Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 6/01/01

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 5/18-6/01, 2001

Monitoring

The relocated 5 Boulder wolves have separated and are scattered throughout NW Montana, most east of Lake Koocanusa and 2 west of the National Bison Range.

A dispersing wolf from the Yellowstone area #155 was located in the West Fork of the Madison River (West of West Yellowstone, MT). She was associated with two of the "trained" and released Sheep Mountain males during the 2001 breeding season. On the 23rd she was seen near a freshly dug den and had apparently moved her pups.

Observations show the Teton pack (3 black adults) has at least 4 pups (2 black and 2 gray). Pup color becomes fixed as early as 2 weeks of age. The Washakie pack (5-7 adults) has a minimum of 5 pups (3 black and 2 gray). Radio-collaring efforts on the Sunlight pack began this week with the help of volunteers. Hiring for the Service seasonal field wolf biologist positions has been delayed but hopefully crews will be hired by June 18.

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

A report was received about a pair of wolves near (harassing) some cattle just south of Hamilton, MT (Bitterroot Valley). A local sheriff deputy took a quick look but nothing was seen. No problems have been reported since.

A wolf or pair of wolves killed 6 adult buck sheep on the 18th and another 3 on the 20th, near Humphrey, Idaho, just south of the Montana/Idaho border by Monida Pass. The rams belonged to the USDA Sheep Experiment Station out of Dubois, Idaho. Wildlife Services confirmed that a wolf or wolves were involved. No radioed wolves are known to be in the area. Traps have been set to try and radio collar a wolf and figure out what is going on.

A black wolf was seen circling some horses in the Tom Miner Basin (just north of Yellowstone National Park) on the 31st. The rancher, who we had been in contact with previously and had given him some cracker shells, scared it off. Asher checked it out and Chief Joe wolf #203 was right above the ranch a few hours later. The rancher was trained on use of bean bag shells and given a permit. Great response Val.

Research

Carter Niemeyer, Val Asher (TESF), Stewart Breck (USDA WS Research), Rick Williamson (WS) and Dr. Pletscher (UM) met with graduate student Liz Bradley in Challis, ID the 23rd and 24th. They discussed Liz’s project to analyze all wolf depredation data and look at non-lethal methods to reduce wolf/livestock conflict. They spent one day looking at the RAG boxes that were being used in that area and meeting with local landowners.

Bangs attended a meeting at MSU on the 22nd. The meeting was held by MSU professors, graduate students, and MT Dept. of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks regarding the feasibility studies done this winter in the Madison and Gallatin Valleys, involving wintering elk and the Chief Joe and Taylor Peak wolf packs. The field biologists were very successful at locating wolves from the ground, finding wolf kills, documenting elk distribution, and herd composition. The one GPS collar put out on a Taylor Peak pack female pup dropped off and was recovered. Those data are being analyzed. Coordination between the field biologists and cooperating agencies was outstanding as were relationships with local landowners. It was agreed that these projects should proceed and be completed by MSU graduate students for their Masters thesis.

On the afternoon of the 22nd, Bangs met with leaders of the Predator Conservation Alliance in Bozeman, MT to discuss their desire to assist in reducing wolf/livestock conflict on individual ranches. They are investigating ways their organization can help provide on the ground support to individual ranchers to reduce the potential for wolf/livestock conflict. They had good intentions and appeared to sincerely want to help. As a start they were trying to start a dialog with all the various parties involved and search out how they could do the most good for wolves.

Information and education and law enforcement

NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw will air a news piece on aversive conditioning of wolves and the role of the Turner Endangered Species Fund in wolf recovery tonight, (Friday evening, June 1.)

On June 1st, Bangs participated (via phone) in a London, England TV (also available worldwide on computer website) about wildlife reintroduction. They were interested in the wolf as one of their examples.

Smith, Bangs, Phillips, and Buddy Fazio (the new Service Red Wolf Recovery Coordinator in N. Carolina) gave presentations at the third annual meeting of the Wolf Taxonomy/Red Wolf working group in Yellowstone National Park on the 24th. Dr. Ron Nowak, several zoo specialists, wolf specialists also attended.

Niemeyer met with representatives of the Idaho Cattlemen’s Association to discuss recovery goals, wolf monitoring, depredation efforts, and state wolf planning in Boise. ID on the 24th.

The alpha male of all wolf biologists, Dr. Douglas Smith (Project Leader for Yellowstone National Park wolves- and role model to all of us who bask in his shadow), was married on the 26th. Christine is a wonderful woman and the couple seemed a perfect match, although several folks thought Doug may have married far above his station in life. The barn dance was a hoot and even the wolf biologists were fun. Congratulations and Best Wishes, Doug and Christine.

Bangs will be gone from June 7-17. Please contact Joe Fontaine at 406-449-5225 x206 in Helena on wolf related issues.

 

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 is available at http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/wolf/annualrpt00/

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