seasons in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. In Montana, trophy hunters can kill up to 20 wolves each and in Idaho there’s no limit at all.

This is how the killing is carried out in 2022: Wolves are chased down with packs of radio-collared dogs, shot at night with the aid of night-vision goggles, or captured in steel jawed leghold traps and strangling wire neck snares.

In Idaho, even mothers and pups in their dens can be killed year-round. They’re slaughtered by the hundreds each year — both legally and by poachers and lawbreakers who live by the “shoot, shovel and shut up” code of killing wildlife.

The killing of a husky under these circumstances is a tragedy, one born of a trigger-happy mindset about killing wolves, and now, it would seem, any canid that might be mistaken for one. In that sense, it’s part of the larger tragedy that threatens America’s wolf populations, one that we could prevent by restoring federal protections for them.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently considering whether or not to relist wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains under the federal Endangered Species Act.

If authorities can identify and punish anyone responsible for the abandonment of the dogs, or find a way to hold the woman who killed the husky accountable, they certainly should do so. As companions at home and in the field, dogs are special, and a society that fails to protect them is not one to be envied. But we can also think about how we treat wolves in light of this incident.

In the West, we know that wolves are ecologically important as well as a huge magnet for ecotourism. Their presence is worth literally billions of tourist dollars annually to Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

It’s the height of folly to destroy their populations, and Western states with their disturbing and vicious policies are not merely out of step with majority opinion concerning the trophy killing of wolves. They are also divorced from everything we know about the value of wolves to the region’s ecological balance.

Killing wolves out of some misplaced zeal threatens to undo decades of progress toward recovery. That is why it is vital for the federal government to restore protections to wolves in the Northern Rockies now.

Amanda Wight is a contributor to Writers on the Range, writersontherange.org, a nonprofit dedicated to spurring lively conversation about the West. She is a program manager of wildlife protection for the Humane Society of the United States.

Wolf watching at Slough Creek, Yellowstone National Park, courtesy of NPS

This column was published in the following newspapers:

10/10/2022 Sky-Hi News Granby CO
10/10/2022 Montrose Daily Press Montrose CO
10/10/2022 Lake Powell Chronicle Page AZ
10/10/2022 Vail Daily Vail CO
10/11/2022 Salt Lake Tribune Salt Lake City UT
10/11/2022 Grand Junction Daily Sentinel Grand Junction CO
10/12/2022 Jackson Hole News & Guide Jackson Hole WY
10/10/2022 Livingston Enterprise Livingston MT
10/11/2022 Whitehall Ledger Whitehall MT
10/12/2022 Kingman Daily Miner Kingman AZ
10/11/2022 Denver Post Denver CO
10/14/2022 St. George Spectrum St. George UT
10/11/2022 Explore Big Sky Big Sky MT
10/13/2022 Moab Times Independent Moab UT
10/12/2022 Taos News Taos NM
10/14/2022 Yahoo sunnyvale ca
10/16/2022 Casper Star Tribune Casper WY
10/16/2022 Pueblo Chieftain Pueblo CO
10/15/2022 Aspen Times Aspen CO
10/12/2022 Delta County Independent Delta CO
10/21/2022 Frontiersman Ma-tsu Velly AK
10/20/2022 Curry Coastal Pilot Brookings OR
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Becca Lawton
1 month ago

“Killing wolves out of some misplaced zeal threatens to undo decades of progress toward recovery.” Thank you, Amanda and Writers on the Range.

Kathy Koelzer
1 month ago

This woman should have , as a responsible hunter, been able to identify this as a dog rather than a wolf. So, of course, she just put another nail in the coffin for ethical hunters because of her poor judgement.
And, of course, you would use this as a soap box to stand on for saving the wolves. I am for the delisting of wolves. I do not believe we need to keep ” saving” the wolf. We introduced them and they’ve thrived, so now we need to control ( not decimate ) the population. Your extremism is contrary to Montana’s conservationalism. We area state of natural resources, wildlife being one, but we all need to live together – which means we need to manage our wildlife. Or they die because our growing population has pushed them out of their habitat and we have confrontations w/ them, or their numbers cultivate disease among them. I just thought you needed another opinion to your article – which is also, just your opinion.

Raven
1 month ago
Reply to  Kathy Koelzer

Gray wolves are highly territorial apex predators. As such they are self-regulating. These are not herd animals. They did not evolve under heavy persecution by Homo sapiens. Managing wildlife as one would an artificial game preserve is part of the mindset contributing to steep biodiversity decline. Overpopulation, conflict, disease? Humans needs to take a good look in the mirror, and manage themselves. “Because our growing population has pushed them out of their habitat”. Hypocrisy. What’s the end game? Keep growing until there is no viable habitat? Keep shrinking the habitat and blaming the wildlife until they’re finally managed into oblivion? That sound pretty extreme to me.

Amelia
1 month ago

Read your article but this woman that “didn’t kill anyone’s pet” and “didn’t know the difference” give me a break! She knew exactly what she was doing and won’t take responsibility and we’re all supposed to give her a break and believe her!?

Far as I’m concerned she just joined the ranks of people that “hey let’s just go shoot something today and post it for everyone to see.

The sad realistic part of it is everybody wants to kill a wolf just because. I don’t understand that either.I am all for animal rights and protections and I’m very much against people that do stupid irresponsible unrealistic acts and things just as hideous as what was done to this husky or any other animal. Thats the hard part and it pisses me off.

We’ve become this thinking and acting its acceptable behavior to do whatever the hell you want and sit there and use the excuse of “I didn’t know” dah! This woman doesn’t get a pass with me and shame on the authorities or anybody else not doing anything about it.

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