On Nov. 1, the Animal Welfare Institute and Project Coyote wrote to the state director of Wyoming Wildlife Services, Rod Krischke, requesting (PDF) an “immediate investigation” of Olson for “blatant acts of animal cruelty.”
Olson, reached by phone yesterday, acknowledged he made a “big-ass mistake”—not in his coyote hunting practices, but in letting the photos, which he says are more than five years old, be publicly accessible on his Facebook account.
“The reality of it,” Olson said, “is that those were private pictures—personal pictures taken on personal time—and most of them were before I even worked for the agency I work for, and those were not intended for public access.” He said he intended only for his dad to view the photos, so his dad could see the dog Olson was training.
Now, as a result of the photos going viral, Olson said "shit's hitting the fan and I'm having to explain things." He has since deactivated his Facebook and Twitter accounts.
While coyotes in Wyoming are classified as a predator and can be legally hunted and trapped year-round without a license, the Animal Welfare Institute and Project Coyote expressed in their letter concern over Olson's actions. Specifically, they object to the use of steel-jaw leg-hold traps “given their inherent cruelty.”
“We were further alarmed,” the letter continued, “that instead of immediately killing the trapped animals, this WS employee inflicted even greater fear and pain on already-suffering animals caught in these brutal traps by allowing dogs to torment or attack the trapped animals as is depicted in several of the photographs. This is unacceptable behavior for any trapper, but such wanton cruelty and callous disregard for the welfare of these animals is particularly egregious when done by a government employee and must not be tolerated.”
Olson, a life-long trapper, denied that his dogs tormented the coyotes. “I would never have my dogs chew on a coyote,” he said.
“I understand their concerns,” Olson said of the animals-rights groups, “and I’m sure their agenda is solely driven for their love and desire to keep animals safe. I don’t begrudge anybody that. But they’re really taking that stuff out of context, and it’s affecting my job.”
Olson claims the photos were taken out of context, “by making it look like it’s all one sequence of events, and it isn’t. It’s terrible,” he said.
A message left for Krischke was not returned before this story was published. Olson said the Wyoming Wildlife Services office was preparing a statement.
In addition to his job with Wyoming Wildlife Services, Olson is also the director of Coyotehunter.net and the Coyote Hunter Tournament Series. The tournaments involve contestants bagging as many coyotes as they can in a given time period. The contests, Olson said, don’t allow trapping, only calling. He referred to the events as a “real ethical, fair-chase sort of situation.” The most recent tournament, the Luke Oyloe Memorial Coyote Hunt, held in Williston, N.D., on Oct. 27, raised about $20,000 for a scholarship fund, Olson said.
Olson had planned to host the Montana Coyote Classic next weekend in Billings—the first Coyote Hunter Tournament Series event in Montana—but recently decided to cancel it for lack of registrants. He tried to advertise the event, but, “with the elections going on,” he said, “I can’t buy any radio time. I can’t buy a single 30-second spot. Not one.”