In search of a wolf sanctuary in Idahos wild country
Commentary by LYNNE STONE
The time has come to put anguish aside, and to help the
remaining wolves in the Sawtooth Forestthe Stanley Pack.
For nearly 20 years I've worked on wild lands and wildlife issues in
central Idaho. None have been as heart wrenching as the recent wolf killings. Since last
fall three central Idaho wolf packs have been eliminated because of conflicts with sheep
or cattle. Thirteen wolves have been shot.
A month ago, on Good Friday, the White Cloud wolf pack was decimated by
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for killing four calves on two ranches along
the East Fork of the Salmon River. Five wolves were shot from a helicopter on the White
Cloud foothills including the alpha male.
The pack's alpha female, heavy with pregnancy, had been removed a few
weeks earlier to the Lochsa River country in north Idaho. Her fate is unknown.
The Boulder-White Cloud Council has been asked why we didn't try to stop
the lethal action. We did try.
Since January, we had called USFWS over the demise of the Twin Peaks pack
on the Broken Wing Ranch near Clayton. Then, fearing a similar catastrophe for the nearby
White Cloud pack, we contacted USFWS in Boise numerous times in April and pleaded for no
more shootings. But, it was not to be.
Our magnificent 500,000-acre Boulder-White Cloud Mountains lost their wolf
pack. If wolves cannot find sanctuary in this huge chunk of wild country, then where?
Since Easter week, we've received hundreds of e-mails from all over America. Our phones
continue to ring. Throughout the Wood River and Sawtooth valleys people have called,
written and sometimes cried with us.
But the time has come to put anguish aside, and to help the remaining
wolves in the Sawtooth Forestthe Stanley Pack.
What can be done? On private lands we can only hope that ranchers will be
more willing to use deterrent methods and learn to tolerate wolves. Defenders of Wildlife
is willing to help defray additional costs, and to pay for livestock losses.
On public lands, the USFWS claims they cannot ask other federal agencies
like the Forest Service to alter grazing practices in order to keep livestock from
tempting wolves. We urge the public to join us in asking the Sawtooth National Recreation
Area to try and prevent livestock and wolf conflicts.
Preliminary information on this year's Stanley Pack denning site indicates
it's somewhere in the White Clouds between Stanley and Champion Creek. This area has
private cattle pastures, and SNRA sheep and cattle allotments. USFWS knows where the
wolves arethree Stanley pack wolves are radio collared and a local Stanley pilot
does frequent aerial tracking.
It's essential that sheep bands stay out of the denning area and
Also, in a few weeks sheep bands will start trailing through our valley on
the way to summer pastures. Sheep and wolf conflicts are bound to occur. Last summer the
USFWS issued five lethal take permits to an individual whose sheep band uses Owl Creek,
Salmon River headwaters, Pole Creek, Champion Creek and Fourth of July Creek.
USFWS shot one Stanley pack wolf. By keeping sheep bands away from
occupied wolf habitat this summer, perhaps we can save the Stanley pack.
Lynne Stone is the director of Ketchum-based Boulder-White Clouds Council,
a conservation group.