Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 2/23/01

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 2/09-2/23, 2001

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 are being finalized and will be published in the 2000 annual report which should be out later this month.

Attempts to helicopter capture and radio-collar additional wolves in packs in Wyoming are continuing but weather and helicopter availability did not come together during the past 2 weeks. The Taylor Peak pack was seen and had 5 animals. Efforts will be made this winter to put another radio-collar and GPS collar in this group to support a feasibility study and possible graduate student project through Montana State University. A biologist from the University is on-site tracking and monitoring wolves in the Madison Valley now to investigate prey selection.

In Idaho, Niemeyer, Babcock (Nez Perce Tribe), Williams (WS), and Fontaine put out 8 new collars in 5 packs during the week of the 12th. Those packs were: White Hawk (6 wolves, 2 old and 2 new collars), White Horse (5 wolves, 1 old and 2 new), Stanley Basin (4 wolves, 3 old and one new), Moyer (3 wolves, 1 old and 2 new), Jureano (7 wolves, 1 old and 1 new), and a new unidentified pack was found near Clayton, ID (3 wolves, one old collar). Of concern was the low number of wolves overall, only 28 wolves were found in these 6 packs. Congratulations on a job well done. Having this many radio-collared wolves in what has been a livestock conflict area should help with the use of radio-activated sirens, by providing producers with receivers, and targeting control of individual problem wolves.

 

Please report wolf sightings!! Signs were distributed 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 reaching the 30 breeding pair recovery goal, each wolf pack becomes very important.

Control

Bangs (FWS), Smith (NPS), Phillips, Asher, Bradley, Temple, and Kunkel (TYESF), Shivik (WS), and Fischer (DOW) met in Bozeman on the 20th to discuss non-lethal control methods/research, the current aversion conditioning using dog training collars and post-release monitoring of conditioned wolves.

 

Research

New "training" collars include a loud sound device in addition to the regular dog collar and will be tested by Wildlife Services. It is hoped that the sound alone will be enough of a conditioning tool to stop predatory behavior and that the dog training collar will no longer be required. The 5 Boulder wolves now in captivity will be tested using the standard dog training collars before they are released in NW Montana this spring.

Monitoring indicates that the 3 Sheep Mountain wolves are still in the old Sheep Mountain territory but have split into 2 groups and that both will likely be breeding pairs this spring. One group of 3 uses an area west of Highway 89 and have the two shyest "conditioned" wolves and a dispersing female from the Rose Creek pack. The other bolder "conditioned" wolf hangs out with 4-5 wolves near Dome Mtn. These wolves were seldom seen by the hundreds of hunters in this area which suggests they are wary of people (a good thing). There have been no suspected problems with livestock.

The Sheep Mountain (and possibly Chief Joe when they are in the Paradise Valley) wolves will be intensively monitored during Yellowstone National Park’s semiannual 30 day winter predation study starting March 1. Biologists from the Turner Endangered Species Fund will be picking up wolf kills to get species, sex, age, and condition information to add to the Park data base for their studies and to get more insight into the concerns of local residents about the potential impact of these wolves on elk and deer populations in this area. Local WS, FS, MT FW&P contacts and local residents were informed about the expected increased level of field activity in the lower Paradise Valley for the next month.

Volunteers with the Wyoming wolf program are again tracking and following wolves in the Gros Ventre, Teton, and Sunlight Basin areas. Volunteers are investigating wolf kills and monitoring the potential effect of wolves on the winter elk feeding programs in Wyoming. Cooperators include the Service, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Teton National Park, National Elk Refuge, and several National Forests.

 

Information and education and law enforcement

Meier participated in the 31st semiannual Interlocal meeting on the North Fork of the Flathead on the 13th. About 50 people, including local residents and various agency folks attended.

On the 9th, Jimenez gave a talk at the Interagency meeting of BLM, Forest Service and WY Game and Fish in Jackson, WY. About 30 agency representatives attended.

On the 18th Fontaine and Asher met with about 30 local people at the Elk Meadows Ranch in the Madison Valley. The ranch owners believed it would be good to let everyone know about the wolf recovery program and ongoing activities in the Madison Valley. A big thanks to the ranch owner and manager for organizing and hosting the event.

Bangs participated in panel discussion before about 400 people at a sold out event in Denver, CO on the 12th. The event was sponsored by the Colo. Wildlife Federation. It started with a film by the NWF "Wolves" and then a panel discussion by Dr. Tom Compton representing the Colo. Cattleman, Mr. Russ George, Director of the Colo Div. Of Wildlife, Ed Bangs, and Mike Phillips of the Turner Endangered Species Foundation. On the 15th, Bangs gave a talk to about 150 people at the OR Chapter of The Wildlife Society Annual Meeting in Portland, OR.

The Annual North American Wolf Conference will be held at Chico Hot Springs, April 3, 1PM until noon, April 5. Information about the conference or to register can be viewed at www09.tierranet.com/forwolves.org/confer2001.html or contact Suzanne Laverty at 208-424-9385. The final agenda will be available March 2nd.

In addition, Wildlife Veterinary Resources is hosting the Second Wolf Field Techniques Workshop Monday April 2 and Tuesday, April 3, also at Chico Hot Springs. Wildlife VR is gathering wolf professionals from around the continent to present information on state-of-the-art equipment and techniques for wolf capture and handling for research and management. Wolf professionals are invited to speak. Speaker abstracts should be completed by February 15, 2001. For a proposed agenda and abstract guidelines visit the Wildlife Veterinary Resources at www.wildlife-vet.com

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