Wolves sighted near ranch south of Bellevue
By GREG STAHL
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 hes 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
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, Gundersons 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 Agricultures 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
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
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.