From the Field

April 19, 2010

Wolf tracking trip with Sun Valley Trekking by Jesse Timberlake

Last Saturday I headed up to Sun Valley, Idaho for a wolf tracking trip with Sun Valley Trekking, a local backcountry guide. We had a full house, with participants coming from as far as Malibu, California. Defenders sponsored this trip with the Western Wolf Coalition, to get people outside and interested in the native wildlife. After leaving the coffee shop at dawn we headed over to Greenhorn Valley, where we set up scopes and watched about 100 elk graze on the hillside. All of a sudden, one of the group spotted a dog-like animal on the side of the hill, not 50 yards from Gray Wolf-Credit- Anne Jeffery the elk. A quick glance by Jon Rachael, Big Game manager for Idaho Fish and Game confirmed that this was indeed a wolf.


For those who are lucky enough to go to Yellowstone to see wolves know the thrill of seeing them in their natural environment. This beautiful gray wolf slowly walked up the slope, occasionally stopping and looking back at us. The elk did not seem to mind him much, but they kept an eye on him and every now and again decided it was time to move a little bit further up the slope. We were also lucky enough to find an elk carcass that had been eaten by a couple of wolves.Elk remains after a wolf's lunch There was not much left except a couple rids and some hide.


After watching the wolf for abut 45 minutes, we strapped on our snowshoes and headed up into the Sawtooth foothills to get to our yurt for lunch. Over lunch, Francie St. Onge of Sun Valley Trekking gave us a great presentation on the biology and ecology of wolves. We also had Jon from the Idaho Fish and Game to answer any questions about the local wolves. A great day out was Snowshoeing through the sawtooth Mountains had by all, especially as we got to see wolves, plenty of elk, and all in our own backyard!

March 04, 2010

Wolf-tracking with Boise’s Timberline High School

This weekend I went up to central Idaho to go wolf-tracking with Boise’s Timberline High School. This high school is unique in the fact that they have a wolf pack named after them, the Timberline Pack. This pack spends much of its time up near the town of Lowman in the Boise National Forest, not far from where the original 15 wolves were reintroduced back into Idaho in 1995. We were not sure whether there were other packs in the area, or if the Timberline Pack had gone further up north to find elk, but we were sure going to try and find them. On the Friday evening we drove up to Lowman from Boise, and saw elk all over the mountain sides, and even in people’s front yards. When we arrived in Lowman, we sat down with Carter Niemeyer, Carter with catch pole the  former Wolf Recovery Coordinator for the US Fish and Wildlife Service and now summer wolf specialist with the Idaho Fish and Game department. We talked about wolf issues in Idaho, about wolf ecology and biology, and about how people in wolf country are learning to live with wolves. The students had great questions, and were interested in hearing about all sides of the issue.


The next morning we got a hearty breakfast at the local dinner, and the owner gave a talk on what it is like living in the wilds of Idaho, where wolf packs are abundant and healthy. We set off down the road with our telemetry equipment hanging out the window, trying to pick up signals from the local wolf packs. After a while we decided to stop driving and hike up to a ridge to get a better vantage point. No sooner had we started walking up the snow-covered forest trail, than expert biologist Carter spotted a set of Mountain Lion tracks. Lion tracks 2 Snow had fallen that night so the tracks must have been only be a few hours old. Carter explained the difference between these lion tracks and wolf tracks, these included the lack of nails on lion prints, and their asymmetrical toes. We had not walked another hundred feet when one of the students yelled out that he had found another set of tracks. These tracks were smaller than before, and went in an almost straight line. “Bobcat,” Carter said. They were too small for a lion, and as there were no nails showing, it was not a fox or coyote. Although we did also see fox tracks earlier that day, as well as a coyote playing by the road on the drive up.


We finally reached the top of the ridge and scanned the horizon with our binoculars looking for the local wolf packs. No wolves, but the students caught sight of three immature bald eagles riding the thermals above the mountain, and we also saw a herd of mule deer in the distance. We were still not having much luck with our wolf watch, and so we decided to try and howl at them to get a response. Carter led the group with a long, deep howl that seemed to go on forever. The students quickly followed with their more soprano howls. Soon we had over twenty howling ‘wolves’ in our pack, and if the wolves did hear us I do not know if they would have been intrigued, or scared off!


Hike down 3 As we hiked back down the steep trail, we talked about how exciting it was to be in a place that had such a diversity of carnivores, birds and ungulates. Although we did not see any wolves that day, we did see an abundance of sign showing that there were many animals in these mountains. The trip back to town included a stop off at one of Idaho’s famous hot springs to sooth our sore feet.


If you are interested in going on a wolf watching trip in central Idaho this spring, click here for more details.

August 13, 2009

Big Wood River Wolf Project Continues....

The field team are instructed in the setting up of the turbofladry

The field team are instructed in the setting up of the turbofladry

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!

The field team practice with telemetry

The field team practice with telemetry


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.

June 25, 2009

The Wood River Wolf Project: Year Two

Carter Niemeyer, Rick Williamson ad members of the field team discuss the use of telemetry

Carter Niemeyer, Rick Williamson ad members of the field team discuss the use of telemetry

It is grazing season in central Idaho, and the sheep and cattle are being turned out onto the public lands. Many sheep bands, with ewes and lambs, are either being trucked, or trailed into the Big Wood River Valley. It is situated in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, this 756,000 acres was set aside by Congress in 1972 "... in order to assure the preservation and protection of the natural, scenic, historic, pastoral, and fish and wildlife values and to provide for the enhancement of the recreational values associated therewith..." In this magnificent part of Idaho over 12,000 sheep will pass through this valley during the summer, which is also home to wolves, bears and coyotes. Defenders of Wildlife, Idaho Fish and Game, US Forest Service, Wildlife Services and the local sheep producers are working together on a project that will use a number of different tools and techniques to try and keep the wolves out of the sheep bands that graze in this area.

This is the second year of the Big Wood River Valley Project, one of the most ambitious ones we have been involved in. This project illustrates the evolution from smaller projects that focus on just one or two producers, to more inclusive projects that work over a much larger area and includes all the producers potentially affected by the local wolf packs. Last year there were at least two wolf packs in the area, and one of them had been involved in previous depredations. With the help of a team of field technicians who used an array of non-lethal wolf deterrents, such as telemetry, turbo-fladry, RAG boxes, and air-horns, we managed to reduce the losses from last year by a significant amount. All the local state and federal agencies were involved with this project, and four of the biggest sheep producers in Idaho were all impressed enough by the project that they signed on again for this year.

Randy & Roger, members of the field team, learn to set up turbofladry

Randy & Roger, members of the field team, learn to set up turbofladry

This year we hope to reproduce the success of the project, and we will be working hard to try and deter the local wolves from getting close to the sheep this season. Last Friday we held the training day for the field team, the sheep producers and the herders. Rick Williamson from the Wildlife Services, and Carter Niemeyer the former Wolf Recovery Coordinator for the US Fish and Wildlife Service helped run the training. We practiced using the telemetry equipment that will help us locate the wolves and give us an idea of how close to the sheep they might be. We also practiced setting up RAG boxes and fladry, two non-lethal wolf deterrents that I have talked about earlier in this blog. These tools would be used if we know that there are wolves close at hand, or if we are near a wolf den or rendezvous site. We also issued the field technicians with a few noise makers such as air horns so they will be able to scare the wolves off if they get to close to the livestock. These technicians will work from early evening through to morning, as this is the time that wolves are most active. As the herders set up camp, and the sheep start to bed down, the technicians will turn on their telemetry equipment and start their night’s work scanning for wolves.

The technicians will work closely with the herders and producers to determine what are the best tools to use in these situations, and they will also advise the herders if they think that wolves are in the area. Any project like this depends on good communication between all organizations involved, and after a successful training day like the one we had, hopes are high going into the second year of this project. Already there has been media interest in this project, and the spotlight will be on us, and the wolves throughout the season.

Check out more photos on Flickr >>

March 26, 2009

Idaho Wolf Habitat Tour Success

Checking out a wolf killed elk

Tour participants investigate the site of a wolf kill. There is nothing left beside hide and stomach contents.

(Photo: Jesse Timberlake)

Last weekend Defenders of Wildlife, along with Idaho Conservation League under the Western Wolf Coalition, sponsored a Wolf Habitat Tour in the Sawtooth National Forest. We met up at the coffee shop at 7:30 that morning. It was still dark due to the daylight savings time change the week before. The leader of the trip, Francie St. Onge from Sun Valley Trekking made sure we were all there before heading out into the hills surrounding Ketchum. Our first stop was Greenhorn Gulch. We parked our cars at first light and started to scan the area for wildlife. As the morning fogs lifted we could see that the hills were covered in elk. In the spotting scope we estimated there must have been at least 200 elk visible from the road. We did not see any wolves in the vicinity at that time but we did see some wolf tracks near the side of the road and so decided to follow them. The tracks must have been fresh, as snow had not filled them in yet. The tracks led to the base of the hill were we discovered the remains of an elk. Apparently this elk had been killed a couple days ago according to the locals, and in that time the area wolves had reduced the elk to a bunch of hair. Surrounding the kill site were numerous wolf tracks and scat. As Francie explained the details of an elk kill site, a number of locals came over and started asking questions about wolf and elk ecology, obviously they were very interested in what was happening in their own backyards.

Taking a break

Francie St. Onge talks about wolf ecology to the tour participants.

(Photo: Jesse Timberlake)

Our next stop was Anderson Creek, where the snowshoe trip was to begin. By now the sun had come out, the clouds had parted and it was turning into a beautiful day. We strapped on our snowshoes and our sunglasses and headed off into the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. This is one of the most beautiful places in Idaho if not the country. The Big Wood River Valley is surrounded by the Boulder Mountains to the north, and by the Sawtooth National Forest to the south; a mix of rugged mountain peaks and open valley bottoms that is host to many large animals including mountain goats, bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer wolverine, fisher and of course the wolf. We headed to the base of Butterfield Mountain where the Boulder Yurt was, our destination for lunch. For those of you who do not know what a Yurt is, it is a circular, domed tent used by nomadic peoples of Mongolia. We climbed up the slopes with Francie leading the way until we got to the yurt. Chase, one of the Sun Valley Trekking interns, had already fired-up the wood burning stove and the yurt was toasty warm. As we sat down to our lunches, Francie gave a wonderful presentation on wolf biology and ecology. Francie worked as a naturalist in Denali National Park, and has had many firsthand experiences with wolf packs in the wild.

After lunch we headed to the top of Butterfield Mountain, from where we could see the Boulder Mountains stretching off into the distance, and the whole of the Big Wood River Valley. We then snowshoe’d down the mountain back to our cars and the day was over.

A 2006 study by John Duffield, showed that Yellowstone wolves brought $35 million dollars to the region annually. The success of this tour shows that people in Idaho are willing to travel across the state, and spend money to watch wolves in Idaho’s wild areas. Everyone on this trip enjoyed themselves immensely. Just the fact that we were snowshoeing in a beautiful part of Idaho, knowing that there were wolves in the vicinity, made the trip that much more exiting. Idahoans are enjoying the opportunity to watch wolves in their natural habitat, something that they have not been able to do for over 70 years. Hopefully this is the start of a fledgling wolf tourism industry here in Idaho.

January 12, 2009

2008 Proactive Season Recap

Jesse with sheep As the snows start to build up in the mountains and valleys of the Northern Rockies, the winter wildlife migrations begin. Elk and deer start to head down onto the lower elevations where there is less snow and more shrubs to forage. At the same time, much of the sheep and cattle that have been grazing the mountains and high valleys are shipped off to market, or else are brought back to the ranch for the winter. The wolves tend to follow the elk during this time, waiting for the deep snows that slow the elk down and make them easier prey. The last of our proactive projects finished a couple of months ago and so things have quieted down for a while. Overall we had a very successful proactive season, with numerous projects spread over the Northern Rockies.

Our most ambitious project was the Big Wood River Valley Project in central Idaho. Deep in the Sawtooth Mountains, this valley is home to over 10,000 sheep during the summer grazing season. There was at least one wolf pack in the area, and it had been involved in depredations in the past. With the help of a team of field technicians who used an array of non-lethal wolf deterrents, such as telemetry, turbo-fladry, RAG boxes, and air-horns, we managed to reduce the losses from last year by a significant amount. We had all the local state and federal agencies helping out with this project, and four of the biggest sheep producers in Idaho were all impressed by the project that they signed on for another year. This was one of our largest projects, and illustrates the evolution from small projects that focus on just one or two producers, to more inclusive projects that work over a much larger area and includes all the producers potentially affected by the local wolf packs.

LazyEL_riders_Thad&Sam In Montana we worked with two different ranchers to implement range rider projects in central and west Montana. The range riders had worked with Defenders for a number of years previously on these projects, and it was interesting to see how these projects had evolved and changed over the years. These projects are learning experiences for all those involved. After sitting down and speaking to the producers and the wildlife agents, we come up with a number of tool and techniques that might work in the situation. Sometimes we have great success with the project, and other times we need to improve on what was done and try new things the next year. Producers in the Northern Rockies are once again getting used to raising livestock in areas where there are large carnivores, and these changes do not happen overnight. Very often only small changes to a producers operation can produce dramatic results, with reduced livestock loss during the year.  At the end of the season both these ranchers, and the state wildlife biologists, all agreed that because of these projects and the help from Defenders, the livestock losses were reduced.

During the winter we follow up with all of our project partners to discuss how the project could be improved for the next year. We will sit down with all the different agencies involved and work out what worked well, and what could be changed for next year. We could not do these collaborative projects without the continual support of our members and donors who help fund them. Thank you for your help and here is to another successful year.

November 05, 2008

Good Day at the ole Job

Photo: Dave Fluetsch, Sawtooth National Recreation Area

A promising sight from the field, the Phantom Hill Pack, spotted in the Sawtooth National Forest near Sun Valley, Idaho. These are some of the wolves that would likely have perished without the incredibly successful Wood River project that Defenders sponsored this summer.

"One more thing to watch out for on the road! I stopped for these wolves at about 9:15am last Wednesday."
- Defenders Field Staff Member

October 20, 2008

A timely decision...

We couldn't have time it better... during Wolf Awareness Week, a U.S. District Court in Missoula officially granted the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s request to withdraw its 2008 Delisting Rule for Northern Rockies wolves.

On March 28, 2008, the US Fish and Wildlife Service removed federal protection for wolves in our region.  Under their Delisting plan, wolves in 88% of Wyoming lost all legal protection and, in less than 24 hours, there were confirmed reports of wolves being killed on sight.  One man claimed that he chased a wolf over 70 miles on snowmobile before shooting the exhausted animal.  That same day, the Idaho state legislature passed a new wolf management provision allowing Idaho wolves to be killed simply for being on the same trail shared with livestock.  During the next month, Idaho Fish and Game commissioners succumbed to pressure from the Idaho anti-wolf coalition and agreed to allow more than half of our wolf population to be killed before the end of this year.  As wolf conservationists had warned, these state plans were entirely insufficient to protect the regional wolf population.  We immediately filed an emergency request for an injunction to stop delisting and restore federal protection for wolves.  On July 18, 2008, the U.S. District Court in Missoula granted our preliminary injunction to wolf conservation temporarily placing Northern Rockies wolves back under federal protection and preventing the hunts from going forward but not before we lost all the known wolves in southwestern Wyoming.  These animals and their pups had already been killed.    

Today, we have renewed hope for wolves in our region.  On October 14, 2008, the U.S. District Court in Missoula, Montana granted the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s request to officially withdraw its 2008 Delisting Rule for Northern Rockies wolves.  Wolves are now back on the federal Endangered Species List throughout Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, Washington and Utah.  While this legal victory stops the wolf hunts and indiscriminate killing of wolves in our region for now, it means that the Delisting process will now start over again.  This time, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s needs to adhere to its original 1994 minimum recovery plan for gray wolves in the region that requires that wolves in each of the three recovery areas (central Idaho, NW Montana and Yellowstone) be connected as one “metapopulation.”  That means the various packs of wolves need to be able to reach each other in order to breed and raise pups without inbreeding.  The Service’s own research proved that at 2004’s population levels, which were nearly three times higher than the recovery number of 30 breeding pairs, these wolf subgroups were still not connected.  A larger wolf population is clearly needed to ensure the future of wolves in the region.   

Wyoming must change its law that allows unregulated wolf killing in nearly 90 percent of the state.  The Service firmly rejected Wyoming’s hostile wolf management plan in 2003 then ‘flip-flopped without explanation’ by approving the plan with “the same deficiencies” in 2007. But all of the state wolf management plans will need to be improved in order to allow for a sustainable regional wolf population throughout the region including our neighboring states.  This summer, biologists documented a pack of wolves with pups in Washington State and that same day, Oregon wolf biologists discovered the state’s first documented wolf pack and pups since the species was eradicated in the 1930s.  Biologists are celebrating this news because the return of wolves means that these ecosystems can sustain greater biodiversity of other native species. If we manage wolves responsibly in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, we will see more successes like this played out in neighboring states.   

What about managing wolves in the meantime?  Reinstating federal protection for wolves in the region still allows the states to manage wolves. State agencies can still help livestock owners with conflict prevention measures to avoid losses and wolves that switch to preying on livestock can still be killed.  Defenders of Wildlife and other groups will continue to actively work with livestock owners and agencies to help provide the tools and methods that reduce losses to wolves and other native carnivores. 

Ultimately, we do want to see wolves relieved of their federal protections and managed by the states in a responsible and sustainable manner.  But this time, we need a process that brings together a balance of stakeholders to craft wolf and livestock management plans based on solid science.  As westerners who share a deep respect for our natural resources, we can make this a reality.  We have another chance to get it right this time.   

October 08, 2008

Patnership with the Madison Valley Ranchlands Group

Lane Adamson, a member of Defenders' Livestock Producers Advisory Council, shows his animal magnetism (Photo: Jesse Timberlake)

Lane Adamson, a member of Defenders' Livestock Producers Advisory Council, shows his animal magnetism

Photo: Jesse Timberlake

Last week I drove up to Madison Valley, Montana to visit a range rider project we are involved with. This is the first year we have partnered with the Madison Valley Ranchlands Group and other conservation organizations to help fund the project, and so I was eager to see how it was going and to meet the riders themselves. I met up with Lane Adamson who is on our Livestock Producers Advisory Council and the project director for the Madison Valley Ranchlands Group, a non-profit, grassroots ranching organization that encourages collaborative stewardship of the Madison Valley. We drove the twenty miles of so from Ennis, almost down to the Idaho border, then heading west along a dirt road we entered the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. The range riders, a local couple who have been riding horses and roping cattle for much of their lives, had set up their base-camp at a creek at the valley bottom with their five dogs, four horses and one RV. We chatted about the project with the riders and the local wolf specialist from the state wildlife agency, and discussed ways in which riders can help both the livestock producers and the wolves. Riders are out with the cattle much of the time so are able to spot any sick or injured cattle, the ones most venerable to depredation by predators, and remove them from the pasture. They can look for wolf tracks and other signs to see if there is a lot of wolf activity in the area and take the appropriate action with the cattle. They can also help to put to bed the many myths that surround wolves as they have the rare experience of seeing wolves and cattle co-exist on our public lands.

The range rider next to 'Horsethief Cabin' that was built with help from Defenders (Photo: Mel Mckitrick)

The range rider next to 'Horsethief Cabin' that was built with help from Defenders.

Photo: Mel Mckitrick

Last year we teamed up with a grazing association in the Madison Valley to help build a cabin for their range riders. The grazing allotments in the National Forest that these producers use are a long way from any roads; it is a three hour ride in, and a three hour ride out. Doing this on a daily basis meant that there was not much time in the day to actually spend with the cattle and to look for signs of wolves in the area. They had decided to build a rider cabin that would allow the riders to stay overnight, giving them more time to do their job. 'Horsethief' cabin, as it has been named, has helped the rider project this year, and hopefully for many years to come.

Working with producers in these areas surrounding Yellowstone National Park is vital in protecting corridors on the landscape that provide wolves and other animals the connectivity between the Park, northwest Montana and Central Idaho. These corridors allow the genetic exchange that is vital to keeping populations of predators healthy and viable on an ever changing landscape. By encouraging producers to use non-lethal deterrents on wolves, we can give these animals the ability to disperse throughout the region using both public and private lands.

September 23, 2008

First Wolf Workshop Is Major Success

Fresh wolf tracks found along the side of a forest road. (Rob Miller)
Fresh wolf tracks found along the side of a forest road.
(Photo: Rob Miller)

Last week we had our first wildlife photography workshop and wolf habitat expedition. Twenty-one people showed-up for the photography workshop led by renowned Idaho photographer, Larry Thorngren.

Larry set up a small art gallery in the classroom where the workshop was being held, so people arriving early could take a look at some of the fabulous photos of the wildlife in the northern Rockies and Canada. People brought in their own cameras so they could ask questions about the best settings, accessories, and lenses to use, and Larry answered everything they wanted to know. He also went through the basics of camera theory and practice, before moving onto more practical lessons such as the best place to set up photography blind and the ethics of photographing wild animals. He interlaced all this information with tales of face-offs with bears, shooting (with a camera) some of the world’s biggest bighorn sheep, and how he sold his house to buy more camera equipment. At the end of the workshop many people staying behind to ask more detailed questions about photography and about Larry’s work.

One of the wolf tour participants taking photos in Idaho's wolf country. (Jesse Tiberlake)
One of the wolf tour participants taking photos in Idaho's wolf country.
(Photo: Jesse Timberlake)

The second part of the workshop was a one day expedition to wolf country. We all met up at a Forest Service Road in a central Idaho location early Saturday morning.

This area near the Frank Church Wilderness is equivalent to Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley, except better. Here you will find a number of wolf packs; bears, elk, sand-hill cranes, otters and pikas, and the creeks here are filled with salmon and cutthroat trout. Carter Niemeyer, former Wolf Recovery Coordinator for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, joined us for the day to explain his trapping and collaring work, and to answer any questions about wolves in general. He has been involved with wolf recovery since the reintroduction (in fact he was involved in the trapping of the original reintroduced wolves from Canada) and so knows more than most about wolves in the Northern Rockies.

We spent much of the day driving around the many meadows and forests that make up this area, stopping every so often so the photographers could snap pictures of the wildlife and scenery. Larry would help out with any technical camera questions, and Carter informed the group about wolves and wolf recovery which the participants enjoyed hearing.

Wolf watchers setting up their cameras and scopes at dusk (Jesse Timberlake)
Wolf watchers setting up their cameras and scopes at dusk.
(Photo: Jesse Timberlake)

As the end of the tour approached we had still not seen a wolf, although this was not surprising as it was in the middle of the day, a time when wolves are usually bedded down someplace. On the way back to the highway, we stopped by a hunting camp to see how things were going. The elk hunters at the camp told us that they heard wolves howling the last two nights in the meadow behind their camp. Hearing this, we decided to prolong our trip and check out the meadow. It was still early for wolves, but you never know! We parked our cars, hiked up to a tree covered ridge overlooking the meadow, set up our spotting scopes and cameras, and waited.

A black wolf pup in an open meadow in the Boise Nat. Forest
(Photo: Rob Miller)

A wolf pup seen across a meadow in the Boise National Forest
(Photo: Rob Miller)

After about a half hour, an eagle-eyed member of the expedition (me) spotted a small black canine, way over on the other side of the meadow. Others swung their scopes that way and a few of us had the pleasure of seeing a wolf pup run about near the tree-line for about thirty seconds before disappearing into the woods. We waited some more before deciding to call it a day and head back home. However, a few of the participants decided to brave the cold September night and stayed out until dark, and they were rewarded with views of at least four wolf pups playing in the meadow, and they managed to take a couple of photos as well - as you can see.

All in all it was a great day, and all the participants enjoyed themselves, as did all of us. We hope to show the state agencies and tourism board here in the three states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, that there are a large number of people who enjoy seeing wolves, and are very happy to ‘catch and release’ them with their cameras instead of with guns. These people should have just as much say in wolf management as the hunters and outfitters do.


Get Connected with Defenders

  • Add to Technorati Favorites     Join My Community at MyBloglog!
  • My Zimbio     Environmental Activism Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory