Stephen Capra, Executive Director, Bold Visions Conservation
Every now and again, you are lucky enough to meet a great person in your conservation efforts. One of those, for me, was April Christofferson. I met April some years ago while working in New Mexico. When I decided to move to Montana, she greeted me with open arms.
April was beautiful and dedicated to ending trapping and making a difference in this world. With her family background, something out of a Western novel, her life was full and magical. Having graduated with a Veterinary science degree from the University of Illinois, her house was a menagerie of animals that needed rescue or help. On any given call, there was talk of grandchildren, pride in her son, and the wonders of her daughter. But she always had time to talk about wolves, trapping, grizzlies, and her love for all living beings.
Her writing started on her 40th birthday and was designed to educate and grab people through their thriller approach because she hated those who trap or harm wildlife. They often became the hunted or trapped in her novels. We often discussed ideas for her book, and she encouraged my writing after every sermon.
She always made me feel welcome; her books are part of my home.
She died way too soon, and we are all losers when such a powerful spirit leaves us before their time.
April was a friend who shared a call with me and gave me not just guidance but the will to keep going forward in some of the most challenging times in this conservation world we face in Montana and Idaho. Her love of wolves had no bounds, and her disgust with trapping and any harm to animals was part of her dedication to a life of helping.
She was a superstar who only knew love, and my heart breaks for her husband, children, and grandchildren, whom she loved with the same spirit she gave to life. They were blessed to share in her extraordinary life.
At Bold Visions Conservation, we want to start the April Christofferson Scholarship Fund for deserving students for their efforts and writing skills. It will focus on a student who writes the finest essay on wolves in the wild. We will reach out to schools in Montana and Idaho and give one $500 grant to deserving students in tenth grade in each state. We will also share those essays with you. Please let your friends know and have the students email me at Stephen@bvconservation.org for more information.
“I love the process of writing,” says April Christofferson, BS’73, “but I write because I’m trying to make a difference.”
The difference this Illinois native is talking about includes many of the most complex and conflicted issues of her adopted home in the American West, including wildlife and public lands management, tribal rights, and development. Most recently, her passion as a writer has turned to the issue of more than 6,000 missing and endangered indigenous women in the country, many of them in the West.
April grew up in Chicago, but the West is rooted in her genes. She attributes her love of animals, nature and the West to time spent as a child visiting Yellowstone National Park and her grandfather's Wyoming ranch. Floyd "Doc" Carroll, a beloved Wyoming state veterinarian and cowboy, was inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame as one of this country's "Great Westerners."
The road April traveled to become a successful writer has been a winding one. After receiving her undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Utah, she studied veterinary medicine at the University of Illinois and then earned a law degree from Gonzaga University. April and her family lived in Seattle for 14 years where she worked as an attorney first in the entertainment industry, then in the biotech industry.
At age 40 she wrote her first book, After the Dance, which explored a family dealing with the death of a son from AIDS. After the Dance became a regional bestseller. After its release, April quit practicing law to write full time; however, just as she finished her second book, Edgewater (April had entitled it "Wild Turkey Moon" after seeing her first wild turkeys at their cabin in North Idaho), she was contacted about a "short-term" position helping a biotech company draft contracts. The short-term gig turned into five years of working in the biotech world. April had also worked as a pharmaceutical rep to get through law school. The two experiences stirred April to write about practices in the pharmaceutical industry that she believed to be dangerous—and motivated more by the desire for profit than the desire to benefit mankind. The result was her next three novels—The Protocol, Clinical Trial, and Patent to Kill—all medical thrillers favorably compared by reviewers to the work of Michael Crichton and Robin Cook. These novels have been selected for inclusion in the Kennedy Institute of Ethics/Georgetown University Library of Bioethics Literature, a collection that highlights ethical issues in medicine and biomedical research.
This year, the reissue of the first two books of her Judge Annie Peacock Series, Alpha Female and Trapped, by Burns & Lea Books–along with its shopping of them by publisher/agent Story Merchant for a television miniseries based on the characters’ adventures in Yellowstone National Park and beyond—speak to the enduring interest of her literary creations, characterized by deep-dive storytelling that started more than a quarter-century ago.
Growing up in Chicago, Christofferson came to love the West during summers visiting Yellowstone and her grandfather’s ranch in Wyoming, where both parents had been raised, and later her paternal grandparents’ homes in Salt Lake City and Richmond, Utah. But the road she traveled to become a successful writer is a long and winding story in itself.
Alpha Female ©2009
Now a resident of Bozeman, Montana, where her son and one of her two granddaughters live, Christofferson has a full life. It includes regular visits to the Blackfeet Reservation, where her daughter and other granddaughter live, writing daily in a small but cozy outbuilding, hanging out with her kids/granddaughters and husband, and, of course, entertaining a herd of furry friends, currently featuring five cats and four dogs, including an “all heart” black lab. Always, there are animals nearby, a tribute to her original impulse to be a veterinarian, now turned to animal rescue with her husband, the executive director of an animal shelter in the town of Livingston, north of Yellowstone in the Absaroka Mountains.
Grizzly Justice ©2019
Christofferson’s most recent book Grizzly Justice is about a recently fired ranger who disappears into the backcountry, hell-bent on saving a wounded grizzly bear whose fate is all but certain: euthanasia. Her current project Wolf Killer is more than timely; it feels ripped from the headlines after Montana Governor Greg Gianforte was reported to have trapped and killed a collared Yellowstone wolf who had wandered 10 miles out of the protected space of the park. (Gianforte was given a written warning for failing to take the required trapping course).
Even though she had started drafting the manuscript before the incident, the wolf, who was named “Max,” became a cause celebre. The issue of wolf hunting in Montana and the American West is classic Christofferson fodder for the kinds of stories she excels at rendering.
Generously, she attributes the beginning of those stories in part to her undergraduate years in Salt Lake City. “I’m a big fan of the University of Utah,” says Christofferson, recalling the extra semester she spent after graduation working on the University Health campus, and her senior project in biology, when she had been studying the molting of snakes.
“I was obsessed with snakes,” she says. “I had 20 of them [Coluber constrictor foxii, commonly known as “blue racers”] in an aquarium in the greenhouse. I would go up there, weigh them, record my observations.” One day when she arrived, someone had left the aquarium open, “and there I was lying on the floor of the greenhouse, trying to catch snakes, with my husband helping me,” she says with a laugh.