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For the week of June 20 - June 26, 2001

  News

Wolves kill 8 sheep in Sawtooths grazing allotment


By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

In what appears to be turning into an annual event in the Sawtooths, wolves killed eight sheep and a Great Pyrenees guard dog June 8 near Fourth of July Creek.

In response, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued an order for the Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services to capture and relocate or shoot two of the wolves believed to have been involved in the killings. But, to date, no wolves have been captured or killed, said Bob Ruesink, supervisor of USFWS Snake River Basin office.

The White Hawk wolf pack, which is responsible for the dead livestock, has roamed freely between the East Fork of the Salmon River valley and the Sawtooth Valley last winter and this spring. The pack, consisting of four adults and nine pups, filled a niche created when both the White Cloud Pack and Stanley Pack were disbanded by federal agencies last summer due to depredations on livestock.

"Unfortunately, one Great Pyrenees was killed and, unfortunately, eight sheep were killed, and there are going to be more," said Lynne Stone, director Boulder White Cloud Council. "We could lose this whole pack."

Stone, who has been monitoring the situation, said Wildlife Services had a plane in the air Tuesday looking for the wolves.

Two of the adult males were targeted, Ruesink said. But he noted the agency isn’t sure which of the three male wolves is the alpha male.

Environmentalists are upset about the incident, because they believe the flock’s owner, Snake River Plain rancher Bill Brailford, haphazardly moved his bands into an area where wolves were known to live.

For the first time, the Sawtooth National Forest has spoken out against immediate control actions in response to a sheep depredation. Rather, the Forest Service has recommended that Brailsford implement other means—such as moving his sheep or hazing the wolves—to alleviate the situation.

"I consider it to be the permittee’s responsibility to ensure that aggressive harassment tactics are used before relocation or lethal control options are implemented," Sawtooth National Forest Supervisor Bill LeVere wrote in a June 12 letter to Brailsford. "Until I am convinced that you have fully pursued and tested all reasonable wolf harassment and sheep movement options, and they have failed, I will ask the (wildlife management agencies) not to implement wolf relocation or lethal control."

LeVere wrote that if Brailsford failed to comply with his requests, the rancher’s grazing permit would be suspended for the remainder of the season.

"Brailsford, the permitee, is cooperating," LeVere said Tuesday. "He even exceeded our expectations on carcass disposal."

LeVere said his letter upset the Farm Bureau, Idaho Wool Growers and Idaho’s congressional delegation.

"There were a few bumps in the road early last week, but now we’re all working toward the same objective," he said. "It’s solved itself."

 


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.