StoryCorps
6:00 am
Wed September 11, 2013

Idaho StoryCorps: Remembering The First Wolves Released In The Gem State

Suzanne Stone helped release wolves like this one back into the wild.
Credit U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Ever since wolves were re-introduced in Idaho in 1995, they’ve been in the spotlight. No matter where you stand on wolves, their re-introduction remains a story unto itself.

Suzanne Stone remembers the day the first four wolves were released in Idaho. She was there. Stone, who's been an advocate of wolves for 25 years, told her story to Debbie Courson Smith inside the StoryCorps booth in Boise.

Suzanne Stone talks about the first release of wolves into Idaho.

“The wolves had been picked up in Alberta (Canada),” said Stone.  “They were transported by a Sherpa airplane into Montana where they crossed through customs and then to Idaho.  They were trucked over in a moving truck and brought into Salmon. 

"There was an injunction, a federal injunction or lawsuit that had been filed to stop the wolf re-introduction, filed by the Farm Bureau.  The judge did hold them in captivity so the wolves actually had to stay in their little cages for a much longer period of time than we what we had hoped or what anybody had planned. 

"It’s really stressful for a wild wolf to be in any kind of cage, let alone one that’s the size of a dog kennel.  They were super stressed.  We had to find immediate protection for them because there was also threats going on from the local community.  People were threatening to come kill the wolves, they were threatening to kill the people that were involved in bringing them.”

"People were threatening to come kill the wolves, they were threatening to kill the people that were involved in bringing them." - Suzanne Stone

“We had meetings with the press.  There were hundreds of reporters.  At the end of one of our press conferences, there was a gentleman in the back with a long black coat on and you could tell that he was carrying something underneath his arm.  It looked like a bible that had been wrapped up in leather and had the zipper around it, but it was not quite the right shape for one and I could tell he was carrying a firearm. 

"I, at that point, was starting to look for the exits trying to figure out are we going to make it through the day.  He waited until the last person had left in the room and came up to me.  I had no idea who this person was.  He came up and said, hi, my name’s Steve Magone, I’m the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Law Enforcement Agent and I’m here to help protect you and the wolves.  I was really relieved it was him!

“We ended up taking the wolves, putting them in this warehouse, putting armed guards out there with them.  I remember walking to dinner that night, there was an actual party going on at the Farm Bureau office in Salmon.  They were really happy about winning the injunction.  We had no idea how long the wolves were going to stay in captivity at that point or if we’d even be able to release them.

“But the next morning the judge lifted the injunction, and said go ahead.  We had a snowstorm.  We’d planned to take the wolves into a certain place and couldn’t get into it because of the storm.  So we decided to drive them, a convoy of trucks, to Corn Creek, which is near Salmon, on the border of the wilderness area. 

"So we took the four wolves, loaded them up, and took them down this road.  The road had a good foot of ice on it. It was incredible.  We had to get a snowplow in to open the road ahead of us.  Steve asked me, ‘do you want to ride with me?  Because if there is an ambush on the road, I’m going to be up in the lead vehicle and we’ll be the one’s getting shot at.’  And I remember looking back at the other vehicles, he’s the only one with a gun, I’m staying with you, the only one who can shoot back!

Suzanne Stone has been involved with wolves and their welfare for 25 years.
Credit Suzanne Stone / Defenders of Wildlife

“So we drove them in, very slowly behind the snowplow and took the wolves out.  You couldn’t walk on the road it was so slick. You kind of had to hold hands with other people and shuffle around.  But we got the wolves all positioned up and starting opening the first pen. 

"There were a lot of people there just watching.  Even just like the local sheriff department and a lot of conservationists and stuff there too, and Fish and Wildlife Service and some of the tribal members.  They did a blessing ceremony for the wolves, a song for them, which was amazing, and then we started letting them go.  The first wolf took off, went through the snow, stopped, looked back at us and took a big bite of snow and off it went."

Suzanne Stone released a female wolf, who didn’t want to leave her crate.  She remembers shaking the kennel to convince the wolf to leave.  Four wolves were released on January 14, 1995. Stone currently works for Defenders of Wildlife.

StoryCorps is a national initiative to record and collect stories of everyday people. Excerpts were selected and produced by Boise State Public Radio.

Copyright 2013 Boise State Public Radio