Idaho Fish and Game only manages to collar 4 wolves in the Frank Church

Goal was 12 wolves-

After the lawsuit and all the expense and danger of darting wolves from the air to collar them in the rugged Frank Church Wilderness, the results are in.  After risk to life and limb, instead of 12 wolves the department got only 4 collared. This is apparently the same number of collared wolves as were shot in the recent and still on-going Idaho wolf hunt (although the Frank Church area had its wolf quota met and has been closed to hunting for the season).

If I was an employee of the department I would be outraged that the state’s politicians in the legislature, Fish and Game Commission and department had me risk my life for this kind of  bullshit.

I had heard most of this a couple days ago, but didn’t know the info had been released. Today Rocky Barker put the info on his blog,It took biologists 12 helicopter landings to collar four wolves in wilderness.” Letters from the West.  By Rocky Barker.


  1. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    and if Judge Winmill is to be believed that should be it……. but they will come crying that they have to have at least 12 collared to have credible statistics and it needs to happen regardless of the number of landings it takes. Wait and see

  2. spanglelakes Avatar

    Ralph – Unsure whether you mean there have been 12 or 4 collared wolves shot in Idaho’s wolf witch hunt. The number would be closer to 12 collared wolves shot by wolf hunters. There have been four collared wolves killed just in the past couple of weeks including B439, a Phantom Hill wolf that would have been two years old in April. His sister, B445 was shot last October just a few miles from Ketchum.

    Other collared wolves killed: Photos are all over the internet of a grinning, red-headed woman, who shot the collared alpha male of the Hughes Creek Pack north of Salmon.

    Then, a member of a well-known wolf-hating family near Clayton shot a black collared wolf that had survived Wildlife Services’ massacre of the rest of the wolf’s pack. Myself and my friends will not longer be stopping for food or buying gas any more at that family’s business.

    Then, probably thanks to IDFG advising hunters just where wolves were hanging out (because of telemetry), the matriarch of the Warm Springs Pack out of Bull Trout Lake is dead. Shot near Lowman.

    An outfitter-guided client shot the only collared wolf in the Hoo Doo pack in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. The wolf was from Yellowstone.

    If there is a wolf hunt next year, the four wolves that IDFG just spent a lot of money, will likely be killed, because outfitters will find the wolf and its pack. Anti-wolf internet sites like Hunt Wolves are broadcasting how to use telemetry to find and kill collared wolves.

    The list goes on and on of collared wolves that have been killed. If outfitters or other hunters are not shooting them, then Wildlife Services is (think Basin Butte, Steel Mountain, Double Springs, etc etc).

    1. jdubya Avatar

      I don’t doubt that the hunters are using the collars to find them, but I looked hard on the Hunt Wolves web site and I could see no mention of the practice much less how to do it.

    2. spanglelakes Avatar

      jdub – I have not looked at the grim HuntWolves website for a week or two, but the owner of Ponderosa Sports, Horseshoe Bend, was giving explicit instructions on radios and finding frequencies. He posts as “ponder”. IDFG is aware of this. It’s not illegal to track wolves in Idaho with a radio, as Ken Cole pointed out on this site in the past week (or whenever – time goes so fast)

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    My intent was to say that 4 collared wolves were shot and killed during the recent hunt inside the Frank Church Wilderness. I wasn’t writing about any collared wolves outside the Frank Church.

    This recent helicopter darting had as its stated goal to collar 12 wolves inside the Frank, but they only managed to collar 4.

    Ironically then, all they did was replace the number of collars that were removed by hunters. This was done at considerable cost. I wonder how much the exact cost to the department was to collar four wolves?

  4. jon Avatar

    Ralph, if the wolves aren’t relisted, supposedly next wolf hunting season in Idaho, they may allow trapping. Do you have any thoughts on this? I can only imagine how many other animals besides wolves end up getting trapped.

  5. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Not many people know how to trap. I doubt many wolves would be trapped with the exception below. . .

    The biggest problem is that radio frequencies of the wolves are clearly leaking and probably being deliberately leaked by some in Idaho Fish and Game and/or Wildlife Services.

    Trappers and others will learn the whereabouts of the wolf packs without having to resort to hunting or trapping skill.

    I strongly suspect that many outfitters have, or were given the frequencies of wolf packs.

  6. Virginia Avatar

    It is interesting that Mark Gamblin has not shown up on this blog for quite some time to defend the IDGF’s actions against the wolves. I wonder why?

    1. JimT Avatar

      What’s to defend, Virginia? I suspect IDFG realized he was not going to make any inroads here in terms of sanitizing and spinning the decisions and actions of IDFG, and his superiors agreed, and that was it.

    2. Angela Avatar

      I think what Virginia may have been referring to was the *timing* of his disappearance. It seemed to happen at the moment they announced something about using all available means to kill more wolves. I forget if that was it, but I noticed he disappeared right when it would be pretty embarrassing trying to defend IDGF’s wolf management. But you are probably right too, JimT.

  7. Ron Kearns Avatar
    Ron Kearns

    In Arizona, the per hour cost for a Bell 206 B-3 helicopter—including the fuel truck and ferry time—is about $840.00, via special rates given to the AGFD by a contractor with whom the Department habitually employs. I have read that the per hour figure can range from $900-$1000.00 in other States for similar low-level flights, although I am unsure of those figures’ accuracy.

    1. Kropotkin Man Avatar
      Kropotkin Man

      When I flew for the feds. We were billed a minimum of 2 hours for just lifting off the ground. We normally flew Bell Rangers. At the time, several years back, it was $575 an hour. That didn’t include my wages 🙂

    2. Ron Kearns Avatar
      Ron Kearns

      Kropotkin Man,
      You are aged; sure your namne shouldn’t be Cro-Magnon Man? I am there too. My first rotary wing flights for the Feds as an observer were in 1978/79 in a ‘Baby Belle’ B47 ‘bubble’ helicopter. I prefer 2 feet planted firmly on terra firma.

  8. Si'vet Avatar

    Virginia, I think I can guess why.

  9. Wilderness Muse Avatar
    Wilderness Muse

    I am still scratching my head over the implications of this. The Judge’s ruling seems to suggest no do-overs under the FS Special Use Permit. The fact that fewer wolves were collared than anticipated raises some interesting questions. First the tracking Ralph suggests will be limited to 4 new subjects instead of 12, initially. Second, what will be the response of IDFG? Will they now concentrate on a ground based effort to collar more wolves, at what will be an apparent greater cost?

    And, from a wolf population estimation perspective going forward, what does the lack of collared wolves mean for future forecasts in the FCW? This is exactly what Dr. Mech predicted and stated in his declaration in the first delisting suit. As time goes on, and increased wolf dispersal across the landscape, it will mean that populations will be likely underestimated. Without the aid of telemetry of these additional 8 collars, the uncertainty will increase.

    However, the flip side of this is that there will likely be a greater opportunity for self-help from those who would engage in 3S activities, which will go undetected.

    On balance, I hope IDFG (with federal funding assistance) continues to pursue collaring, or alternative population verification techniques, on the ground in the FCW.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      Wilderness Muse,

      I guess you missed the report Ken Cole made on his trip to the Frank during the helicopter radio collaring.

      He quickly ran into a freshly killed elk right on the trail from a wolf pack with an estimated ten members. This pack was not radio collared, but could have easily been captured with a trap.

      I heard the pack howling nearby when I did my Frank Church trip two weeks later.

      Most of the successful radio collaring in the Frank in the past was done by one, Isaac Babcock. Isaac is currently in the Frank on a one year wilderness expedition.

      It’s too bad the judge was not fully aware of things like this when he made his ruling. I’m sure he will be the next time they come in saying we need more collars.

  10. mikepost Avatar

    Collar frequencies do not need to be leaked to anyone. The bands reserved for this kind of thing are well known and easily scanned and all that is required is that you spend the money on the non-restricted purchase of the same reciever and antenna that the F&G folks use. Works equally well from aircraft merely by cable tying the antenna to a strut. Cost about $2000. and once you have the core set up you are good to go for years. From a hunting perspective you dont need to know which collar is transmitting, just that a collar is transmitting. Even a simple directional RF detector would prob serve the purpose if there are few other collared critters in the area. It illegal to use the stuff this way while hunting but how do you keep one guy from flying on Tuesday and doing a locate and another guy hunting on Wed?

  11. mikepost Avatar

    See also this news release about an ambient human generated noise study and the impacts on wildlife….

  12. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    See the post that Ken Cole just put up on collar frequencies. This is a serious problem for all Idaho big game. In Idaho using these frequencies is legal hunting.

  13. Tim Avatar

    I think using tracking collars to hunt wolves is a little far stretched. There is a lot more to these systems then what most of you think. there are multiple frequencies that tracking collars use and within those frequencies is 1000 numbers. Only one of those numbers is going to give you a good signal to track the collar. Then you have to have a receiver box setup for that frequency. If you buy the best box that I can think of you will only be able to read 2 frequencies and that will run you about 2000 bucks. To my knowledge there are NO boxes that auto scan for numbers but you could punch in each number if you want. With most of the terrain in Idaho you will be lucky to pickup a signal with a couple miles. Now if you happen to get a signal that’s when the real test begins. you have to know how to use this box and I can assure you that there are some tricks to it. You have to understand how the radio signal travels through different settings. Rock cliffs, radio towers, and the natural lay of the land will give you bad readings. for all they are worth all they do is tell you where the animal is not. I’m sure a few stupid people with money to blow will try it but they wont have much success. they will more than likely find some elk, moose or someones hound dog.

  14. JimT Avatar

    Tim, you paint a complicated picture, but the point is that the collars are supposed to be used for scientific research purposes, NOT for hunting under any circumstances.

    Ralph, is this a state by state decision, or is this a by-product of the 10(J) provisions and experimental population establishment agreement?


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