Priscilla Feral has been fighting to protect Alaska's wolves for years. Since 2002, she says, the era of "horrible, draconian wolf control programs" has returned. Wolf hatred followed former governor Frank Murkowski into office. It ran rampant during Sarah Palin's administration. Gov. Sean Parnell has done nothing to stop it.
But the "puerile little thugs" hunting wolves in Alaska have nothing on Montana, Feral says. Her 54-year-old New York nonprofit Friends of Animals recently shifted its sights to the Lower 48, focusing its protest efforts on the wolf hunts in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.
"We might as well be back in the 1860s or the 1600s with the Northern Rockies," Feral says. "In fact, some of these people can outpace the people in Alaska, and you've got a real degenerate population of wolf killers there."
Friends of Animals is an animal advocacy group that seeks to free all "non-human animals" from cruelty.
Roughly 25 people gathered outside the state capital in Helena Oct. 14 to stage what Friends of Animals called a "howl-in." Protesters denounced the wolf hunts as a bloodbath and accused state wildlife managers and politicians of spreading "corruption and lies" to benefit hunters and the cattle industry. "Schweitzer lies, wolves die," they chanted.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has reported about 11 wolf kills in the 2011 hunting season so far. Idaho Fish and Game reports 60.
Feral's group, along with Predator Defense and Howl Across America, is now calling for a tourism boycott of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, until wolves are once again declared an endangered species. Their involvement marks an escalation in the resistance to state wolf management.
Alliance for the Wild Rockies continues to fight the hunts in appeals court, "but [Executive Director Michael] Garrity doesn't call demonstrations or rallies or involve the residents in that kind of way," Feral says. "That's more our style."
Feral knows that wolf hunters will likely target members of her group for their words of protest. It's happened in Alaska, where she's been harassed personally during public meetings. "People call up on your answering machine, they leave notes at your door, they send body parts in the mail and tell you they're going to shoot a wolf and torture it and wire its mouth shut."
But as long as there are still wolves in Montana—which Feral believes will quickly change if the hunts continue—Friends of Animals vows that it won't stop howling.