Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 10/05/01

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 9/22-10/5, 2001

Monitoring

Asher and Chavez ended their trapping effort for the Gates Park pack in the Bob Marshall Wilderness of NW MT. They caught a pup by its hind foot (about 50lbs), but it pulled out of the rubber jawed trap as they approached to immobilize it. It appears that the pack moved away from the den/rendezvous area just days before trapping began. After the one pup was pinched, the pack moved even farther away and could not be located again. Observations indicate that the pack’s 2 adults (1 black and 1 gray) raised 6-7 pups. A special thanks to the USDA Forest Service who provided livestock and logistic support

Tom Meir and volunteers Jochim Vos, and Vernon and Nancy Hawthorne are trapping near Pleasant Valley and Libby Dam in NW MT. Fresh sign and howling have been detected in both areas. Radio-collaring and trapping efforts will continue until the weather gets too cold or the big game rifle hunting season opens October 21.

The radio-collar from a yearling male in the Yellowstone Delta pack was detected on mortality mode on 9/17, leaving only one reliable functioning radio in this pack. Apparently the collar just slipped off the wolf and was picked up this week. Because this pack is very difficult to access, we are discussing whether to try and dart and collar other pack members as soon as conditions allow, rather than wait until routine winter capture operations begin in January 2002.

See the 2000 annual report http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/wolf/annualrpt00/ for a map of pack locations and home ranges.

Please report wolf sightings!! If hunters report evidence of wolves to you please pass that information along to the Service.

Control

Riders in the Gravelly range (SW MT) reported jumping 7 wolves (no collars were observed but could have been the Freezeout pack) off a fresh calf carcass on the 27th. WS Eastern District Supervisor Hoover drove over and then rode in to investigate. He found 2 dead calves and at least one had been fed on by wolves. He believed that both calves died of causes other than predation and were being scavenged. Jim did an excellent job of filling in for his local trappers who were otherwise occupied, despite the long distances involved. He quickly responded and kept the Service closely appraised of the situation. Good work Jim!

Wolf #820, from the Ninemile pack was removed by WS on the 3rd. The young adult male had been targeted for removal since he last depredated on livestock in mid-August. He had been directly involved in at least 2 previous depredations, so the Service requested he be removed when practical. The skull and pelt will be used for educational purposes.

Attempts to remove depredating wolves in Wyoming are winding down as cattle are being pulled off allotments and shipped to market. This summer the Absaroka pack (2 ad, 3 yr, and 3-4 pups) killed 7 calves, 6 on USFS allotments and 1 on private land. Control by hazing and then trapping was unsuccessful at stopping further problems and thick cover and high winds delayed aerial gunning efforts. However, on 10/5 a black uncollared yearling was removed. The pack was in timber and scattered immediately upon hearing the helicopter, so the attempt to remove a second yearling was unsuccessful. No further control is planned unless additional livestock depredations are confirmed.

The Sunlight pack (4-6 ad, 3-4 yr, and 4 pups) attacked 1 bull, 1 yearling, and 1 calf. All were severely injured but survived. This situation is being intensely monitored and cattle are now being shipped from the area. The Washakie pack (5-6 ad/yr and 4-5 pups) killed 2 calves on private land. During control trapping a pup was collared and released on site. No other wolves were captured. Plans were to shoot 2 wolves, however, big game hunting season started in WY and 3 outfitter camps are in the same area as the wolves. Because cattle are now being shipped out of the valley and we did not want to harass hunters, their stock, or these camps, aerial gunning was not pursued.

As has been reported in the last couple of years, some livestock producers with remote grazing pastures near active wolf den and rendezvous sites are reporting, at least early in the roundup process, that they are missing more calves than "normal". Whether these cattle show up when final numbers are tallied or remain "missing" because of the drought or other factors, or were undetected wolf kills (both of which probably happened) will continue to be the source of much speculation, controversy, and discussion.

Research

The cooperative WS aversive conditioning research on the 2 adult members (6 pups are also in the pen and have been growing rapidly) of the Gravelly pack are ongoing but efforts to find young calves to use in the experiments have been unsuccessful. Dog training collars were put on the 2 adults but when new items (a calf hide and then a scented post) were put into the pen to test if the collars were working, the wolves never went near them. This follows a pattern observed with the 3 Sheep Mountain wolves where they avoided any new items. This behavior pattern will make it difficult to test non-lethal or aversive conditioning techniques on temporarily held wild wolves being held in captivity.

Executive Summary: Predator Compensation Research Project
Jessica M. Montag and Michael E. Patterson, School of Forestry, University of Montana

The goal of this interagency and privately funded research project is to provide an empirically based, in-depth understanding of: (1) the constellation of beliefs, values, meanings, and perceived conflicts that characterize stakeholders’ perceptions of predator compensation programs; (2) views about the administration and effectiveness of compensation programs; (3) how individuals frame the underlying issues and conflicts related to predator conservation; and (4) how individuals conceive of concepts like equity, fairness, individual versus societal responsibilities, and the public interest in regard to predator conservation. The project will evaluate existing predator compensation programs in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. The state of Idaho compensates for black bear and mountain lion damage to livestock, the state of Wyoming compensates for black bear, grizzly bear, and mountain lion damage to livestock, and the Defenders of Wildlife program compensates for wolf damage to livestock in the three states (ID, MT, WY) and grizzly bear damage to livestock in Montana.

To address these research questions, three research initiatives will be pursued. The first focuses on the views of livestock producers. Because a detailed understanding of their perceptions about the programs are essential to understanding the effects of compensation programs, data will be collected using in-depth interviews. Twenty to 25 in-person interviews of livestock producers will be conducted in four communities for a total of 80-100 interviews. Exploring perceptions within and across specific communities provides more meaningful social and political information than a random, statewide sampling design. Selection of these specific communities, was guided by the following factors: program administration (public vs. private); types of predators in area; types of livestock in area; types of livestock producers in area; and presence/absence of public land grazing. In addition to interviewing livestock producers, two administrators for each program will be interviewed to gain their perspective on program effectiveness and success as well as costs of running compensation programs.

The second research initiative is a mail survey to be sent to livestock producers in 13 communities in MT, ID and WY. One hundred mail surveys per community will be sent for a total of 1300 surveys. Surveys will obtain livestock producers’ opinions about predator compensation programs and policies related to them on a more widespread scale than the interviews allowing greater opportunity to generalize findings about opinions, but will yield lesser depth and ability to explain the factors underlying opinions in comparison to the in-depth interviews.

The third research initiative focuses on the general public’s opinions regarding predator compensation programs such as: (1) whether compensation programs increase tolerance of predators, (2) views about the appropriate source of funding for compensation programs, (3) public sentiment concerning the goals and indicators of success for compensation programs, and (4) support for compensation programs relative to alternative means of addressing livestock depredation. Data will be collected through random, statewide surveys in ID, MT, and WY. A total of 1500 surveys will be sent out to randomly selected individuals.

In preparation for designing this study a literature review of wildlife damage compensation programs in the United States, Canada and some European countries- "Predator Compensation Programs: A state of Knowledge Report" 77pps.- was recently completed.

For more information on this research contact: Dr. Michael E. Patterson, School of Forestry, University of Montana, Missoula, MT 59812 mike@forestry.umt.edu (406) 243-6614

Information and education and law enforcement

Fontaine began posting wolf observation signs on trails and roads in NW MT. The signs remind hunters that they are key to wolf recovery and management efforts and request people to report wolf observations. Similar requests are also annually made in media reports during the fall big game hunting seasons. These reports have led to the confirmation discovery of many wolves over the past ten years and the efforts of hunters to report wolf sign is deeply appreciated. Any agency employees who want to post such signs in their natural resource areas should contact Joe at joe_fontaine@fws.gov or 406-449-5225 x206 for copies. We’d appreciate the help.

The week of October 14th-21st is National Wolf Awareness Week. About 30 states and Governors formally recognize this event. On the 18-20th, Bangs and Smith will participate in a NWF conference, "Restoring Wolves to the Northern Forest" in NH. NWF in Colorado will host a meeting and Susan Linner from the Service Denver Regional Office will give a presentation of the northern Rocky Mountain wolf recovery program. Carter Niemeyer, Rick Williamson, and Curt Mack will give presentations at Wolf Haven in Washington State October 20 and 21.

Andreas Chavez ended his seasonal appointment this week. He is returning to Utah State University to complete work on his Master’s thesis that dealt with wolves in Minnesota. Andreas did a great job and we appreciate his efforts and dedication.

Bangs and Jimenez gave presentations at REI in Seattle as part of the Woodland Park Zoo lecture series. About 200 people attended the 9/27 evening lecture. On the 29th, Bangs met with a conservation director of the Northwest Ecosystem Alliance to discuss predator restoration, wolves, and the Service reclassification proposal.

Bangs was selected as this year’s Utah State University Wildlife Department’s Distinguished Alumnus. The honor was announced at the USU Social during the annual conference of The Wildlife Society in Reno, Nevada September 28th. Bangs was unable to attend because he had a prior commitment but recognition from his alma mater was very much appreciated. No doubt many of Ed’s former professors were shaking their heads in disbelief- he wasn’t exactly their star student. As an interesting "college days" side note, both Bangs and Dr. Doug Smith also graduated from Univ. of Nevada, Reno (The Wolf Pack is the school’s sports motto).

The carcass of the alpha female from the Apgar pack (formerly South Camas) was recovered along the southern edge of Glacier National Park. The cause of her death is under investigation.

The Service's weekly wolf report can now be viewed at the Service's Region 6 web site at http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/wolf in addition to the regular distribution.

Contact: Ed Bangs (406)449-5225 x204 or ED_BANGS@FWS.GOV