Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 7/20/00

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 7/13-7/20, 2001

Monitoring

Idaho tribal biologists have/will investigate about 24 potential wolf dens this summer. To date the Tribe has investigated 20. So far at least 68 pups have been documented in 14 of those packs, and 6 packs (mainly new pairs) did not seem to have pups, but monitoring will also continue through aerial relocation efforts this fall and winter. The Service and Park Service are monitoring about 17 potential dens in the Greater Yellowstone area. To date a minimum of 67 pups have been seen including 7 pups in the Rose Creek pack. The Park reports that several litters seem to be only 1-3 pups. So far, only the Gos Ventre pack appears not to have denned.

In northwestern Montana the Service is checking out about 13 potential dens and radio-collaring and trapping efforts are continuing. It appears that Murphy Lake did not den this year. However, North Camas, South Camas, Ninemile (Fontaine howled up at least 3-4 pups on 7/19), Boulder, Whitefish, Grave Creek, Little Wolf, Spotted Bear, Sun River, Fishtrap, Danaher, and a new pair with pups are in the Fish Creek area (female disperser B-81 and her mate), just north of the Idaho experimental population area, south of the Ninemile pack.

With an estimated 400 or so adults and yearlings and as many as an additional 200 pups born this spring (pup survival lately has typically been between 60% to 80%), the wolf population appears to be doing great. This appears to be at least the first year, possibly the second 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. This is a true cooperative effort with Wildlife Services, volunteers, and the Service all helping to set and check traps for radio-collaring purposes.

The Service crew is trapping for the Little Wolf pack in northwestern Montana. Pups were heard howling this week so hopefully new collars can be put on some of the adults soon.

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

The Grave Creek pack was chasing cattle and the Service started trapping the area last week to either get another collar in the pack and/or possibly even move them out of that immediate area before something more serious occurred. On the 13th, a 70lb. yearling female was collared and released. On the 14th, Meier and volunteer Therese Hartman walked to the rendezvous site and exchanged barks and howls with the pack for hour. The pack immediately moved out of that area and by the next day were over 10 miles away in a more remote area without livestock, near the Stillwater River. Hopefully this will reduce the potential for further conflicts this summer. Good job Tom and Therese!

Attempts to remove the lone gray wolf (or 2) that killed 31 buck sheep near Humprey, ID several weeks ago is ongoing. The Service authorized WS to lethally take up to two wolves in the Gravelly area and it now believed the Idaho wolves may be the same ones, since the 2 areas are so close (wolf movement-wise). Further investigations are being conducted in Idaho by WS. On the 20th, Montana WS was on its way to investigate a possible depredation in the Big Hole where disperser B80 and an unknown gray wolf were previously located.

Wolf #196 was found with 2 other black wolves and a gray wolf, in the upper portion of Hell-Roaring Creek (a side drainage near Mill Creek) on the 20th. WS lethally removed him as the Service promised when he and 2 litter mates were released after previous depredations and being part of the initial investigations into the feasibility of conducting aversive conditioning research, last winter. His radio-collar will be retrieved by horseback at a later date.

On the 19th, a young horse was reportedly bitten on the neck by a wolf near Clayton, ID. WS confirmed a wolf was likely involved. Ground shooting of one wolf and/or trapping and radio-collaring and releasing on-site are control options.

Research

On the 16th, Fontaine gave less-than-lethal munitions training to about 15 local folks in the Ninemile Valley, in NW Montana. Permits and ammunition were not issued at that time over an internal legal discussion if such permits can be issued where wolves are listed as endangered. In coordination with Service LE agents, the decision was made that as long as wolves in NW Montana were listed as endangered no such permits to private individuals would be issued. Those types of permits will be issued in NW Montana and other new areas where wolves are currently listed as endangered, as soon as wolves are reclassified to threatened status. These permits will continue to be issued in the experimental population areas on an as needed basis.

Tom Meier quickly reviewed our trapping records and 14 wolves had been caught in rubber-jawed traps, with no cutting or broken bones, and only 3 have pulled-out. He also checked with trappers in MN who have recently caught a few wolves with no pullouts and think they work fine. At this time there is no reason to suspect that the rubber-jawed traps have a pull-out rate that is abnormally high. We investigated using trap tranquilizer tabs, but after talking with several experts and consulting trappers who have used them, we are not convinced we should be using them at this time. We will continue to investigate any new tools or techniques to make our trapping program as safe for wolves as possible.

Information and education and law enforcement

Bangs was in Washington D.C. this week to participate in a meeting regarding the National Wolf Reclassification Proposal. The plan was released for public comment a year ago but several issues raised by the public has slowed a final rule from being published.

On the 10th, Jimenez gave a presentation at the lunch lecture series at the National Western Museum in Cody, WY. About 80 people attended. On the 17th, Jimenez gave a talk to about 25 board members and executives of the Nature Conservancy in Cody, WY.

Bangs (FWS) and Shivik (WS) coauthored an article "Managing wolf conflict with livestock in the northwestern United States" that appeared in Carnivore Damage Prevention News, No 3/July 2001:2-5. The newsletter is published by A Large Carnivore Initiative for Europe whose editorial office is in Switzerland. It can be accessed at www.large-carnivore-lcie.org or www.kora.unibe.ch on email it is free. You can order the CDP News by email at cdpnews@kora.ch, it has great sources for the latest thinking on managing wildlife damage. The latest edition had an article on wolves, compensation in Russia for tigers and leopards, electric fencing for fallow deer, man-eating leopards, abstracts of 19th vertebrate pest conf., list web sites dealing with wildlife damage issues, and other stuff. They also solicit for relevant articles.

 

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