Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 6/29/00

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 6/23-6/29, 2001

Monitoring

On the 24st, Frame caught and radio-collared the alpha female of the new Fishtrap Pack (old Thompson River area). The capture was only 3-4 miles from where wolves killed two llamas this winter. The 63 pound black female was lactating and in excellent condition. She was caught in one of the rubber-jawed traps and was held by two toes. The Service’s new seasonal biologists, Paul Frame, Paul Hansen, and Andreas Chavez, have extensive wolf trapping and handling experience and will be trying to put out collars all summer. A flight saw a black adult, gray adult and 3 pups (2 bk and 1 gray) in the newly collared Fishtrap pack. Two pups were seen in the N. Camas pack and a previously collared yearling female was incidently captured in a bear foot-snare in Canada. She was released unharmed. A pair of adults and 2-3 pups were reportedly seen near Gates Park in the Bob Marshall Wilderness in NW MT (west of Choteau, MT). Four of the 5 relocated Boulder wolves were found. All were apart, 3 were on the Flathead Reservation, one was near Brown’s Meadow, another north of Dixon, one by Flathead Mine, and one by Hot Springs. A yearling female was not found but her signal was briefly heard and appeared to be coming from somewhere south of the Ninemile. They all seemed to be in a 50% mix of meadow and forest country very similar to the habitat the Boulder pack lives in.

Idaho tribal biologists will be investigating 23-26 potential wolf dens this summer. The Service and Park Service are monitoring about 17 potential breeding pair in the Greater Yellowstone area including a new pack near West Yellowstone started by a dispersing female #151 from the Leopold pack. Mollie’s pack was seen with 6 pups. In NW Montana the Service is investigating about 11 potential breeding pair. With an estimated 400 or so adults and yearlings and an estimated additional 200 pups born this spring the wolf population appears to be doing great. This appears to be at least the first year of the 3-year count down to the Service proposing to delist wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains.

A Wyoming field crew continues to trap on the Diamond G ranch near Dubois, Wyoming. So far efforts to locate the Gros Ventre den have been unsuccessful and the old den and rendezvous site have not been used. Observations by volunteers at the Teton pack den site indicate both radioed females were attending pups and both may have breed. Blood tests after more collaring this winter will ultimately determine if that is true. Nine pups, 6 black and 3 gray were seen this week. They also confirmed that the Absaroka pack has 4 pups.

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

A lone black wolf that killed 18 sheep near Cokeville, WY was killed by WS this week. The wolf was radio-collared and was in the sheep again. It was spotted from a WS aircraft and shot. It was the missing Teton pack 2-year-old male wolf that was radio-collared this past winter but dispersed this spring.

Attempts to remove the lone gray wolf that killed 31 sheep near Humprey, ID several weeks ago is continuing. Traps are still set and an airplane has flown the area several times. The Service authorized WS to lethally take one wolf ASAP. If more than one wolf is seen we plan to search the area for pups or radio-collar and release a wolf on site. There is speculation these 2 wolves may be what’s left of the Gravelly pack. A black and gray wolf have been observed 5-8 miles north in the Centennial Valley. The remaining Gravelly wolves were also black and gray. The distance between where the sheep were killed in the Blacktail and the Humprey area is only about 20 airline miles.

Wolf #196 was flown repeatedly since last week so he could be lethally removed because of the calf depredation near Mill Creek, but he couldn’t be found. However, later this week he was finally located but an attempt to remove him was unsuccessful (he disappeared again). WS will attempt to remove him when an aircraft becomes available early next week. Efforts to place a radio-collar on other wolves, hopefully members of the Mill Creek pack, in the area are continuing.

The Whitehawk pack control action/saga near Stanley, Idaho continues. Despite all the controversy and rhetoric less than 10 sheep (1 attack) and one calf have been killed and no depredations have occurred in nearly 3 weeks. Efforts ended to capture a couple of adult pack members and relocate them. Relocation efforts stopped when local "wolf-activists" and a film crew began following WS specialists as they tried to trap and relocate wolves, rending trapping efforts fruitless. Traps were pulled on the 24th. At least 2 of the radioed adult pack members attacked a lamb on the 23rd, just as the sheep were being driven outside an electric fence to graze. The lamb escaped after the wolves were driven off by herders. The packs other radioed adult were nearby. The pack killed 5 additional sheep the night of the 28th. On the 29th male wolves 101 and 40 were killed by WS. The pack now consists of 2 adults and 9 pups. WS has been requested by the Service to get a radio on the alpha female or a pup if possible. This control action is being closely monitored by both strong wolf proponents and opponents, is highly publicized, and remains very contentious.

Lethal take permits were issued to a cooperative of 3 sheep producers in the Gravelly Mountains. The 2 remaining uncollared members of the Gravelly pack, that depredated on these bands of sheep several times this spring, are still believed to be using the USDA Forest Service land where these sheep will be grazed. The permits will allow up to 2 wolves to be shot if they are seen attacking livestock.

Research

Training on use of less-than-lethal- munitions and grizzly bear and gun safety was given to National Park Service and Service personnel on the 27th near Gardiner, MT by Service law enforcement agents. The new rubber bullets (Milstop Corp.) were demonstrated and were amazingly accurate at more than 100 yards (like shooting a rifle). About a dozen people attended, including Smith, Niemeyer, Chavez, Frame, and Hansen.

Jeff Brent from OR WS called and said he had some pullouts with the hard-rubber smooth jawed trap (McBride #3) on coyotes similar to what we recently experienced on a couple of wolves. He said the traps were on drags and once the drag caught solidly the coyote apparently pulled out very quickly. He had a couple of pulls-outs of less than 10 captures initially and got suspicious. He and another trapper then tried again and out of 30 captures they had 8 pullouts. While not a rigorous study, his information also suggests that biologists using the hard-rubber jawed traps should be alert for excessive numbers of pullouts. He modified the rubber-jaw by drilling it to provide a less smooth jaw surface and he order offset rubber-jaws, but has not had further experience to see if that appears to work better. Has anyone else had experiences with the hard-rubber jawed foothold traps that they wish to share? WS published a paper on the soft-catch rubber-jawed (slightly softer rubber than the McBride jaw) traps a few years ago and they reduced trap injury but were only slightly less effective than steel jaws. Our data doesn’t show a significant problem but does imply we pay close attention as we switch equipment design.

Information and education and law enforcement

Doug Smith gave a keynote presentation at a meeting of the central Rocky Mountain Wolf Conf. to about 100 biologists and attendees in Banff National Park on the 23rd.

On the 30th to July 2, Smith helped teach a "Wolves of the World" wolf class for the Yellowstone Institute in the Lamar Valley.

 

Bangs met with a writer for "Governing Magazine" in Bozeman, MT on the 25th.

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