On the trail of Idaho's Basin Butte wolf pack

This wolf pack lives near Stanley, Idaho, in the heart of scenic Idaho. It has been a very successful pack, staying away (except once) from the thousands of livestock that are driven into the scenic area late each spring and often hang around until November.

I have heard that as of late, elk have been very abundant in the general area, although the number of big bulls is down due to human trophy hunting.

Story in the Idaho Mountain Express. By Jason Kaufmann. On the trail of the Basin Butte wolf pack: Work on wolf harvest plan could yield fall 2008 hunt.

This wolf pack and Buffalo Ridge Pack down the Salmon River Canyon about 10 miles from Stanley (and up the Squaw Creek tributary) are probably the two easiest Idaho wolves packs to see. The area around Stanley has lots of open meadows with lots of elk until late June (very much like Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley).

This is the summer to look for wolves in Idaho. This population is probably as high as it will every be, and they are slated for hunting. Whether the hunt kills a lot of wolves (the likely plan) or just a few, the wolves will become harder to see.







  1. Lynne Stone Avatar
    Lynne Stone

    The Mt Express story says that the Basin Butte Pack consists of seven members. Actually it’s eight. There are three adults (the alphas plus “uncle” and five yearlings). While the Mt Express article is fairly accurate, it failed to state that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s proposal to delist wolves violates the Endangered Species Act and litigation by pro-wolf groups will occur. A hunting season on Idaho wolves by 2008 would seem unlikely, despite what the anti-wolf factions that control Idaho want — to kill all but 100 wolves of the state’s current 650 wolves.

  2. Tim Z. Avatar
    Tim Z.

    I agree with Lynn, a fall of 2008 season seems ambitious. The legal challenges will have hardly gotten started.

  3. DV Avatar

    Here is a question – if/when litigation kicks in, does the current status exist during the litigation (wolves protected under a psuedo endangered species act protection), or do the states get to run things the way they want until the litigation is complete.

    In retrospect, the non-essential listing of wolves may have been a mistake. I suppose it was necessary to make this thing fly (the reintroduction) but it seriously compromised the language of the ESA.

    My hope is that the litigation goes on long enough to get a new administration in office that isn’t so hell bent anti anything to do with the environment, and wolves are not killed in the interim. That is, unless a miracle strikes and Ed Bangs decides to keep the wolf listed. Sorry to say, but I feel like that comment letter I wrote was a waste, as it feels like the decision has already been made in favor of the USFWS preferred alternative.

  4. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    You ask the important question. Given a lawsuit, would there be an injunction on state management plans to kill a lot of wolves? It makes all the difference, and I don’t know.

    It will depends on the legal arguments made and on the judge who gets the case.

  5. elkhunter Avatar

    Ralph, are you sure that the reason that there are no trophy bulls is because of hunting? Who was your source on that information?
    A local resident who spends a lot of time outdoors with wildlife. Ralph

  6. elkhunter Avatar

    Just wondering because I subscribe to a magazine that assists out-of-state hunters in applying for different hunts in many different states. The information they provide is gathered from biologists over certain areas in each state, outfitters, other hunters, and the F&G agencies in each state. I just got my ID magazine yesterday, I remember asking you if there were many wolves south of the Snake River and you said very unlikely. Its kind of ironic that ALL units that are recomended for mature bulls are ALL in the southern part of the state. Everyone. Units 40, 66A, 76, 54, 75, 41, 73. All units that probably have low wolf populations if I am correct. I have used this magazine for over 5 years and hunted many different states, and so far they have been right on the money. So I kinda have a hard time when you blame hunters on hunting all the mature bulls in that area because I looked up that unit to see what they said about it, it was not even in the top 15 trophy units for elk. So maybe your wolves might have something to do with it, because not one unit was recommended in the Northern part of the state. They could be wrong, but I doubt it, i will be hunting Unit 66A this year, so I will let you know what I see.

  7. elkhunter Avatar

    Really, would you ask him what unit that is. Because I am very curious to find out, I checked all units that surrounded the area that those wolves are around, and none of them have been known to produce trophy bulls. Not even in the top 20 units for elk in the state. So maybe your friend knows something alot of other people dont.

  8. Layton Avatar

    Gosh, it’s sure strange that “anecdotal” evidence (A local resident who spends a lot of time outdoors with wildlife.) is accepted with nary a question — when it comes from the “wolves are wonderful” side — but questioned like hell when it come from a source that is necessarily on that side of the fence.


  9. Layton Avatar

    How about “NOT” necessarily on that side of the fence??


  10. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Good point, Layton. I think I criticized you for something similar in the past, so ya got me!

    Nevertheless, I can’t reveal the name because Stanley is a small place.

  11. Brian Ellway Avatar
    Brian Ellway

    Trophy hunting as the cause of the low number of bulls is total BS in my opinion. I’ve hunted the Stanley area for many years and as the wolves have grown in population, the elk have declined to the point where I see more wolf sign than elk sign anymore. Last year I saw one bull, and maybe two dozen cows with NO calves. How would you explain that? Trophy calf hunters??

  12. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    How many times did you go to Stanley last year and look for elk? Did you do it in a systematic way or a casual way?

    Excessive hunter take of trophy bulls will reduce the number of bulls by definition. Wolves will reduce the number of trophy bulls if they key on them. Does this seem likely?

    It has been demonstrated in Yellowstone Park research that the sex and age class of elk least vulnerable to wolf predation is middle-aged elk cows.

    Many factors influence the size of elk populations, their condition, age, cow: callf and bull: cow ratios. I am not impressed by one cause explanations.


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