Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 4/20/01

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 4/13-4/20, 2001

Monitoring

The alpha female of the Druid pack reportedly denned April 4 and most other females have since gone into dens. The Taylor Peak female was laying by what look to be a freshly excavated den on the 7th. The Washakie wolf was located by the old den on the 9th. Packs in the Sunlight Basin are also near last year's dens. Flights are being conducted to monitor and locate other packs that have apparently denned. This year seems a little earlier than past years but maybe the wolves are just adjusting to being farther south. The average den date for NW MT was around April 21 but it appears that most will have denned prior to that date this year. A flight in the Ninemile Valley indicated the alpha female was near a historic den site and separated from other pack members. The Boulder alpha male and a yearling were not located and the other radioed yearling was in its normal home range but alone.

Five members of the Gros Ventre pack including the old light-colored male killed an elk near the road in the Gros Ventre drainage. The alpha female was absent and is presumed to be denning. They were observed for much of the day on the 17th. Attempts will be made this summer to trap near the den and reestablish radio contact with this pack. A group of 3 unradioed wolves continue to be reported near Togowtee Pass.

The 5 recently released (3/28) Boulder wolves had regrouped (the male separated initially) and had stayed a few miles north of their release site along the west shore of Koocanusa Res. until the 10th. On the 14th, the male was by himself again north of Libby dam and the 4 females were a mile into Canada and about a mile west of Koocanusa Res. The "East Kootenai" pack containing a yearling female wolf originally from the Graves Creek Pack, was also located on the West side/end of Lake Koocanusa in Canada some 40 km north of the border.

The Nez Perce Tribe is monitoring 14 documented packs in Idaho as well as search for the 3-6 possible but undocumented packs and a possible 6-7 new breeding pairs. The Tribe will have a full plate this summer to confirm whether those wolf groups successfully raise young in 2001.

Please report wolf sightings!! 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

On the morning of the 14th, members of the Gravely pack attacked sheep on private land next to the Blacktail Game range northeast of Dillon, MT. Wildlife Services confirmed 8 ewes were killed and another 7 may have been wounded. Lambing will start in the next week. A herder reported that 5 wolves came near the sheep again over the weekend but were driven off. On the 18th, WS caught, radioed and released an unmarked gray adult male, assumed to be the alpha. We are tracking the radioed wolf and figure out how many wolves there are and what to do to prevent further problems.

Right now we are monitoring the Chief Joe pack after harassing them and scent marking their 2000 den site in the Paradise Valley area. Chief Joe moved back into the Park on the 10th and all the radioed pack members were still by their old den site. On the 15th fresh dirt was seen near their old den in the Park and the female has localized in that area. More recent information indicates she has denned in the Park near the pack's historic den. So maybe it (harassment) worked! A special thanks to the Turner Endangered Species Fund biologists for keeping on top of this one- looks like their diligent efforts paid off.

On the 17th, WS trapped and euthanized the lone wolf that had been killing sheep and cattle along the East Front west of Augusta, MT since last year. The unmarked black adult male had an old injury to his mouth and had lost a canine and other teeth. The pelt was rubbed but the skull will be saved for educational purposes. Good job WS!

A lone depredating wolf near Pinedale, WY killed a calf in the same general vicinity as previous depredations. WS is flying the area and shoot that wolf as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

Wolves continue to frequent cattle operations along the East Fork of the Salmon River and Big Creek drainages. Project personnel continue to work with livestock producers. RAG boxes continue to be deployed around calving operations. WS deserve special recognition for monitoring wolves and maintaining RAG boxes in that area.

Research

Nothing new to report.

Information and education and law enforcement

Because of the administration change and a backlog of personnel actions related to the large number of new fire positions in the western U.S., the two seasonal wolf jobs will not be filled until mid to late May at the earliest. Final applicants will be interviewed and notified ASAP, but with 85 applicants, competition will be intense.

Bangs gave a presentation to about 50 people at the Helena Rotary lunch on the 18th.

Smith and Jimenez participated in a live radio talk show of out Cody, WY on the 19th, mainly discussing wolf and elk relationships.

On April 19th, the Great Falls Tribune ran a front page story about the release of the Interagency Annual Wolf Report and the fact that the wolf population is reaching recovery level (30 breeding pair) and delisting is probably only 3 years away.

On the 20th, Smith traveled to Wolf Park in Indiana to participate in a series of wolf meetings.

The Wolf Park was Smith's first job with wolves (1973) even though they are all captive animals.

CONGRATULATIONS- The Nez Perce Tribe was the recipient of the National Wildlife Federation's 2000 Conservation Achievement Award for their work on wolf and salmon recovery. Nez Perce Tribal representatives traveled to Washington D.C. to participate in the awards ceremony. The Nez Perce said "It is honored to receive such a esteemed award and to be recognized for the Tribe's dedicated efforts to recover culturally significant endangered wildlife."

On the 11th, Niemeyer and Mack attended a meeting of the Idaho Legislative Wolf Oversight Committee as they discussed final edits to the draft Idaho state wolf management plan.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service issued a news release that confirmed illegal poisoning as the cause of death of 2 Idaho gray wolves. Necropsies confirmed that Idaho wolves #37 (found on Salmon-Challis National Forest) and B-96 (found about 20 miles north of Fairfield, ID and had also been shot) were killed by baits poisoned with Compound 1080. Possibly 2 other wolves from the Moyer Basin may have also been poisoned. Compound 1080 is a highly toxic substance that is illegal to possess. Service Special Agent Paul Weyland cautioned anyone in the out of doors "If you see a carcass, pile of meat, or pile dead birds or smaller mammals, please contact a law enforcement office immediately. We are very concerned for the safety of dogs and children, as well as wildlife that may be harmed by this illegal practice." FWS Service agents can be contacted at (208)378-5333 [Boise, ID], (208)523-0855 [Idaho Falls, ID], (307)261-6365 [Lander, WY], (406)582-0336 [Bozeman, MT] or (406)329-3000 [Missoula, MT].

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. The 2000 annual report was completed and all hard copies were mailed this week. The report is available at http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/wolf/annualrpt00/

Contact: Ed Bangs (406)449-5225 x204 or Internet-ED_BANGS@FWS.GOV