In June 2006 the new Basin Butte wolf pack killed a cow calf near Cow Camp road north of Stanley, Idaho. I didn’t give it much of a chance; but today it consists of 3 adult wolves, 4 yearlings (5 until the other day) and 5 new pups. It has left the numerous summertime sheep and cattle in the area alone, and has been a source of great pleasure for many local folks near Stanley and elsewhere.
The pack begin in the late winter of 2005 when a dispersing female wolf from the Galena Pack to the south and a big male from parts unknown got together. Sometime later they were joined by another male who is today referred to by locals as “the uncle.” In April 2006 they had a litter of 5 pups somewhere near Basin Butte, a prominent ridge (but not noticed by most tourists) on the east side of Valley Creek. Tourists are looking at the Sawtooths to the west.
I learned about this well behaved pack, doing what it should — eating ground squirrels, killing elk (but not livestock) and eating the abundant road kill — by reading stories in the Idaho Statesman, Mountain Express, reports by Ed Bangs, a local resident of Cow Camp road area, the Western Watersheds Project, and Scott Bragoner of USFWS Law Enforcement.
Despite the grumblings of local anti-wolf activists Ron Gillet and a few of his pals and ranchers, I sense a growing level of support among Stanley residents. A resident of Cow Camp road described how pleased he and his spouse were when the pack killed an elk on their property and they were able to watch it slowly disappear as the wolves dismantled all of it except the stomach, which they strictly avoided (but other scavengers took it). Apparently numerous residents are looking out for the pack and scaring them off if they are near cattle. This type of community effort could represent a bright spot in a state where the governor and the Fish and Game Commission hold attitudes that should have died off decades ago.
Amazingly the only mortality the pack has suffered was the other day when “range rider” George Gilbert illegally shot a yearling female who (according to the federal complaint) was minding her business. Gilbert has been charged with a class B offense. Although it hasn’t been adjudicated, Scott Bragoner of USFWS in Idaho Falls told me the likely outcome would be a $275 fine.
With thousands of cattle pouring into the area, and soon sheep, which will turn the beautiful meadows to dust by the end of the summer, let’s hope the good luck of this pack will continue.