Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 8/04/00

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 7/31-8/11, 2000

Monitoring

Denning packs in the Yellowstone, central Idaho, and NW Montana are moving pups to rendezvous sites. See the 1999 annual report http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/wolf/annualrpt99/ for a map of those pack locations and home ranges.

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

In Wyoming a freshly killed cow was located near the old #9 den site and #9 was nearby. The carcass was being fed on by a female grizzly with 2 cubs. As the plane circled the bear became nervous and moved away from the carcass, and #9 rushed in to feed. The bear then rushed back to defend the carcass. This went on for several minutes but finally the bear moved off (probably because it was the animal most disturbed by the circling aircraft) and #9 claimed the carcass. WS investigation indicated it was a confirmed grizzly kill, but this does indicate that a host of scavengers and predators are in competition for carrion and kills. A similar situation occurred on an allotment near the Gros Ventre pack rendezvous site, which confirmed grizzly kills were usually also visited by wolves. The reverse has also been documented. Grizzly bears commonly take wolf kills away from entire packs. This situation complicates identification of the cause of livestock losses and emphasizes the need for quickly finding and investigating carcasses to accurately determine cause of death.

Volunteers monitoring wolves in Wyoming located a late-born calf and cow surrounded by coyotes, near where coyotes killed a calf earlier this summer. The rancher was notified and he moved the calf from the area.. He really appreciated the help of the volunteers.

On August 6, WS confirmed that 2 lambs were killed near Lincoln by members of the Alice Creek

Pack. An effort was made to capture, radio collar and release at least one member of the pack on site. The herd was moved to new pasture on the 7th away from the site of the depredation. This was part of their scheduled move for the herd. WS removed their traps on the 9th because of high temperatures and fire danger. There have been no additional depredations. If there are no additional depredations and fire restrictions are lifted we will try in Early September to radio collar a few pack members to better monitor the pack.

On August 7th WS confirmed that up to 4 wolves scattered 1 band of sheep and attacked a guard dog associated with another band of sheep in the Gravely Range. Two black wolves were involved in the attack and may be members of the Wall Creek pack. The herder was able to scare the wolves away from the guard dog and the sheep. Several lambs broke their legs and the guard dog was injured but survived thanks to the herder and the studded leather collar it was wearing. Because of the number and distribution of sheep, the number of guard dogs being used, and the remoteness and difficult access into the area, trapping is not considered to be an effective control measure. Therefore, a take permit was furnished to 2 permittees grazing sheep in the area. The permit allows them to kill 1 wolf in the act of killing livestock. Such take must be reported within 24 hrs or as reasonably possible given the access limitations. If this happens then the other permittee will be notified and no additional wolves will be taken at that time. If additional conflicts occur then another permit may be issued. There have been no additional conflicts at this time.

Research

Nothing new to report.

Information and education and law enforcement

On the 4th, Bangs visited the MT FW&P Wall Creek Game Range near Ennis, MT and met with Fred King, the manager, A. Dood, MT FWP Endangered Species biologist, and outdoor writer Jim Zumbo to discuss wolves and state big game management.

Boyd gave a talk to about 20 people for the Nature Conservancy on the evening of the 3rd near Choteau, MT.

Bangs took part in "Wolves in the Southern Rocky Mountains: Population and habitat viability assessment" August 8-11. The meeting was hosted by the Defenders of Wildlife, Turner Endangered Species Fund and the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group. About 25 people attended and discussed potential wolf recovery in that area and the Service’s proposal to reclassify the gray wolf.

NATIONAL WOLF RECLASSIFICATION PROPOSED

The Service announced a proposal to change the status of the gray wolf 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 keeping the experimental population areas as they are, 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 be unlikely (30 states). The proposed rules for managing wolves listed as threatened in the NW U.S. are discussed in detail in the proposal. They are very similar to what is currently allowed in the Yellowstone and central Idaho experimental population areas. The proposal can be accessed at http://midwest.fws.gov/wolf. There will be a 120-day public comment period. 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, use the graywolfmail@fws.gov email address, or phone 612-713-7337. A final decision is likely in July 2001. All comments on the proposal should be sent to graywolfcomments@fws.gov

National Reclassification Meetings

Public meetings on the wolf reclassification proposal are being scheduled. Meetings will be held in Denver (8/15-Holiday Inn at Hampton) and Grand Junction (8/16-Holiday Inn), CO; Salt Lake City (8/17-Hilton Salt Lake City Center), UT; Helena (8/31-Cavanaughs Colonial Inn-Best Western), Kalispell (9/6-West Coast Inn), Missoula (9/7-Best Western Grant Creek Inn), and Bozeman (9/14-Windgate Inn), MT; and Casper, (9/12-Casper Events Center) WY. Additional meetings will be held in Spokane (8/15-West Coast Grand Hotel) and Everett (8/17-Holiday Inn and Conference Center), WA: Idaho Falls (8/22-West Coast Idaho Falls Hotel), and Boise (8/24-The Grove Hotel), ID; Portland (8/29-Shilo Inn Portland Airport) and LaGrange (8/31-Blue Mountain Conference Center), OR. The informational meetings will be held from 1-3PM and 6-8PM. The same presentation will be given every half-hour. Questions will be answered but oral public comment will not be recorded. When the schedule is finalized, the meeting locations and other information about them will be widely publicized. Hearings (oral comment recorded) on the proposal, which will be fewer in number, will be scheduled in October. Public comments can be submitted by mail, email, or during hearings and all comments will be incorporated into the final decision.

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