Thursday, October 8, 2009

It's confirmed

The dead Phantom Hill wolf is Jewel.

Some people object to the personification of wild animals. But this wolf, Jewel, was not a faceless and interchangeable unit. She was a young wolf who helped take care of her younger siblings, who curiously explored her environment, who no doubt enjoyed her life and her family and wanted to go on living.

And now she is dead, her life sold for $11.75 and the cost of a couple of bullets.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The inevitable happens

From the Idaho Mountain Express this evening:

Phantom Hill pack wolf shot


Idaho Fish and Game Senior Conservation Officer Lee Garwood confirmed that a member of the Phantom Hill wolf pack was killed on Monday in Eagle Creek, just north of Ketchum.

This is the first wolf to have been killed in the Wood River Valley since the wolf hunt opened in the Sawtooth Zone on Oct. 1. On Monday, another wolf was reported killed in the Southern Mountain zone, which extends east across the Pioneer, White Knob, Lost River, Lemhi and Beaverhead mountain ranges to the Montana border.

Garwood said that the Phantom Hill pack wolf had a radio collar and was a female around two years old.

Idaho Fish and Game spokesman Ed Mitchell said that the other wolf was killed in hunting unit 51, which is northeast of Mackay, on the opposite side of Trail Creek pass from Sun Valley.


Maybe she was Jewel, who was collared in 2008.

Photo by Lynne K Stone, Copyright 2009

As an observer wrote-
During my recent eye-to-eye encounter with B445, I was never for a moment afraid. What I observed, was that B445 was very curious of us (my dog and self), as we were intruders into her pack's territory. I thought of B445's older sister, B326 - Judith, and how that this younger wolf, was certainly a jewel. Her beautiful silky movements, her intelligent, inquiring amber eyes -- well, the name Jewel seemed to fit her.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Requiem for the Phantoms

Near Ketchum, ID, a unique project has been taking place. The Wood River Wolf Project brought together livestock producers and environmentalists in an attempt to keep an iconic wolf pack safe.

The Phantom Hill Wolves, an all-black pack, share the landscape of the Sawtooth Hill National Recreation area and surrounding lands with thousands of sheep, most grazing on public lands. Unlike in many areas of Idaho, where the wolves are scapegoats for all that is loathsome and cruel, the Phantoms were viewed by many residents (including many in the resort town of Sun Valley) as a valued addition to the wild landscape. When the pack denned and had pups in the hills near Ketchum, they became local celebrities.

The Phantoms nearly became statistics win 2007, when they killed 9 sheep and Wildlife Services and IDFG supported killing them if depredations recurred. In a unique collaborative project, the three biggest lamb producers in the area teamed with Defenders of Wildlife to form a coalition to prevent wolf depredation on sheep. Defenders volunteers worked to help make safe night pens for the sheep, and to teach sheepherders to use methods such as fladry and sound devices to scare off wolves. In all of 2008 and most of 2009, only one sheep was lost to the Phantoms.

In August of 2009, a local rancher who was not part of the project turned loose his sheep band without notifying the volunteers who were doing sheep protection duty, and 12 sheep were killed. Unsurprisingly, IDFG immediately issued permits for the Phantoms to be killed. Never mind the project, never mind the wolf tourism this pack created- killing was the prescribed answer. Only with the protests of the rancher himself, who joined the project, was the kill order lifted- although IDFG was quick to state that they would be back with guns blazing if another sheep were to fall.

It is now October 2. Yesterday, hunting season opened throughout the state of Idaho for wolves, and the territory of the Phantoms was not exempted. Despite the pleas of those who have worked so long and diligently to create a balance between the needs of ranchers and the needs of wolves, despite the importance of continuing the study of what works to keep the wolves away from sheep, despite the residents who value wolves more as live participants in the local ecosystem than as trophies for the wall, IDFG refused to make even this tiny portion of the wolf range in Idaho a protected area.

The reports yesterday were that camo-clad hunters were streaming into the Wood River Valley, all eager to get shots at those famous black wolves whose presence is so widely known. After all, if you want to hunt a wolf, you go where the wolves are known to be...

So thus, in all likelihood, will the project end. The Phantoms will be gunned down, the IDFG will get their $11.25 blood money for the wolf license, the hunter will get the "unique" trophy of a rare black wolf pelt.

When questioned about why the entire state was open to wolf hunting, and why not even a tiny portion of the state was devoted to wolf conservation, IDFG employee Mark Gamblin stated, "The suggestion that only by closing areas to wolf hunting can the public be properly served, I believe is a narrow view that would not serve the greater Idaho public well."

Yet, somehow, allowing the tiny proportion of Idaho residents who bought a wolf tag to overrun the entire state serves the public. Yet, somehow, denying the most well-known pack in Idaho protection serves the public. Yet, somehow, killing the Phantoms is a sacrifice for the greater good.

I, for one, do not believe him.