Thursday, May 11, 2006

Stanley confrontation shows conflicting opinions about wolves

Crowd gathers to watch wolf eat elk


KETCHUM, Idaho -- A wolf that killed a young elk near Stanley in central Idaho and settled down to try to eat its meal drew a crowd of human spectators - including a longtime wolf advocate and a longtime wolf foe. Jane Somerville of Stanley saw the chase and kill last Thursday by the Salmon River near the junction of Highways 75 and 21. "He pretty much went right for the neck and got it down on the ground," Somerville told the Idaho Mountain Express. "It was over very quickly."

Alerted by cell phones, people began arriving along the river bank to watch the wolf eat the yearling elk. Among them was Lynn Stone, leader of the pro-wilderness Boulder-White Clouds Council and a wolf advocate. She said Ron Gillette, president of the Idaho Anti-Wolf Coalition, arrived after her, carrying a .22-caliber rifle. Stone said she took photographs of Gillette as he walked toward the wolf on three occasions during the day, carrying the rifle. The wolf ran off each time. The area is open grassland near the river but turns into forest on the sides of the valley.

"I wasn't going out there without a rifle because if a wolf comes after me I'm going to shoot it," Gillette told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "I have the right to protect myself."

Stone said Gillette confronted her after returning from his walk toward the wolf in the morning and then again in the afternoon. "(He's) yelling at me to get out of my pickup," she said. "Since he has a gun as well as a camera in hand, I'm not anxious to get out and don't."

Gillette said he didn't remember what he said to Stone. "I probably told her to get out of my way," he said. "We're sick and tired of these wolf lovers elevating wolves to a godlike status. They're the most cruel and violent predator in North America and we're not going to put up with them killing all our animals. We're tired of it."

The wolf returned a third time in the evening and again ran off when Gillette approached. Stone said she called Brian Reeves, a conservation officer with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. He declined to comment.

The federal government in January turned over to the state day-to-day management of the wolves reintroduced in central Idaho in 1995 as an "experimental, nonessential population" under the Endangered Species Act. Wolves located north of Interstate 90 in the Idaho Panhandle remain classified as an endangered species under the act and are still under the control of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The state can ask for the federal government's permission to kill wolves that are causing "unacceptable impacts" to wild elk, deer and moose.

Gillette said the dead elk was one of about 130 that he had helped feed during the winter. Gillette said his drive to get a wolf-banning initiative on the November ballot has failed. He said his group gathered about 41,000 signatures in six weeks, but only about 13,000 were certified. Wolf foes needed about 47,000 by last Monday.

Stone said the wolf returned the next morning to finish eating the elk. "He pretty much ate everything that was left," she said.

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