Saturday, April 30, 1994

Transplanted wolves to be overseen by Nez Perce

By Terri C. Hansen
Pacific Northwest Bureau Chief
News from Indian Country

LAPWAI, Idaho--Gray wolves, an important member of the animal family to the Nez Perce people, were transplanted into their traditional homelands in central Idaho three months ago. Now the responsibility for managing and monitoring the pack will be taken over by the Nez Perce Tribe.

The tribe approved a $151,000 contract earlier this month that would fund a tribal wolf biologist position to oversee the monitoring program. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will continue control of law enforcement to protect the wolves, which were listed in 1973 as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act in 47 of the lower 48 states.

Fourteen of the 15 Canadian gray wolves that were released have taken well to Idaho's backcountry, and hopes are high that a litter of wolf pups could be coming this spring.

The wolf a symbol of strength, might and stamina carries strong spiritual medicine among the Nez Perce. So powerful is their relationship that the Nez Perce refer to the wolf as Brother.
"The wolf has held an important cultural kinship with the Nez Perce Tribe throughout the tribe's existence," Nez Perce tribal executive committee chairman Charles H. Hayes said during wolf recovery plan hearings.

"The tribe looks forward to meeting our brother the wolf at the ancient spiritual sites of our ancestors. Only then will the tribe be able to capture some of the spirit medicine once held by the wolf and given to our tribe. Once again we'll be able to talk and listen to his stories of survival which connects us to our past and will help lead us into the future."

Gray wolves flourished in the northern Rocky Mountains until 1870, when their prey was over hunted and the wolves themselves were exterminated by settlers to protect livestock.