The release of 26 British Columbia wolves into Idaho and Yellowstone National Park seemed a howling success until biologists were forced to kill a wolf after it bit a biologist's thumb to the bone.
The alpha male bit John
Weaver during a stopover in Missoula, Mont., the day before the
animal was to be released in the Idaho wilderness south of Stanley.
Weaver was bit while trying to close a cage door after the animal
had bent and broken part of the cage.
the wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, ordered the wolf killed. He said U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service policy and Idaho's public health code required killing the
wolf in order to examine its brain tissue for rabies. All captured
wolves, however, had been tested once for rabies and
"The chances of rabies are minute,
but it's not worth the risk," said Bangs. "We never anticipated
this situation." His agency, he added, is reviewing its
Weaver's concern was that politicians
opposed to the wolf program would make hay of the incident. "That's
the last thing the wolves need," he said.
killing is a disappointment in a recovery program that the Fish and
Wildlife Service calls outstanding, despite funding cutbacks. Bangs
said if the wolves brought in this year do as well as last year's
group, a transplant set for next year may be scuttled. With the
addition of 17 wolves this year, the Yellowstone National Park
population rises to 38; the 20 wolves set free in central Idaho
boosts their number to 32.
Not everyone is
pleased with the program's success. The Wyoming Farm Bureau hopes
to halt the reintroduction through the courts. "If we win, all the
wolves are going back to Canada," Steve Lechner, a Mountain States
Legal Foundation lawyer representing the Farm Bureau, told the
Idaho Falls Post-Register.
While not opposing
the reintroduction, a Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund lawsuit asks
that naturally occuring wolves in Central Idaho continue to receive
full protection under the Endangered Species
Nor do the Canadians necessarily support the
relocation of wolves from their forests to the U.S. A British
Columbia group called Friends of the Wolf offered a $5,000 reward
to anyone who could set free wolves captured by U.S. biologists.
Until wolves are protected in the province, the group says, they
refuse to support their capture and export.
more information, contact Ed Bangs, Wolf Recovery Coordinator, 100
N. Park, Suite #320, Helena, MT 59601 (406/449-5225) or Friends of
the Wolf, c/o Cove Mallard Coalition, P.O. Box 8968, Moscow, ID
* Dustin Solberg, HCN
Mark Matthews in
Missoula, Mont., contributed to this