If a dog can be a man's best friend, perhaps a wolf is simply a friend with whom a man has not yet become acquainted. Sure, that statement on its face may reek of environmentalist sentimentality, but upon learning of the harrowing tale of how one beloved pet husky was blindly marked as an unwelcome predator, you just might think differently.
Robert Norie is a contractor for the U.S. Forestry Service, assigned primarily to patrol the wild and rugged hills of Idaho's Boise National Forest. Like many in this line of work, spending long hours in wilderness miles from civilization, Norie chose to operate alongside a dog for both friendship and protection. On many an outing in the often treacherous terrain, Norie's companion, a 2-year-old Husky named Bella, served as an integral deterrent of predators -- that is, until she was mistaken for one.
While encamped in that rough terrain one day in the Summer of 2010, the Forest Service worker awoke to find that his dog had mysteriously disappeared. Norie, writing on the web site Predator Defense, describes what happened next:
On Thursday, August 19, I awoke about 5:30 am and looked around for Bella. It was just light enough to see that she was not there. I got up and noticed that her food bowl was empty. I got the fire going, had breakfast and worked on maps. Soon Adam and Eric and their dogs were up having breakfast. About 9:00 am I was about ready to start my day's fieldwork. No Bella. I decided to walk down the trail the way we came in.
I walked down the trail through a small clearing. Looking ahead I saw Bella lying in the middle of the trail. I called out her name and saw her try to raise her head. Upon approaching her I could see that she was wrapped up in a wire cable of sorts (the same size cable as that used on bicycle brakes). Blood was everywhere. She had large patches of blood on her haunches, chest and belly and a large blood clot beside her. The snare was around her neck. The cable was anchored to an 8-inch diameter log, then wrapped 7 times around (counted when we removed it) a 5-foot tall tree sapling, and finally the cable was then wrapped around her torso and her right rear leg. This is when I saw that she had no foot. It was almost surreal- no foot on the leg, just bone and tendon and dirt and twigs.
Soon, Norie realized that his dog had become ensnared in a wolf trap some hours earlier and, in a desperate bid to be freed, had chewed off her own foot. After loosing her from the wires which trapped her, Norie carried Bella several harrowing miles to seek medical care. Eventually, after Bella had to have her entire leg amputated, Norie began to search for answers why a the undiscriminating trap she was caught in had been placed there in the first place.
During the following three weeks Bob Norie met with various officials from the Idaho City Ranger District, the US Forest Service, and Wildlife Services. An internal review was conducted by the Forest Service to determine who was at fault. On Sept. 8, 2011 the results of the review became available. The review found no fault with any agency. In fact, the review determined that the incident was "an act of God" and identified Bob Norie as the responsible party because he brought Bella with him
As it turns out, the USDA Wildlife Service were the ones responsible for laying the trap in the first place; they threatened to charge Norie with damaging their property to free his dog. Working independently from Forest Service personnel on the ground, the Wildlife Service was apparently engaged in deploying such traps to kill wolves and coyotes, perhaps as a means to limit their threat to livestock. For Norie, who himself has had run-ins with dangerous predators during his service, the methodology seems particularly cruel.
"Think about an animal wrapped up in one of these snares, like Bella, for three or four days until they slowly die," says Norie. "That's pathetic."