Howling wolves in the Sawtooths scare FS employees (from Utah) to seek emergency evacuation

The poor dears!

Story in the Idaho Mountain Express. By Steve Benson.







  1. Jean Ossorio Avatar
    Jean Ossorio

    Thanks for the great laugh! Being surrounded by the howls of wild wolves is one of life’s peak experiences. (Almost as cool as hearing a mountain lion in the night!) Too bad these folks couldn’t relax and enjoy it. Maybe they’d like to join my women friends and me next time we head out for an all-women’s camping trip in lobo territory. We’ve made several, heard wolves, and lived to tell the tale.

    Hmmm. Wonder how much that helicopter evacuation cost the taxpayers?

  2. debbie Avatar

    what a shame. they missed out on a once on a lifetime experience.
    if they ever get another chance to listen to the howl of a wild wolf, just maybe they will stay put and be quiet enough to enjoy it.

  3. Brooke Avatar

    Wow, I’m from Utah, and I’d die for the chance to hear those wolves. I hope I will someday. I wish they could have taken advantage of their situation.

  4. NANCY Avatar


  5. dcookie Avatar

    A note to the forest workers: a can of pepper spray (and respectful appreciation) makes a reliable line of defense and thus gives you some confidence in wild country.

    I’ve heard a cougar “owww” and a black bear snort both at fairly close quarters. Both made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. However, both are highly cherished memories and in both cases, I safely and respectfully passed through their “neighborhoods.” In neither case did I feel a need for evacuation. Sometimes you have to stop and question your fears. Some are rational. Some are not.

  6. John Avatar

    It’s easy to sit behind a desk and talk tough. The truth of the matter is none of you know how you would act given the situation. I made some calls and spoke with a USFS official in Fort Collins named Dave Tippets. He defended the actions of the employees and the resue. What really happened and what you all read in the newspaper are two different things, according to Tippets. The employees believed there were in grave danger and both of them have had previous wolf encounters. Their job is to backpack into remote areas for ten days at a time – clearly not an occupation for the timid.

  7. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    The thing is, John, that a lot of people who post here have lots of backcountry experience. They aren’t just talking “tough.” They speak from experience.

  8. Erin Miller Avatar

    No kidding… when you’re working back towards camp and the howling is still around you, they’re moving with you. “Echos” blah, anyone with healthy hearing can tell the difference, and given how the media works it’s no surprise at all that what really happened was trivialized. Rationality is for the person in their own individual instance to determine, others not in the same exact situation can hardly critisize.

  9. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Yes, and several years ago some guys north of Yellowstone started telling each other wolf stories and got so frightened that when the outfitter rode in to pick them up from their hunt, they shot him, thinking he was a wolf pack descending on them.

    Would you give them a pass too?

  10. Erin Miller Avatar

    Somehow doubt that excuse would’ve flown elsewhere. A pass for what?

    A pass for shooting their outfitter thinking he was a wolf pack. After all, as you wrote above, “Rationality is for the person in their own individual instance to determine, others not in the same exact situation can hardly critisize.”

    Yes who are we to criticize? 😉  Ralph

  11. Alan Avatar

    I have been hiking many times in Yellowstone and heard wolves howl, and I can tell you from personal experience that it is often nearly impossible to tell what direction they are coming from or whether they are getting closer or farther away. Besides, wolves howl to communicate, not as a prelude to attack. Hunting success rate is low enough without telegraphing their intentions to every elk in the neighborhood. As for these individuals having previous encounters with wolves, that should be easy enough to varify. Since such encounters are so rare they must have been well documented. Indeed, far more people are injured by deer and elk than by wolves. Perhaps they really wanted to evac because they saw that elk run by? It’s not my place to say that their fears were irrational, but they were surely unfounded, and they were unquestionably ill equipped to be working in wolf country.

  12. michelle Avatar

    Back in the early 80s, my husband, boyfriend at the time, took me into the backcountry of Yellowstone and the coyotes howled all night long. I had never heard anything like it, and was new to the outdoors. I was absolutely terrified. Since then we have returned to Yellowstone every year and even hear the wolves howl on many occasions. Now years later it’s the most “awesome” sound you could ever hear. I am no longer afraid, but grateful every time I hear the howl of a coyote let alone a wolf.

  13. Brooke Avatar

    I wish I had the experience you guys have.

  14. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    This opinion today in the Lewiston (ID) Tribune.

    Forest Service gives in to fear of the Big Bad Wolf

    Jim Fisher

    The U.S. Forest Service has two large helpings of egg to wipe from its face
    after the revelation that two of its researchers were helicoptered out of
    the Idaho backcountry because they were frightened by the sound of wolves.

    It also has some explaining to do, for authorizing a helicopter flight into
    the Sawtooth Wilderness for such a flimsy reason.

    It is disturbing that two field employees of the Forest Service’s Rocky
    Mountain Research Station in Ogden, Utah, did not know better than to be
    afraid of the Big Bad Wolf. Even casual visitors to wilderness should know
    where its real threats lie, and it is not with wolves. As Stanley resident
    Lynne Stone correctly observes, “I’d be more afraid of running into a moose
    cow with calves, or a black bear with cubs, than encountering howling

    It is confounding, however, that someone with the authority to order a
    helicopter rescue would do so because wolves were howling in the vicinity of
    the workers. If the agency is going to tread on the Wilderness Act with such
    a flight, it had better have a good reason. This was anything but that.

    The worst aspect of this foolishness is the contribution it will make to the
    nitwit claim that wolves pose a major hazard to humans in the woods. How
    long will it be before a Ron Gillett, the Stanley resident who heads the
    Idaho Anti-Wolf Coalition, or a Larry Craig, Idaho’s senior U.S. senator,
    points out that even Forest Service employees are wary of the reintroduced

    “Every day, these wolves are mutilating our wildlife and threatening the
    safety of our families and children,” Gillett said two years ago. Of course,
    he also said the prospect that the animals would be removed from the federal
    endangered species list was “a fairy tale.”

    In 1999, Craig wrote that in Idaho, “Growing numbers of parents are choosing
    to drive their school children down the street to catch the bus because of
    frequent wolf sightings.”

    Even the genuine threat wolves pose to other wildlife and domestic livestock
    is the subject of hysteria. People point to the numbers of sheep, calves or
    elk lost to wolves, without mentioning the greater numbers lost to coyotes
    — or the role wolves play in controlling coyote populations.

    All this is a source of amusement to real outdoors people, who know they are
    in greater danger driving to the woods than they are from wolves once they
    get there. Time was when Forest Service employees were among them. — J.F.

  15. Randy Avatar

    They should have provided the workers some type of protection in that area. I have a cabin less than 15 miles south of Johnson Creek along the South Fork of the Boise and hike and ATV ride the area frequently. You would not ever catch me alone in that area without some type of protection. In the past 3 years I have seen and herd wolves a number of times… this year especially. I saw tracks on the road less than 400 yards from my cabin this week. Think about this… those wolves can take down a 1,000 pound Bull Elk and if they decided that a human was an easier meal you would have no chance. Wolves “hunt” in organized packs.. they “communicate” and act as a group. These are smart, intelligent animals that at this time have no fear of humans. We do not have much experience with truly “wild” animals and it is only a matter of time before they do attack humans. Every year we have many bear and cougar attacks and these animals are not protected like wolves that have zero fear of man. Yes, hearing them and seeing them in the wild is really a great experience but only if you have protection.

  16. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I always carry pepper spray — not for wolves, but the odd moose, bear, cougar, or, more likely, someone’s sheep guard dogs.

    It isn’t true that we have many cougar or bear attacks in Idaho. We have one every so often. I can recall a few. When was the last one?

    Wolves could easily bring down a person, but they don’t. Elk could easily kill a person, but that is rare (rutting and a cow and her calves). So could a bull cow (I’m talking cattle here). What is possible, and what is at all likely are not the same things.

  17. Randy Avatar

    Yes but Elk, Moose ect do not eat meat… Wolves do and they are also one of the few animals that actually hunt in a pack mentality… Think Lions in Africa… as the wolf population grows we will have a human attack.

  18. Dave Avatar

    Well Randy I can tell you from experience that when a wolf see,s you no matter if its one or twelve the only thing they want to do is get away from you. They have no interest in humans at all. I have encountered many wolves in the wild and wished they would hang around for a picture, but they run. So please stop writing about things you do not have any knowledge of. There is enough wolf haters in this world already.

  19. Randy Avatar

    Dave, you have not read the recent articles in the papers here about two different experienced outdoors people in the Stanley Idaho area that were followed, stocked and in one case in March chased by more than one wolf. Yes, most of the time they run but at this time they are protected and have no fear of Man

    Randy, the people who have had closer encounters with wolves have always had dogs with them, or they have stumbled onto a den site, that includes the people you mentioned. Actually these close encounters were nearer Challis and Salmon, than Stanley.

    Wolves will sometimes “escort” people and other animals away from their den site. Sometimes though, the wolves run away and leave their pups undefended.

    Wolves are not neutral about dogs. Wolves don’t like dogs, period. They see them as strange wolves — not part of their pack. If there ever is a wolf attack, I think it is highly likely that it will happen when a wolf or a pack of them finally attack a hiker’s dog, and hiker gets in the middle to save his dog. On my old web page I have a long pdf file about wolf attacks. They can happen. There is almost always an easy explantion — the wolf had been fed by people in the past, the person tried to save their dog, the wolf was sick, it was really a hybrid, etc.

    The wolves are not really protected, I would guess that 5 to 10% of the Idaho population is illegally killed every year. The wolves notice that people can be dangerous. Wolves are not interested in people to eat unless they have been taught that people are food. None of them know that.

    Ralph Maughan

  20. Randy Avatar

    I just think you folks are being a bit to on-sided on the issue… I happen to have a cabin in the area we are speaking of and I happen to have dogs… like most of the property owners in my area. Most of us are happy to see bears, cougars, woverines, deer, elk, skunks, ect but at the same time we realize that the wolves are more likley to attack our pets and possible us when we are out doing the things we have done for years. As the wolf population expands into populated areas we are going to have more proplems.

    That has been predicted for about five years, but the number of incidents, especially livestock incidents, has not grown. If you have dogs in Johnson  Creek, a cougar attack is certainly as likely as wolf attack on your dogs and a lot more likely on yourself. Ralph Maughan

  21. Randy Avatar

    As you know Ralph.. Cougars are loner animals and do not hunt and travel in packs. I have never seen a cougar but have seen plenty of wolves in the past few years. As for my dogs.. I have stopped taking them on hikes and never let them out at night. Again, I think you are being very on-sided as far as the wolves are concerned. How can you say that the problems have not grown… open your eyes… ever week this summer I have read about wolves attacking livestock… And what about the Archery Hunter a few weeks ago who watched Elk being chased.. didn’t that guy feel at risk as well? All I am trying to point out is that when a major meat eating predator is re-introduced they are not afraid of man and will look for meat to eat… Conflicts will increase… this is proving to be true and will continue as the population increases.

  22. Laird Bean Avatar
    Laird Bean

    Randy, do not waste your time with these one sided discussions. You will not change the pro wolfers with your reasoning. I attempted reasoning with them under the thread titled “Wildlife Services Kills 2 Idaho Wolved, Maims 3 Others: but to no avail. In fact, I covered basically all these items you bring up so go to the thread I commented in and read it. No reasoning at all with the pro wolfers. I am neither for or against the wolf reintroduction and I still could not reason with them using sound logic. It will not work! And I even presented a link to a website that proves a healthy wolf would even attack a human but the pro wolfers gives rationalizes the wolfs behavior.

  23. Randy Avatar

    I see that Laird… I came to the site looking for additional information since I spend 100+ days a year at my cabin and will be dealing with these issues for years to come. Like I have said above… I enjoy seeing and hearing these animals but re-introduction does not come without some downside. For someone to think that there will not be some negative impacts is foolish.

  24. Randy Avatar

    Only time will tell who is correct… my opins have been voiced.

  25. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Randy and Laird, you are useful posters because you raise common arguments about the relative dangers of carnivoires that have to be answered again and again.

    So let me reiterate to you, or for all.
    Laird, you said you directed me to a web site about wolf attacks.

    Here is a much better one, with many more attacks –The Fear of Wolves: a review of attacks on humans. This is a worldwide review from a major institute — Norsk institutt for naturfirskning.

    Randy, you say have read about wolves that have attacked livestock this summer. I have been writing about wolf attacks on livestock for eleven years now. Yes, wolves have been attacking livestock since about 9 months after they were reintroduced. It is not an event that began this summer. What did begin this summer was that Idaho Fish and Game started issuing monthly reports on attacks and sending them to the media, which started covering it. It wrote a story about this last August.

    ID Fish and Game release of info on wolf control generates a media story that might be misleading.

    Successful (fatal) and unsuccessful attacks by cougars on humans are well documented, and have occurred in many Western states, particularly in California and Colorado.

    The fact that cougars are solitary, ambush predators and wolves are coursing, pack predators does not make wolves more of a threat to humans.

    The fact that an archery hunter saw a wolf chase and kill an elk is no evidence of a threat to the hunter. On the contrary. That’s what wolves do. They chase and try to kill elk and deer. The hunter wasn’t chased.

    Many of the people who post on this blog have seen elk killed by wolves. They are not afraid or think that means the wolves might be after them.

    If you want to respond, please respond to these points above. I like threads on my blog to be tidy. If you want to discuss these matters further, fine, but I like long threads to be argumentatively tight.

  26. shaka Avatar

    I have more fear of running into a Bubba with “Protection” than I do of running into wildlife.

  27. Laird Bean Avatar
    Laird Bean

    As a landowner, I know all to much about the dangers of wolves to livestock but not to humans. Since they have attacked my livestock then they may attack humans although that is highly unlikely. I like to see them in their natural habitat but I will not give them the opportunity to attack me, any other human, or my livestock so I carry a weapon with me when I am out and about in the wilderness also…..and it is much more effective than pepper spray.

    This is the last of my comments as these threads are all too pro-wolf and my comments, although valid, receives no respsect from the dreaded wolfers. After all, I am only a landowner protecting my interests and livelihood at the expense of those who are so adamant on driving the livestock owner off of public lands and out of business all for the neglible economic value the return of the wolf to Idaho will bring. You know this isn’t Yellowstone Park where thousands of visitors come to see the wolves and spend their money so little argument can be said that the return of the wolf to Idaho is a great economic boost to the state.

  28. Dave Avatar

    Hey Laird,
    I understand your point I would not want to have to worry about my livestock getting taken by predators.( wolves, cougars, bears, etc) but I believe they have a fund for any livestock killed by a wolf to be rienbursed if such an occurance should happen. Where is you land? Have you seen any wolves? If so would you allow people to photograph or to watch. Wolf watching can bring in a lot of money to an area. It has been proven a very lucrative business for the greater yellowstone area.

  29. dcookie Avatar

    Laird came to a website dedicated to respecting wildlife and planted an anti-wolf position under the heading of logic. Now he’s convinced that pro-wolf people are treating him unfairly because they are effectively shredding his arguments. So he’s taking his ball and he’s going home. In some ways it’s mildly amusing and in some ways it’s a bore.

    I want to respect ranchers and others working the land. I’ve met ranchers who saw themselves like every other person on earth- responsible for their impact on the ecosystem and on other people.

    This immature little twisty by Laird reminds me of the other kind of rancher. Streambeds trampled, water soiled, fish dead, habitat down the crapper….and it’s still all about poor me.

    If you refuse to learn and take responsibility, you are the problem.

  30. Laird Bean Avatar
    Laird Bean

    Where is our land? Up no tellum creek! Have you seen wolves? YES! If so would you allow people to photograph or to watch? YES, if they know where no tellum creek is then they can watch all they want to. Remember, people visit Yellowstone to not only see the wolves but the Bison, Antelope, Elk, Bears, Old Faithful and all the famous geysers. Where no tellum creek is you may occasionally see an Elk, or antelope and wolves but not all the attractions that bring people to a national park so money to the area where we ranch would not be lucrative?

  31. Laird Bean Avatar
    Laird Bean

    Hmm! too bad that your opinion holds no weight either, dcookie. On a previous thread I told ralph and others that we do more for wildlife conservation than many of you do. Our place was recognized for removing cattle from the riparian areas along the creek bottoms, improving wildlife habitat, etc. Of course you are only stating what you want to think but we have received a couple of plagues from the FS, BLM etc for our improvements to the land and wildlife conservation so go somewhere else to argue your point. I am still more of a wildlife conservationist than you will ever be but I still have to protect my financial interests also!

  32. Laird Bean Avatar
    Laird Bean

    Oh! and i come to this website unafraid of letting others know my full name. I have nothing to hid but many of the pro wolfers hid behind ‘imaginative, secretive’ names not wanting others to know who they really are. So just what are you afraid of hiding behind the name of dcookie? Your comments in item # 29 leads me to believe you do not have any respect for the rancher or landowner but only your own selfish interests. Remember, you attacked me first with your comments before I attacked you!

  33. Dave Collins Avatar
    Dave Collins

    Hey Laird,
    Im not sure if your taking me serious or not( no tellum crk) I dont know if thats a real place or not. I am a photographer and would love to visit your ranch and photograph wolves cougars or anthing else. I do believe there are a certain clientel for just wolves only. Elk are great but not really what people are intriged by. Here is my email ad so we can talk off the air so to speak. Hope you will contact me.

  34. dcookie Avatar

    You’re correct about that Laird. I’m not putting my name out there for people who come off one-sided and radical to ponder what to do with. “Shot, shovel and shut-up” is one of the sayings associated with your one-sided point of view. Think i’m going to put my name out there in front of folks with that attitude? You’re the one who “carries a weapon.” What kind of code wordage is that?

  35. Laird Bean Avatar
    Laird Bean

    I never did say anything about SSS! I only stated that I carry a weapon. This is suppose to be a discussion on wolf, livestock, and conservation issues; not personal attacks. I do not shoot wolves and obviously you are not paying attention to what I have commented on as I have stated this very clearly in previous threads. Lets talk issues, not personalities. And obviously, I am not the one who is so one sided as I am a land and livestock owner and enjoy the wolves. I take it that you only enjoy wolves and care for nothing else????? Even though Ralph and I disagree on some issues we are able to have intelligent discussions and respect each others opinions. What’s your problem?

  36. Erin Miller Avatar

    I’m just glad there are those who don’t buy into the fuzzy cute wolf crap and aren’t afraid to say hey, this isn’t quite right. As my husband put it, you can argue with someone all day and if they honestly have convinced themselves they’re right, no amount of common sense and fact will change it. I know what I’ve seen, you know what you’ve seen, I know the possibilities and prepare for it. The first time someone screws up, it’ll make news and then we’ll see. It’s coming, just a matter of time. Mother Nature will have had enough.

    This thread is now closed.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan