The idea had been tossed around in some pro-wolf circles: Mark wolves killed naturally or by the state with hunting tags, to count them under state hunting quotas.
Then last November, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Idaho Wildlife Services sent a helicopter to cull seven members of the Basin Butte wolf pack outside Stanley. And Lynne Stone, director of the Boulder-White Clouds Council, who had followed the pack for years, tracked down the body of its alpha female and attempted to claim it as her own kill.
Stone put a wolf-hunting tag on the carcass and took it home, calling the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to report it as a kill. But Fish and Game disagreed and Senior Conservation Officers Lee Garwood and Merritt Horsman confiscated the carcuss in December.
The problem, said Gary Hompland, regional conservation officer out of Jerome, is wolves killed in control actions become the property of the state under Idaho code. Fish and Game collects animals from such shootings and other incidents each year to use for educational purposes or to sell in an annual parts sale and fur auction.
“As far as this one goes, it’s not in very good shape,” Hompland said, suggesting the wolf may end up at the auction. “I can’t imagine it’ll be worth much.”
Stone was issued a warning for her action. As far as Hompland knew, it was the first time a wolf advocate had actually tried to get an enforcement kill counted under the hunting quota — this one would have been for the South Mountains zone.
Some wolf supporters questioned after the incident whether Stone was singled out for her past advocacy. Hompland acknowledged the close ties Stone had developed with the animal, but said it didn’t exclude her from following the rules. The officers did sell her another 2009 wolf tag, he said, something allowed when a hunting tag is used improperly.
“Her motivation really doesn’t change the law,” he said. “The law is still pretty clear.”
Stone, who said she also planned to use the carcass for educational purposes, still isn’t convinced. She noted the government doesn’t reclaim a number of carcasses and questioned the purpose of keeping them out of the public’s hands.
“We’ve got dead wolves lying all over the state,” she said. “And there are a lot of people who would salvage those wolves and make use of them.”
Before recovering the wolf, Stone said she called a number of regional Fish and Game offices for guidance and couldn’t get a consistent answer on her rights. She still disputes the evidence of sheep and cattle kills the agencies used to justify shooting the wolves, and noted how records of legally killed wolves show that some hunters cut off feet and other body parts, making it hard to tell if they were illegally trapped first.
Stone is keeping track of the wolf’s body through records requests to Fish and Game. And though not a part of a recent lawsuit challenging Wildlife Services’ actions within the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, she is talking to a lawyer about the issue in general and said she may supply a declaration for that suit.
Disheartened after the Thanksgiving shootings, she still sees a need to counter the government’s treatment of the wolves, she said.
“They’re nothing but vermin to those two agencies.”