An Alaskan trapper recent won a $150,000 judgment against Friends of Animals researcher Gordon Haber for freeing an injured wolf out of a snare.
In 1997, biologist Haber discovered the wolf caught in a trap set by Alaskan Eugene Johnson. Haber called Alaska state wildlife officials to free the wolf arguing it had been trapped illegally since there were dead caribou carcasses in the vicinity which violates an anti-baiting statute. Officials said they’d free the animal but when they didn’t show up, Haber released the animal himself all the while creating a videotape of his actions which he later released to highlight what he believes is an “abusive type of snaring.”
Under Alaskan law, however, the wolf was the property of Johnson the moment it came into the trap. Since prosecutor’s decided there wasn’t enough evidence to charge Johnson with illegally baiting a trap, Johnson turned around and sued Haber for compensation for the lost wolf. Haber claimed he had the permission of state wildlife officials to free the wolf, but they testified that they told him as soon as he called that the wolf was the property of the trapper under Alaskan law.
In addition to economic damage, Johnson argued that Haber was acting along with Friends of Animals to create a sensationalized videotape and damage his reputation for fund-raising purposes.
Although both Haber and Friends of Animals maintain that Haber is an independent research biologist who happens to receive funding from the animal rights group, the jury decided that Haber was in fact acting as an employee of Friends of Animals when he released the wolf from the trap.
After the verdict, Haber was defiant saying, “If they think I’m going to go away licking my wounds, they’re wrong. It just makes me more determined to get out there.”
Friends of Animals, who paid all of the legal fees for their non-employee Haber has not yet decided whether it will appeal the jury verdict.
Trapper awarded damages. Tim Mowry, Fairbanks Daily News, July 24, 2000.
Biologist undeterred by verdict in trapping case. The Associated Press, July 26, 2000.