Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 5/11/01

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 4/30-5/11, 2001

Monitoring

In Wyoming, it appears that the Sunlight, Absoroka, Washakie, and Beartooth (#77 rather than old #9) have denned. It also appears that the Teton pack has localized and may be denning, indicating a new wolf probably joined/replaced one in this group of what was four 3-year-old siblings. Gros Ventre pack has probably denned but since there are no radio collared wolves, their status will take time to sort out. In Yellowstone Park, all established packs appear to have denned, including the Yellowstone Delta pack with is just south of Yellowstone Lake. A TESF biologist saw the radioed Sheep Mountain wolf with at least another wolf near Mill Creek in the Paradise Valley.

The relocated 5 Boulder wolves have split into 2 groups. The yearling male and a sister are just south of Libby Dam. The 2-year-old and her 2 yearling sisters are west of Kalispell by Ashley Lake.

On the 6th, a 68lb. female yearling black wolf, suspected to be with the N. Camas pack, was radio-collared in the N. Fork drainage of Glacier National Park. On the 10th, another 66lb. black yearling female from the N. Camas pack was collared and released. Special thanks to volunteers Carrie Rodgers, Liz Bradley and Therese Hartman for assisting Meir to trap. Capture efforts for the N. Camas pack ended on the 11th but will begin in the South Camas.

This field season will be a busy one for the Nez Perce Tribe. To date 10 wolf packs and pairs are suspected of denning. Packs are Chamberlain Basin, Jureano Mountain, Landmark, Orphan, Thunder Mountain, Wildhorse, and Wolf Fang. Three pairs are suspected of denning for the first time, including B78, B50, and B59. Additional monitoring is required to determine the denning status of the remaining 7 documented packs and 3 suspected wolf pairs.

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. Discovery of 2 more packs that successfully bred in 2000 will likely make 20001- year 2 of the 3-year count down toward reaching the delisting goal of 30 breeding pairs in MT, ID, and WY.

Control

The radio-collared male in the Gravelly pack was seen with an uncollared gray and an uncollared black wolf in the East Fork area of the Gravelly range. No den has been located so far and no further depredations have occurred. Trapping is ongoing and the situation is being monitored closely. A yearling male, darted on the 27th, is doing fine and in the large enclosure on the Flying D Ranch, near Bozeman, MT. Efforts to conclude this control action are being made by possibly capturing the yearlings that have been seen and pulling traps once those wolves are placed in captivity for future relocation. If additional depredations occur one of those wolves could be released back in the Gravelly pack’s home territory to locate any other pack members. An inaccurate report distributed by unknown persons, that the entire Gravelly pack was about to be killed, generated dozens of e-mails from concerned citizens. A factual response was drafted and sent out, that seemed to calm things down.

Wolves continue to frequent cattle operations in the East Fork of the Salmon River, upper Salmon, and the Big Lost River. Remaining members of the Stanley pack have been frequenting a dead animal pit at the Challis landfill. ID wolf personnel, especially WS specialist Rick Williamson (special thanks to Rick), have been maintaining RAG boxes and providing information to and working with local livestock producers and managing the wolves in an effort to discourage conflicts.

The lone uncollared black depredating wolf near Pinedale, Wy is still traveling widely and is occasionally reported, but has not killed additional livestock. The kill order for Wildlife Services and lethal take permit issued to 2 local landowners are still in effect.

 

Research

This winter’s feasibility studies by the Montana State University, with cooperation from Yellowstone National Park, the Service, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and private landowners on wolf kill rates and elk movements on migratory elk herds west of Yellowstone National Park are being analyzed. It appears that close ground and aerial tracking of the Chief Joe and Taylor Peak pack is feasible and that MSU will likely pursue expanding these studies into graduate student programs beginning this year.

A research program "Predator damage compensation programs: A proposed study for a social and economic evaluation" is being supported by a host of groups including the Service, Wildlife Services, Forest Service, University of Montana, and Defenders of Wildlife. The project will look at private versus government livestock damage compensation programs in terms of user satisfaction and effectiveness.

Information and education and law enforcement

Nez Perce biologists met with the ID Conservation League and Wood River Land Trust in Hailey, ID on May 3.

Niemeyer participated in a panel discussion hosted by the Utah Chapter of the National Wildlife Federation in Salt Lake City, UT on the 28th. Niemeyer also participated in a meeting of the Oregon Wolf Informational Group held in Pendleton, OR on the 7th. Niemeyer participated in a wolf informational event hosted by the Colorado Chapter of the NWF in Denver, CO on the 12th.

A large coalition of conservation groups supports further discussion of wolf restoration in the southern Rocky Mountains of CO, NM, and UT. They issued a news release about this subject on the 10th. These groups conducted a recent public survey that indicated, as had previous polls, that there was widespread public support for wolf restoration in CO. There is no doubt that enough public land exists to support several hundred wolves in southern CO. The presence of wolves would be enjoyed by most people, and the effect of wolf predation and competition would be ecologically desirable. However, the Service position has been that unless wolves in CO would lead to the successful recovery of either the gray wolf in the northern Rocky Mountains or the Mexican wolf, the Service has no other mandate under the ESA for any federally led wolf recovery efforts in the southern Rocky Mountains.

The certification list for the two GS-7 seasonal Service wolf biologist positions (one in Helena, MT and the other in Lander, WY) have not been completed yet and the positions will likely not be filled until late May-early June.

On the 3rd, Bangs (on vacation) gave a talk at Phantom Ranch in the bottom of Grand Canyon National Park to about 80 people. Several people asked about the potential for wolf recovery in Grand Canyon National Park. Yes, wolves certainly once lived in the Park and yes, habitat and prey along the North Rim (National Forest and Park land) could support a small population of wolves today. However, the Service’s position is that it will not pursue wolf restoration under the ESA outside of the current recovery programs in the mid-west, northwest and southwest, unless other habitats (such as those in the southern Rockies, North Rim, etc.) are required for the successful completion of those existing programs.

Smith gave a talk to about 30 people in Troy, Ohio at a Wildlife Art exhibit sponsored by the Yellowstone Foundation.

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