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Bold Visions Conservation NewsBlog


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 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.

Trapped ©2012

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.

Stephen Capra, Executive Director, Bold Visions Conservation This past week, an audit came to light of the Fish, Wildlife and Parks and how they are managing Game Wardens. The report made clear that morale in the department is at a very low level. Why does this matter for wildlife? Well, combing through the report, it is clear the strong arm of the Governor and his henchmen are doing all they can to control wildlife in Montana. It's a subject I have written about many times, but this report sheds light on the reality on the ground. Wildlife Management for wolves has been a disaster, and now grizzlies are being killed in higher numbers; that will likely worsen as the state moves towards delisting. Wildlife management in Montana is broken; this report brings that into clearer focus. Most of the funding for enforcement comes to the agency through the sales of hunting and fishing licenses, leaving no area for non-sportsmen to contribute. In fiscal year 2022, this amounted to $12.9 million, with another 6% coming from Pittman-Robinson funding. Personal services accounted for 77% of expenditures, the rest going to:

  • Recreational Boating Safety

  • Criminal Investigations


  • Statewide law Enforcement

  • Hiring and training

  • Aviation Bureau

This works in degrees across the state; areas in Western Montana are more likely to confront urban wildlife issues than the eastern portion. Of the 106 Game wardens in the state, 78 responded to the audit. What was clear from the start was the lack of trust in their HR department, with whom they must share concerns. Since the Governor came to power, the turnover in HR has been non-stop. But perhaps most significant was the decision by former Fish, Wildlife and Parks head Hank Worsech. At the direction of the Governor, he removed what had been the regional management of wardens and turned it into top-down management from Helena. The result has been massive retirements from people in the agency with real legacy experience.

Wardens collect data via a statewide law enforcement system, SmartCOP, which generates Warden activity reports. There are questions about the accuracy of the data entered by the wardens, as the state only performs "ad hoc" checks, comparing written citations with the data entered, so their accuracy is questionable. Those in charge in Helena have yet to provide a management plan for such usage by those on the ground. Wardens also see themselves more as cowboys than cops. Wardens like to work with landowners on wildlife management and public outreach. Still, more and more, they are being deputized in rural communities to work on drug issues, alcohol, and traffic offenses. They do not believe that hunter and angler dollars, their primary funding sources, should be spent on these other issues, and how the monies are allotted for such actions remains to be questioned. Those in charge at the director's office have yet to define the role of wardens in this Administration. More than 50% of wardens who responded to the audit said they had experienced intimidation or retaliation from the enforcement Chief's office in the past five years, creating a cultural divide between wardens in the field and management in Helena. They describe a culture that did not support open communication. Despite an increase in funding, the number of citations has dropped in recent years, wardens say, due to poor morale and lack of support. In 2022, Director Worsech disbanded FWP's Criminal Investigation Unit. This unit had been responsible for some of the most crucial poaching cases and for bringing those involved to justice. But the Governor did not want this unit to exist; according to my sources, this directly resulted from what has occurred and continues to occur on the Sinclair Ranch, where Gianforte killed Max the Wolf. The ranch is managed by notorious trapper and close confident to the Governor, Matt Lumley. I have been told that the Governor wants no one looking at what goes on at this ranch, with wealthy donors and others killing and trapping wildlife. Thus, it was their imperative to eliminate the Criminal Investigative Unit. Add your text here. Edit to add dynamic values like name, email, and more.

The reality is this: our Governor and those working with him are at the beckoning call of outfitters, livestock producers, and private landowners, all of whom profit from the killing of wildlife. What has changed is the lengths this Governor is willing to go to harm wildlife and destroy what had been the finest wildlife agency in the nation. National groups like the Congressional Sportsmen Caucus have fingerprints on these actions as they move to destroy predator species and push a radical pro-trapping and trophy-hunting agenda onto Governors across the nation.

I want to say write to the US Fish and Wildlife Agency and demand an investigation, but most people I have spoken with viewed that as a fool's errand. But we must continue to push the press to find the parts of this report that were redacted to make clear that sportsmen must be the voice of change. It begins with groups like we are creating called Hunters in Defense of Predators; the website will be up soon. It is designed to get Hunters to support a Leopoldian ethic and not support trapping, predator killing, and wildlife killing contests. Dave Stalling will be leading this effort. Hunters must demand change and fight such radical hunting organizations; many agree that this is no way to support wildlife.

Yet, the problems continue, and we must make clear that grizzlies cannot be delisted, for to do so is to set in motion their demise. We must demand that our wildlife agencies be rebuilt from the ground up. We must also see that the Criminal Investigation Unit be restarted, with its first mission to investigate the Sinclair Ranch!

In the end, we must break the Governor's control over wildlife in Montana. That will take strong will and a determined voice.

Please review the new issue of Fish, Wildlife and Parks Magazine, Montana Outdoors. They have the real nerve to write an article about ethics. It is enough to make your blood boil, coming from an agency with no ethics. Take the time to read, and please send a response to the magazine that hopefully will be printed in the next issue. Make clear to Montana Game and Fish they have no standing to talk about wildlife and ethics, given the state of wolves and grizzlies.

We need to speak out now! Write to Montana Outdoors Editor Tom Dickson:

The hunting season has begun for killing wolves. Given the fact that the state agency involved in allowing this, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, continues to use flawed IPom data for counting wolves in the wild, it is but one of the reasons this hunt should be stopped. It is tiring, in this day and time, that hunters continue to complain that there are no elk and deer anymore when, again and again, the data shows record numbers and endless shoulder seasons that make clear the reality that wolves are not impacting deer and elk numbers. But they have an important role in keeping chronic wasting disease in check by killing the sick and weak animals. Trappers and groups like the Foundation for Wildlife Management continue to push the idea that we are above numbers with wolves while profiting with every kill. These groups need to understand that wolves are valuable to the health of the forest waterways and are not to be used as bad vs. good animals. All wildlife is part of the matrix that makes life possible for all animals and people. The idea that suddenly they are killing on behalf of livestock producers is yet another myth that such groups use to their advantage.

Grazing cattle on public lands is a privilege, not a right. Like any business, there are risks. More cattle die from falling than killed by wolves. More die from disease than wolves. More die from storms than wolves. Less than half of one percent die from wolves, yet these groups act as though they are ranchers’ saviors; they are not. They are exploiters looking to rationalize their actions, which result in the torture, suffering, and destruction of packs that work in a cohesive manner. Hunters that buy into this are allowing themselves to be used and are killing not for food or sport but to destroy a vital part of what makes our lands healthy and our herds thrive. Our Governor and the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission bear the brunt of the blame. They continue to ignore the will of the people in this state who do not want wolves killed. They continue to manage wildlife to the brink of extinction while telling the federal government they can now manage grizzlies. This is while they systematically destroy wolves in the wild.

Governor Gianforte continues with an 1880s mentality when it comes to predators, and in the end, such policies deny the citizens of our state a basic right- the ability to see animals in the wild. We cannot allow this non-science-based logic to continue, and several important lawsuits may stop these actions, and they should.

So here we are in 2023, and we are going back in time as the guns of autumn point their weapons at this beautiful and wild animal, with the full support of those who are in theory, changed with managing wildlife. Wolves and other predator species are self-regulating; the reality remains it’s people that need the management.

What hunters should do is boycott the killing of wolves and their voice should lead all of us who are asking for an end to this bloody and senseless slaughter be stopped. That is what Aldo Leopold taught us about the ethics of such a sport.

Only then can we begin to cleanse away the disgrace associated with the senseless killing of wolves in Montana.

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