“The stories are really, really cool. And wolves are what brought us all together.” Carter Niemeyer
A wolfer is someone who tracks and kills wolves, and that is what Carter Niemeyer did for decades as a U.S. Wildlife Service trapper in the West. Reflecting on his career as a trapper, Carter talks about the frustration he often felt being asked to blame wolves for livestock deaths, even when the evidence almost always proved otherwise. He learned to work more and more like a detective, carefully gathering evidence to show the truth (which, most often, acquitted the wolves).
In 1995, he was invited to work with the Yellowstone wolf reintroduction project, trapping the Canadian wolves that would be transported to Yellowstone National Park to seed a ground-breaking reintroduction project. This project successfully brought wolves back into the region and had a profound impact on wildlife conservation.
These days, Carter works with researchers to help them track and collar wolves, so they can learn more about the wolves who are returning to their historical range in the Western U.S. He also speaks in ranching communities, sharing his experiences about wolves and information about how ranchers can successfully live with these native predators. Although he’s been called both a wolf lover and a wolf killer, Carter feels his work is to not take sides, but to simply share his experience and “tell it like it is.” That’s not easy in the often polarizing debates about wolves; as one of his friends told Carter, “You must be getting raw and chapped, straddling that fence all the time.”
Beyond the debates and arguments, though, Carter reflects on the sensitivity of trappers and their love of nature and notes “most of the trappers I know are thoughtful, sensitive people.” He admits that he is a naturalist at heart who spends hours in his garden watching the insects and won’t even kill a spider in his house – he traps them with a cup and paper to release them outside.
We sat down at his home in Boise, Idaho in April 2016 and talked about the contradictions of trapping, his experience with wolves, and his work as a storyteller. You can hear our conversation here: