The Timberline Wolf pack: centuries of hatred and persecution led to wolf pups unjust death
Updated: Sep 22
By Staci-lee Sherwood
The history of wolves is a long sordid one. For centuries wolves have been vilified by the Catholic church and through folklore. Who didn’t grow up hearing about Little Red Riding Hood and her fateful meeting with the Big Bad Wolf? In ancient times Roman mythology revered wolves associating them with the famous Capitoline she-wolf that nursed the mythical founders of Rome, twins Romulus and Remus. The wolf had once been a respected warrior and symbol of cunning and intelligence, all positive attributes most humans hope to emulate. Following their ever changing relationship with humans seems more akin to watching the formation of a blood thirsty cult descend into madness. This cult like mentality is determined to wipe out what they fear at all costs even at their own detriment. There really is something about wolves that make sane men feral.
The bronze sculpture portraying the nurturing side of the She-wolf
Passages throughout the bible use wolves as a symbol of greed with a dark predatory nature. Unfortunately for the wolf they have been associated with the worst of mankind. Wolves are repeatedly mentioned throughout scriptures as an enemy of flocks: a metaphor for evil dishonest men who lust for power and are often used as a metaphor for Satan. The Catholic church uses the negative imagery of wolves to create a sense of real devils prowling the real world. These teachings still go on today. The power of an image can do as much damage as words can.
For those not easily indoctrinated by religion there are fables like Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs. Here we have life lessons in the form of animals taking on human behavior. Pigs don’t build houses of sticks nor do wolves huff and puff and blow them down. When parents read these to young impressionable children they are teaching them to fear an animal they will probably never come in contact with but their fear will turn to hatred. As adults that hatred can be manipulated into voting for unscientific and barbaric policies like we have today while being told they’re justified. The public believes this propaganda because as children they were taught to trust adults (government) and to fear predators and the unknown (wolves). When we use the common phrase ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ we don’t realize we are perpetuating the same myths used to malign wolves without even knowing it.
This is a musical video on Youtube for kids to watch. The image portrays the wolf as a vicious killer. The subliminal message is we should all fear the wolf.
This book can be bought on Amazon. There are now a few modern books showing the wolves point of view trying to dismantle the systemic view of the evil wolf. This fear and hatred is still very much engrained in our culture, values and religious beliefs. This helps to keep the antiquated barbaric policies going. It may just be a drawing but the image shows the menacing wolf and the innocent human.
We can’t change the future if we fail to see how the wolf was a scapegoat by religion as a way to gain power and control. This has proved to be effective as wolves are still thought to be the embodiment of evil in men today. For centuries the church has gone to great lengths to keep this myth going and have a hand in how maligned wolves are and the justification given to the extermination.
The U.S. always had a policy of killing predators under the ruse of protecting humans and livestock. The last wolf known to have been shot was in Yellowstone National Park in 1926.After that only a small population managed to survive as they retreated to the back woods of Michigan and Minnesota. Many looked for these elusive ghosts but being extremely wary of humans they were never spotted. Alaska was the only other state that wolves were known to live in the wild until January 1995 when they were reintroduced to the lower 48 states. After years of legal battles, public hearings and public outcry wild wolves trapped in Canada were brought to the U.S. Some were released in Yellowstone National Park while others in central Idaho. Up until then the policy toward wolves was kill kill and kill again there was no sense of balanced ecosystem or even humane treatment.
Government backed wolf genocide thrived and sadly is still very much alive today
In April of 1995 Chad McKittrick, of Red Lodge, Montana shot and killed Wolf Number 10. He was the alpha male of the Rose Creek Pack, and laid dying while his mate Number Nine tended to their pups. Mckittrick first claimed he thought the wolf was a rabid dog then later said he thought the wolf was a threat to livestock. McKittrick was the first person found guilty of killing an endangered wolf and after three years of appeals served just 3 months in jail. Once the fanfare of the shooting died down for the next couple of years the park and surrounding rural communities seemed to flourish with the influx of eco tourists. They brought money and exposure for the wolves, as they flocked to the park in hopes of seeing the now famous wolves.
In 1999 I traveled to the park to observe wolves for two weeks. While there I spoke with Hank Fisher who was project leader and David Mech who many consider the modern day wolf expert. Our group talked at length with Doug Smith, charged with insuring the wolves survival for the park, about hopes for the future and tolerance of their existence. All seemed well but trouble was brewing just under the surface. One could sense the long felt resentment by many local communities, especially the ranchers who felt shut out and were determined to make their resentment known. The warm sentiment and tolerance soon faded as once again wolf hatred, no longer just simmering, was about to come to a boil. That quickly turned to anger and the wolf wars was back on with a vengeance.
In 2003 Carter Niemeyer, a biologist and the wolf reintroduction coordinator for USFWS Idaho, was out surveying when he noticed fresh wolf feces. He then located where recent wolf activity was, put out a trap and once caught an adult wolf now had a radio collar on. That same year Dick Jordan had moved to Timberline High School in Boise, Idaho to become the Science Dept. Chair. After Niemeyer discovered the pack not far from where the school was it was Suzanne Stone, International Wildlife Coexistence Network who asked USFWS for the wolf pack to be the new school mascot and the Timberline Wolf mascot was born. She also set up the Track-a-wolf program in Idaho and had schools decorate the radio collars. After establishing the TREE club (Teens/teachers restoring earth’s environment) at a former school Jordan founded the club at Timberline High School.
For years Jordan and his TREE club kept track of the wolf pack. They visited wolf kills, heard them howl and followed their tracks. They went on field trips, explored the world around them and gained priceless knowledge that can only be found with this type of engagement. This type of personal experience forges a bond with nature and as Jordan explains “The students came away with a deep personal connection. These interactions became less frequent as protection was removed and Idaho opened up a hunting season in 2011 and all out war on wolves with SB1211 in 2021.”
The wolf howl is like nature’s song in the forest
May 2021 would prove to be a fateful year. An unprovoked pre-emptive strike with no scientific backing happened. Three wolf pups just days old were brutally killed while in their den, the remaining five pups killed two months later. The USDA’s Wildlife Services agency chose livestock over native wildlife. The Biden administration defended their actions. The pup killing was in response to complaints from a rancher grazing livestock on public lands but as yet no proof of this pack predating his livestock has been released. Shortly after news broke of the killing several wolf conservationist groups called on the USDA to suspend the killing of wolf pups on all public lands. “All wolf killing is predicated on a lie that wolves cause significant livestock deaths," said Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense. “They don’t."
A statement made by Jenny Moffitt, Under Secretary of Agriculture for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, made it clear the agency would continue to use lethal control to protect livestock over native wildlife in a letter. Moffitt confirmed that the department killed eight “juvenile wolves” that were attacking livestock. However Moffitt does not have her facts straight they were not juvenile wolves as stated they were all too young at the time of the killing. “We are shocked that the Biden administration condones the slaughter of weeks-old wolf pups on public lands at the behest of private livestock interests,” said Talasi Brooks of Western Watersheds Project. “Wolves — especially wolf pups — pose no significant threat to livestock.”
It took a FOIA request before the high school students at Timberline High School learned what happened to the pups. The news was devastating to students and teachers who spent years studying and bonding with this pack. “It’s disheartening to see the USDA justifying killing our pack’s innocent pups as ‘humane management.’ The data from Idaho’s Wood River Wolf Project study should’ve been enough to persuade politicians of the efficacy of nonlethal methods, yet the USDA and Biden administration continue to practice inaction.” said Michel Liao, a Timberline High School student.
Photo credit Suzanne Stone International Wildlife Coexistence Network
With public pressure for an explanation growing Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack confirmed that the Wildlife Services agency killed the pups. The agency, who changed their name from the more accurate Animal Damage Control, is charged with shooting, poisoning and trapping any animal perceived by ranchers as a threat. Their ‘shoot, shovel, shut up’ policy kills more than 4 million animals annually though actual numbers are kept form the public. These numbers represent many endangered native wildlife from eagles, bears and wolves to pets and even the very cows and sheep they supposedly kill the wildlife for. Their practices are so insidious it’s aggressively guarded from public view. Read more about what they really do in this expose from former staff
If we are to continue to have wolves, or any wildlife, we must put aside antiquated fables, pseudo science driven by politics and base policy on sound reason and facts. “We tell our students that science is key in wildlife management, yet scientific evidence tells us that killing or disturbing stable wolf packs leads to more livestock conflicts, not less, and it undermines our native ecosystems,” said Dick Jordan, Timberline High School science advisor.
Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) just recently signed a bill that permits private contractors to kill 90% of the state’s wolf population. The bill allows for a year round trapping season, a most barbaric practice inflicts pain and starvation. For wolves on private property, with the owner’s permission, there are no weapon or motor vehicle restrictions and on designated public lands dogs may be used to hunt wolves, the law reads. Animals have been known to chew off their limbs in a desperate attempt to free themselves. Many trappers don’t even check the traps for several days knowing the animal is slowly dying. Just in 2020 it’s reported 327 kills in Montana and 584 in Idaho. That is not sustainable ‘management’ but all out assault on wolves.
As Carter Niemeyer states "The Timberline pack has been persecuted, off and on, over the last 18 years for killing domestic sheep on portions of Boise National Forest (public land). The pack includes, perhaps, three adult wolves since the pack has been reduced in numbers by WS and hunters/trappers with legal permits to kill them since delisting in 2011. The effects of killing the pups which reduces or eliminates any recruitment to the pack to sustain its growth could eventually lead to it total elimination (hunting, trapping and snaring will continue unabated from the present time until the end of March on public land and continue year round on private lands in Idaho)." For a more in-depth account of this pack from Niemeyer’s personal account click here https://wildearthguardians.org/brave-new-wild/opinion/the-ongoing-persecution-of-a-public-lands-wolf-pack/
The Wolf Conservation Center reported on October 20, 2021 that the ‘Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) announced that they killed the three youngest members of the Lookout Mt pack to protect cows. The wolves, a yearling and two six-month old pups, were shot from a helicopter. The Lookout Mt pack, once numbering 11 wolves, has been reduced to at most 3 wolves.’ This failed barbaric policy designed to protect livestock while annihilating what’s left of our native wildlife will continue until the American people finally wake up and say enough is enough. Let’s hope that happens while we still have wildlife living on our public lands.
As for the future of the Timberline pack the TREE club plans a trek back to the den site this spring. A documentary is in the works along with forming more branches of TREE and doing educational webinars. Their two major goals are working toward protection and education. They also have plans to host TREE’s Ignite the Change event to share stories of how people are successfully coexisting with wolves and other megafauna. If you would like more information on how to support their project you can contact Dick Jordan, Science Advisor and Presidential Science Award Recipient at SaveOurTpack@gmail.com or follow their facebook group
“I think it's amazing that I don't even need to have seen wolves before to have them impact my life so greatly.” Michel Liao Timberline High School student.
Photo courtesy Dick Jordan
If you would like to take action to save the wolves click here https://secure.wildearthguardians.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=1161
If you would like to voice your concern to Idaho office Wildlife Services State Director Jared Hedelius 208.616.5779 firstname.lastname@example.org or main office in D.C. 202.799.7095
For more information about wolf policy :
Suzanne Asha Stone, International Wildlife Coexistence Network, (208) 861-5177; Suzanne@wildlifecoexistence.org
Talasi Brooks, Western Watersheds Project, (208)336-9077; email@example.com
Brooks Fahy, Predator Defense, (541) 520-6003;
Katie Bilodeau, Friends of Clearwater, (208) 882-9755;
Andrea Zaccardi, Center for Biological Diversity, (303) 854-7748; firstname.lastname@example.org
The Yellowstone wolf’s future seems a bit in peril
What is it about wolves that makes sane men feral
The pups yelp for freedom in their lonely cry
Why must such innocence be fated to die
Can no one see the senselessness of life wasted
Even before truth lets maturity be tasted
The wolf is a great treasure of beauty to us all
Lest we forget how extinction exacts the fall
Must all the wolves die so the ranchers can profit
Is no one offended enough to try and stop it
Greed and fear strike a deep and embittered blow
But those of us with souls are still in the know
We must stand together and stop this mad endeavor
Because my dear friends Extinction lasts Forever