Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 6/22/00

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 6/18-6/22, 2001

Monitoring

The seasonal field crew started on June 18th and employee orientation was held that day. The new employees are Paul Frame, Paul Hansen, and Andreas Chavez. All three have extensive wolf trapping and handling experience and we are lucky to have hired such a skilled field team. Trapping and collaring efforts will continue throughout the summer. On the 21st, Frame caught a wolf in the Thompson Pack area but it pulled out of the rubber-jawed trap. This is the second time this has happened this summer. Anyone else having this happen?? Asher and Bradley observed 4 pups in the Freezeout pack. This is the pack near the West Fork of the Madison River consisting of female #155 and her brother #161.

Idaho tribal biologists have been amazingly successful. They only had funding for 2 field crews this summer but already their crews have confirmed at least 44 pups born in 9 packs. The tribe will be investigating 23-26 potential wolf dens this summer.

A Wyoming field crew is trapping on the Diamond G ranch near Dubois, Wyoming The Washakie pack has about 5-7 adults and 4-5 pups. About half of the pack members as well as this year’s pups are black. The crew has also been monitoring the wolves at night to see if they are among the 400 cow/calf pairs and yearlings on the ranch and Forest Service allotments. During the day the crews have been helping the ranch hands ride cattle looking at fences, or dead or wounded livestock. This year the Defenders of Wildlife bought $3,000 worth of hay to keep cattle and calves on the winter pasture near Riverton, WY longer so elk calves could be born before the bovine calves were placed among the grizzly bears and wolves on the Diamond G. In addition, the Defenders bought $1,500 worth of hay to keep the ranches horses nearer the barn when the wolves first starting denning on the ranch in late April. The ranch manager has been very cooperative and has provided housing on the ranch for Service field crews.

Please report wolf sightings but especially reports in localized areas or reports of wolves "barking" when people are near to help us locate any new wolf dens and rendezvous sites. Thanks to those who have been forwarding us reports it has helped located several potential new packs.

Control

WS investigated the death of 2 calves laying close to each other near Darby, MT. One calf was intact with a few light bite marks and the back half of the other calf was missing. A wolf track was located within 100 yards of the site but the evidence is inconclusive as to the cause of death. The situation is being monitored. WS also investigated a possible bite to a horse in the Fortine area. It turned out to be a cut from some unknown object.

A lone black uncollared wolf killed 10 sheep near Cokeville, WY this week on a public grazing allotment. WS confirmed the depredations were wolf-kills and the Service authorized WS to lethally take the animal at first opportunity.

The lone wolf that began attacking sheep near Humprey, ID several weeks ago has continued to attack sheep and has now killed 31 buck sheep. The Service authorized WS to lethally take one wolf ASAP.

Wolf #196, was very close to the site of a calf depredation on Pine Creek in the Paradise Valley, just north of Yellowstone National Park, on the 17th. WS confirmed the calf was killed by wolves and possibly more than one wolf was involved, maybe 3. The cow had the end of her tail bitten off but was otherwise not injured. By the next morning a grizzly bear had taken over the carcass. Wolf #196 was one of three male wolves from the Sheep Mountain Pack previously involved in cattle depredations and the initial subjects in a WS-led cooperative research program on aversive conditioning. WS trapped in an attempt to catch and radio-collar any other wolves in the area but the effort was unsuccessful. Wolf #196 will be killed ASAP and efforts to place a collar on other wolves, hopefully members of the Mill Creek pack, will continue.

The Whitehawk pack control action near Stanley, Idaho continues. Efforts are being made to capture a couple of adult pack members and relocate them. Lone adult wolves can successfully raise pups, despite some false claims being made that removal of even 2 adults may cause the pups to starve. Right now the pups are too large to be run to ground and it is very unlikely they can all be captured. It is likely that pups younger than 6 months couldn’t survive without at least one adult to care for them or supplemental feeding. The wolves moved into heavy timber where trapping is the main tool. If those actions fail and/or depredations continue wolves will be lethally removed. The pack consists of 4 adults and 9 pups. The pack killed sheep on a public grazing allotment but an electric fence was put up to temporarily discourage further depredations. The pack then killed a calf on a nearby private ranch. This control action is being closely monitored by both strong wolf proponents and opponents and appears to be very contentious.

Research

A new less-than-lethal munitions source was tested by LE agents. The new 12 gauge rubber/foam rounds are very accurate at more than 100 yards, nearly twice the distance as the bean bag rounds currently being used. A thousand rounds have been ordered and they will be issued in the future.

Information and education and law enforcement

On the 21st, Fontaine gave a talk to about a dozen local landowners, Forest Service and Wildlife Services representatives in the new #155 pack territory, Freezeout pack, in the West Fork of the Madison River (SW of Ennis, MT). She has at least 4 pups and a former pack mate (both from the Rose Creek pack in Yellowstone) is helping her raise them. Rubber bullet training will be given in July.

Doug Smith gave a presentation at the Society of Mammalogists annual meeting in Missoula, MT this week. Smith’s talk was on "Estimating wolf kill rates".

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