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For the week of March 28 through April 3, 2001

East Fork wolf problems return


By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

The East Fork of the Salmon River appears to be a mighty attractive wolf habitat.

A year after the White Cloud wolf pack was disbanded in the East Fork, another wolf pack has taken its placeóat least for the time being.

It also appears the close quarters wolves must keep with ranchers in the valley may prove too tempting for any wolves that wonder into the East Forkís scenic sagebrush steppe environs.

A gray wolf from the White Hawk Pack was shot and killed by a livestock producer on March 19 in the East Fork. The radio-collared wolf was in the act of killing a calf on the rancherís private property, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement officials said.

The White Hawk Pack is one of Idahoís newest wolf packs. It formed last year when dispersing members of the Salmon areaís Moyer Pack joined with several other wolves near Grandjean along the South Fork of the Payette River.

Last fall, however, the White Hawk Pack began making forays into the East Fork of the Salmon River area, Nez Perce Tribe wolf recovery leader Curt Mack said.

Though disbanded, members of the Stanley Pack are still roaming the area, and Mack believes the White Hawk Pack and members of the former Stanley Pack may soon duke it out over territory.

"To have two packs overlap each other in their territorial movements is very interesting and very unusual," Mack said. "Theyíre basically vying for the same territory."

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wolf recovery coordinator Carter Niemeyer said the East Fork is probably "forever going to be a wolf corridor," though wolves are probably "never really going to fit in well" there.

"I donít think livestock is the attractant at all," he said. "I think itís more the terrain, the lay of the land. Thereís certainly something there, but itís hard to quantify."

Fish and Wildlife law enforcement officer Paul Weyland said that though several other wolves were involved in last weekís depredation, the livestock producer chose to shoot only one of the animals.

Niemeyer also noted the experimental rule under which wolves were reintroduced to Idaho allows for livestock producers to injure or kill a wolf on private land if the animal is in the act of killing, wounding or biting livestock.

"Evidence revealed that this was a classic wolf depredation incident and that the property owner had every legal right to act as he did," Niemeyer said.

Hack said he hopes to find better solutions in areas of probable conflict like the East Fork. Because wolves will probably continue to return, and because ranchers there arenít going anywhere, innovative solutions must be sought.

The control program is really "reactive," he said. "Itís not very proactive in the sense of keeping depredations from happening in the first place, which is where we want to go.

"Eliminating a pack just assures you that you will have new wolves in that area. We (the Nez Perce Tribe) feel, for the long-term, itís better to come up with solutions where you maintain a consistent pack in an area, because it would make working with and managing those wolves a lot easier."

 

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