Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 1/04/02

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 12/22-1/04/02, 2001

The U.S. Department of the Interior had all of its email shut down by a court order during the first week of December. While the case did not involve the Service, the court order disrupted distribution of the weekly reports and prevented all email communication with the Fish and Wildlife Service. We do not know when we will be back on line. We thank Ralph Maughan for distributing the weeklies for us until this situation is corrected.

HAPPY NEW YEAR

Monitoring

At the end of 2001 there were about 570 wolves in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, making 2001 the second year of the three-year count down toward reaching the recovery goal of having a minimum of 30 breeding pairs, (defined as a male and a female that raise at least 2 pups until December 31), that were equitably distributed throughout Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming for three successive years. This coming December [2002] will almost certainly mark achievement of wolf recovery in the northern Rocky Mountains of the United States. Depending upon the status of state wolf management plans, the Service could propose delisting in early 2003.

Wolf pair B-63 and B-100 are still in the Big Hole area just N. of Wisdom, MT. They and another pair were relocated back into central Idaho last year in a pre-emptive move to avoid livestock depredations. Previous wolves in the Big Hole got into trouble once native ungulates migrated out of the area in winter. The other pair did not return and were last located near Lost Trail Pass on the MT/ID border. If relocated wolves are involved in depredations, they will be killed.

Routine winter helicopter darting operations will begin as soon as weather permits. Wolves will be captured, radio-collared and released on site. In open terrain, such as in the Greater Yellowstone Area and SE parts of central Idaho, winter helicopter darting can be a more effective and less expensive method of radio-collaring wolves than trapping during the summer months. The Service attempts to keep active collars on 15% to 25% of the wolf population.

 

See the 2000 annual report http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/wolf/annualrpt00/ for a map of pack locations and home ranges. The interagency 2001 annual report is being prepared and should be available by February 2002. Because email is down this site is not active at the current time.

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

Control

On the 10th, WS investigated a report of a sheep being killed by the Ninemile pack. They confirmed the sheep was killed by wolves from wounds, tracks, radio signals, and howling at the sheep’s carcass. Another sheep was killed by am and another was missing. Fontaine assisted WS to set up a radio activated guard (light and siren scaring device) near the remaining sheep later that week. On the 20th, WS investigated and confirmed that 2 more sheep had been killed by wolves. During Christmas week 2 more sheep were killed. The RAG box has not prevented further depredations and likely malfunctioned. The producer was given a radio receiver. Lethal control of 2 wolves, including radioed male 6468 [who was located nearby when the other 2 depredations occurred] was authorized but weather has postponed action.

On the 19th the adult female, yearling male and 6 pups (now about 75lbs.each) for the Gravelly pack were released just north of Yaak, MT. The first radio location had the female and 6 pups west of the release site and the yearling male alone and much farther west. On the next location the male could not be located, and the female and 4 pups had moved back toward the release site. One pup was alone near the Canadian border and another south of the Yaak. These movements and splitting and then regrouping is likely to continue for several months.

Apparently the Gates Park pack moved down the Sun River and is in the vicinity of Gibson Reservoir. Around the 1st FWP observed 5 wolves feeding on a whitetail deer they had killed out on the ice. On the 2 a local houndsman turned his 2 hounds loose on a fresh set of lion tracks. He was trailing his dogs when they went silent. He was unable to locate the dogs but returned the next day with his receiver and found both dogs dead. They had apparently ran into the pack and were killed and one was partially consumed.

Research

The cooperative Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks and Yellowstone National Park Northern Range elk winter counts were completed. A total of 11,700 elk were observed, slightly lower than the 13,400 seen last year. Counts are total numbers of elk seen and do not include a sight ability index, which means the count can vary widely solely because of counting conditions and elk distribution. Many elk (up to 30% of the northern herd), particularly cows and calves, are already on winter ranges outside of Yellowstone National Park and harvest during the late cow hunt could be average if not higher than normal [1,000 or more elk could be harvested]. The snow depths are below average and some speculate migratory elk may have left their winter ranges in the Park earlier than expected because drought has reduced forage quality.

The 3rd annual Wyoming wolf/elk winter study is underway. One team of 4 volunteers (college students that just graduated) is tracking the Teton (12 wolves), Gros Ventre (2-4 uncollared wolves), and new Gos Ventre pair (1 collared) to see how they hunt elk on three WY elk feeding grounds in the Gros Ventre drainage, just outside Jackson, WY. The students back track wolves to find kills and determine movements, and monitor elk movements and distribution on the feed grounds. A companion study is being conducted by 4 student volunteers from Northwest College (Powell, WY) who are tracking the Absaroka, Sunlight, Beartooth, and possibly Sun River packs west of Cody, WY.

Information and education and law enforcement

On December 19, 2001, the United States District Court for the district of Wyoming, issued a ruling on the case of the Diamond G Ranch vs. the U.S. DOI, Fish and Wildlife Service. The Ranch, which had experience several depredations and suspected others, challenged the Service’s management of wolves in the Dunoir Valley of NW Wyoming. The court ruled entirely in the Government’s favor that there was no violation of the ESA, the Fifth Amendment, or the Administrative Procedures Act. The Ranch has appealed this case to the 10th Circuit Court.

A Utah man plead guilty to shooting and then transporting a wolf from central Idaho in 2000. He received 8 months in jail, $500 fine, and one year supervised release with no hunting during that time. Congratulations to Service LE and Utah Division of Wildlife Resources on a job well done!!

Montana Q2 (KTVQ- CBS) out of Billings ran the wolf segment they did in cooperation with

MT FW&P, Service, National Park Service, and local ranchers at 10:00 pm December 24th and again on New Year’s eve. The segment addresses the wolf recovery program, public attitudes, and the upcoming delisting process and transition to state management.

Fencing panels for a large enclosure [½ acre] used in the Yellowstone relocation effort have been stored on the Flying D Ranch near Bozeman, MT. Fontaine helped Asher and several other TESF employees load the pen on a truck for shipment to NM on the 4th. It is being transferred to the Service’s Mexican wolf project.

The book "Large Mammal Restoration: Ecological and Sociological Challenges in the 20st Century" edited by David S. Maeher, Reed F. Noss and Jeffery L. Larkin was published by Island Press. It has several wolf articles including: Outcomes of hard and soft releases of reintroduced wolves in central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park" (by Steve Fritts, Curt Mack, Doug Smith, Kerry Murphy, Mike Phillips, Mike Jimenez, Ed Bangs, Joe Fontaine, Carter Niemeyer, Wayne Brewster, and Timm Kaminsky). Information about this book can be accessed at www.islandpress.org or Island Press, P.O. Box 7, Covelo, CA 95428.

 

Dr. John Shivik published an article "The other tools for wolf management" in WOLF! Magazine (wolf_magazine@wolfpark.org) . The article is about all the alternatives to lethal control that are being tested to reduce wolf/livestock conflict. John is a wildlife researcher and project leader at the USDA/Wildlife Services, National Wildlife Research Center in Fort Collins, CO

THE ANNUAL WOLF CONFERENCE WILL BE HELD IN BOISE, ID INSTEAD OF CHICO, MT THIS YEAR, AT THE SUGGESTION OF SEVERAL AGENCY PEOPLE WHO WANTED MORE VARIETY. THE CONF. IS SCHEDULED FOR APRIL 23rd and 24th. THE CALL FOR PRESENTATIONS IS OUT SO PLEASE CONTRIBUTE SOME IDEAS!! CONTACT Joe_Fontaine@FWS.GOV. Joe Fontaine (406)449-5225 x206 ASAP. Please try to attend- especially those that made suggestions to move the Conf. to a new location each year so more people from their agency/area could attend- you got your wish and the ball is in your court!

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

 

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