The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday, July 20, shot and killed six wolves from the Copper Basin wolf pack near Hailey, after two calves were found killed by the pack. Carter Niemeyer, the FWS wolf recovery coordinator in Idaho, gave the order for the lethal control of the pack, who were confirmed to have killed four cows last year, injured two, and were implicated as a "probable" cause in six casualties and approximately 70 missing cows.
"When I heard about the second calf being killed, I just told them, 'Kill all of the uncollared adults and the alpha male,'" Niemeyer told BW. "All indications were we were in for another siege up there in the valley. It's a rough place to try to keep wolves alive when there's that much livestock to tempt them, and there's nowhere to chase those wolves. There's no real non-lethal application in a case like that."
Niemeyer said that last year, the FWS caught and collared two of the pack members, the alpha male and a yearling sub-adult female. After the control, that sub-adult is the sole survivor of the pack, except for the two pups she is believed to have with her. "It is my belief," Niemeyer said, "that there's a good chance that female can feed two pups. If she had nine pups, we probably would have done the pup removal."
Linda DeEulis, director of the Snowden Wildlife Sanctuary in McCall, says that the FWS might as well have killed the rest of the wolves, given the future now facing the yearling and pups. "The pups can't hunt, and the sub-adult is probably just learning to hunt," she told BW. "She is left in a totally untenable situation of either having to depredate (livestock) to feed them, or abandon them."
DeEulis said she asked the FWS for permission to temporarily hold the remaining wolves at Snowden, a service the sanctuary has provided to the government several times in the past decade. But Niemeyer responded that despite the Service's history of working with sanctuaries, they no longer bring wolves into captivity in cases like the Copper Basin pack.
"We have so many wolves in places now, it's just not necessary anymore," he said. "In my opinion, it's more inhumane to put these animals in a pen than just to euthanize them."