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For the week of Mar. 22 through Mar. 28, 2000

Wolves sighted near ranch south of Bellevue

Express Staff Writer

Wolves and humans have finally come into contact with one another in the Wood River Valley.

Doug Gunderson, manager of the Cove Ranch, a couple of miles south of Bellevue, said he spotted two wolves on the ranch last Saturday. He said he’s a little worried about turning cattle out to pasture on an adjacent Bureau of Land Management (BLM) grazing allotment in May.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game conservation officer Roger Olson confirmed that at least one wolf is in the area. On Saturday, Olson used a spotting scope to view a wolf feeding on an elk carcass on Bureau of Land Management land (BLM) near the Cove Ranch.

Before now, radio collars were used to confirm the presence of wolves in the Trail Creek and Boulder Mountain areas. This was the first confirmed on-the-ground sighting in the valley bottom.

For the time being, Gunderson’s going to give the predators a little elbow room and see what they do.

Gunderson said the wolves probably followed deer and elk down from the Pioneer Mountains. Deer and elk are common on Cove Ranch this time of year, he said, and the wolves may follow them back into the mountains this spring.

Olson said the wolves are probably young and wandering the countryside looking for a home.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services will kill wolves that have preyed on cattle if problems occur. Wildlife Services killed several wolves near Salmon for that reason earlier this winter.

Olson said he responded to a call from Gunderson to investigate the wolves last Saturday.

The wolf Olson spotted was defending its kill from three coyotes, he said. Olson was about a half mile away from the kill.

It was the first wolf Olson has ever seen, and he called it a "neat experience."

He pointed out, however, that Idaho law precludes Fish and Game from playing a role in wolf recovery.

The Idaho Wolf Recovery Foundation estimates that there are over 160 wolves in Idaho.

Wild gray wolves were reintroduced to Idaho in 1995 and 1996 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Wolves were also reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park and western Montana at those times.

Wolf "de-listing," removal from the ESA, will not occur until all three populations maintain at least 10 breeding pairs, each for three consecutive years. Only the Idaho and Yellowstone populations have 10 breeding pairs, but have not reached the three-year goal, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

However, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game representative on wolf issues, John Rachael, said USFWS has indicated that it may move to a 30- breeding-pair total among all three reintroduction sites as part of its criteria for de-listing.

In 1995 and 1996, 35 gray wolves were set free in Idaho. By the end of 1998, their numbers had climbed to 115.

This winter, wolves have been spotted near several population centers including Boise, Salmon and, now, the Wood River Valley.


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