Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

 

 

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 8/3/01

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 7/27-8/3, 2001

Monitoring

Idaho tribal biologists have/will investigate about 24 potential wolf dens this summer. To date the Tribe has investigated 20. At least 76 pups have been documented in 15 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 summary for pups is as follows: Selway (3 pups), Big Hole (6 pups), Chamberlain (4 pups, radio contact just lost with pack), Thunder Mtn. (9 pups), Landmark (6 pups), Jureano (3 pups), Moyer Basin (5 pups), Orphan (1 pup), Wildhorse (5 pups), Whitehawk (9 pups), Wolf Fang (8 pups), Gospel Hump (7 pups), Twin Peaks (7 pups), Scott Mtn. (4 pups), Marble Mtn. (at least 1), and Kelly Creek (unknown). Wolf pairs B-80, B63 & 67, and B45 had no pups. Niemeyer and crew trapped and recollared the alpha female of the Jureano pack on the 27th. The trapping crew then went into the Whitehawk pack territory and found that the pack had moved close to a road system. They set traps and caught a pup during the weekend and put a modified padded collar on it that was designed to break-away as the pup grew. By the next day the modified collar was found and had been chewed off. The pup made it back to the pack okay but unfortunately the collar didn’t last.

The Service and Park Service are monitoring about 20 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 pup counts- 2 adults), Mill Creek (unknown if bred but suspected- 3 adults), Sunlight (4-5 pups- 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 (4-5 pups- 9-11 total), Taylor peak (bred but no count yet- 4 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 because of sheep depredations, 2 still in Gravelly Mtn’s].

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 and they are no lions near where the cub was found, whereas the Nez Perce commonly uses that area.

Over the weekend of the 28th, the crew on the Diamond G Ranch caught, radioed (foam padded collar) a 40 lb. black male pup. Traps were pulled on the 1st. A couple of calves were apparently killed by grizzly bears last week and one carcass was fed on by wolves but to date no wolf depredations have been documented despite intensive field and monitoring efforts on the ranch. The Washakie pack now has 3 radioed pack members.

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 [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 is localized and probably denned, and a new pair with at least 1 pup are 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. We expect the population to be slightly more than 500 wolves this winter. 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.

The Service crew is still trapping for the Little Wolf pack in northwestern Montana. Pups were heard howling and we were hopeful that new collars could be put on some of the adults soon. However, only coyotes, lots of them, have been captured so far and the line will be pulled Monday 8/6.

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

On the 2nd, members of the Taylor Peak pack killed 2 sheep, just south of their rendezvous site in the Madison Valley. The sheep herd of about 40 animals will be moved out of the area this fall. Control actions will consist of harassment of the wolves if they come near the sheep again and fixing the electric fence that had been protecting the herd.

Research

Fontaine, Asher, Phillips, Hunter and Whitelaw and others put the new aversive conditioning collars on the adult female and yearling male of the Gravelly pack that are being held in captivity on the Flying D ranch in Gallatin Gateway. The USDA Wildlife Services led research project is investigating how wolves learn to attack livestock and if that learning process can be disrupted. Five pups were about 30lbs while one was considerable smaller but all appeared healthy. The 8 wolves will be released back into the wild this fall, probably in NW Montana. A letter protesting the project was received from the Fund for Animals and the Animal Protection Institute.

Information and education and law enforcement

This week two of the three Service’s seasonal field biologists completed their tour of duty. Paul Frame left to begin his MS graduate project in Alberta and Paul Hansen went back to his teaching position in Minnesota. They did an excellent job this summer and not only radioed more wolves but got along well with the local folks they worked with. Paul and Paul- Thanks for a great job and positive attitude!!

Jochim Vos, a biologist from Switzerland, arrived and will be volunteering on the wolf recovery program in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming for the rest of this year. He did his MS degree on wolf food habits in Portugal and previously assisted with some wolf work in Canada and Switzerland.

Doug Smith wrote a short article for Wildlife Art Magazine on "What wolves mean to wildlife art." On the 30th, he did an interview for Home Ground Radio about the wolf recovery program.

Bangs traveled back to Washington D.C. on the 1st, along with representatives of the Mexican wolf recovery program, to brief officials within the Service and Department of the Interior. That afternoon Bangs briefed D.C. staff from MT, WY, and ID’s elected officials. The briefings went well. They were particularly interested in the Congressional demanded status review of the Mexican wolf recovery program and the perceived uproar over a supposed high level of livestock depredations in Idaho. The Mexican wolf review has been going well and livestock depredations in the northwestern U.S. have been very low this year, including Idaho.

Last week CNN aired a news piece on government "pork" projects, as a result of Senator McCain releasing his annual report on the Senate adding special ear-marked funding to the agency appropriations bills. A special Senate request for an additional $200,000 for wolf monitoring and more local outreach in Idaho was one of the projects listed. Unfortunately, CNN reporters did not talk with any of the USFWS wolf folks and rumor has it that the report inaccurately portrayed this request as coming from the Nez Perce Tribe rather than the Idaho delegation.

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