In the ugly verbal war raging over wolves in America, what exactly does the disgusting, bullying voice of intimidation sound like?
I can describe the exact kind of menacing words, because not long ago I listened to a recorded threat played back for me.
Since wolves were restored to the ecosystems of Yellowstone and central Idaho in 1995, I’ve been amassing a list of people who say they’ve been threatened by tormentors.
Some of the threats have come in written form, some were communicated face to face, and others were delivered over the phone or through acts of vandalism. The most vile are always anonymous, the modus operandi of cowards.
I’ve spoken with conservationists in Idaho, for example, who had death threats made against them and who had bullets fired over their heads as they stood on a hill howling to wolves.
I’ve heard similar tales of death threats directed toward civil servants in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana who say they and colleagues were warned harm would come to them, their families and their pets.
To make the point that hatred flows both ways, I’m also familiar with instances in which ranchers and hunters have been obnoxiously harassed and menaced.
Further, I know environmentalists who do not consider themselves “gun people” but have resorted to obtaining concealed-weapons permits because they’re afraid of nut jobs.
This is disgusting, all of it. Actually, it’s beyond disgusting. It cuts against the grain of what American civil society is supposed to champion.
People who intimidate others with threats of violence are pathetic, but more than that they are lawbreakers, and they need to be held fully accountable for their actions.
Section 6-6-103 of Wyoming state law was recently updated by the Legislature to encompass all forms of “new” electronic media, including cellphones, text messages and emails.
The statute reads: “A person commits a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than one year, a fine of not more than $1,000, or both, if he telephones another anonymously, or under a false or fictitious name and uses obscene, lewd or profane language or suggests a lewd or lascivious act with intent to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend.”
Why do I mention this? Never in my nearly 30 years as a journalist have I pulled a story at the last minute at the subject’s behest — until last week.
I asked editors at the News & Guide to withhold my column because the person (not from here) I interviewed for the piece was terrified for her safety. It is not my intent — nor, as I learned in recent days, is it the intent of law enforcement or this newspaper — to victimize an alleged victim twice.
More than a week ago I got an unsolicited phone call from a woman I didn’t know who said she had received a threatening message left on her cellphone.
The motive of the antagonist, who may have broken a state law, was to harass her for voicing criticism of the now-infamous incident involving a wolf killer who paraded the carcass of a dead lobo around Jackson Town Square.
The woman wasn’t alone. Citizens across the country penned letters to the editors of newspapers and online blogs. The woman didn’t criticize the hunter’s legal right to eradicate the wolf in Wyoming’s draconian “predator zone,” which covers the majority of the state and enables wolves to be killed any time of day, by almost any means, without provocation.
Instead she called into question the exhibitionist’s motivation for strapping the bloodstained animal to the rooftop of a vehicle, gruesomely displaying the carcass on Town Square and even enlisting a friend — a convicted bald eagle poacher — to contact the News&Guide to photograph the spectacle it caused.
I’ve heard the threatening message the caller left, and trust me, it is obscene and may be illegal. He wasn’t courageous enough to leave his name, but fortunately his identity is not anonymous. An investigating deputy with a county sheriff’s office was able to ascertain from whose phone it came, and the message has been saved.
Terrorizing people, making them afraid to live in their own community and intimidating them for speaking up is reprehensible. Enlightened communities should have zero tolerance for such conduct. If someone threatens you, report it to authorities.