The big bad wolf lives in Idaho
I headed up to the fire tower to take the lookout and his wife some supplies, along with a recent map of the Trapper Ridge Fire in Idaho. My hope was to see one of the wolves that had been sighted near the fire.But during the two weeks our team managed the then-15,000-acre fire, I never saw a wolf.Before we had moved our command post from Idaho City to Lowman, one of the firefighters had shown me photos he had taken of a wolf and her pups.Since my duty as a fire information officer is to meet and greet the public on a daily basis, I soon learned how many people in Idaho feel about wolves. They don’t want them.More than one person told me that I could take the wolves back with me when I left.
When the locals became familiar with me and the opportunity arose, I began to talk with folks about wolves.Like most issues dealing with nature and the environment, wolf reintroduction in Idaho is complex and controversial.The first wolves brought back to Idaho were released in 1995 along with the release in Yellowstone National Park. From the total of 66 gray wolves released at that time, the population is now estimated at more than 1,200, with 700 in Idaho.One of the main feelings simmering under the surface of the people I talked to was resentment. It was widely felt that “the government” had forced wolves upon the people of Idaho.However, if you examine the record from the almost 50 hearings conducted by the government before the release of the first four wolves on Jan. 14, 1995, you will find a different story.
The majority of those attending public meetings were in favor of wolf reintroduction.The second feeling that surfaced among those I talked to about wolves was fear. It is what I will call a primal fear we as human beings have toward wolves.There is a deep dread within us as human beings when we realize that we are not at the top of the food chain. Here in the West there are three creatures that come to mind: wolves, mountain lions and grizzly bears.Maybe it has to do with red capes, little blond-headed girls and grandmothers, but whatever it is, the wolf has gained a bad reputation throughout history.”The big bad wolf will come and eat you,” is etched in our genetic memory.
But fear not. The government is coming to our rescue, even though it was “the government” that fully supported eradicating the wolf by paying a bounty for furs until the 1960s.On Jan. 29, 2007, almost 12 years to the day of their release, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed delisting the gray wolves in Idaho from the federal endangered species list.Too bad I didn’t get to see those wolves when I had a chance. But for their survival, it’s best to avoid humans altogether.With more than 25 years of experience in federal land management agencies, Bill Kight, of Glenwood Springs, shares his stories with readers every other week.
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