Gray wolf, © Tracy Brooks/USFWS

The Wolves Lost in the Lolo

Idaho officials gun down 20 wolves in Lolo Creek

It’s February, and the woods are quiet except the occasional rustle of snow drifting down from the tall pines and the gurgle of the creek below. The air is clear and bright. The sky is cloudless and the bright sun reflects off the snow. Any humans would be cold in this weather, but wolves aren’t: they were made for winter. Wolves’ paws have thick pads on them, and they have two layers of dense fur for warmth.

© Suzanne Asha Stone/Defenders

February also marks the height of wolves’ breeding season, and alpha wolves (the parents in any wolf pack) celebrate with increased howling and play. Pups born last spring are around 10 months old now, and food is usually plentiful. Many elk and deer perish naturally in the winter when grass is harder to find, and their own breeding season leaves even the strongest males weakened and more vulnerable to predators. This is how nature designed our forests. A balance of predator and prey that would endlessly cycle and nurture the ecosystem by keeping elk and deer from overpopulating and damaging the forage that supports all life here. If prey numbers decline, then predator numbers decline as well. If prey populations increase, so do predators.

Humans don’t frequent the woods much at this time of year, so the pack is less on guard than during other seasons. Imagine hearing these wolves howl together –a hauntingly beautiful song that fills the woods and echoes back. We don’t know exactly what happens next but, sadly, we can imagine.

A wolf’s hearing is exceptional. They can hear sounds from miles away. Suddenly, the winter peace is broken. The wolves hear an unfamiliar buzzing to the west. It vibrates slightly through the trees. All the wolves stand at alert. Perhaps the breeding female whines and looks around for her youngest pups. She barks twice, a warning to her pack to be on guard. Her pups likely hurry to her side and look toward the unfamiliar noise.

The noise grows louder. The mother barks again. The older wolves sense the sound is heading in their direction and begin to run. The pups run behind them and trust the adults to lead them to safety from the unknown danger. The buzzing quickly grows louder, the noise vibrating the trees and pushing clouds of snow in front of it. The wolves run faster and the loud cloud of snow circles around them, cutting off their escape into the deeper woods. The mother wolf tries to hide beneath the bushes but the pups are in the open. She runs to one just as the first shot rings out. His body drops. Another shot, then another. There is no escape. At least one of the adult wolves is wearing a radio collar that gives away the pack’s exact location. Every wolf seen is killed except one that is left to rebuild a new pack and unwittingly lead the gunners to it again next winter. Only she remains alive when the helicopter moves on to hunt for the next pack. Within a few days, the mission is complete.

Earlier this month, at the request of Idaho Game and Fish Department, the United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services’ agents aerial gunned down 20 wolves in the remote Lolo Creek area of the Clearwater National Forest — public lands that belong to the American people. State officials blamed these wolves for killing too many elk, which are their natural prey. Before the wolves returned to this area in the 1990s, elk here were already in steep decline. At that time, the state blamed it on bears and cougars, encouraging hunters to target them. But that did not bring back the elk for hunters.

Wolf rally on steps of Idaho statehouse, © Defenders of WildlifeNow the blame has turned to wolves. Why? Because state officials are unwilling to admit that this forest habitat can no longer support these huge elk herds and it’s not because of wolves or cougars or bears. It’s because this habitat has changed dramatically. Fire suppression, invasion of nonnative weeds, and pressure from climate change and hunters on ATVs have changed the habitat conditions. The huge open meadows cleared by fire have converted to brushy thickets, denser trees and less grass. It can no longer support the huge elk herds that once grazed here. Even if the state killed every wolf, it would not bring back the elk herds to their historically high levels. But that is not stopping Idaho’s anti-wolf politicians from using wolves as the scapegoat for elk’s continued decline. These aerial gunners killed 80 to 90 percent of the wolves in the area.

There were fewer than 1,000 wolves estimated left in the entire state in 2014. There are also 3,000 mountain lions, 20,000 black bears, 50,000 coyotes, 100,000 elk and nearly a quarter million deer statewide. Yet the state of Idaho plans to spend millions of tax dollars to kill wolves. State political leaders value the elk and deer populations. Many politicians even say they wish they could kill all the wolves in Idaho. Many wish wolves had never returned.

On February 15, 2016, nearly 70 men, women and children gathered on the steps of the state capitol in Boise to speak for the wolves. We protested the killings, and we demanded the Governor and state legislature stop the unrestrained killing of this important but undervalued species.

Wolves were nearly eradicated by man’s ignorance and fear and they are threatened once again by these same perceptions. It’s time to stop this madness. Will you join with us? The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is holding a public hearing on March 9 in Boise, Idaho at 7 pm. Even if you just bring a sign expressing your support for wolves, it is important that you attend. If you can speak on behalf of wolves, we can help you prepare a 3 minute testimony. The wolves cannot speak for themselves. They need all of us to fill every seat with people who care. And if you don’t live in Idaho, you can still speak out against the actions the state took in the Lolo.

Will you come and speak for the wolf?

Stop the Idaho Wolf Slaughter

The state government with the highest body count of wolves in the West has unleashed a new round of aerial killing. Demand a stop to this wolf vendetta!

Sign the petition »

26 Responses to “The Wolves Lost in the Lolo”

    • Angel

      They do need to stop killing animals we should be protecting them.

  1. kathy Cass

    Wolves are beautiful animals. Man should stop moving onto their territory and that of other wild life. God gave us these animals and other wildlife and we should be striving to protect them instead of abusing them and hunting them to extinction.

  2. Debra Taylor

    Logic is not being acted by Wildlife Services, so there is another reason for the slaughter. It isn’t just Idaho, it isn’t just in the US. Wolf killing is happening all over the world. Why?

  3. Merrie Thornburg

    It sickens me that Wolf killing is continually an issue. Wildlife Services must stop this slaughter.

  4. Martha Hahn

    Stop wasting taxpayers money destroying native wildlife. We need predators to maintain nature’s balance. To kill wolves to increase elk populations for hunters is just nuts. Spend the money re-foresting, improving and normalizing the habit for wildlife, and it can be abundant again.

    • Barb Klingbeil

      I agree with Martha Hahn, we are wasting tax payers money on something that never should be. We need these wonderful animals as we need all of them to keep the forest and all that lives there to continue. One helps the other, from small plants to small animals on up to the larges trees to wild life. Why we have this need to kill is just stupidity. Even the wild horses are abused this way. Id like for my grandkids and there kids to see these and all wild animals in the wild just as they should be.

  5. Beth

    So many of the Fish and Game’s actions are based on small studies by biologists who are bought and paid for by the state of Idaho. I fear that this state will never wake up and see the destruction they have wrought on the wildlife, and will forever target wolves as a symbol of what they hate. Wolves are noble, take care of their families and know how to work as a team–perhaps that is why they are disliked by so many humans—they are many things that we are not. For the wild ones!

  6. Mike Collins

    as an activist and a wolf lover since childhood i have watched Idaho from my home state of Oregon since the delisting of gray wolves by the Obama Administration and by researching the wildlife agencies of the states reported reasoning for the savagery being inflicted upon gray wolves within the States borders i have found there is no validity whatsoever behind their claims of wolves decimating elk numbers within Idahos borders to be found?… What I find Instead,Exactly what is found every time the IDFW or the USDA make such claims”Elk Decline is a Direct Result of The Pressures of Over hunting being to blame solely for the actual reductions to such weak numbers which falls within the responsibilities of the Idaho Department of Fish and Wildlife to ensure that things like this never happen” Through field Research they should have known the cause and the affect? yet,innocent animals were slaughtered instead because,someone did not do their homework…Or perhaps,all of Idaho actually hates gray wolves as much as the reigning government claims they do and i am illiterate and devoid of emotional responses??…. Butch Otter and The Clowns masquerading as wildlife officials there in Boise and to the North had better take notice of the onslaught of humanity that has begun to demonstrate publicly in direct opposition to this barbarism and deceit because,We will Not relent until the States Policy on this essential predator are changed forever……..

  7. Yep

    I thought wolves where thriving here in the U.S. Guess we must stop this now…I also think wolves are amazing animals

  8. Cole

    I doubt that this will make the page because I am sure that there is someone behind the scenes picking though the comments that actually make sense and tossing them to the way side, but has anyone that has commented on this page had any first hand experience with wolf activity of any kind (outside a zoo)?

  9. Cole

    In my experience, wolves are the thugs of the wilderness……. they are a tight knit pack that has only one interest or concern, the growth and strength of their gang. This will be accomplished at any cost. They kill, destroy and waste without mercy, anything that they may be seen as competition and are a creature that kills for sport. One of the few creatures that has the ability to completely diminish and destroy their own habitat by killing everything that was a food source. Much different that a mountain lion, any species of bear or any other predator for that matter. If you want the government to stop hunting down wolves and spending “taxpayers” money on managing wolf populations, then I don’t see how you could support the conviction and sentencing of a convicted drug dealer either. The drug dealer has done nothing to you, I am sure some of them are very nice people. He is just tiring to make a living. He and his family have to eat as well……….. just like your innocent wolves.

  10. Harry Abrahams

    That last comment is abut the stupidest I have ever read.I think there should have a hunting season for drug dealers and users.leave the damn anI’m also alone!

    • Hi

      Wolves should still live everywhere at this time wolves are the most beautiful animals and God made these animals why should we have these wolves go to extinction what have they ever done to you

  11. Joshua morales

    I think we should leave the wolves alone they are the best animals ever since I was little I loved wolves and now I still do they deserve to live just like us

  12. Terry

    Raise a wolf from a pup and it will totally change your way of thinking for them! They are one of the most awesome animals that my wife and I have ever had the honor of raising! Please don’t kill these misunderstood animals!

  13. Joshua

    I agree wolves deserve to live, they only want to live in peace we can’t just keep killing them,what have they EVER DONE TO YOU.LEAVE THE WOLVES ALONE!!

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