Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 7/27/00

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 7/20-7/27, 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. Niemeyer trapped for members of the Jureano pack over the weekend (they had been seen near a bull that died from other causes) and caught and radio-collared an 85lb black yearling male. Four pack members are now radioed.

The Service and Park Service are monitoring about 17 potential dens in the Greater Yellowstone area. Latest counts are: Druid Peak (12 pups- 38 total), Rose Creek (7 pups-12 total), Tower Group (no pups- 5 total), Leopold (3 pups- 16 total), Swan Lake (2 pups- 9 total), Mollie’s (6 pups-10 total), Chief Joseph (3 pups-16 total), Nez Perce (bred but no counts-21 adults), Cougar Pack (3 pups- 6 total), Yellowstone Delta (4 pups-17total), Sheep Mtn. (# 195 bred but no counts- 2 adults), Mill Creek (unknown if bred but suspected- 3 adults), Sunlight (bred but no counts yet- 6-8 adults), Beartooth (bred but no counts yet-3 adults), Absaroka (4 pups-9 total), Gros Ventre (probably not bred- 6 adults), Teton (9 pups-12 total), Washakie (4 pups- 9-11 total), Taylor peak (bred but no count yet- 5 adults), Freezeout (4 pups-6 total), and Gravelly (6 pups-10 total [6 pups and 2 adults in TESF pen will be relocated this fall-(2 adults killed and 2 in Gravelly Mtn’s) because of sheep depredations].

To date a minimum of 67 pups in 21-22 litters (minimum 18 packs) and 153-158 adults have been documented in the Greater Yellowstone area. The Cougar Pack (new pack near west Yellowstone formed this winter by #151 from the Leopold pack) was seen with 3 pups. So far, only the Gros Ventre pack and the Tower Pack (split off from the Rose Creek pack over a year ago) appear not to have denned. The Nez Perce pack killed 2 adult bison (both probably cows) and likely killed a brown bear cub. The cub’ carcass was examined and canine puncture wounds indicated wolf or lion, however, they are no lions near where the cub was found, whereas the Nez Perce commonly uses that area.

In northwestern Montana the Service is checking out about 13 potential dens and radio-collaring and trapping efforts are continuing. Adult estimates are likely maximums and pup estimates are minimums. It appears that Murphy Lake (5 adults [includes yearlings]) did not den this year. However, North Camas (4 adults and 2 pups seen), South Camas (2 adults, probably have pups but no count yet), Ninemile (9 adults and the local news carrier saw 3 pups crossing the road on the 21st), Boulder (6 adults, denned no count yet), Whitefish (4 adults and 1 pup seen), Grave Creek (4 adults and 2 pups seen), Little Wolf (5 adults, pups heard howling no count), Spotted Bear (2 adults, localized probably have pups), Sun River (2 adults and pups reportedly seen), Fishtrap (3 adults and 3 pups seen), Danaher (?), and a new pair with at least 1 pup is in the Fish Creek area (female disperser B-81 and her mate, no pup count yet), just north of the Idaho experimental population area, south of the Ninemile pack. Total 53 adult/yearlings with pups in 12 breeding groups.

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 will stop wolf trapping on the Diamond G ranch near Dubois, Wyoming on August 1. This was a true cooperative effort with Wildlife Services, volunteers, and the Service all helping to set and check traps for radio-collaring purposes. Only one new collar was put out this summer but the field crew did help with monitoring wolves, searching for possible dead livestock, and even provided some help with regular ranch operations on their "off" time. It was difficult to trap wolves because of the numerous grizzly bears in this area, the open nature of the area (sagebrush and prairie) that allowed wolves to travel about everywhere instead of trails. Winter darting will be attempted again this winter to increase the number of collars in this pack.

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

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 another possible depredation in that general area.

WS retrieved the radio-collar and skull from wolf #196 (GYA area) on the 24th. They will be used for educational purposes. He was one of the former Sheep Mtn. wolves that were part of the aversive conditioning research last year. He is likely the father of the 4 pups in the Freezeout pack in the East Fork of the Madison River. He and the female separated in late winter shortly after the death of a third packmate (that former Sheep Mtn. yearling that was also part of that research). The female traveled back to her pack in the Park, then dispersed west to the Madison River. She is now raising pups with her brother. Wolf #196 moved north and eventually joined the Mill Creek pack. He was involved in a cattle depredation near Mill Creek, in Paradise Valley about a month ago, and as promised when the 3 Sheep Mtn. wolves were released back into their old territory, he was removed as soon as the opportunity arose.

Research

Nothing new to report.

Information and education and law enforcement

Bangs was in Jackson for EEO training on the 24th. On PM the 23rd he and Jimenez hiked into last year’s fall Gros Ventre rendezvous site but no fresh wolf sign was found. Still no indication Gros Ventre denned this year.

Bangs (FWS) and Shivik (WS) co-authored 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 mailto:cdpnews@kora.ch,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., lists web sites dealing with wildlife damage issues, and other stuff. They also solicit for relevant articles.

Proofs for a multi-author paper (Service [biologists and LE], Park Service, Nez Perce Tribe, Wildlife Services [state offices and research] and Turner Endangered Species Fund on the overall recovery effort were finalized. The paper "Wolf Restoration in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming" will be in the next edition of the Endangered Species Update, published by the Univ. of Michigan.

Galley proofs for a chapter in a book (Island Press) that should be out this fall "Large Mammal Restoration: Ecological and Sociological Challenges for the 21st Century." were reviewed. The article "Outcomes of Hard and Soft Releases of Wolves in Central Idaho and the Greater Yellowstone Area" was co-authored by Steve Fritts, C. Mack, D. Smith, K. Murphy, M. Phillips, M. Jimenez, E. Bangs, J. Fontaine, C. Niemeyer, W. Brewster, and T. Kaminski.

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