Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 12/22/00

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 12/15-12/22, 2000

MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY NEW YEAR

Monitoring

Packs in the Yellowstone, central Idaho, and NW Montana are moving throughout their home ranges. See the 1999 annual report http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/wolf/annualrpt99/ for a map of those pack locations and home ranges. The annual "official" count of wolf breeding pairs and new pack home ranges will be published in the 2000 annual report which should be out by February 1, 2001.

The Fang Mtn. pack of 7 wolves in central Idaho was left off the last list of Idaho wolf packs.

The Sheep Mountain trio (now a pack of 7) was observed with 4 other uncollared wolves in the old Sheep Mountain territory on the 20th. At the Sheep Mtn. Trio release, the Service predicted that the best case scenario would have been if the 3 Sheep Mountain wolves could join other uncollared wolves in the area to form a radioed pack and that group would not attack livestock again. The first part appears to have happened, time will tell about the second part. The Chief Joseph pack of 8 went north to Emmigrant, MT and was located near a captive colony of wolves. They were lying by a group of horses but neither the horses nor wolves appeared alarmed. The horse owner was notified as a precaution.

In northwestern Montana, the Murphy Lake female showed back up with the pack. The S. Camas lone female was seen with another wolf, so that is probably the start of a new pack. The new pair was on the east side of McDonald Lake while the Whitefish pack that has apparently been following the pair around in Glacier National Park was on the west side of McDonald Lake. Fontaine established a bait station, from road-kills he has been collecting, in the Boulder pack area. He hopes to draw in the Boulder pack for possible darting or snaring this winter. Fontaine also stood by ready to assist with wolf darting, while WS was doing some aerial coyote gunning in the Gold Creek and Boulder areas on the 20th. Uncollared groups of wolves are in both those areas and WS offered to help dart and radio-collar wolves if any were located. No wolves were found but we thank WS for their offer and efforts.

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 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.

This winter National Park Service, Service, Nez Perce Tribal biologists will cooperatively helicopter dart wolves in packs throughout the 3 states in an effort to increase radio-collaring and monitoring of wolves. Capture efforts in December were called off because of bad weather and because most everyone will be enjoying the holidays with family. Capture operations will begin in the New Year. In addition, use of draw baits and neck snares with safety locks will be used opportunistically to place radios in several uncollared new packs.

 

Control

A pro-active relocation project for 3-4 wolves that have recently been located in the Big Hole Valley of Montana was postponed. The most recent radio-telemetry flight did not locate any of the targeted wolves despite an intensive search. Monitoring will continue. As soon as a decision about any potential capture and/or relocation attempts are made local resource agencies and the public will be notified as to the Service’s intentions.

A calf was reported killed by wolves north of Browning on the 20th. A WS investigation confirmed that a 600lb. heifer was attacked by a pair of wolves, it died shortly after the investigation. The pair’s tracks were evident and they headed off to the north when they left the immediate area. WS will attempt to set non-lethal neck snares to radio-collar and release a wolf on site, if the pair returns to the carcass and only one wolf is captured. If both wolves are captured, they will be relocated to western Montana. Thanks to WS for such quick follow-up on this report.

The Service and TESF biologists are working with Defenders of Wildlife and the affected landowner to complete the fencing project in the Tom Miner Basin. This is especially important now that Chief Joe has begun its winter pattern of occasionally leaving the Park and swinging through that area to check out sheep and guard dogs.

Research

Discussions between the Nez Perce Tribe, Service, and Yellowstone National Park with the University of Idaho are ongoing about the use of wolf radio telemetry location data to support a Masters student project. That project would use GIS mapping and wolf location data to identify the critical attributes of areas used by wolves and predict what other areas in MT, ID, and WY are likely to be colonized by wolves or are most suitable to support wolf packs.

 

Information and education and law enforcement

Bangs, Fontaine, MSU professors Scott Creel and Bob Garret, and TESF biologists met in Bozeman on the 18th, to discuss a MTFW&P and MSU graduate student study of elk/wolf relationships in the Gallatin and lower Madison Valleys. Local landowners are very supportive of the project and have already contributed significant resources. The feasibility study will look at wolf/elk/hunter interactions in that area. Hopefully if the study appears feasible MSU will be able to start a graduate student project next year. The Service will attempt to put both GPS and standard radio-collars on wolves in the Taylor Peak and Gravelly packs to assist in this year’s intensive monitoring effort. Snow tracking indicates the Taylor Peak pack is composed of the 2 radioed alphas, 4 pups and possibly 2 helpers.

Most of the wolf staff will be taking at least some time off between Christmas and New Year’s. Fontaine -(406)449-5225 x 206- will be in the Helena area and will probably be the best for emergency messages. Helicopter capture operations will start January 3rd weather depending so final calls and last minute organization of that will begin just after New Year’s.

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