The rise and fall of a wolf pack
The White Cloud Packs formation and demise
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
The now defunct White Cloud wolf pack was founded by a female wolf whose
whereabouts are unknown following the shooting last month of five pack members, including
her matea possibly wild wolf. By now, she probably has pups.
Without her mate to gather food, both she and her pups are in jeopardy.
She likely had her pups in mid-April, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Services Idaho wolf recovery leader Roy Heberger.
Heberger said one of three fates has probably befallen the struggling
alpha female by now:
She could be struggling, near fatally, to feed herself and the pups; she
may have abandoned the pups; or by the luckiest of circumstances, a male wolf from another
pack found her and is helping to raise the pups as the packs new alpha male.
The odds arent in the pups favor, Heberger said in a telephone
Last week, aerial flights looking for the missing females radio
collar signal in central Idaho returned without encouragement, he said. If the female is
found and is still with her pups, he added, they will be taken into captivity to be safely
What follows is the story of the lost female, known to wolf researchers as
B36F. Her story is reconstructed from U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife records, an
interview with Heberger and an Internet site hosted by Boise-based wildlife enthusiast
In the winter of 1998, during the Nez Perce tribes routine aerial
wolf monitoring flights, a radio-collared, female wolf, B36F, was located wandering high
elevations of the White Cloud Mountains.
The Nez Perce, under a cooperative agreement with U.S. Fish and Wildlife,
are responsible for wolf recovery implementation and fly all monitoring flights.
B36F was one of 21 wolves released in Idaho in 1996. For a long time, the
British Columbia native of Canadas Petrie wolf pack was the southernmost Idaho wolf,
according to Heberger.
According to one of Maughans reports, she was a healthy 100-pound
adult at the time of her transfer.
As winter faded into spring in 1998, B36F was increasingly spotted with an
uncollared and previously undetected male wolf, Heberger said.
The two, which became the White Cloud Packs dominant alpha pair,
denned in the White Clouds that April and whelped nine pups, the largest litter in Idaho
since wolf reintroduction took place in 1995 and 1996.
Later in the summer, the pack migrated south into the headwaters of the
Big Wood River and southern end of the Stanley Basin.
There began the packs eventually fatal tendency to prey on
livestock. The pack preyed on six sheep near the base of Galena Summit in the Stanley
Basin, Heberger said. Scared away by the presence of some raucous humans, however, they
moved several valleys over and did not repeat the instinctivebut
troublesomebehavior in 1998.
In the spring of 1999, the White Cloud alpha pair gave birth to seven more
Late in the winter, the pack made its first confirmed hunting forays into
the East Fork of the Salmon River and preyed on calves owned by the Baker family.
The Baker ranches are about 15 miles south of Clayton, a community located
between the White Cloud and Salmon River mountains, along the main Salmon River. The
family has deep roots there going back generations.
Eddie Baker, 79, is a fourth generation East Fork of the Salmon
River cattle rancher. He said appropriate measures were taken last month when five wolves
were shot near his ranch for preying on two of his calves. Express photo by Willy
Several of B36Fs 11-month-old pups were radio collared and one was
relocated to northern Idaho to try to "mix them up," Heberger said.
Throughout the winter and spring of 2000, the pack lived in the vicinity
of Sheep Mountain, slightly southeast of the Baker ranches. A stream called Baker Creek
funnels from the high sagebrush hills near Sheep Mountain into the ranches.
Baker Creek is where the wolves lurked before heading into the East Fork
of the Salmon River valley ranches to prey on livestock, Eddie Baker Jr. said in an
interview at his 900-acre ranch two weeks ago. Baker and his father, Eddie Baker Sr., 79,
agreed that wolves and humans are like oil and water.
"We like wildlife, but when they get on our private land, thats
a different deal," Eddie Baker Jr. said.
Last month, the White Cloud pack killed four calves on Baker
ranchestwo on property belonging to the father and son and two on their cousin
Waynes ranch. Five of the wolves, including the alpha male, were shot with a .12
gauge shotgun from a low flying helicopter.
Three wolves were successfully relocated to the north; one is confirmed to
have escaped into the White Clouds; and several more are believed to have dispersed to
other packs or locations. Of the nine that were confirmed to be in the East Fork, one
Another radio-collared pack member is confirmed to have moved into Copper
Basin, east of the Pioneer Mountains. Reports indicate that a pack may be forming in that
The alpha female, B36F, was pregnant at last sighting in early April, and
was expected to give birth in about two weeks, Heberger said. He said wolves generally
give birth in mid-April.
"Im concerned," Heberger said of the missing female and
Hebergers concern isnt just for the females safety. If
she doesnt raise a healthy litter or help form another pack, it will be another
setback in achieving wolf recovery and "delisting" of wolves in Idaho under the
Endangered Species Act (ESA).
In order to be removed from the ESA, Idaho, Montana and Yellowstone wolf
populations must sustain 10 breeding pairs each for a period of 10 years. Montana wolves
have not yet attained the 10 breeding pair minimum, Heberger said.
Idaho, which sustained 13 known packs and 10 known breeding pairs as of
December 1999, was considered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to be the most
successful of the three reintroduction sites, Heberger said.
Now, however, Idaho is down to 10 known and intact packs after three
packs, including the White Cloud pack, were targeted by lethal control efforts for preying
on livestock in the past year.
Thats not to say, Heberger said, that "ghost
packs"those that are thus far undetectedarent forming.
"Theres undocumented pack activity thats going to need
on-the-ground research," he said.
Heberger said Idaho sustained a minimum of 10 breeding pairs for the past
two years in a row. The numbers are counted on Dec. 31 of each year, after juvenile wolves
have had a chance to grow through their perilous young lives.
Heberger didnt speculate about the number of breeding pairs Idaho
will have this fall. The existence of 10 packs doesnt mean that all 10 will breed
successfully, he said.
Next week: Focus shifts to the Wood River Valleys backyard wolf
pack, the Stanley Pack.