February 7, 2023

Verifying "One Heck Of A Wolf Story"

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On July 8, 2006, I brought you a story called, “One Heck Of A Wolf Story“. It was sent to me via email from a friend of mine in West Virginia, Rod Davis. We all have received emails with stories and photos attached and most of them make for good entertainment. It is safe to say too that the majority of us assume that what we are reading is true and accurate, for the most part.

It is my policy not to publish any stories that I cannot verify as being true. In my brief attempt to authenticate the story, I was unsuccessful but decided that as long as I explained to readers it may be a ficticious story, it was still good reading material.

If you followed the story, you would have seen a few comments that followed the posting. One comment claimed to be able to verify the story while another said the photos that accompanied the story where created with Photo Shop software.

Then I received a comment from the author of the story, Scott Richards, saying the story was true and I could contact him for more details. So I did.

According to Richards, he has no personal agenda for or against wolves. He told me that he doesn’t want to eradicate the state of Idaho from wolves but feels strongly, even before this incident, that wolf management needs stricter controls. He says the wolf needs to be removed from the endangered list and numbers reduced.

I asked Scott what he had to say about those who say his photos of what’s left of one of his dogs, were created with photo software. He told me that he has sent so many pictures to many different media groups etc. that he didn’t know exactly which photos I was refering to. The photos that I posted at the previous post showed the remains of one of his dogs after wolves had eaten most everything except the backbone and the head.

All he could tell me was that the photos were taken by federal wildlife warden Justin Mann and he gave me a phone number to reach him for verification. I have not been able to do that.

I also asked Scott why he wasn’t carrying a weapon while he was in the woods. He explained to me that he has been training his dogs for 34 years and he seldom carries a gun, only a camera. It is legal in Idaho to carry a weapon while training dogs but Richards claims that at the time his dogs were attacked by wolves, he didn’t know that. He claims that once while on a training mission 12 years ago, he was stopped by an Idaho Fish and Game officer named Mel Hedberg. The officer told him it was illegal to carry while training and that if he was found carrying again he would be charged.

The grey wolf is a protected species by federal law. This poses many problems in dealing with human/wolf and other animal/wolf encounters. I inquired of Richards if he would have been in trouble with the law if he had been carrying and used his gun to defend himself and his dogs. The law states that a person has the right to defend themselves and their property, in this case his dogs. He was very emphatic in stating that should you choose to use deadly force with wolves to defend yourself, you better have absolute proof that you needed it.

Richards went on to explain some of the difficulties residents and in particular ranchers, have had in receiving compensation for loss of livestock etc. from wolf attacks. He claims that one problem is the length of time it takes for federal agents to get to an attack scene. Often there is little or no evidence left to examine.

If federal inspectors cannot prove beyond a doubt that a wolf attack occured, there is no compensation but also the attack is not listed as a wolf attack. Richards claims that a very small percentage of claims are actually recorded as wolf attacks and compensation made. This would explain better the reason pro-wolf groups state that very few wolf attacks actually do happen.

Richards will not receive any compensation for the loss of his dogs. Even though officials believe wolves were what killed them, the laws governing federally protected species does not recognize hunting dogs or pets as personal property the same as they do livestock.

What concerns him the most is that people are being told false information about wolves. Justin Mann, the officer who investigated Richards’ claim, said he had never seen wolves eat a dog they had attacked. It is not unusual for wolves to attack dogs. Wildlife biologists state that wolves consider a domestic animal like a dog as a threat, particularly if that animal enters an area where the wolves are rearing their young. According to Mann, the usual part of this incident is that after the kill, the wolves returned and ate the dog – as the photos show. He said the dogs must be very hungry.Scott Richards with remains of dog

If the wolf population is growing at a rate that exceeds what the habitat will bear, starvation is one natural way of reducing the numbers in a real but extremely cruel way. Richards claims the wolf population is 800% above management goals set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Richards also wanted pointed out the fact that places like schools, church camps, summer camps, etc. have had to hire armed guards to watch over kids while outside playing because of the increase in wolf attacks and sightings.

Today, July 18, 2006, Scott Richards is assisting CBS News in a documentary that is being done about his story and the grey wolf in general. Richards says the story will be showing the side of the wolf that pro-wolf and animal rights groups don’t want us to hear. The show will not be ready for airing for quite some time. If I can get a date, I will certainly let all readers know.

Tom Remington