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Opinion Column
For the week of May 24 through May 30, 2000

In search of a wolf sanctuary in Idaho’s wild country

Commentary by LYNNE STONE


The time has come to put anguish aside, and to help the remaining wolves in the Sawtooth Forest—the 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 Forest—the 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 are—three 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 rendezvous site.

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.

 

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