Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 9/22-10/6, 2000

Monitoring

Packs in the Yellowstone, central Idaho, and NW Montana are moving throughout their homes ranges. See the 1999 annual report http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/wolf/annualrpt99/ for a map of those pack locations and home ranges.

Breeding Pair update- the latest potential numbers of packs with pups indicate that there still maybe more than 30 breeding pairs in the northern Rocky Mountains (estimated max of 435-505 wolves). It is still possible that 2000 could be the first year of the 3-year count down toward delisting but unlikely because the "official" count is made on December 31 and some loss of adults and pups is expected due to illegal mortality, agency control actions and natural causes.

The tentative counts are as follows: NW Montana (estimated max. 80-100 wolves)- 6 yes and 4 maybe/likely- included in yes- Camas, Whitefish, Murphy Lake, Ninemile, Spotted Bear, Boulder, and maybe/likely- Graves Creek, Little Wolf, Danaher, and Alice Creek. Little Wolf, Danaher, Boulder, and Alice Creek are uncollared packs which we will try and get radios in this fall/winter. A bowhunter reported seeing a total of 19 wolves, including a group of 9 wolves and then later a group of 6 wolves in the same general area within the Boulder pack's territory (SW of Helena, MT) on Oct 1. The Boulder pack is suspected of having 4-5 adults and 5 pups.

In the Yellowstone Experimental Area (estimated max. of 165-185 wolves)- 11 yes, 2 maybe/likely, and 3 no. Yes are- Druid, Rose, Leopold, Chief Joe, Nez Perce, Soda Butte, Gros Ventre, Sunlight Basin, Absorka (#153), #152 group, and Taylor Peaks ( #115 Group). Maybe/likely is Beartooth (#9) and Wall Creek (uncollared). Packs that didn't breed are Crystal, Sheep Mtn. (3 males in captivity), and Teton.

In the central Idaho Experimental Area (estimated max. of 190-220 wolves)-16 yes (but several now have only 1 pup confirmed), 1 maybe/likely. Yes- are-Selway, Kelly, Chamberlin, Thunder Mtn., Landmark, Jureano, Moyer, Stanley, Orphan, Wildhorse, Big Smokey, White Cloud, Marble Mtn., Chamberlin #2 (female from the Chamberlin pack with pups but separate from the pack), Whitehawk, and B36 (relocated White Cloud female) which has traveled into the Big Hole in southwestern Montana. 1 maybe/likely- The Mt. Hagggin pair (relocated Twin Peaks wolves) are believed to have pups but a ground search was unsuccessful at counting them. Reports indicate an uncollared pack with pups (minimum of 9 wolves seen) north of Painted Rocks Lake along the Idaho/Montana border SW of Sula, MT. That area has been suspected of having an uncollared pack for at least 2 years now.

Please report wolf sightings!! Signs have been posted at several trailheads asking hunters to report wolf observations. We have copies of these signs for any agency folks willing to post them at trailheads, information centers, offices, or hunter check stations, etc. 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 rancher in Wyoming was issued a permit and ammunition to shoot wolves on his property. The less-than-lethal ammunition (a bean bag round) can be fired from a 12 ga. shotgun. It has a range of over 100 yards but is only accurate at less than 50m. The shotgun shells contain a lead filled bean bag that is designed to provide some non-lethal negative reinforcement and condition them to stay away from the ranch house, barn, or calving pasture.

A new take permit was issued to one sheep producer, who had earlier recieved one of two 45-day permits to shoot a wolf in the act of physically attacking sheep. The old permits expired August 24th and were never used. While there have been no further problems, wolves continue to be reported in the area by hunters and the herders, and the permit allows a problem wolf to be taken on this remote Forest Service allotment in the Yellowstone Experimental Population area. The sheep are moving off the allotment now. The new permit, allows one wolf that is seen attacking sheep to be shot. It expires October 15.

The Stanley Pack (central Idaho) control situation ended September 22 but has begun after another confirmed calf loss on Oct. 3rd. The pack comprised of 10-12 adults and up to 7 pups and killed a total of 40 sheep and 4 calves since 1997. This year the alpha male and a subadult female were relocated and a subadult female (B-69) was euthanized in an attempt to stop further depredations by the pack on sheep and cattle. On the 3rd, WS confirmed that a calf had been killed on private land. Traps were set and if the alpha female is capture she will be relocated. Other Stanley pack wolves will be euthanized. Ground shooting will also attempt to remove a couple of yearlings if they return to the depredation site. Cattle will remain on private pasture in the area for another month.

Research

Idaho graduate student John Oakleaf reported that he is wrapping up the second and last year of the cattle mortality study on the remote Diamond/Moose grazing allotment near Salmon, ID. The cattle have been coming off for the last 2 weeks but nearly 100 transmitters are still out. Mortality appeared low this year, one calf was killed by wolves and that carcass would not have been found except for the radio-transmitter, so no control was conducted. Calves also died from shipping (1) and one was impaled by a stick while apparently running from a fire. One cow died from natural causes. The final count on missing stock will not be known for several more weeks.

The project was carried out by John and his field crew, Colby Gardner and Jim Wiley. Congratulations on a job well done! While John's sample sizes were very low he believed that for every calf confirmed killed by wolves under historic herding practices, 2 others were probably killed by wolves but not located in this type of rugged remote forested allotment.

The "training" of wolves to avoid cattle as prey will begin the final round of testing this month. The program is a cooperative one between USDA Wildlife Services (Dr. John Shivik leads the research), the Service (who coordinates overall program), Turner Endangered Species Fund (cares for the wolves, provides logistic support, will assist with post release monitoring), National Park Service (provided the pen and will help with post-release monitoring), Defenders of Wildlife (supports aversive conditioning), and University of Montana (study design and expertise). The 3 wolves from the Sheep Mountain pack will be exposed to cattle (calves) again to see if they continue to avoid them. During twice weekly wolf feedings, members of the press will be allowed to accompany the TESF biologist.

During the first trails none of the wolves were suspected of attacking cattle. A calf was finally left in the pen overnight and was apparently undisturbed by the wolves, even thought they had not been recently fed . During the other trials wolves also did not even approach any of the calves placed in the pen. We are uncertain if this is because these wolves are simply are too shy to attack large prey while in the pen, or because of a single apparent training event by 1 wolf. That wolf had approached a calf hide with triggering transmitter on it, when it jumped back- suggesting its' collar may have been triggered. The other 2 wolves watched it approach the calf hide. None of them approached the hide after that incident. It is possible that this resulted in all 3 wolves avoiding anything smelling like cattle. The standard dog (Pet-Safe brand- no endorsement by the federal Government is to be implied) training collar is suspected of only being triggered on that one instance. Unfortunately the collars did not have a counting device to show how many times they may have been triggered, something that WS is attempting to add to future experiments. The study results so far indicate wolves may be quick social learners and one experience by one wolf may be quickly learned by other wolves who have simply watched. If these early encouraging results continue to indicate these wolves' lack of interest in cattle, the 3 wolves will be radio-collared and released in mid-October back in the original Sheep Mountain pack territory north of Gardiner, MT. If they depredate on livestock again they will be killed.

Information and education and law enforcement

The week of October 15th is National Wolf Awareness Week. We have 100's of the posters (drawing of Mexican wolf on front and national distribution map and information on back) to display if anyone (agency or educators only please) wants them. They are great to hand out to classrooms, etc., if you are doing that type of thing. Call 406-449-5225 x204.

NATIONAL WOLF RECLASSIFICATION PROPOSED

The proposal can be accessed at http://midwest.fws.gov/wolf. The 120-day public comment period ends NOVEMBER 13th. 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 or by mail to: Content Analysis Team, Wolf Comments, 200 East Broadway, P.O. Box 7669, Room 301, Missoula, MT 59807.

National Reclassification Public Hearings

Public hearings will be held at the same locations as the informational meetings to hear testimony from the public. A hearing officer will run the meetings and comments will be recorded by a court recorder. People wishing to give testimony can sign up for the random drawing one hour before each session. Hearings will be held 1-3PM and 6-8PM in Salt Lake City, UT on Oct. 12th at the Hilton Salt Lake City Center; Helena, MT on Oct. 18th at Cavanaugh's Colonial Inn-Best Western; Denver (Lakewood), CO on Oct. 26th at the Holiday Inn at Hampden; Spokane, WA on Oct. 17th; Everett, WA on Oct. 19th; Portland, OR on Oct. 24th; LaGrande, OR on Oct. 26; Boise, ID on Oct. 31 (Halloween); and Idaho Falls, ID on November 2. Hearings in the Midwest include: October 10, 2000 - Madison, Wisconsin; October 16, 2000 - East Lansing, Michigan; October 17, 2000 - Marquette, Michigan; October 18, 2000 - Duluth, Minnesota; and for the New England area- October 12, 2000 - Orono, Maine.

Bangs and Smith gave presentations to about 100 people at the Predator Conservation Alliance conference "Predators, People, and Places: Finding a Balance" at the Mammoth Hotel in Yellowstone National Park on the 7th.

Smith gave a talk to about 25 members of a business group "Leadership Bozeman" at Big Sky Resort on the 5th. He met with MSU and TESF representatives in Bozeman to discuss possible research in and around Yellowstone National Park on the 4th.

USFWS employees Fontaine, Meier, office assistance Greg Strandberg, volunteer Daly Sheldon, and Val Asher (TESF), and some volunteers arranged by Defenders helped build a woven wire fence in the Tom Miner Basin. The fencing was purchased by the cooperating landowner and Defenders of Wildlife. MT DFW&P bear depredation specialist Mike Madel visited the ranch last month and helped design the night pasture to protect the ranch's sheep and guard dogs from the Chief Joseph pack. That pack regularly visits that part of their home range and have killed guard dogs and sheep on several occasions. Fencing is hopefully part of a long term solution to what was becoming a chronic problem.

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