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Carlson: United Idahoans Stand

Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

If there is one issue that unites a majority of Idahoans, it is opposition to the reintroduction of wolves into Idaho and the dictatorial way the federal government handles the issue.

Defenders of Wildlife and others that support the reintroduction are rapidly learning that without public support this forced program will not succeed. There are too many Idahoans who carry rifles in their pickups or side-arms when they hike. The law of “shoot, shovel and shut up” supersedes whatever ruling a federal judge in Helena might dictate.

Most Idahoans are sensible enough not to get caught up in the time-wasting arguments over so-called “nullification,” for which the governor of Montana, Brian Schweitzer, has made state management of wolves a symbolic issue. One can understand what the law says, but if it is ignored by everyone and the authorities make it a last priority of enforcement, it soon becomes worthless and eventually gets stricken.

Being a fairly practical lot, Idahoans rightly applaud the efforts of Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson (R-Second District) and Montana Congressman Denny Rehberg (R-At Large) to undo the August 2010 judicial ruling that put the wolves back on the endangered species list and under federal management.

Almost every Idahoan who hunts or fishes feels the state had rightly taken over management of the wolves and had a sensible program in place to manage their predatory habits. Simpson supports both measures Rep. Rehberg introduced last year: one that would delist the wolf from the endangered species list and the other to return management of the wolf to the states’ fish and game departments.

Many Americans romanticize wolves, seeing them as large, lovable, husky-like dogs. They have no idea what large, efficient killing machines they are, nor do they understand how devastating their appetites can be on elk and deer.

Most folks subscribe to popular myths: such as wolves never attacking people (disproven last year by a fatal wolf attack on a jogger outside of Anchorage); or, that wolves never kill more than they can eat (disproven by numerous wanton attacks on sheep and cattle).

While the howl of a distant wolf when one is sitting around a campfire at night enjoying a Middle Fork of the Salmon River float trip indeed is romantic, it is quite another thing to encounter a circling pack as one walks from his mailbox 200 yards up to their home without a weapon (which has happened all too close to St. Maries).

I carry a Glock 21 with me when fly fishing on the St. Joe and the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene. Once, while on a walk up the Indian Creek Road to the old ghost town of Ulysses a few miles from North Fork, I witnessed the incredibly swift attack of a young wolf on a large buck. Only the deer seeing us and having the instinct to circle down the hillside and down stream caused the wolf to break off the attack. It lasted all of 20 seconds.

Several years back, a fly fishing buddy of mine, was fishing up the North Fork and watched with stunned amazement as an elk came charging down a steep hill while being pursued by a wolf, stumbled and broke its legs as it tumbled into the stream in front of him. The wolf then moved in for the kill before seeing the fisherman. The wolf actually seemed to think about charging him, he said, because he wanted his kill. Only a shot over the wolf’s head from the pistol he carried sent the wolf packing.

Most wolf lovers and urban dwellers have no comprehension of how truly large wolves are. They read about wolves weighing 125 lbs to 140 lbs, which doesn’t seem that big until one sees a picture of a wolf kill being held up in the arms of a six-foot hunter and the wolf’s length is taller than the hunter.

It is easy to see wolf pelts that stretch eight feet from nose tip to tail tip. Family members have seen wolves while walking in the Harrison Flats area. One flashed across our access road early one morning last summer and was later spotted just up Evans Creek romping with five pups all already larger than coyotes.

We have had neighbors’ dogs disappear, so we observe a rule of thumb: When we hear the coyotes howling at night, as they often do around Cave Lake, we know wolves are not around. When we don’t hear the coyotes, we think it is a safe bet a wolf or two is roaming through the area.

I believe wolves were coming back naturally. The last thing we needed was introducing the Canadian wolf, which has significantly increased in numbers. I don’t pretend to be a wildlife expert, but I understand the law of unintended consequences.

I sincerely hope the Federal law code is changed to allow the state to carry out its management responsibility. The vast majority of Idahoans agree on this point and rightly so.

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