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June 19, 2008

Spotlight On: Larry Thorngren

Larrysheepshort700 A professional nature photographer, Larry Thorngren has spent many years studying animals.  One of his favorite is the North American Bighorn Sheep.  He did range studies for, and helped trap, wild bighorns in Canada for transplantation into central Idaho.  In the ensuing years wild sheep all over North American, and other animals, seem to find him irresistable as you'll see when you look at his photo galleries.

Enthusiasts worldwide including those from North America, Europe, and Japan have purchased and collected his photos.  He has been published in Italy, Australia and New Zealand in addition various publications in the United States.

During his spare time Larry spent 21 years teaching science and photography in the Idaho school system.  Many of his biology students have been inspired to go into careers in the natural sciences.

Larry was kind enough to answer the below questions for us:

Q). Some people believe that supporting a future for wolves and being a hunter are mutually exclusive. You were a hunter, yet you also support wildlife conservation -- how do the two go hand-in-hand?

A). I was interested in wildlife long before I was a hunter or a photographer. Carnation Corn Flakes cereal had Audubon Bird Cards included in the package when I was in grade school.  I ate a lot of corn flakes to get all of the cards. I knew most of the numerous species of birds on our Eastern Idaho farm near the Snake River by the age of 10.

For me, hunting or photography are reasons to get out of doors and observe wildlife.  Taking game or getting a good photo is simply a bonus to an enjoyable day in the wild.  My fondest memories have something to do with experiencing wildlife in action.

Q). How did you first become interested in shooting wildlife photography?

A). I photographed plants and animals to use for slide shows while teaching High School Biology  for 20 years in the Boise, Idaho School District.  I won National Wildlife Magazine's Photo Contest in 1980 and it was a natural progression to start selling some of my better photos.

Q). What is it - in your opinion - about wolves in this country that make people so passionate on both sides of the divide?

A). I think many of the anti-wolf people are actually afraid of wolves and other predators.  You get the same anti-predator response from them if you suggest putting Grizzlies back in Idaho Wilderness Areas. Pro-wolf people are more likely to be advocates for all wildlife, but some of them get very possessive and tend to think they own the wolves and seem to resent photographers or hunters who might get close to "their" wolves. 

For some reason, wolves invoke a response from some rather extreme folks from both sides of the issue. I am more of a moderate on wolves and don't fully understand what triggers such intensity. 

Q). How would you like to see wolves managed in the Northern Rockies?

A). I support a biological approach to wolf management. I think there is a middle ground between the "Shoot,Shovel and Shutup" crowd that wants all wolves removed and the "Save Every Wolf" bunch on the other end.  I would like hunting seasons set after proper biological data is collected .  The Idaho Fish and Game Commisioners set this years' wolf kill quota higher than that recommended by their own biologists. Emotional and political input seemed more important than biological assessment.

The wolf introduction has been a remarkable success and proper scientific management will insure wolves thrive in the Northern Rockies from now on.

Q). What is your favorite photo that you have taken of a wolf - and may we see it?

Hayden_pack_larry_thorngren_6353 A). I like my photo of the Hayden Pack pursuing elk in Yellowstone that I took just one day before they were decimated by the Mollie's Pack. IMG# 6353 - The image on the website is of a low resolution and doesn't do justice to the enlarged print I sell of it, but shows the wolves closeup and personal as they run along with the elk.

Q). Why do you believe that establishing a wolf viewing area is important in Idaho?

A). Wildlife viewers outnumber hunters by 3 to 1 in Idaho and other western states.  Wolves look their best in late fall at the same time that hunters are out in the field. There are open meadows in Bear Valley and near Ketchum that would ideal places for the non-hunting public to observe and photograph wolves. If all of Idaho is open to hunting wolves, the wolves will be so gun-shy that the opportunity for wildlife watchers to see wolves at close range just won't happen.

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