Investigation of cause of death of Idaho wolf pack ends

Cold case: Wolves cause of death remains a mystery. By Jody Zarkos. Idaho Mountain Express.

The investigation into the death of six juvenile wolves found near Fairfield, Idaho has been closed, but the cause of their death was never determined.







  1. kt Avatar

    Well, if the case is closed – then ALL records should be available to the public by FOIA and State Info Request?

  2. kt Avatar

    I suggest the records – including any photos – be obtained and placed on-line for the world to review.

    That way, if there are any telltale signs of something really obscure that may have escaped detection – perhaps it could be figured out through review from folks around the world who read this Blog.

  3. Tom Page Avatar
    Tom Page

    Hmm…close together with no signs of poison or shot…could it have been lightning?

  4. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Tom Page,

    Sure it could, but at least some of the carcasses would probably show signs, e.g., charring; but then we don’t know how decomposed they were.

    “kt” is right that the public deserves the recorded information because many are not disposed to believe official findings.

  5. kt Avatar

    Well: Since there are six dead half grown wolf pups, and apparently all official sources – the state of Butch Otter’s Idaho, the lab in Ashland and the Death Squads of Wildlife Services – seem to be stymied, and besides a Wolf Conversion to a Weird Kind of Christianity and Simultaneous Rapture of all 6 pups, OR alien spacecraft (or the USAF) landing and sucking out the pup’s life essence as part of a Commie plot to de-rail wolf de-listing:

    See (hmmm … Maybe this clip is about a different kind of essence …)

    AND since IDFG is keeping an oh-so watchful Mark Gamblin eagle eye on this blog:

    What say you Mark: Will you consider this an official info act request, and provide all records related to the six dead Fairfield wolves to be posted on-line here – to see if there may be clues to lightning, as Tom Post suggests, or any other cause , that the public can help solve/discern???

  6. Gerry Miner Avatar
    Gerry Miner

    It is my understanding that poison can’t always be detected if the animal has been dead a while. So given that the carcasses were partially decomposed, all sign of poison could have been gone.

  7. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Idaho Fish and Game reported that the dead wolves were found within 400 yards of each other. That means they were not all in one place.

    In my mind, that rules out a lightning strike.

  8. kt Avatar

    How long is 1080, sodium cyanide gas, or other items in the Wildlife Services Death Squad arsenal detactable?

  9. kt Avatar

    Look! This must be who got the wolves:

    AND: I’ll tell you why the ufos harbor such bloody disdain for bovines – they are destroying the once-green and blue earth and all the enjoyable ufo’er vacation spots here.

  10. Jay Barr Avatar
    Jay Barr


    While we all would like to know what the reason was for these deaths, not everything is a conspiracy or due to WS. I’m sure the folks at both/all labs that samples were sent to did the best they could with the resources available- unfortunately finances (and probable lack of suitable tissues) play a part in that not every conceivable toxic agent can be tested for (and there are hundreds of substances that could kill a wolf).

  11. kt Avatar

    Jay Barr: Right you are. That’s why the records should be on-line for all to see.

    I notice Mr. Gamblin has not responded to my query of yesterday.

  12. Jim Holyan Avatar
    Jim Holyan

    Have you ever seen anything else along the lines of offical data from ID wolf program posted here? No. So it’s doubtful they will voluntarily put it up on this blog. I’m sure there would be no reason they wouldn’t provide it through the “proper” channels.

  13. Vicki S Avatar
    Vicki S

    Remember about a year ago when the female MT wolf dispersed into CO, wandered back to MT, and then was finally discovered dead somewhere around Rifle CO (I think)?

    I heard that they never (officially) discovered the cause of her death, either. did anyone ever hear anything more on that case?

  14. gline Avatar

    Thanks Ralph for making this a formal post.

  15. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Vicki, I have also been curious about that wolf. Ralph, have you heard anything about that wolf lately?

  16. Ryan Avatar


    Mark won’t be back until tommorrow from what he posted in another thread.

  17. gline Avatar

    Mark does avoid the most striking threads I’ve noticed….

  18. Nathan Hobbs Avatar
    Nathan Hobbs

    Poisons such as 1080 and cyanide that are issued by the WS supply depot are dyed various colors to represent the agency that deployed the poison.

    I have not seen any photos but from Federally issued instruction manuals for M-44 use and clean up it indicates that the color should be very apparent in the animals mouth so I imagine it is a strong dye

    WS gets Orange (if i recall correctly)
    State and other are Yellow.

    That much I know from Official WS documentation on M-44 use,

    I would imagine that the use of the chemicals would be detectable well into the decomposition of the body and it is likely that WS adds a tracer chemical to put extra security and identifiability to the chemicals it uses.

    In this case I highly doubt WS had anything to do with it.

  19. Mike Avatar

    It’s time to get these poisons out of use, folks. Generations from now, this generation is going to be looked at as clueless neanderthals for the use of these products.

  20. gline Avatar

    One could only hope Mike, that our society evolves that way! Can’t wait to see what the aliens think of us!!!
    I just found out about using poisons on wildlife in the forests a couple of years ago, thanks to this site. I still cannot believe we are poisoning our wildlife at all…. seems very very cruel and egotistical…. Not “just” the prairie dogs” but every wild thing that comes into contact with that bait…

  21. gline Avatar

    What about the source being illegal drug operation?

  22. gline Avatar

    *and I don’t mean to undermine the prairie dogs… just seems to be the way many think of them, ie blowing them away, RR companies poisoning them near the RR etc.

  23. kt Avatar

    Jim Holyan: Thing is, “Mark Gamblin IDFG” has been commenting here like he is one of the public pack.

    IDFG appears to be keeping a watchful eye, and using Mark to try to tamp down concerns and anger over their abominable actions related to wildlife recently.

    SO – since IDFG Gamblin is essentially spinning and dishing out the Butch Otter IDFG party line through Ralph’s site, I figure the least he/the state in this fascist empire can do is POST the wolf pup info here.

    AND also: Ever since reading those Nancy Drew mysteries long ago, I for one have liked mysteries – and their solving.

    If IDFG won’t at least do this in exchange for Gamblin IDFG having a much bigger platform than he otherwise would, it doesn’t seem to me like they WANT to have the 6 raptured poisoned flying saucered latest Air Force Zap Ray Gunned Drone Gone Awry drug bust salmon eating lightning struck unknown disease wolf death mystery reviewed by inquiring minds …

  24. kt Avatar


    Don’cha love Dylan’s intonation here?

    Certainly Butch Otter’s IDFG wants to save everybody the trouble (and bureaucratic time and $$$ costs) of an “official” records request.

    Certainly Butch Otter’s IDFG wants to know what killed those wolves, and/or allay public suspicion.

    And certainly Butch is about to issue something like this [NOTE I do NOT believe this is really going to happen at the Fed Level in cow country … but …].

    > The directive states “Extensive public and employee engagement should
    > take place during the formation of this plan, which should lead to the
    > incorporation of relevant and useful ideas developed in that dialogue.
    > Public engagement should continue to be part of your agency’s periodic
    > review and modification of its plan. Your agency should respond to
    > public feedback on a regular basis.”

  25. Jay Barr Avatar
    Jay Barr

    Why are these 6 pups so important? I, too, would like to know what happened to them, but I suspect if you were able to see into the data pertaining to mortality through all the years a high percentage (perhaps a majority) of the dead wolves found/collected/examined by agency personnel may be labelled cause of death = unknown. It seems like it could be exceedingly difficult to diagnose/test for every conceivable mortality agent for those wolves dying of some cause other than being shot in hunting season or killed for depredating. These pups probably underwent more scrutiny/testing than the bulk of most other deceased wolves and it truly is unfortunate that no cause of death could be determined. The US Fish & Wildlife Service’s wildlife forensic lab is highly regarded, so if they can’t figure it out I doubt it can be.

  26. kt Avatar

    These half grown pups are important because they were ALL found dead under unexplained circumstances.

    They were found dead north of Fairfield where a few years ago there was an IDFG “unsolved” 1080 – Yep – Compound 1080 – killing of a wolf.

    They were found dead north of Fairfield where there wasa pot growing operation in the general area.

    They were found dead north of Fairfield in country where well-connected sheep and cowmen pass through or near with their trampling herds.

    They were found dead north of Fairfield where Wildlife Services is – shall we say – “embedded”.

    They were found dead north of Fairfield and IDFG said NOTHING until pressed publicly about the 6 deaths.

    They were found dead and you and others seem to want the story to die.


    Mysteries are intriguing …

  27. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I think I might have stumbled on the pot growers when I was hiking up an obscure fork of Willow Creek.

    There were some suspicious looking run-down RVs hidden back in the trees with a lot of equipment.

  28. Jay Barr Avatar
    Jay Barr

    I said in my previous post twice that I wish these unexplained deaths could be resolved. The fact is that 2 different labs (ID state vet lab & US FWS forensics lab) were unable to determine cause of death. All of your points are valid and could be said to be true for north of McCall, north of Salmon, and north of Clayton, etc. But I doubt you would be any less vexed by them if the cause of death were found to be something completely unrelated to them.

  29. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Beings there is no definitive cause of death, I am starting to lean to the drug growers theory, With the way that 1080 is regulated and tracked, I am sure there would have been signs of this type of death, I feel something else happened to these pups, i would like to know what, but I know quite a few that work in the forensics lab, and I seriously doubt they would cover for anyone, completely different type of people that work there, not the type to take shit from anyone..

  30. kt Avatar

    I want to know how long M-44 poison or related substances are detactable in carcasses. Does anyone know? Note in the HCN article below that TWO dogs out with a hunter died.

    Imagine a meadow north of Fairfield, half-grown wolf pups out minding their own business hunting ground squirrels … OH that’s right Ground squirrel eating brings up all manner of potential exposure to ground squirrel killing chemicals, too. Like one might use on the marginal ag lands on the Camas Prairie.

    From the HCN article:

    “Two M-44 accidents in recent months have brought the issue back into the public eye. In December, retired Phoenix physician Bill Bunting was quail hunting on state land in southeastern New Mexico when his two German shorthair dogs were poisoned. Then in early January, an M-44 killed a German shepherd in Estacada, Ore., a suburb of Portland. Wildlife Services had planted eight of the devices in a Christmas tree farm frequented by local children.

    “This happens all the time. It’s carnage,” says Brooks Fahy, executive director of the Eugene-based Predator Defense Institute. His group, along with Boulder-based Sinapu and Wildlife Damage Review, is pushing for a nationwide ban on M-44s. They’ve attracted the attention of Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio, D, who issued a statement following the incident in Estacada, calling Wildlife Services’ lethal predator control campaign “inhumane, indiscriminate and dangerous.”

  31. gline Avatar

    “Why are these 6 pups so important?”
    What other “mystery deaths” do we not know about?

    -Yes, the forensics lab should know, they are the experts. Yeah, they should know, and THEY should tell us, not keep it a secret…. that is the point. Even if it is drug related… when does the truth re: wolves ever come out on the table in Idaho? Such a tangled web…

  32. Jay Barr Avatar
    Jay Barr

    There was an official announcement: they couldn’t come up with the reason those pups died. One other possibility is that they did identify some sort of illegal agent, in which case they most likely wouldn’t divulge that agent in order to give Law Enforcement some leverage.
    Most wolf information is summarized very nicely in the year-end annual report that typically comes out shortly after the calendar rolls over.
    I don’t know what more you expect of the authorities in this instance. Is the state/IDFG expected to call each and every citizen that might be interested? Most people, when they want to know something, call/write/contact the source of that information, rather than expect the source to know that that person wants the scoop.

  33. Mark Gamblin (IDFG) Avatar
    Mark Gamblin (IDFG)

    I’ve was out of town while this string developed. Belatedly, here is what I can contribute to a better understanding of what we know about the cause of death of the six Wood River Valley wolves discovered last summer.

    The IDFG conducted an investigation of the deaths of the six juvenile wolves in the Wood River Valley, discovered last June. The wolves were discovered within several hundred yards of each other in varying stages of decomposition. Initial necropsy of the carcasses was conducted at the IDFG wildlife health laboratory in Caldwell, Idaho. There was no evidence of physical injuries (bullet wounds, arrow wounds, or blunt trauma) for any of the dead wolves. Tissue samples were collected for histo-pathological analysis by the USGS laboratory in Madison, WI, the Washington toxicology laboratory in Pullman, WA and the University of Idaho toxicology laboratory. Tissue samples were analyzed by the USFWS Ashland Forensics laboratory in Ashland, Oregon for evidence of chemical poisoning.

    Forensics analysis was conducted for evidence of poisoning by cyanide or strychnine compounds, compound 1080 (sodium flouroacetate) and common pesticides (including organo-phosphate compounds) that have been implicated in wildlife poisoning attempts in the past. The Ashland laboratory analysis did not find evidence of poisoning as a cause of death for the wolves in this investigation.

    Pathological analysis looked for evidence of common canine pathogens, including canine distemper, canine hepatitis and canine parvovirus. Analysis did not find distemper or hepatitis but did confirm the presence of parvovirus in tissue samples. However, analysis did not produce clinical evidence that the wolves in fact died of parvovirus infection. Based on the lack of evidence that the wolves died as the result of criminal actions, the IDFG has closed the criminal investigation. At this time, the cause of death of these wolves is undetermined, though parvovirus is a possible explanation.

  34. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Mark Gamlin,

    Thank you for the details!

  35. Dusty Roads Avatar
    Dusty Roads

    I didn’t see much in new details from Mr. Gamblin’s information other than the actual names of components that were tested for. Everything else he offered I’ve heard on the news. So I am left wondering, just what are the protocols for tissue collection, who conducted the sample collection and were these samples sufficient in providing for conclusive findings or just a token gesture by IDF&G personnel with the intent of clouding the data forcing a “cause unknown” finding?

  36. kt Avatar

    Mark Gamblin: Thank you for responding. WILL IDFG provide the info on-line for all to see? Photos, reports, etc. How long are the substances tested for detectable in carcasses? How many other wolf pups in Idaho are thought or known to have died of parvo?

  37. Chuck Avatar

    So the anti’s have resorted to just 2 S’s “shoot, shut up”, so if the deaths were determined to be caused by criminal actions then why are they closing the investigation?? Now if it were a big bull elk, or trophy mule deer buck or moose there would be big rewards posted for info leading to the arrest of these law breaking scoundrels. But they were wolves, no biggie case closed.

  38. Jay Avatar

    Dusty, it sounds like they did everything they could to determine cause of death, including sending samples to THE most advanced facility (USFWS Forensics Lab) for investigating wildlife crimes. Your conspiracy theories just make you sound foolish.

  39. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    I didn’t read that the deaths were cause by criminal actions, everything I have read said, it was not caused by criminal action, they have said, there were no signs of poisoning and no shots present in the wolf bodies…

  40. Dusty Roads Avatar
    Dusty Roads


    With all due respect (for you), I have learned ~ through years of IDF&G BS ~ that trusting them can be a mistake. I do have to question the methods by which the samples were collected. If it was IDF&G personnel, I question what protocols were followed, and whose protocols they were.

    It is wise to remember that the news of this “discovery” of these wolves was in the heat of the litigation on whether a hunt would take place and that the news of any foul-play might have swayed the judgment against the hunt. It might still have an affect and so a decision of “cause unknown” would neutralize this event in the eyes of the court. Thus, I question how the actual tissue sample collection was conducted because some methods could easily render such a conclusion by the condition of the samples and how they were handled. Most biological investigations of this type require that the samples be in good condition and enough tissue available in order to render a viable conclusion. Not that one can say that, without a doubt, there was foul-play on the part of IDF&G, I just have a hard time trusting anything they say. I’ve been lied to too many times to just agree with them in this case. Not sure you can call it a conspiracy theory, which is a quick way to dismiss any questioning of a questionable agency and its practices.

  41. Jay Avatar

    Dusty, with respect back, they sent the samples to outside agencies (a university, and the US Fish and Wild. Service’s lab, which is the “CSI” crime lab of wildlife). Unless they bribed those agencies to return a negative outcome–which I think we can probably both agree is kind of silly–than you have to take the conclusions at face value. I understand your skepticism of the agency, but everything doesn’t have to be a big plot against wolves. There was no evidence of illegal activity, simple as that. They investigated, asked for help from experts outside the agency, and the results were inconclusive.

  42. Jay Barr Avatar
    Jay Barr

    Wow. Tissue samples sent to 4 different labs, none of which could detect any illegal substance or other possible illegal cause, yet this is insufficient to quell those distrustful of IDFG- they could have every cell of those pups examined by electron microscope and if they were still to find nothing amiss some of you (Dusty, kt, Chuck) still wouldn’t be satisfied with those results. Since IDFG wasn’t the only agency to test, it is difficult to call into question the findings.
    I presume the entire carcasses were collected, so the pathologists had every conceivable tissue to sample. Maybe, if the samples were not in good condition (which I don’t know), it was due to the state of the carcasses.
    What difference would it make if these wolves were determined to have been killed by illegal means?- every year ~10% of the est. pop. is poached (based on past annual reports). Whether wolves are listed/delisted, hunted/un-hunted, this will be the case.

  43. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I feel satisfied that a pretty good, maybe a very good effort was made to determine the cause to death.

    I’m not very trusting, but I can’t see any reason for a coverup and doing one is too complicated for this kind of event anyway.

  44. gline Avatar

    My question would be if the lab is so hi tech why can’t they find the answer? At least the reason why they can’t find the answer..probable cause or something.

  45. Chuck Avatar

    “Based on the lack of evidence that the wolves died as the result of criminal actions, the IDFG has closed the criminal investigation. At this time, the cause of death of these wolves is undetermined, though parvovirus is a possible explanation.”
    This was from Mark Gamblin’s post above.
    Jay I didn’t say I wan’t satisfied, I am just pointing out that if it were a trophy bull elk, trophy mule deer that the investigation would still be going on. Apparently Jay must feel that the wolves are treated just like all the other animals? But then hey what do I know I am just a dumb old scooby

  46. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    “lack of evidence” is the key words here, there was no evidence the wolves died due to a criminal acts, hence the termination of the criminal investigation…

  47. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    There are humans that die everyday in the US, that they can’t determine the cause of death, I had a friend several years ago, who just keeled over and died and they autopsied, ran every test they could and never figured out why he remains a mystery to this day..

  48. Mark Gamblin (IDFG) Avatar
    Mark Gamblin (IDFG)

    All –
    I recognize and respect how important this incident is to many of you. I want to assure you that the IDFG made this a high priority investigation to determine if a criminal act was responsible for these wolf deaths and if not, what was the cause of their deaths.
    Each carcass was retreived and delivered to the IDFG wilflife health laboratory for a thorough assessment of physical condition, physical evidence of injury, poisoning or disease. Professional wildlife veternarians collected tissue samples necessary to test for the most likely toxicants or disease pathogens that could have killed the wolves. As with any criminal or diagnostic investigation, it is not possible to test for every conceivable cause of death. This investigation was treated with the same priority that is assigned to every other potentially serious wildlife crime, including trophy elk, moose, deer or other wildlife. As noted by several previous posts, the finding of no clear cause of death is not uncommon in any investigation, regardless of the technology or resources devoted to the investigation.


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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