It’s been almost five years since the Basin Butte pack was gunned down, during Thanksgiving week, in Stanley, Idaho.
I hope you will remember these wolves and the cruel, disgusting agency that took their lives. Wildlife Services must be abolished and defunded. They’re an extermination arm of the Department of Agriculture, killing millions of animals annually for agribusiness. They do horrific damage to gray wolves and other native wildlife.
I will be paying tribute this week to the wolves and wolf packs who’ve have been slaughtered in wolf hunts, by Wildlife Services, poachers and ranchers.
A Basin Butte wolf pup, 6 months old.
December 6, 2009
This is an account of Idaho’s popular Basin Butte wolves and their tragic end, as told to me by Idaho friends.
Thanksgiving week 2009, everyone was busy planning their holiday with family. It was a time for reflection and thanks. But over a two-day period, November 23 & 24, in Stanley, Idaho, Wildlife Services launched a covert operation that is now known as the Thanksgiving Week Massacre. Wildlife Services (WS) is a misnamed federal agency that kills wildlife for the benefit of agriculture, mainly the livestock industry.
Locals watched in horror as WS agents, in a plane and red helicopter, chased down and shot dead seven members of the Basin Butte wolf pack. Two wolves were killed on a rancher’s private property, the rest on National Forest land. Among the Thanksgiving week victims were the pack’s mother, B171 “Alpha Fe”, her three seven-month old PUPS and three other wolves. A total of ELEVEN Basin Butte wolves have been killed since late July.
Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountain country, called the Sawtooth National Recreation Area(SNRA), was once in line for National Park status. Instead, in 1972, it became an “NRA” (National Recreation Area). As a result, cattle and sheep graze across much of the 756,000 acres. Cattle ranchers have tremendous political power in this area, which is the reason for the Basin Butte wolves demise on that fateful Thanksgiving week shoot-out.
The Basin Butte wolf pack was formed in 2006 with three adults and five pups. Wolf supporters stepped in to keep the wolves away from the thousands of cattle that summer in the high country around Stanley, Idaho. This continued for the next three years. There were no depredations in 2007, but some close calls. Sick or injured cows and calves are easy targets for wolves. Things started going to hell in 2008 after a ranch hand shot a Basin Butte wolf called “Little Sis”. She was hunting squirrels 200 yards away from a herd of cows. The cow hand was given a warning by Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game (IDFG) law enforcement, which apparently upset the hand’s boss, a powerful rancher.
Next, the pack, now consisting of 13 wolves, were seen moving toward a remote area, behind private property. Suddenly the wolves were accused of killing cows and calves belonging to the irate rancher. In July 2008, Wildlife Services convinced IDFG to give the ok to spring into their deadly trapping and killing mode. Before the 2008 grazing season was over, up to 8 Basin Butte wolves were dead. One beautiful wolf, “Uncle” – the babysitter to the pack’s pups, was mangled and crippled, shot by a Wildlife Services agent using an automatic 12 gauge.
One last winter:
The wolves had one last winter in the scenic country they called home. Many locals and visitors alike, delighted in seeing the wolves and hearing them howl. The pack was highly visible, as the Druids are in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone. The wolves were known by their given names: Alpha Fe, Papa, Bobtail, Red, Marymag, Smoky and more.
Tourists come in winter to Stanley, a tiny town of 100 people and one of the coldest places in the Lower 48, to ski, wildlife watch, snowmobile and see the Basin Butte wolves. But, it’s still tough for businesses to make it, and many locals were hoping wolf viewing would eventually bring more tourists and their dollars. Summer is the only time when tourists come in numbers, over two million people, according to SNRA staff. Wolf watching is the untapped golden egg that could make Stanley boom in the winter months, especially since much of the terrain around town is wide open. It’s perfect for setting up spotting scopes and watching wolves. But in 2009, the ranchers and Wildlife Services had other plans. When wolf supporters scared the wolves away from cattle on public land, the ranchers went to law enforcement and complained. Surveillance cameras were set up by the local deputy to try to catch anyone driving by or stopping near the cattle, even on PUBLIC land!
The wolves were accused of killing a calf and a cow in July. Wildlife Services, who had been lurking around Stanley waiting for action, trapped and shot two yearling wolves. The angry rancher allowed WS to cross his private property, so they could access a remote area where traps could be set, mostly out of view of the public.
Then on September 1, Idaho opened their seven month-long hunting season, adding to the Basin Butte Pack’s problems. Two pack members were shot by hunters. One was the Basin Butte alpha male, and another was a pup. The little pup was shot by an employee of the rancher.
October arrived, the weather turned freezing cold, with rain and snow. The pack was accused of killing two more cows. The cows may have been sick or hurt, no one knows. With thousands of cattle, some are always on the decline but now the stage was set for an aerial massacre. You know the rest of this tragic story. Two wolves are said to have survived. They have been heard howling mournfully for their pack.
Basin Butte ”Uncle Wolf”
There are 71 million wildlife watchers in the United States., who generate 45 billion dollars in revenue.. Wildlife viewers come to Idaho to watch wolves and other wildlife, not livestock. Slaughtering wolves is bad for Idaho’s reputation and hurtful to state tourism.
We don’t control what ranchers do on their private land BUT the American public has the right to demand fair PUBLIC LAND policy.. This land belongs to all our citizens, not just ranchers.
Americans do not want wildlife eradicated for the livestock industry. Ranchers must be held accountable for managing their livestock.
Like any business venture, ranching has risks. If ranchers aren’t willing or able to care for their investment, without using the federal government as their own wolf extermination service, they should get their cattle off our public lands. 66% of Idaho is public land. Wolves are native to the SNRA, not cattle. Why should the wolf pay the ultimate price because of sloppy ranching practices, or be subjugated to cattle?
Myself and my friends, are BOYCOTTING Idaho products, businesses, including big game outfitters until this wolf killing madness stops.
SPEAK UP AND PROTEST THE THANKSGIVING WEEK SLAUGHTER!
Idaho Wildlife Services has a long list of wolf packs in their sights, will the killing be repeated this winter with a green light from IDFG?
Please E-Mail Idaho Governor Butch Otter and the IDFG wolf managers:
STOP WOLF KILLING
Petition From change.org…Please sign.
Photos: All Photos by Idaho WildWolf Images Copyright 2008.
Posted in: Idaho wolves, Wildlife Services War on Wildlife, aerial gunning of wolves, Wolf Wars
Tags: aerial gunning of wolves, wolves in the crossfire, wolf extermination, Stanley, Idaho, Basin Butte Pack, Wildlife Services