Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 10/27/00

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 10/21-10/27, 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 (9 wolves), Ninemile (9 wolves), Spotted Bear, Boulder (9 wolves), 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. Meier and volunteers caught, radioed, and released 2 young of the year females (56lb. And 58 lb.) in the Murphy Lake area. All traps have been pulled because of the start of the general big game rifle hunting season which starts this weekend.

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.

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

On the 20th WS investigated a wolf-killed calf east of Deerlodge, MT and set traps to try and radio-collar any wolves that returned to the carcass. This is in the Boulder pack’s territory (no radios in the pack but 9 wolves have been repeatedly seen) and the kills were in the same area as depredations by the pack several years ago. On the 21st, WS and the Service checked and pulled the traps (nothing caught) and investigated a report of several other suspected wolf kills of calves. Two calves were confirmed killed, another was not a depredation and remains of 3 others were too decomposed to determine cause of death. On the 23rd the area was flown with a fixed wing and helicopter was on standby to dart in case wolves had returned to the carcass or could be seen in the grassy rolling terrain. No wolves or wolf sign were observed. The producer reported that he appears to be coming off summer range with fewer calves than normal but will not have a final count till later in the month. The plan is to try and get a radio in the pack this winter or next spring so any problems can be detected and resolved quickly. The ranch may also start running bison in that area next summer which could lower the potential for wolf/livestock conflicts.

A possible wolf-caused calf loss was examined by WS and Service biologists in the Pleasant Valley area. The calf’s death was not caused by predators.

Research

Nothing new to report.

Information and education and law enforcement

Jimenez gave a presentation to about 50-60 people at a Wolf Awareness Week public meeting in Olympia, WA on the 21st.

Bangs gave a presentation to about 25 Bozeman High School students in Helena on the 23rd. On the 24th he gave a presentation to about 30 students for a Wildlife Management Issues class at Univ. of Montana.

Jimenez met with various state and federal cooperators in Jackson on the 23rd to discuss the continuing winter study of wolf/elk interactions at several Wyoming Game and Fish elk feed grounds.

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 in Denver (Lakewood), CO was be held on October 26th at the Holiday Inn at Hampden. About 64 people attended and about 35 testified. There was 100% agreement among speakers that they oppose reclassification and wanted more wolves, in more places under the ESA. The perception of an anti-wolf position by most western state legislatures was commonly stated as the primary reason many feared less federal protection would mean wolf persecution.

Portland Hearing-Seventy two people attended the afternoon session including 50 5th and 6th advanced students and their teachers. Nineteen people spoke including 11 students. The students were there as part of a prearranged project, which required them to research the issue, form an opinion, prepare a short presentation, and the best were chosen to speak. No news media. There were 24 people in attendance during the evening session, 6 of which were speakers.

Other hearings will also be held in 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