Friday, January 14, 2011

Seeing wolves in North Idaho


Highway 41 south of Spirit Lake, Idaho/Ralph Bartholdt

Several years ago I saw a black wolf north of St. Maries, Idaho.
I contacted Idaho Fish and Game and a warden told me that a sighting there was likely.
A few years later, after several incidents of wolf predation and harassment of livestock in the area, a Fish and Game biologist said that the department considers any reported sightings of wolves in North Idaho as valid.
With around 1,000 wolves in the state including close to 100 confirmed packs since canis lupus was officially reintroduced into Idaho in the early 1990s, seeing a wolf in the Panhandle isn't that unusual.
Documented packs include one north of Coeur d'Alene near Blanchard, Idaho.
I wrote an article about wolves for NewWest a couple years ago. It includes interviews with several people on three sides of the aisle.
(View article here: http://www.newwest.net/city/article/wolf_warriors_idahoans_fight_for_the_right_to_kill_wolves/C8/L8/ )
Idaho Fish and Game Commissioner Tony McDermott of Sagle calls the wolf issue in Idaho the most emotional and contentious issue he has dealt with.
A few weeks ago, as I drove south on Highway 41 from Spirit Lake toward Rathdrum in the early morning as snow fell quietly with little traffic on the road, a gray wolf crossed the highway in a beeline from east to west.
It was a sizeable and fit with a straight tail and a gait that said it wasn't in a hurry, but it wasn't dallying either.
It broke a snow bank on my left, crossed the road easily and slipped over a snowbank to my right disappearing into the young thickly-overgown forest.
I drove past the place where the wolf had been, slowing only to see its trail through the snow, before accelerating south.
The wolf, a Fish and Game official later told me, likely belonged to the Blanchard pack.
The snow kept falling eventually covering my tracks and the wolf's.
North Idaho is one of those places where nature is always near, from elk bedding at the foot of Fourth of July Pass, the eagles that seasonally flock to Wolf Lodge Bay, to wolves like the one that crossed the highway a few miles south of Spirit Lake.
What a place to live!

Ralph Bartholdt

Where I saw the wolf:
http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=spirit+lake+idaho+highway+41&sll=47.966292,-116.868531&sspn=0.025229,0.0842&g=spirit+lake+idaho&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Idaho+41,+Spirit+Lake,+Idaho+83869&ll=47.953145,-116.868439&spn=0.201883,0.673599&z=11

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