USFS workers call for rescue after hearing wolf howls
KETCHUM, Idaho -- The sound of
howling wolves prompted two U.S. Forest Service employees to call for a helicopter
evacuation from the Sawtooth Wilderness late last month, officials said.
The employees, both from Utah, became frightened Sept. 23 after seeing wolves chasing a
bull elk across the meadow and later hearing the animals howl, said Ed Waldapfel, a
spokesman for the Sawtooth National Forest.
"They started hearing
wolves howling all around them," Waldapfel told the Idaho Mountain Express.
"They called on their radio or satellite phone and asked their supervisor if they
could leave the area."
Waldapfel did not know the
employees' names, but said they were from the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Ogden and
were conducting forest inventory work in the Sawtooths.
"No matter which way they went they said they could hear the wolves," he said.
"They admitted they were very scared and wanted to get out of the area."
The employees' supervisor called national forest officials and "asked for a
helicopter to come in and retrieve them," Waldapfel said.
The wolves never made any aggressive moves toward the pair. There are no documented cases
of wolves attacking humans in Idaho, though the employees may not have known that,
"They're not part of our regular work force and so they hadn't had training for this
kind of wildlife encounter," Waldapfel said.
According to a National Park Service fact sheet, there has never been a documented case of
a healthy wild wolf seriously injuring or killing a human being in North America.
Steve Nadeau, wolf program supervisor with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, was
shocked that howling could prompt a helicopter evaluation.
"Holy moly -- sounds to me like someone's read too many of Grimm's fairy tales,"
Nadeau said. "I'm flabbergasted that (the Forest Service) would go to that extent
over wolves howling in the woods because wolves howl in the woods all the time. That's how
Howling, especially in rocky, mountainous areas, can echo, said Lynne Stone, a Stanley
resident who regularly observes backcountry wolf behavior.
"There are great wolf-howl acoustics. They probably weren't surrounded by
wolves," Stone said. "I'd be more afraid of running into a moose cow with
calves, or a black bear with cubs, than encountering howling wolves."
Sawtooth National Forest officials will review training procedures to better prepare
out-of-area Forest Service personnel for the wildlife they may encounter while in Idaho,