Big Wood River Wolf Project Continues....
Defenders' Big Wood River Wolf Project, in the beautiful Sawtooth Mountains of central Idaho, is approaching the end of phase one. In just a few days the last of the sheep bands that graze throughout this area will leave the Big Wood River Valley, and out of the designated project area. There will be a few weeks respite for our tireless fields crew until the sheep bands trail back through the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and into Ketchum for the annual 'Trailing of the Sheep'. To give you a taste of what it is involved working on this project, I will let the field team speak for themselves. Below are some excerpts from their field notes, be sure to check out photos from the project on Flickr.
I Drove to North Cherry Creek to find the herder’s camp. Eugenio told me about the big black wolf that Nedwin, the other herder, saw chasing one of their guard dogs this morning at 0930hrs. Nedwin hollered and the wolf broke off. Then Eugenio told me that some activity in yonder wet meadow heading up the canyon has some kind of wolf activity in it, that he smelled wolf in a couple of spots and that he saw wolf pup scat on both sides of the meadow in the timber. This is probably why he asked me if I brought the fladry fence! We walked the length of the bench adjacent to his camp looking for a good bedding area to enclose. After deciding on a spot, I put fladry along about 100 yards of the bottom, 100 yards uphill on the end and 150 yards across the top. This suited him and I made my camp outside the fence toward the open end. The sheep were herded in around 2100hrs and promptly laid down.
Next day: I packed up camp and waited for herder to arrive. The sheep started to move away and lower so I followed behind waiting for Eugenio to show up. At 0630hrs I saw a black object in a green meadow ¼ mile below me. I waited and it moved. Then the dogs saw it and the chase was on. It was a wolf and it ran down the canyon and across the path of Eugenio and his horse. They’re everywhere!
6PM: I parked my car on the side of the Forest Service road, and started to get my equipment ready for the night ahead. I heard some rustling in the bushes behind me, and when I turned around I was surprised to see a black bear coming into a clearing about 100 yards from me. It looked like he was curious to see who I was, and wanted to come in for a closer look. I grabbed my starter pistol, and started firing. The bear quickly turned tail and disappeared over the ridge.
7 PM: I spotted the male of the Phantom Hill above fladry fence, it appeared to be collared. I got a strong signal from PH1, the female of the pack. It left area upon my approach.
9 PM: The sheep band had been herded into and is fully contained in the fladry night corral. I detected the signal for PH1 below ridge-toward the highway.
10PM: Weak signals detected from both collared Phantom Hill wolves. I was coming from the direction across the canyon, near river. It was at a lower elevation than the sheep band.
11PM: Still detecting weak signals from both collared Phantom Hill wolves. They appear to have moved up the drainage to northeast, with the dogs barking in pursuit. I picked up weak signals for rest of night until the early morning. As you can see the Big Wood River Valley is home to a varied variety of predators, be they bears, coyotes or wolves.
This area is alsoused by hikers, fly-fishers and wildlife watchers in summer, and skiers and snowshoe-ers in the winter, and from June to October over 12,000 sheep graze this valley each year. Balancing all these different uses involves good communication and cooperation between the sheep producers, locals, wildlife biologists and the different state and federal agencies. By working together to reduce conflicts between the wolves and sheep, we can help make this a real working landscape, and possible for wildlife and people to peacefully coexist.