Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 10/13/00

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 10/6-10/13, 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 may be 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 are 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. Meier and volunteers caught, radioed, and released a 56-pound female pup in the Wolf Creek/Murphy Lake area.

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. Unexpectedly a young female wolf radio-collared and released in a recent control action, and believed to be from the Gros Ventre pack, left the pack and has joined the Teton pack. Her move left no radioed wolves in the Gros Ventre pack but 2 radioed animals in the Teton pack. Attempts were made to trap and place another radio in the Gros Ventre pack but were unsuccessful. Further attempts will be made this winter/spring via darting or trapping.

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

The Stanley Pack (central Idaho) control situation ended this week without any more wolves being relocated or killed. However, the pack recently moved near an active livestock allotment and the producer was issued a permit to kill a wolf in the act of taking livestock.

Jimenez investigated a report of 2 colts being killed about 2 days apart on 10/10. It had taken a few days for the report to reach him and it had snowed so much of the evidence was covered or consumed by coyotes and other scavengers. However, the producer took photos and they showed wolf tracks, some of which were still visible, and a scattered wolf carcass. The first horse was a 250lb. colt (4 months old) and little evidence remained. A few days later a 450lb. colt (6 months old) was killed in the same area. Based upon evidence it is possible wolves killed the first colt and probable they killed the second. This occurred near Dubois, WY and a non-radioed group of wolves have been known to visit this area. No control is planned at this time other than trying to continue to capture, radio-collar, and release a member of the group.

 

Research

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. The wolves will likely be released around November 1st.

 

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

A hearing was held in Salt Lake City, UT on Oct. 12th at the Hilton Salt Lake City Center. Nearly 100 people attended and about 60 gave testimony. All but 2 speakers opposed reclassification, wanted the most legal protection for wolves possible under federal law, and desired that wolves be restored to other areas, especially Utah.

The next hearings will be held in Helena, MT on Oct. 18th at Cavanaugh’s Colonial Inn-Best Western; Denver (Lakewood), CO on Oct. 26th at the Holiday Inn at Hampden.

Other hearings will also be held in 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.

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