Results from an ongoing investigation into a Wyoming wildlife trapper accused of mistreating animals will not be made public upon the investigation's completion, a spokeswoman for the investigating agency says.

But public records attorneys disagree with the agency's reasons for keeping the investigation private, saying the public has a right to know how the agency responded when a federal employee posted photos of dogs attacking live, trapped coyotes to a personal Facebook page last year.

The trapper, Jamie Olson, is still employed by Casper-based Wyoming Wildlife Services, a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, according to APHIS spokeswoman Carol Bannerman. Wildlife Services works with commercial operators and state and local governments to protect livestock from predation by wolves, coyotes, mountain lions and other wild carnivores. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, Wildlife Services is responsible for killing more than one million animals across the country each year.

The public reacted angrily when Olson posted photos of hunting dogs attacking a live coyote trapped in a leg snare more than a year ago. An online petition saying Olson's actions were inhumane and calling on the USDA to fire him reached 75,000 signatures, and several media organizations pressed Wildlife Services for information. APHIS responded by launching an internal investigation and tightening its rules about hunting with dogs, but has said little about whether Olson's actions were tolerable or any discipline ensued.

Bannerman said the results of APHIS's investigation cannot be revealed because of unspecified provisions in the Civil Service Reform Act, a law that requires federal agencies to inform employees of their democratic rights and the evidence against them while being investigated or disciplined.

"When misconduct has been reported regarding a Federal employee, the Agency takes the complaint seriously and investigates all allegations," Bannerman wrote in an email to the Star-Tribune. "The reports of an investigation are given only to agency official(s) with the authority to act on them and others with a need to know."

The agency's argument is weak, according to Jeff Ruch, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney and executive director at the national nonprofit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

"There's nothing in the Civil Service Reform Act that prevents the release of information," Ruch said. The agency could withhold the report during its draft stages, he said, but upon completion the only argument APHIS could make for keeping it private would be to protect Olson's privacy. 

That doesn't mean the entire report should be private, Ruch said.

There are other ways to protect a person's privacy, such as erasing individual names from the report, he said.

Wyoming public records attorney Bruce Moats echoed Ruch's argument, saying the Civil Service Reform Act does not apply to Olson's situation.

More relevant to Olson's case would be the Freedom of Information Act, Moats said, where a court would decide whether to make information public by weighing the privacy rights of the individual in question with the public's right to know what's going on.

"There is obviously a public interest that courts have recognized here," Moats said. "There is a public interest in knowing how the agency conducts itself and conducts its work."

When an individual's name and alleged misconduct are already publicly known, there is little privacy left to protect, Ruch said.

"In this case it's on the Web," he said. "That makes a strong case for publishing the entire report."

Wildlife Services has said it does not tolerate inhumane treatment of animals. According to an agency manual, hunting dogs must be controllable at all times and employees must demonstrate "exceptionally high levels of respect for people, property and wildlife."

Reach education reporter Leah Todd at 307-266-0592 or leah.todd@trib.com. Follow her on Twitter @leahktodd.

(20) comments

dd ric

Think about it,folks. The livestock industries say they need grass. Then they kill anything that consumes the grass-eaters. Coyotes and bobcats eat rabbits and mice that eat grass. Then the "cowboys" will kill badgers that eat prairie dogs 24/7/365. So here we have a trapper and kids that bludgeoned a raccoon to death in a parking lot getting some negative press. So when in a state that loves animal abuse will the rodeos end? If the "cowboys " had to keep and care for the animals they"ride and rope" for cash,like the truth behind the Powder River Sheepherders fair fail,then maybe being kind to animals will begin round here. I've watched this rodeo violence my whole life,been part of it when i was young,and now hope the kids coming up will be better caretakers of animals than we have been. ddric

Kool Kat

Attn dd ric, are you Shoshone or Arapaho? You never did answer me.

Cowboy Logic

dd ric is just a simple low life that hides behind this little nick name and attacks as he/she sees fit. The credibility this individual has as they spew garbage is ridiculous, but they're liberal, so this paper publishes their garbage.

WYO-BILL

I'm guessing a cross between Ugandan mother and Iroquois father ; )

mers213

And what would the "truth" be behind the Powder River Sheepherders Fair "fail" , dd ric?

mers213

What is the "truth" behind the Powder River Sheepherders Fair "fail" dd ric ?

thehousemouse

To me its called an ecco system, there is preditor and there is prey, this is how its suppose to work in the food chain. But to intentionally hurt something for pleasure thats out right abuse and should be severly punished. there is no excuse for causing undue stress on something your trapping. to kill. snars are the worse way to die and should have been outlawed years ago. shoot it if you must kill it. dont beat it to death with a shovel like the idiots at merdocks.
and yes he should be subject to public scrunity for his deeds. if your so proud of what you did then let the world know all the details.

Jackson

The "accused" is essentially a federal government employee, and his advertised actions can easily be construed as agency policy by any citizen if the agency doesn't adequately distance itself from the individual and the action. I believe the public's right to know trumps a very weak claim as to the individual's privacy in this case. He has already voluntarily given up most privacy through his own stupid postings, anyway. There is a saying about "if you want to be stupid, you better also be tough", so I doubt his pride will be badly wounded in this case.
The agency's pathetic response is reflective of a sic government, One, which by the way, seems to show it's apathetic leadership from top to bottom on a real regular basis these days.

Cody Coyote

When it comes to Wildlife Services, they most often deal with animals larger than skunks or raccoons in the dark, out of sight. Even at high noon.

Wildlife ( Dis)Services is a rogue agency . One of the worst , actually. Very unaccountable.

Good people work for them, and they do some good work and vital research . But there's too little of that good and too much skullduggery , especially when it comes to predator control and other " wet work" for the livestock industry, paid for by the taxpayers for the beck and call of livestock barons. Pure bloody pork. Wildlife Service agents and managers are rogues and make their own rules with impunity. We would do well to de-fund them and neuter them, and just let the Ag industry do their own wet work... within the confines of the law and common decency and respect for other living things.

reality22

Cody ..... you left out what portion of the Wildlife Services comes from the livestock industry...... what else did you conveniently forget. Did you forget to tell them about how two years ago when resources had to be stretched to take care of YOUR disgusting wolves that coyote troubles tripled..... It a real laugher that you and your ilk push for more wolves and have the audacity to complain about the need for WS!

Cody's dirty little secret about MN (where he and his ilk claimed wolves live in harmony with people) is that they had to KILL OVER 200 of the vermin EVERY YEAR all on the governments dime..... this is a direct result of delays in delisting pushed for by people like CODY! IN HIS perfect place of HARMONY they were killing OVER 200 for half a decade and almost hit 300 before last years hunt! NOW, HE has the audacity to come in here and complain about WS! SOME PEOPLE! The real joke is that they killed all these wolves in MINNESOTA with TRAPS on the GOVERNMENTS DIME!

jc45

Cowboy Logic is just a simple low life that hides behind this little nick name and attacks as he/she sees fit. The credibility this individual has as they spew garbage is ridiculous, but they're conservative, so this paper publishes their garbage.

conservation know it all

One corrupt government agency (APHIS) investigating another corrupt government agency (Wildlife (Dis)Services), ho hum. Why is trapping allowed at all? Trapping an animal and letting it suffer in that trap for up to 3 days is inhumane and should not be legal. Some traps are more humane than others, but a trapper is required to check traps only once every 3 days, that's a long time for a wild animal to be trapped.

reality22

know it all...... You and the other wolf pimps are the masters at pushing wolves into traps! You and your ilk push of delisting in MN to the point where they had to TRAP over 200 of the trouble making vermin EVERY YEAR......YUP, they were trapping OVER 200 for half a decade (the time it took to delist with law suit after law suit) and almost it 300 last year before the hunt. You guys are only happy when the only killing of wolves is done on the taxpayers DIME and with TRAPS.... hypocritical bigot.

jEvans697

if you want to see a mass conglomeration of animal abusers, go to www.predatormaster.com This is a site where every hillbilly, inbred, flat footed ignoramus likes to hang out

theohwy101

How is it that Michael Vick gets prison and Olson gets a slap on the hand and an under the table high five from his supervisors?

reality22

The only Michael Vick wanabees are the ones that run down to Lamar Valley and get their kicks out of watching a wolves eat on a half dead elk OR the ones that get their kicks out of spreading rumors of what Olson and his supervisors do "under the table" .

dd ric

the Powder River Sheepherders Fair WAS a dog competition. For years the same family brought and took home a hundred of their own sheep. For the last several years that same family would take home the sheep and over the next week 15 or 20 head would lay down and die. Upon their questions they find out that the younger people had been roping and tying and dogging the sheep,treating them like rodeo stock. No more fair as nobody would put up their sheep for the fair. ddric

crossbow3

for credible predator control, just call in the experts: Jeff Mock, RedFrog, Barry B Bar Stewart, all from www.predatormasters.com These guys have forgotten more then what the avg USDA trapper knows in regards to eradicating vermin off the high prairie.

MissyCoyote

How funny. The only vermin I see on the high prairies, are ignorant people, slaughtering what little wildlife remains. There will be a heavy price to pay, down the road for that behaviour.
Fools dumb enough to post pictures and info of their hatred and cruelty for wolves, coyotes and other mass murdered wildlife will regret doing this, soon....

cfoxnm

The public clearly has a compelling interest in this matter and a right to know the results of this investigation.

APHIS further tarnishes its already less than shining image by covering for Wildlife Services animal torturers. Based entirely on his own actions, Jamie Olson should be dismissed from public service and entered into the Animal Abuse Registry.

Welcome to the early 21st century where human society has progressed to the point where we no longer casually accept the torture of animals.

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