Anja Heister, director of Footloose Montana, an organization that advocates for the end of trapping on public land, has drawn the ire of many since she founded the group in 2007. She's been told to go back to Germany, where she's from, "if you don't like the way we do things here in Montana," among many other derogatory remarks.
"But we have never received a threat like the one we received last week," she says.
On March 22, Heister posted a photo online of a Forest Service staffer in Idaho smiling for the camera while a wolf caught in a foot-hold trap writhes in a circle of blood-soaked snow behind him. A few days later, Footloose Montana received an email with a death threat: "I would like to donate [sic] a gun to your childs [sic] head to make sure you can watch it die slowly so I can have my picture taken with it's [sic] bleeding dying screaming for mercy body. YOU WILL BE THE TARGET NEXT BITCHES!"
Heister reported it to the Missoula Police Department and federal law enforcement officials.
The photo sparked outrage and national media attention. It comes as Montana considers trapping to help meet wolf management objectives. After Congress stripped wolves of federal protections in Montana and Idaho nearly a year ago, Montana's hunt netted 166 wolves, well short of the 220-wolf quota. In Idaho, where wolf trapping is legal, hunters and trappers took 372 wolves during the season that ended March 31.
Next month, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks begins planning its 2012-2013 wolf-hunting season. Trapping is on the table. "It's an alternative, an option," agency spokesman Ron Aasheim says. "If you do it, how you do it—all those sorts of things will be discussed." FWP Director Joe Maurier said last month that the agency is going to be "much more aggressive in our proposals this next season." Other tools, such as season extensions and electronic calls, will also be considered. The public will have a chance to comment on the proposed regulations before the FWP Commission makes its final decision in July.
Heister believes the circulating photo is good for raising awareness about what the trapping of any animal entails. But, she says, "I don't think an incident like this in any way will change the plans that the state wildlife agency has for introducing an official trapping season for wolves."