Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 7/17/00

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 7/9-7/17, 2000

Monitoring 

Denning packs in the Yellowstone, central Idaho, and NW Montana beginning to move pups around and some pups are being seen about ground and at new dens/rendezvous sites. See the 1999 annual report http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/wolf/annualrpt99/ for a map of those pack locations and home ranges.

At the current time there are potentially 12 breeding pairs in the Yellowstone area, 14 in central Idaho and 7 in NW Montana for a total of 33 breeding pairs. This could mean that 2000 is the first year of the 3 year count down towards delisting but that is unlikely. The "official" count toward the minimum delisting criteria of 30 breeding pairs is determined on December 31.  Because of wolf losses during the summer due to human-caused (control, illegal killing, and vehicle accidents) and natural factors (disease, prey-caused injuries, and accidents) it is likely the final count will be somewhere between 25 and 30 pairs. The Service will consider the wolf population recovery target met when there are a documented minimum of 30 or more breeding pairs that are fairly evenly distributed throughout western Montana, Idaho, and northwestern
Wyoming for 3 successive years.

Tentative pack counts for each of the recovery areas are as follows:

There are a minimum of about 16 packs or groups of wolves in the Greater Yellowstone area. At this time they may compose at least 12 breeding pairs (ie an adult male and an adult female that raise at least 2 pups until Dec. 31). Early observations suggest that 16 litters were born to 13 separate groups. The 13 packs that may have pups are- Druid (3 litters-21 pups), Rose (1 litter- 5 pups), Leopold (10 pups maybe 2 litters), Chief Joseph, Nez Perce, Soda Butte, Gros Ventre (5 pups), Sunlight (4 bk pups), #9 (west Cody)(denned but no pup count), #115 (Madison Valley), #152 (Gardiner), #153 (5 bk pups)(west Cody), uncollared black female (Madison Valley). Three groups without pups are- Crystal, Sheep Mtn (in captivity to be released Oct 2000), and Teton Pack (just located in the Green River Area).

In northwestern Montana there are a minimum of about 9 packs or groups of wolves. Based upon movements of collared females or reliable observations, 7 have litters. That makes a potential of 7 breeding pairs in NW Montana. The groups that probably have pups area- Graves Creek, Whitefish, Murphy Lake, Little Wolf, Ninemile, Spotted Bear, Danaher, and Boulder. South Camas did not apparently den. Wolves, that probably travel into Glacier National Park in winter, were spotted just above the border in Canada at the old Spruce Creek den. Searches for reported wolf activity continue in the Lincoln, Thompson River, and Libby areas.

In central Idaho there area minimum of about 14 packs that have apparently produced pups. Field work to confirm reproduction in other packs is ongoing. The relocated White Cloud female has been located near Lost Trail Pass and apparently has at least 2 pups with her. Her 2 relocated male pack mates were last located in the Big Hole, one north of Wisdom, MT and another near Jackson, MT. The relocated (pregnant) Twin Peaks female has still not been located despite continuing searches. A member of the Landmark pack that had been captured several weeks ago as part of the monitoring effort apparently died from a trap-injury related infection.

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. Thanks to those who have been forwarding us reports it has helped located several potential new packs. When we are this close to 30 breeding pair each wolf pack becomes very important. 

Control
A dead calf that was being fed on by a coyote was located near the Sunlight Basin den. A WS investigation indicated the calf was killed by coyotes.

Research 
Training collars were placed on the 4 Sheep Mountain wolves that are being held in a large enclosure on a private ranch near Bozeman, MT. The first training session should begin the week of the 14th. The dog training collars are made by Pet-Safe, a product specifically endorsed by the Humane Society of the United States for humane animal training. The Service has responded to nearly 500 email, fax and letter complaints from people responding to a Fund for Animals alert.  Many appeared simply misinformed about the program and thanked the Service for responding to their concerns. Many others still believed that ranchers should be responsible for their livestock's safety and predation should be just one of the costs of running that business. 


Information and education and law enforcement
Jimenez talked with 20 students at the Teton Science School on the 6th. On the 12th he was on a 2 hour radio talk show- KODI- out of Cody. WY.

On the 29th, Dr. Smith gave a presentation to 35 people with the Outdoor Life writers/editors group. That same day he gave a talk to about 40 people for an elder hostel trip to the Park. 

NATIONAL WOLF RECLASSIFICATION PROPOSED

Bangs helped with D.C., House and Senate briefings, East and West coast news conference calls and a special interest group meeting on the 11th. On July 11, the Service announced a nation-wide proposal to reclassify the gray wolf. The proposal will recommend changing the status of wolves throughout most the lower 48 states. The gray wolf is currently listed as endangered everywhere but Minnesota and within the experimental population areas in MT, ID, WY and AZ, NM. The proposal will recommend not changing anything in the experimental population areas, downlisting the wolf to threatened status (where they will be managed with more flexible regulations than is allowed under endangered status), throughout most of their current or potential range, and removing the gray from the endangered species list where their presence will always be highly unlikely. The proposed rules for managing wolves listed as threatened are also be discussed in detail in the proposal. The complete information and the proposal can be accessed at http://midwest.fws.gov/wolf beginning July 11. There will be a 120 day public comment period, including informational meetings (likely in August) and hearings (likely in October) in various parts of the country. Anyone wanting to be placed on the Service's mailing list should write to US Fish and Wildlife Service, Gray Wolf Review, 1 Federal Dr., Fort Snelling, MN 55111-4056 or use the graywolfmail@fws.gov email address or phone 612-713-7337. A decision is unlikely until a year from now approximately in August 2001. There was widespread media coverage including most national newspapers, radio, including NRP, and NBC evening news.

On the 14th, Bangs, Nez Perce biologists, met with representatives on several conservation groups in Boise, ID to discuss wolf control procedures and the national reclassification proposal.

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