|Wolf sighted at school bus stop
-- Trip to school interrupted by wolf at St. Joe Lodge stop
(Note from RW: I, along with others, feel the writer turned my story into something rather benign -- "milque-toast," "whitewashed" -- of course, the paper also sells to pro-wolfers so they have to keep everyone happy! I, on the other hand, have seen so much devastation and know the seriousness of the reintroduction of wolves in the West. My husband predicts that before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can delist -- and get past all the lawsuits that will inevitably be filled by Defenders of Wildlife, etc. -- Idaho will have no elk or deer left to hunt, no need for the Dept. of Fish and Game and no jobs for game biologists. I believe he is right.)
(Note: Mr. Curt Mack, 'wolf expert,' makes statements that have no basis in fact, and pooh-poohs the idea of a wolf attack on a human in other than a couple of 'test tube' situations. Of course, HIS child was not in close proximity to a wolf, or his views might alter significantly.)
January 15, 2003
By Katherine Sather
St. Maries Gazette Record (weekly)
St. Maries, Idaho
Renee Walters won't leave her fourth grade daughter alone at the bus stop anymore.
Even if her child's school bus stop is the parking lot of a St. Joe River resort.
"You can't," said her husband, John.
It's the wolves, his wife agrees.
Early Monday, Mrs. Walters and her daughter drove from their home on the north side of the St. Joe River to the lodge on the other bank.
They followed the railroad grade, crossed a bridge and then turned onto the St. Joe River Road in the gray light of daybreak.
As they rolled into the parking lot of the St. Joe Lodge about 30 miles east of St. Maries, they saw a wolf trotting on the paved road near the lodge's mailbox, headed toward the row of buildings.
"I pointed and yelled, 'Look, look!' to my daughter," said Mrs. Walters. "She turned to me and said, '˜It's a wolf."
The animal appeared to be young -- a sub-adult -- and it didn't have a collar.
Fearing for her daughter's safety, Mrs. Walters will keep her child inside the family vehicle as the couple wait for the bus.
"If this wolf is coming down to the lodge where there's traffic and human scent all the time, it is obviously not afraid of people," she said.
Curt Mack who leads the wolf recovery project in Idaho for the Nez Perce Tribe might concur.
Wolves that have adapted to humans can be dangerous, he said, but reports of wolves attacking people usually fit into two categories:
Animals that depend on handouts in campgrounds and national parks have bitten people, and mushers who have intervened when their dogs were attacked by wolves have been mauled.
Generally, though, people aren't on a wolf's hit list, Mr. Mack said.
"Wolves don't have the innate disposition to attack people," he said. "It's just not in their nature."
Based in McCall, his crews monitor the movements of 22 groups of wolves in Idaho, including the Marble Mountain wolf pack that moves within an area roughly between the Little North Fork of the Clearwater and the St. Joe River.
Documented as having a breeding wolf pair, the pack has added three litters to Idaho's population of wolves since biologists started watching it in 2000. He estimates it is comprised of between six and nine animals. Just one of the wolves is collared.
Wolf sightings are relatively common in the St. Joe drainage. Last spring a school bus driver saw a wolf on the railroad grade on the north side of the St. Joe River, and Mr. Walters, an avid hunter, said he regularly finds wolf sign on his outings.
Biologists and wolf watchers no longer discount the claims.
"It is possible for wolves to show up anywhere in the state now," said Mr. Mack.
That's reassuring for people who applaud wolf recovery in the state.
Others, like hunters in the St. Joe drainage, don't like the idea much.
They point to studies such as Dr. Tom Bergerud's at the University of British Columbia which shows that wolves regulate game populations: an increase in wolf numbers inversely affects hunter success rates, as well as the population of prey animals.
Mr. Mack's group doesn't claim to have knowledge of all packs in the state, and they welcome reports of wolves.
"There certainly are some wolf packs we have not documented," he said.
To report sightings, or for more information on Idaho's wolves call 208-634-1061.
Also of note:
Ed Bangs, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, is the federal wolf recovery coordinator in Helena, Montana. Mr. Bangs is in charge of all federal wolf management in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
406-449-5225 ext. 204