Reprinted with permission from Ralph
Maughan's Wolf Report for
Boulder-White Clouds Council. View the original posting including many
more photos at
dines near Stanley, Idaho—interrupts slack season in tiny mountain town
May 9, 2006
Story & Photos by Lynne Stone
A gray wolf stands
over his fresh elk kill near Stanley, Thursday, May 4th, in easy
wolf watchers along Highway 75. The elk was a small calf, born later in
the summer than other larger, stronger calves in the Stanley elk herd. The
hunting season disrupts the elk rutting (breeding) season, causing
cows to be breed late and have late calves, making them more
vulnerable to winter kill and predation.
Friday May 5, 2006. Stanley, Idaho. A
large gray wolf stirred up our tiny mountain town of Stanley yesterday as
it killed a runt yearling elk calf within view of the city limits. Stanley
librarian, Jane Somerville, saw the wolf among the local elk herd about 9
a.m., and shortly the wolf had chosen its prey and pulled the small calf
down. It was over quick. After the kill, the herd of some 60 elk moved
about 100 yards away and continued to forage on the Spring grass.
We have had about 85 elk in and
around town all winter and wolves have visited here before. Previous elk
kills have not been so visible, though.
Some of the Stanley
elk lounging near town on April 23, 2006. As of early May, the
three-point bull has been ranging into the nearby foothills as snow
recedes and grass greens up.
A friend called me on my cell and I
dashed through Stanley to the banks of the Salmon River to have a look.
Someone had also called local resident and anti-wolf coalition leader Ron
Gillett who arrived with his .22 rifle. Gillett crossed over the Salmon
River on the private Arrow-A bridge into the pasture where the wolf was
having breakfast. Seeing Gillett, the wolf grabbed a chunk of elk and
trotted up the sage-covered foothills into the timber and disappeared.
Concerned that Gillett would shoot at
the wolf (illegal unless it was attacking him) I called our new Idaho
Dept. of Fish and Game Conservation Officer Brian Reeves and left
messages. IDFG has now taken over wolf management in our state. Then I
drove up Hwy 75 to have a chat with Gillett when he came back across the
Arrow-A bridge to his pick-up truck. The Arrow-A ranch belongs to Jay
Neider, another anti-wolf person who resides here in the summer months.
Having lived in the same town as
Gillett for over six years, we've had conversations before about "wulfs."
He said the rifle was for protection against the wolf. He unloaded the .22
caliber rifle, put the gun in his pick-up and walked over to within about
16 inches of my face to continue our chat. I was mildly concerned about my
Canon Digital Rebel camera hanging from a strap around my neck.
The elk were in this
pasture near the Salmon River and Highway 75 near Stanley on Thursday,
May 4th, when the wolf arrived. The Neider ranch buildings are at far
right near the snow. The wolf carried elk leg bones up the sage
covered slope to the timber.
Stepping away from me, Gillett
shouted at another on-looker saying he was going to report him for chasing
elk. None of this was making much sense. On leaving, Gillett said he was
going to "get his camera and get the dead elk on page one of every
newspaper." To which I replied, "You mean like you got the anti-wolf
petition on the ballot." [As of May 1st, his group failed to get the
required number of registered voters to sign his anti-wolf initiative.] He
said some words that can't be printed on a family web site.
Then, IDFG officer Brian Reeves
arrived along with Stanley city policeman Pete Isner. When Gillett
returned with his camera, the two law officers went out to the pasture
with him to see the dead elk. Isner told me later that it was a small
calf, only slightly larger than a deer. Gillett is a former big game
hunting guide and outfitter who has obviously shot and seen many, many
dead animals. Why he gets so upset with a wolf killing to eat,is beyond my
ROUND 2 - Things quieted down. But
just before noon, the wolf returned. My cell rang and I raced back to the
riverbank and watched the beautiful light-covered wolf eating the elk.
More people arrived and passerby's stopped. Gillett showed up again with
his rifle and started for the pasture. I called the law. Officers Isner
and Reeves showed up immediately, lights flashing. The wolf took off with
an elk leg, again going up the steep sage slope into the White Cloud
Mountain foothills to the east.
Gillett roamed around the Neider
pasture for awhile, staring up at the hillside where the wolf had
disappeared. Neider's son-in-law is Nate Helm, director of an anti-wolf,
anti-predator group called Idaho Sportsman for Fish and Wildlife. This
pasture is not a good place for a wolf.
then came over to the log fence by the Salmon River, gun and camera in
hand, across from where myself and others were watching, and screamed at
us to get out where he could see us. It was cold and windy and I was
sitting in my pick-up truck. The two law officers stepped behind a log
cabin, out of sight. My carpenter friend ducked behind the cabin deck. I
stayed in my pick-up. It was a bit of a tense moment as Ron kept yelling
at me to "get out, get out". He finally left.
Things were relatively quiet during
the afternoon. Wolf supporters hung around, spotting scopes and cameras
out, waiting for the wolf to return. Cell phones were busy. We also went
to the Stanley library to see Jane's great pictures of the wolf. A bald
eagle came to the kill. Two coyotes showed up. The towns ravens got a
change from their usual dumpster fare.
ROUND 3 - Around 5 p.m., the wolf
returned. He dragged the remains of the elk calf behind a rock. After
gnawing for a while, he chewed off another leg bone and this time trotted
south through the Neider ranch into a draw. Gillett arrived shortly after,
took his rifle and followed the wolfs route. What Ron was doing up there
for an hour or more, I don't know. But he has said repeatedly that wolves
must to be removed from Idaho by any means possible.
Sunrise on Horstmann
Peak while a cow elk forages. May 5, 2006.
ROUND 4 - Today, Friday May 5th, by 6
a.m. I was by the Salmon River, drinking coffee on a rustic log deck and
conversing with a friend while we waited and watched. The wolf returned at
6:30 a.m. and spent two hours feeding on the elk's remains. At one point,
the large male wolf chased seven ravens in a circle. A coyote approached
but seeing the wolf, quickly hightailed away. We watched the wolf lift his
leg on a sagebrush, confirming that he was a he.
Wolf sightings have been common this
winter, especially for the Galena Pack that lives in the Sawtooth Valley
and ranges between the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery and Pettit Lake south of
Stanley. I saw a lone wolf climb out of the Salmon River two weeks ago.
Watched, as it laid down under a pine tree and softly serenaded me with a
gentle wolf howl.
UPDATE: Four days have passed since
the wolf incident, but I expect it won't be long before my cell rings
again and I rush off to more wolf action. The image of Ron Gillett
carrying a rifle toward a wolf is not one I can forget.
A word about winter elk feeding - The
reason the elk are still in Stanley is that Ron Gillett started feeding
hay to them in late January. He turned these animals into welfare elk,
taking away their wildness. Until then, the elk were foraging on south
slopes, among rock outcrops, the hot springs, and along Valley Creek and
the Salmon River. I watched them from early November on, as they came onto
their wintering grounds. Elk calves were learning how to survive a Stanley
The Stanley elk herd minus one on
Thursday, May 4th, about 400 yards from where the wolf is eating the
elk calf. The view is looking south, up the Sawtooth Valley with the
Sawtooth Mts. on the right and the White Cloud foothills on the left.
Stanley is to the right (not in view).
But, once Gillett started feeding,
about 85 elk including four spike bulls and one three-point bull spent the
next two months gathered around his place on the west edge of Stanley.
Neighbors complained to the Stanley City Council when the baited elk also
fed on aspens and lodgepole pine trees in their yards. Myself and others
believe that Gillett was hoping a wolf or wolves would come to his elk
feeding area. Fortunately the wolves stayed away until now.
Its not illegal in Idaho for a
private citizen to feed elk. We have a local elk feeding committee that
was established many years ago to determine when elk should be fed in
order to survive. The criteria for feeding hay had not been met in late
January. It was a long, snowy winter in Stanley and maybe some of the
older cows and small calves would have died, but that's Mother Nature at
work. [Update: The Stanley City Council has now passed a city ordinance
that forbids feeding elk within the city limits.]
Now the three-point bull has left
along with 25 other elk, feeding high above town . But some 60 head of elk
cows and calves don't seem to know what to do or where to go, even when a
wolf walks through their midst.
RALPH MAUGHAN FOR EDITING THE PHOTOS FOR THESE STORIES!