Basin Butte Pack thrives near Stanley, Idaho despite an illegal killing and thousands of cattle and sheep

In June 2006 the new Basin Butte wolf pack killed a cow calf near Cow Camp road north of Stanley, Idaho. I didn’t give it much of a chance; but today it consists of 3 adult wolves, 4 yearlings (5 until the other day) and 5 new pups. It has left the numerous summertime sheep and cattle in the area alone, and has been a source of great pleasure for many local folks near Stanley and elsewhere.

The pack begin in the late winter of 2005 when a dispersing female wolf from the Galena Pack to the south and a big male from parts unknown got together. Sometime later they were joined by another male who is today referred to by locals as “the uncle.” In April 2006 they had a litter of 5 pups somewhere near Basin Butte, a prominent ridge (but not noticed by most tourists) on the east side of Valley Creek. Tourists are looking at the Sawtooths to the west.

I learned about this well behaved pack, doing what it should — eating ground squirrels, killing elk (but not livestock) and eating the abundant road kill — by reading stories in the Idaho Statesman, Mountain Express, reports by Ed Bangs, a local resident of Cow Camp road area, the Western Watersheds Project, and Scott Bragoner of USFWS Law Enforcement.

Despite the grumblings of local anti-wolf activists Ron Gillet and a few of his pals and ranchers, I sense a growing level of support among Stanley residents. A resident of Cow Camp road described how pleased he and his spouse were when the pack killed an elk on their property and they were able to watch it slowly disappear as the wolves dismantled all of it except the stomach, which they strictly avoided (but other scavengers took it). Apparently numerous residents are looking out for the pack and scaring them off if they are near cattle. This type of community effort could represent a bright spot in a state where the governor and the Fish and Game Commission hold attitudes that should have died off decades ago.

Amazingly the only mortality the pack has suffered was the other day when “range rider” George Gilbert illegally shot a yearling female who (according to the federal complaint) was minding her business. Gilbert has been charged with a class B offense. Although it hasn’t been adjudicated, Scott Bragoner of USFWS in Idaho Falls told me the likely outcome would be a $275 fine.

With thousands of cattle pouring into the area, and soon sheep, which will turn the beautiful meadows to dust by the end of the summer, let’s hope the good luck of this pack will continue.

Wolf 313F, “Angel.” Photo courtesy of Lynne Stone. Copyright. 313F was illegally shot.

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  1. Tim Z. Avatar
    Tim Z.

    A $275 dollar fine. How can this be, these animals are still
    protected under the ESA.

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Braggoner told me for it to be class A, the shooting would have to have included some aggrevating circumstances.

  3. Tim Z. Avatar
    Tim Z.

    What’s aggrevating is poachers and wolf killers in this state
    getting nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

  4. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    From what I’ve heard, this pack really likes to hunt those big fat columbian ground squirrels (shades of Farley Mowat!). Of course, with the drying of the meadows, that kind of hunting is now done for this year.

    But I think the wolf might have passed through some cattle on her way to going squirrel hunting. Actually, a wolf passing through cattle and ignoring them is very good wolf behavior.

    The wolf was shot on her return. Perhaps (just a guess) the shooter thought she had chased cattle.

    This is the picture I got, at least, from talking with local residents.

  5. Tim Z. Avatar
    Tim Z.

    Sorry to harp on this but this really pisses me off. He “thought” she was chasing cattle. In my opinion this is no different than the guy who shot a grizzly because he “thought” it was a black bear ot the guy that shoots a moose because he “thought” it was an elk. Don’t they have to catch them in the act of harassing livestock before they can shoot?

  6. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Yes, they have to catch them chasing cattle. That’s why he was cited. The wolf wasn’t chasing cattle.

  7. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Go to go to a wedding. No more for today until late

  8. michelle p. Avatar
    michelle p.

    How wonderful to see people and wolves living in harmony, except for the death of 1 wolf, it’s amazing that this is really happening. I hpe it will continue in the future.

  9. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    Michelle – I agree, but I guess it all depends on who you ask up there. 😉

  10. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    It is a split community, but I sense a lot folks are no longer satisfied with a handful of ranchers (most of whom do not live in the area year round) determining community policy.

    One good example was the recent election of a woman in her early 20s as mayor of Stanley.

  11. Gloria Carlton Avatar
    Gloria Carlton

    I heard that she siimply walked by a herd of cows and then went up onto public land where a rancher type followed and shot her. It really is outrageous that he got off so easily.

  12. Laura Williams Avatar
    Laura Williams

    I am astonished that wolves are able to pack in that area at all. Predator habitat is not very welcomed in the state where I live. It is a very fine line between rancher and animal in South Dakota and it is often crossed. It is uplifting to read about the lives of these wolves and knowing the fights we face here over mountain lions, I empathize with those who feel like they are loosing the battle for wildlife!

  13. Rick H Avatar
    Rick H

    The thing to remember is that we only lose the battle if we stop fighting. I agree with those who are tired of seeing those who illegally shoot wildlife punished with nothing more than a slap on the wrist. Last I knew, laws and their accompanying punishments were ment to -deter- this kind of careless, criminal activity.

    Feel a letter to th editor coming on…

  14. Tadessa Avatar

    I think Ralph Maughan , lynne stone needs to go up in the hills with no gun and sit with the wolves with kids and then see how you like it with no protection for your family and you see how you like it . WE need to be able to have protection. but fishin game and many more that agree with this are retarted and must have problems. you guys just like to cover up stuff so people will be on your side . Cause the more people die but yet you hide it the more people are going to be agansit you hahahahahah see how you like it . P.s you have problems duh and are retarted . P.s this was from a 13 year old

    Webmaster note: the email address from this post is I think it’s more likely an adult with the intelligence of an unpleasant 13-year old.


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