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For the week of April 26 through May 2, 2000

White Cloud wolves shot

One member of pack survived


"Had we known the alpha male was there, we would have talked about what we were going to do."

Roy Heberger, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wolf recovery leader for Idaho


By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

The White Cloud wolf pack is no more.

In what conservationists are calling an "Easter week shootout," the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authorized killing the White Cloud wolves after they had been deemed habituated to preying on livestock.

Not even the pack’s dominant alpha male was spared.

Roy Heberger, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wolf recovery leader for Idaho, authorizes lethal control activities. He said in a Monday interview that "had we known the alpha male was there, we would have talked about what we were going to do."

"The design here is to retain the breeding pair."

After the pack’s first known livestock predation early this month, four members were relocated to the Selway/Bitterroot Wilderness Area, about 150 miles north of the East Fork of the Salmon.

The alpha male and female were included in the relocation. The male, however, completed the long trek back to his homeland in only 19 days, according to an April 24 gray wolf recovery newsletter on the Internet.

The alpha male and another member of the White Cloud pack were killed Thursday by employees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services. Two other pack members had been killed two days before, after members of the pack preyed on the third of three calves they killed in the East Fork of the Salmon River valley.

A so-called Judas wolf, radio collared and released to lead Wildlife Services personnel to the rest of the pack, was shot on Friday.

The whereabouts of the relocated, alpha female are unknown. The death of the dominant male leaves the pregnant female wandering the mountains of central Idaho with a belly full of pups. The pups will die shortly after they’re born without the alpha male to hunt and gather food for them, Heberger said.

Another pack member—the only remaining wolf of the original nine-member pack believed to still be in the White Clouds—escaped into the wilderness, he said.

Wolves are shot using a shotgun from a helicopter at a 20- to 40-yard range, said Mark Collinge, state director of the federal Wildlife Services, in a telephone interview yesterday.

"If they don’t go down immediately, you have to take another shot," he said. "You do your best."

Heberger, who authorized Idaho’s first lethal wolf control last summer, said he uses a simple system to determine when wolves have gone too far.

"Statistically it takes three points to establish a trend line," he said. "I use three incidents before going ahead with lethal control. It was clear that the pack was habituated to killing livestock."

The second livestock kill occurred around April 8, Heberger said. A kill on the evening of April 13 put the White Cloud pack over the top on Heberger’s statistical trend line.

Conservationists are outraged at the recent lethal control activities, which bring Idaho’s lethal control total to 12 wolves since their reintroduction in 1995 and 1996.

"This is a wolf control program, not wolf restoration," Clearwater Biodiversity Project member Charles Pezenshki said in a Boulder-White Cloud Council press release. "We’re asking wolves to change, but not ranchers. We don’t shoot spotted owls. The timber industry had to bend. Why are ranchers so special?"

Boulder-White Cloud executive director Lynne Stone said she feels robbed.

"This pack roamed the 500,000-acre wild White Cloud Mountains and brought joy to us," she said. "We thought that Idahoans had finally learned to accept wolves back into their ancestral homeland.

"We’re devastated over the loss of the White Cloud pack."

In an April 14 letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo made clear that the recent wolf experiences should be used as learning experiences.

"There must be a better, allowable alternative protocol that could have reduced the lethal take on wolves and minimized the loss of livestock," he wrote.

"This protocol could build upon the credibility and feasibility of the wolf recovery program," he continued, "especially in the minds of recovery area residents and others in the state of Idaho, while at the same time meeting the concerns of those supporting the wolf recovery effort."

 

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