Project [Phantom Hill wolf pack] seeks peace among sheep and wolves

Project seeks peace among sheep and wolves. Diverse group says collaboration could be a model for other wolf-occupied areas. By Jason Kauffman. Idaho Mountain Express Staff Writer.

This high profile project is a semi-official attempt to keep both sheep and the very popular Phantom Hill wolf pack alive. The pack’s territory is mostly in the headwaters area of the Big Wood River inside the Sawtooth National Recreation area.

While I am usually very critical of Wildlife Services, Wildlife Services wolf management specialist Rick Williamson gets a lot of credit as one of the people setting this up. The same true with Carter Niemeyer, who so successfully managed wolves in Idaho when the federal government was running the show.

Credit goes to Defenders of Wildlife who is putting money on the ground and volunteers into this.

Last year this pack did get some short time help (the deterence in the midst of lots of sheep) both formally and informally.

In their official year end report, the Idaho division of Wildlife Services was very negative on this pack, saying it had gotten too many chances, but this project shows what local political support can do.

One reason there is public support for this pack is because, as in Yellowstone, it is visible.



  1. TPageCO Avatar

    I would suspect another reason that the Phantom Hill pack has been given more room than some others is it’s proximity to population centers in Blaine County – the most liberal county in Idaho.

    I’m curious to know what benefit wolves get from being within the boundaries of the SNRA. What is the management directive there in regards to wolf/livestock conflicts and managing for sustainable wolf populations?

  2. Brian Ertz Avatar


    the 1972 law establishing the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA) gives wildlife priority over livestock use. This was vindicated in federal court following an incident in April 2002 when U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents killed the entire Whitehawk pack of 11 wolves near the SNRA.

    at that time, several things were established – including wolf/wildlife priority.

    the judge ruled the FS in violation of the Rescissions Act, passed by Congress in 1995 to force the agency to establish a schedule to conduct environmental analyses of every grazing allotment in the National Forest System.

    the judge ruled the Forest Service violated the Organic Act, which created the SNRA, by failing to consider whether livestock grazing is “substantially impairing” wolf populations in the area. He also determined that the Organic Act does not include grazing as a “historic” or “pastoral” value.

    the judge’s ruling forced the Forest Service to complete National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) analyses of all SNRA allotments for which analyses had not been conducted.

    Even where NEPA analyses had been done, the judge ruled that the Forest Service must revisit the allotments to conduct Organic Act analyses for significant impairment of wildlife, fisheries and recreation.

    In short – the SNRA makes more explicit the priority of wildlife – and the federal judge uses very important language indicating livestock use as source of conflict/wolf population impairment — rather than flipped (wolves impairing livestock) as we see in the media and via agency all-too-often. the onus is on preventing the threat of livestock to wolves — rather than preventing the threat of wolves to livestock.

  3. JB Avatar

    Brian, do you have the citation for this case? I think it would be an interesting read.


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Ralph Maughan