Defenders of Wildlife Celebrates the Return of Wolves to the Boise Area

(01/14/2000) - On the heels of yesterday’s 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, Defenders of Wildlife said today it’s celebrating the news that the reintroduced wolves have made their way back into the Boise region. The court decision in favor of the Idaho and Yellowstone wolf reintroduction safeguards the protection for the wolves both in Idaho and Yellowstone -- overturning a lower court's 1997 ruling that the 1995 and 1996 wolf reintroductions were illegal. The district court's earlier ruling had called for removal of all the wolves and their offspring, an action that pleased the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), which was behind the lawsuit, but that Defenders of Wildlife called a virtual death sentence.

"It's a new day for wolves in more ways than one. The Yellowstone and Idaho wolves have been given a new lease on life and so has the principle that science -- not politics -- should guide wildlife restoration efforts in America," said Rodger Schlickeisen, President of Defenders of Wildlife. "We are very pleased that reason won in this case and that the wolves will be allowed to remain so that future generations may enjoy them. We've known all along that the Farm Bureau's lawsuit was wrong legally and morally."

"It's thrilling to hear wolves have moved as far south as Boise, and we hope they'll continue to live unharmed, adding a new dimension of wildness to our area," said Suzanne Laverty, the Idaho- based field representative for Defenders of Wildlife who also worked as a member of the US/Canadian team in the capture and release of Canadian wolves in Idaho. "How exciting to know our ecosystem is still healthy enough to support them -- and they may have been here for months now without major problems." Laverty added, "as a Boisean, I'm proud we have enough quality winter habitat to allow species like wolves to survive. This marks the return of one of Idaho's most persecuted and endangered species to our area and I hope the wolves can live here in peace with the support of Idahoans who also value these majestic animals."

Wolves have settled close to other inhabited parts of the region like Missoula, Montana and Salmon, Idaho. The wolves may be following the natural migration of the elk and deer's winter range near Boise. Biologists suspect they may only use this area during the winter and follow the herds back north in the spring.

Wolves have been a missing link from the southern Idaho ecosystem for most of the last century. Although wolves are native to Idaho, aggressive hunting, trapping and poisoning methods eradicated the wolves throughout the state by the 1930s. Wolves were listed as a federally protected endangered species in 1974. Two decades later in 1995 and 1996, 35 Canadian wolves were released into the central Idaho wilderness to help restore wolves in the U.S. Northern Rockies. According to the US Fish & Wildlife Service, a few reintroduced wolves, or their offspring, may now have expanded their territory into the Boise front.

"Some people still believe myths that have haunted wolves for centuries like Little Red Riding Hood and other fairy tales. However these myths are based on fiction rather than fact," says Schlickeisen. "Healthy wild wolves have never killed a human in recorded U.S. history even though there are thousands of wolves in places like Minnesota where they live in close proximity with people. The fear of wolves is unsound when put in perspective."

Laverty cautioned, "people have more reason to worry about being killed by an elk or a domestic dog than a wolf. Pet owners should always take extra precautions around wild predators. Wolves, like mountain lions, bears, coyotes and foxes all consider domestic pets a threat. Owners should not allow their pets to roam about unmanaged in range of wild predators."

Defenders of Wildlife firmly sustains their commitment to reimburse ranchers for livestock losses to endangered wolves. To date, 40 cows and about 130 sheep have been confirmed as wolf mortalities in Idaho since 1995. Defenders reimburses ranchers at fair market value for these losses and half the market value for other losses when wolves are likely responsible but cannot be confirmed. By comparison, looking at sheep losses only for just one year - 1998 - 11,200 sheep in Idaho were lost to coyotes, 500 to domestic dogs, and 11,600 to weather or disease. For cattle, in 1995, there were no confirmed losses to wolves but 78,000 losses to other causes in Idaho.

Defenders will host a public meeting in Boise for those interested in learning more about wolves from 7 – 9 pm, Wednesday, January 19th at the Ponderosa Room in the Boise Federal Building, 1387 Vinnell Way. Invited speakers include Curt Mack - Idaho Wolf Project leader, members of the Nez Perce Tribe, Roy Heberger - US Fish & Wildlife Service Idaho Wolf Coordinator, Suzanne Laverty - member of the US/Canadian Wolf Reintroduction team and Idaho Field Representative for Defenders of Wildlife. For more information, call (208) 672-1732.



Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270