Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 5/12/00

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 4/28_5/12, 2000

Monitoring

Core packs in the Yellowstone, central Idaho, and NW Montana recovery areas that have bred are at dens. See the 1999 annual report at http://mountain_prairie.fws.gov/wolf/annualrpt99/ for a map of pack locations and home ranges.

In Yellowstone, Leopold, Rose (2 litters), Druid (at least 2 litters maybe 4), Nez Perce, Chief Joe, Gros Ventre, #9, #153, Sunlight, 152 (west of Gardiner), and 115 Madison Valley have likely denned. Crystal, Soda Butte, Teton, and Sheep Mountain have not denned. That makes for 12-14 females in 10-11 separate groups that probably have produced pups this year.

In central Idaho, poor weather has reduced the number of flights but it is estimated that 8 reproducing packs from 1999 and another 4 new groups could have denned. In addition, the relocated pregnant females from the defunct Twin Peaks and White Cloud packs have not been located recently but are likely at dens. That could mean as many as 14 females may have produced pups in central Idaho in 12-14 separate groups.

In northwestern Montana it is suspected that 8 groups could have denned and another 1 or 2 are suspected. As many as 38 females, in 35 groups (several of which will not met the criteria for breeding pairs) may have produced young. Potential breeding pair counts at this time are very tentative because some wolf pairs (or especially lone females) may temporarily localize and still not produce pups, either because of a false pregnancy or loss of pups to disease or other natural factors. If mortality of adults because of agency control to resolve livestock conflicts, illegal killing, accidents, and natural causes, as well as pup mortality from natural causes including disease is similar to past years it is unlikely that 30 breeding pairs will successfully raise pups this year. That means the 3 year countdown toward reaching the delisting criteria will likely not begin this year, so the recovery goal will likely be reached in 2003 at the earliest.

In an almost Shakespearean twist, the alpha female of the Druid pack #40 was killed. The Druid pack is most famous for its aggressive behavior toward competitors, including the killing of other wolves, coyotes, and mountain lions. Saturday evening (5/6) the alpha female was seen aggressively "disciplining" her adult daughters. The next morning #40 was found severely wounded and very weak, she died shortly after. Wounds indicated she was killed by other wolves in her pack. Her pups are being cared for by other pack members. I guess even in nature there is something to the old adage "Live by the sword, die by the sword". It will be interesting to see if the pack’s hostile disposition changes with her death. A full necropsy is being conducted to confirm the initial examination.

Boyd and Meier are trapping in NW MT. Boyd collared and released a female in Glacier National Park. She (#127) is now 4-years old, very thin, but apparently not injured. Her radio was put on in May 1998 but had stopped transmitting in October. She was still wearing the collar but it had a bullet hole through the transmitter. Meier collared and captured a female from the Graves Creek pack, which had been caught and ear tagged as a pup in 1999. Volunteers are on board and helping with that effort. We welcome Karie Rodgers from Wise River (who also volunteered in 1999) and Julianne O’Rielly from Tasmania. We appreciate their efforts and skills. Trapping will continue until early June.

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

Control

A wolf was chasing a calf on private property in Tom Miner Basin but was harassed from the area by the rancher. A possible wolf depredation was reported near Wolf Point, MT (extreme eastern MT) but was likely caused by coyotes.

Wolves from the Graves Creek pack killed a calf near Eureka, MT. A young female was trapped the next morning near the ranch by the Service trapping crew as part of the ongoing monitoring effort. She was radio-collared and released near the site before the depredation was discovered. WS confirmed the depredation later that day. Trapping to radio-collar and release other wolves in that area continues but no removal is planned at this time.

A calf was killed on the outskirts of Lincoln, (NW) MT and WS investigated what was first suspected as a bear depredation. Sightings, wounds on the calf, and large tracks indicated a single wolf or wolf-like canid. Traps have been set to capture, collar and release-on-site any wild wolves in the area. Any suspect "captive" wolves or wolf/dog hybrids would be removed. No radio-collared wolves are suspected to be in the area.

Research

Tagging of cattle calves for the second year of the Diamond/Moose began on the 11th. A radioed female has moved into the vacant old Jureano pack territory and has apparently denned. The calf mortality study, organized by the Nez Perce Tribe, is support by a diverse group including livestock producers, conservation groups, and agencies.

Information and education and law enforcement

Niemeyer gave a presentation to about 30 people at a meeting of the Western Montana Stockmen’s meeting in Ronan, MT on the 6th. Carter and Roy Heberger (FWS Idaho)also talked to about 25-30 people at the first meeting of the Oregen Wolf Working Group in Pendleton, OR on the 1st and 2nd.

Bangs was in WV at the National Conservation Training Center during the first week of May for supervisory and team building training. While there he gave an evening presentation to about 30 Service and training center employees. Jimenez was there the following week for Service new employee training.

Jimenez and Doug Smith spoke to about 40 agency representatives at a meeting of the Jackson Elk Management Group the week of May 1st. Smith spoke on a panel discussing wolves and wolf management for the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks biologists meeting on May 3. About 125 attended the meeting in West Yellowstone, MT.

Boyd gave presentation to the annual meeting of the NW US Outdoor Writers in Salem, OR on the 29th. About 30 writers attended.

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