Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 4/21/00

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 4/7-4/21, 2000

Monitoring

Core packs in the Yellowstone, central Idaho, and NW Montana are generally in their normal home ranges and should be checking out denning sites in the next few weeks. See the 1999 annual report http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/wolf/annualrpt99/ for a map of those pack locations and home ranges.

Most alpha females from established packs have denned. At this early date it appears that there may be fewer potential breeding pairs going into this summer than last year. It appears unlikely that 30 breeding pairs will successfully produce pups in 2000, meaning the three-year count down toward delisting will not begin until 2001 at earliest. It appears as if the number of wolves and breeding pairs in all three recovery areas may be entering a phase of a slower increase than occurred during the years immediately after reintroduction.

In the greater Yellowstone area it appears that 9 groups may have denned. Leopold, Rose, Druid (maybe multiple litters), Nez Perce, Gros Ventre, Sunlight Basin, famous #9, and possibly 147 west of Cody, and a pair that has been hanging out west of Gardiner have apparently localized. Unfortunately the alpha female form the Soda Butte pack was found dead near a moose kill and it is suspected she was killed by a moose before her pups were born. Females in Sheep Mountain, Crystal, and the Teton packs do not appear to have bred. There is a possibility of a breeding pair in the Taylor Fork northwest of Yellowstone National Park and the Gravelly Range. Further monitoring throughout the summer will shed more light on these initial observations.

In central Idaho, the White Cloud, Twin Peak packs which comprised 2 of the 10 confirmed breeding pairs in Idaho in 1999 are gone (see control). Early indications are that 8 radioed and possibly 4 non-radioed groups could den, about the same number of potential dens suspected in spring 1999. Because of rugged and remote terrain it will take much of the summer to confirm these early observations.

In NW Montana the Spotted Bear pack (the relocated former Bass Creek female and her 5 pups and the relocated 1998 Pleasant Valley male) has denned. In addition it appears that 7 other packs could have denned. It will take several addition flights and some ground observations to confirm the potential number of breeding pairs. The absence of radio-collars in several packs (Boulder, Whitefish, Wigwam) is hindering monitoring efforts.

Please report wolf sightings but especially reports in localized areas or of wolves "barking" when people are near to help us locate any new wolf dens.

Control

The "judas" wolf from the defunct Twin Peaks pack that was left at the Broken Wing Ranch remains near the ranch and has been digging up and feeding at the bone pit remains. It has not been observed with any other wolves. It will continue to be monitored.

The remaining members of the White Cloud pack killed more calves on April 8 and 2 subadult pack members were shot on April 13. On April 20, 2 wolves, including the relocated alpha male who made it back some 100 miles in 19 days, were shot. The remaining 2 pack members will be killed if the opportunity arises.

Investigation of a reported wolf depredation on the Blackfeet Reservation near the Canadian border was investigated by WS and Tribal personnel. Coyote depredation was confirmed.

Research

Nothing new to report.

Information and education and law enforcement

Niemeyer gave a talk to about 20 people in Lewiston, MT on the 19th.

Fontaine talked with the Spotted Bear Ranger District, Limits of Acceptable Change group on April 8 in Kalispell, MT. About 30 people were present.

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Jimenez met with students and faculty at Northwest College in Powell, WY to discuss students help in monitoring wolf packs west of Cody, WY on April 14. On April 25 he talked at the Jackson Ranger District grazing permittees meeting in Jackson, WY.

The Annual Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Conference held at Chico Hot Springs, April 11-13 was attended by about 120 people. Only about were from resource management agencies. Juan Carlos Blanco gave a very informative talk about Wolf Recolonization in Spain for the Conference banquet. People seem to have the same relationship with wolves about everywhere. Idaho USDA Wildlife Services got a special award for their effects to resolve wolf/livestock conflict in Idaho. WS employee Rick Williamson got a special achievement award from the Nez Perce Tribe for his efforts. The annual Alpha Award went to- soon to retire- Service biologist Roy Heberger from Boise, ID. Congratulations to all the Idaho crew for a job well done under some difficult circumstances.

The Service's weekly wolf report can now be viewed at the Service's Region 6 web site at http://www.r6.fws.gov/wolf in addition to the regular distribution.

Contact: Ed Bangs (406)449_5225 x204 or Internet_ED_BANGS@FWS.GOV