Zimo: Idaho Wolf-watching is a hit-and-miss game

There are a lot of wolves in central Idaho, and not especially hard to find if you have watched wolves in Yellowstone (unless you find them in the Park by looking for large crowds of people with scopes). You have to be a bit woods wise. Don’t expect to see them run across the highway in front of your in the middle of the day.

I haven’t been giving locations of Idaho wolves with the governor out there gunning for them, so to speak, but south central Idaho is probably the the best because the country is more open like Yellowstone’s northern range.

Pete Zimowsky of the Idaho Statesman tells of his recent experiences near Stanley where there are two wolf packs with more down the Salmon River Canyon.  This is the spring and summer to watch because next year the governor might have the majority killed off. After there is a wolf hunt, they will be less visiable regardless.







  1. Denise Johnson Avatar
    Denise Johnson

    It’s on my list of THINGS TO DO!

  2. Vicki Avatar

    Recently. a staunch opponent to wolves in Rocky Mountain National Park comented to me that they are “trying to figure out how to kill wolves in Idaho.” This story gives us a glimmer into how grossly exagerated reports of wolf over-population have become. If there were such an abundance of wolves, you could find them as readily as coyotes. Nature generally takes care of it’s own. Except ofcourse, when human intervention has already occured. Maybe we should leave wolves alone for a while longer. Observe…. I’d guess that populations will fluctuate with wolves just as they do with prey. Thanks Pete, for the insight into the Average Joe’s experience with wolf watching.

  3. Denise Johnson Avatar
    Denise Johnson

    It just came to me….How can he get his points proposed, address in the Species Management Plan. Is it possible?
    I have to admit these questions have crossed my mind.
    Should we have them in our comments on the delisting plan?

  4. Jason Avatar


    Ironic the timing of this article. I am from Idaho, but now live in Portland. Every chance I get I come back to Idaho to enjoy the outdoors and hopefully see some of the abundant and diverse wildlife. I was in Stanley twice this past week, partly to enjoy a few hikes and mostly for the chance to see wolves. I have spent time in Yellowstone and have seen wolves there many times. I know what to look for, but this doesn’t seem to make a difference. Idaho’s wolf habitat is much bigger and in my opinion more wild then that of Yellowstone’s.

    However, my luck changed this past Wednesday. I got into Stanley at around 10:00 a.m., usually a little late for wolf watching. As I was driving down to the Boundary Creek Road/Trailhead, I noticed a cow elk standing out on a rock cropping by herself, about 1/2 north of the Redfish exit on the Salmon River side of the road. It struck me as a very unusual place to see an elk so I pulled over to investigate and watch. As I found the elk in my spotting scope I noticed that she was acting very nervous and pawing at the ground. A sure sign something was in the area. Sure enough, after about 3 minutes of watching her, five wolves moved up out of the trees towards her. The elk waited until they got within 15-20 yards and took off down the ridge with all five wolves in hot pursuit. Eventually they disappeared in the trees for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only 1-2 minutes. I could hear the cow elk bark a few times and eventually the wolves reappeared, unsuccessful in their hunt. For the next 1/2 hour I watched as they walked the ridge directly across from the ranger station. I actually left my original spot and parked in the ranger station parking lot above the freeway to get a better view. All were gray and two had radio collars. Eventually they disappeared up over the ridge and out of sight. Never saw or heard them again during the time I was in Stanley, despite the fact that circumstance seemed perfect both evenings.

    In addition to this, I did see a set of wolf tracks that crossed the road at Boundary Creek by the old Fish and Game cabin. Huge, three times bigger then my Retriever/Aussie mix that I had with me.

    Finally, a wolf experience in Idaho!

    Also, I know most people already know this, but it doesn’t hurt to keep mentioning it. In the two days I spent in the Stanley and Lowman areas I easily saw 300-400 elk including a big bull that was standing in the middle of the Payette between Lowman and Grand Jean. A clear sign that wolves are devastating Idaho’s elk herds.

    Finally, I reiterate the point that I drove to Stanley while in Idaho specifically for the chance to see wolves and other wildlife. Sad days when some people don’t realize the great assets that the public lands have to offer in Idaho.

  5. Buffaloed Avatar

    Why didn’t you call me? I’m just down the road.

    Actually, I’m anxiously awaiting my first wolf encounter of the year which I generally have this time of year. Denning season is upon us soon and the wolves will be hanging around in my neck of the woods. Great watching and howling for me.

    I wish I could say more but, circumstances being what they are, in an area where I’m one of the few people that likes all wildlife, I am hesitant to say more. I have seen abundant wildlife here including bighorn sheep, pronghorn, and thousands of elk and deer. I’m going to go look for mountain goats soon and I usually see a bear or two each year around here. Last year I saw a moose, bighorns, pronghorns, white tail, mule deer, elk, wolves (while on foot and just 30 yards), and otters within a few hours of each other. Yes, it’s in Idaho. Oh, don’t forget the sandhill cranes, swaisons hawks, steelhead, bald eagles, and many other small animals that you can easily see here if you look.

    It’s worth fighting for.

  6. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Sounds like you had a great wolf experience. Thanks for sharing.

    Unlike the picture painted by Ron Gillet, elk are/were all over the place in and near Stanley this winter. The only impact on the herd lately is that the number of big bulls is down bit due to a successful human hunting season.

    Here is some additional information that is public knowledge (if you search).

    There are two wolf packs that are seen in the Stanley area. One has been around for several years and is the Galena Pack headed by alpha female B107. According to USFWS information, the other collared wolf in this pack, nearly 2-year old B277 male dispersed in January.

    This pack used to consist of 10 members or more plus five of this year’s pups. But far fewer wolves are now in the Galena Pack. So the pack that Jason likely saw was the Basin Butte Pack. This was a new pack in the summer of 2006 and consists of three adults and five pups. The alpha female, B277 is the daughter of the Galena alpha female. There
    are two collared female pups (now nearly a year old) B312 and B313.

    The ridge that Jason speaks of is well known to local wolf watchers, but it’s usually the Galena Pack that is seen there, eyeing the elk that are smart enough to winter on the south facing slopes that barely hold snow, therefore providing forage when lower elevations are snowbound.

    One of the reasons that not much is said locally around Stanley about where to see wolves is that Ron Gillet lives there, it seems he doesn’t hesitate to cause commotion if anyone is stopped watching a wolf. It was last May when he took his .22 rifle and went into the field where a wolf (Galena Pack) that was eating on an elk. I have photos of this on my old web site.

  7. Denise Johnson Avatar
    Denise Johnson

    The Gods were smiling on Jason.
    I love the excitment that wildlife viewing experiences bring.
    Thanks for sharing! And YES it is worth fighting for!

  8. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    We spent the coldest weekend of the year up in Stanley last January looking for wolves (among other things). We were not as lucky as Jason, but we did see plenty of Elk. Two mornings of -30 (so said the car thermometer) made Boise seem downright balmy and made us wonder how anything can survive up there! No sign of Ron the entire weekend either…

  9. robert Avatar

    He Ralph! Hope all is well with you.Been busy down here with my schooling. Don’t know if I told you, but I’m working on getting a degree in Wild Life Bio. Hoping to get a job here with the mexican wolf project or maybe in Yellowstone. I have two years left with my current job then I retire. At appoximately the same time I’ll have finished my college and I can just step into another filed. Hopefully wolves. I think I’ll be able to even volunteer cause I won’t need a paying job. Wish me luck. Anyways, I wanted to tell you on my next venture to Yellowsone in early June, I’m going to try to rondevoue up to Idaho. Stanley area for that matter. Maybe we could contact each other. I have a professional photographer freind I’m meeting in Yellowstone. He knows Doug Smith and all those neat people. He’s going to introduce me to them. I already know Rick. I haven’t had a chance to get to Apline or to the Gila since school started up again. But I’m headed up there during Easter Break. I know of a couple of den sites that we observed last spring when I was cruiseing with the ADGF. Hopefully the wolves have returned to them. If I get anything I’ll let you know. Best go for now. Keep in touch, Robert from New Mexico

  10. Eileen Loerch Avatar
    Eileen Loerch

    I think those of us who think wolves belong in Idaho should thank Pete for his column. He is an avid hunter, but recognizes the place of wolves in the environment, from an aesthetic and ecosystem point of view. Thanks, Pete!

  11. Jason Avatar


    Thanks for the info. on the Stanley wolves. I just assumed they were members of the Galena Pack. Both collared wolves appeared to be slightly smaller then the other three wolves. Perhaps a good indication that they were part of the Basin Butte Pack. Not that I sought these opportunities out, but I did mention to everyone that I ran across that I was in Stanley to enjoy a few hikes and to hopefully see a few wolves. Fortunately for me I did avoid being seen by Ron.

    I do feel very fortunate to have seen wolves that day. I have been backpacking in the central mountains for 11 straight years, always hitting Bear Valley for at least a night and have never seen or heard a wolf in Idaho before. Scat and tracks was it. On the trip back I thought about the realities of not having this opportunity next year. The hunt will defiantly make it harder to see these animals.

    One of the reasons I love spending time in Idaho so much is it just feels more wild then other places in the west.
    I love Buffaloed list of animals. My wife and I grew up in Idaho, but teaching jobs brought us to Portland a few years ago. It took a season or two to get use to the rain, but we do like it. Environmentally, a very progressive city. However, the terrain is so different over here. We have spent a ton of time hiking the Cascades and Coast Range and only twice have we seen a deer. A lot thicker vegetation and not the wide open expanses of land that you get east of the Cascades.

    Buffaloed, I will definitely call next time. Usually my wife or a few friends are along for the journey, but this time it was solo. Well, sort of, excluding the dog which always proves to be a happy companion.

    Ralph, long time visitor to the old web page, but the new format is great!

  12. Buffaloed Avatar

    Of all things, I nearly hit a wolf while driving to Boise tonight. I assume it was a member of the Timberline Pack since it was near Banner Ridge between Idaho City and Lowman. So in total, today I saw a peregrine falcon, bighorn, pronghorn, deer, elk, and a fox. I wish I could have seen a coyote then I would have had a 3 dog day but I’ll take what I got today very gladly. Oh, I saw some sandhill cranes and steelhead too.

  13. Wolfgang Avatar

    I’m trying to find out where there are packs and their names located in the North Fork Clearwater/Kelly Cr. area, where I work. I get many visitors here who are excited to hear/see wolves. I know there are a few packs here but don’t know their territory or names. Is there a link for this information? I understand the reluctance to post this info here in Idaho. BTW, for every “wolf hater” I get visiting here I get 2-3 wolf lovers. Thanks for any help.

  14. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    The best source of information is the 2006 Idaho report at:

    In the last 6 months no doubt some of these packs have changed but there was Pot Mountain, Kelly Creek, Hemlock Ridge, Eldorado, Lochsa, and Bimerick Meadows.

    A bit further to the south was Coolwater Mountain and Eagle Mountain.

    At 13 wolves, the long-standing Kelly Creek Pack was probably the largest.

  15. Chuck Avatar

    I just came upon this website, it is now in my favorites. Yes I am a hunter, but also love wildlife, have been to yellowstone twice this year and have seen wolves both times, I want to start looking around Idaho for wolves, I live in Boise. I truely belive that the re-introduction of wolves is a very good thing as it helps balance out nature.
    So please feel free to share any spots where I might go to get a glimpse of these majestic creatures and I too will pass on any spot I come accross. Thank you all so much.