Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 9/14/01

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 9/10-9/14, 2001

A week to remember how precious our way of life is and to appreciate all those who with little fanfare routinely risk everything in defense of our safety and freedom. Also a time to give our prayers and deepest sympathy to those who have recently lost loved ones because of the hatred and intolerance of a few callous zealots.

Monitoring

Thirty breeding pair recovery goal was met in 2000. Wildlife Services and the Nez Perce Tribe confirmed that the Gold Fork pack, 10-15 miles south of McCall, ID contains at least 2 yearlings. The pack was discovered by WS after an August 27 sheep depredation in that area. WS was able to confirm an uncollared wolf pack was responsible. WS trapped a yearling male and the alpha male that were collared and released on Sept. 4. The Tribe observed another yearling in the pack last week. Gold Fork counts as another confirmed breeding pair in 2000. Earlier this year the Gravelly pack was confirmed as the 29th breeding pair in 2000. (See http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/wolf/annualrpt00/ for a list of the other 28 breeding pairs confirmed in 2000). We now have confirmed that in 2000 there were 30 breeding pairs of wolves in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, making last year the first year of the 3-year count down toward achieving the 30 breeding pair recovery. This year 2001, will be the second year of the 3-year count down to meeting the delisting criteria of 30 breeding pairs distributed throughout Montana. Idaho and Wyoming for 3 successive years. If the wolf population remains at or above 30 breeding pair this year and in 2002 (which is highly likely)- the wolf recovery goal will be met December 31, 2002. The delisting process, including extensive public involvement, could be proposed in early 2003, assuming all 3 state wolf conservation plans are in place. Thanks to WS (Mike Svedin, Justin Mann, and Rick Williamson) and the Nez Perce Tribal biologists for continuing great work and follow-up.

To make the names of several packs more appropriate for their territory in regard to local landmarks, we are changing some names. We apologize for the confusion but it will allow everyone to get a better idea on where the packs are and make it easier for us. Change: Boulder to Castle Rock, North Camas to Kintla, South Camas to Apgar, Sun River to Gates Park. The new pack just east of the Fish Creek pack will be the Lupine pack. Thanks for your patience.

Asher and Chavez rode into the Scapegoat Wilderness (Danaher Meadows) with the assistance of a Forest Service pack string trying to put a collar in the Danaher pack that has been reported there for 2 years now. They found plenty of older wolf sign but nothing fresh enough to set traps on. Elk hunting begins in that area this weekend so they just spent a week scouting and getting in and out. A special thanks to Collin Milone and Tim Love and the Forest Service for their support.

All wolf packs appear to be in their normal home ranges. Very little movement and activity this time of year with the packs localized around the rendezvous sites.

Control

Apparently a rancher in the Fishtrap pack territory had a cow and calf attacked by wolves a couple of weeks ago and left a message for Meier but not WS. However, Meier was out of the office until this week. He and WS specialist North investigated and confirmed the cow, which survived, was attacked by wolves. They also found remains of the calf, wolf scat, and chewed bones so it appears to also have been attacked by wolves. Because of the time that has elapsed without further conflict and the cattle have been removed from the allotment, no control is planned unless other livestock are attacked.

Three of the four "Idaho" wolves that were preemptively moved out of the Big Hole Valley in SW Montana and released in central Idaho, have returned to the Big Hole Valley. The fourth is close and will likely return. Local landowners were notified. Additional relocation options are being considered. Meanwhile, if these wolves are involved in confirmed depredations they will be lethally removed.

As a preliminary example of the potential for success, the 5 wolves that were preemptively moved out of the Castle Rock (formerly Boulder pack) area last winter to NW Montana, continue to do well. While none stayed in NW MT (all are farther south in central western MT), there have been no depredations. It appears that there are only 4 adult wolves in the Castle Rock pack. An archer recently saw 4 adult wolves cross an opening but there were no pups. The alpha male disappeared during the winter and may not have bred the female.

Research

On the 14th, Bangs met with Turner Endangered Species Fund biologists in Bozeman to discuss the USDA Wildlife Services- led aversive conditioning research as well as the future potential use of the TESF facility and personnel. So far the TESF has been a tremendous asset to managing wolves and potential conflicts with private lands in SW Montana.

Information and education and law enforcement

The Fall 2001 issue of "International Wolf- The Global Challenge of Living with Wolves" contained short articles by Meier (Wolves of the World [US]) and Bangs (Wolf Management Zoning) as well as several other subjects (control, non-lethal methods, wolves and public land grazing, benefits of livestock ranching in the west, value of wild lands, etc.). Copies of the Meier or Bangs articles can be faxed to agency cooperators that are interested. Please leave your FAX number at ed_bangs@fws.gov. The public can obtain the magazine by contacting the International Wolf Center at wolfinfo@wolf.org or calling 1-800-ELY-WOLF.

Meier attended a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Region 1 biologist meeting at Logan State Park near Kalispell, MT on the 12th. Tom gave a presentation about the wolf recovery program to about 70 people.

Niemeyer and Boise office field supervisor Bob Ruesink spoke to approximately 80 people at a meeting about living with large carnivores. The meeting was held on the 14th in Boise, Idaho and was hosted by the Idaho Environmental Forum. Information about brown bears, black bears, and mountain lions was presented by state and federal biologists.

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