Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 2/22/02

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 2/15 to 2/22, 2002

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s email is still shut down but the Park Service is back on line. We do not know when we will be up and running but it could be months.

Monitoring

A radio location flight (2/20) found the 5 relocated Gravelly pups in the Yaak valley of NW MT still (group of 4+1). The other pup is back from Canada in NW MT west of Koocanusa Res. The relocated Gravelly alpha female is north of WA state, near Castlegar, B.C. The Gravelly yearling male has located after 2 months, and he was near Yaak, B.C. A female tagged in the Whitefish territory over a year ago is still with a pack in B.C. about 20 miles north of Eureka, MT. Local contacts were made. Many news reports about the female wolf were published in WA.

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 DOI email is down this site is not active at the current time.

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

Control

A companion animal to a disabled lady near Trego, MT was killed by a large canid on the 19th. Wildlife Services investigated and the 40lb. Spaniel mix was killed by a much larger canid but it had snowed and it was not confirmed to be a wolf. It was purchased by and will be replaced by the federal government’s disability program. The Murphy Lake pack has never been located in that area and there were several large dogs in the area but it still could have been a dispersing wolf. The family was mainly relieved it was not a mountain lion depredation because small children are in the area.

The 5 recently released Gravelly pups were reported near a residence in the Yaak early in the week but had moved west 3 miles by midweek. They were apparently attracted to a large male Akita dog tied up. The resident reported she ran outside and drove them off by banging a pot. A local state warden went to the area on the 21st, to visit with locals, and if possible, use cracker shells and bean bag rounds, to see if he could harass the pups. But, the pups had already moved out of the area. Meier plans to visit the area again next week.

Radio Activated Guards (RAG boxes) have been deployed in the Stanley/Challis area of central Idaho. Wildlife Services and WS research are conducting a more in-depth analysis of their effectiveness at preventing livestock depredations. Helicopter darting this winter put radios on a majority of the wolves in the 3 main problem packs in this area. Radios, more intensive field work, and the RAG boxes should help determine if they help prevent wolf-caused losses or can be used to identify (and remove) individual problem wolves. So far it appears the RAG boxes were triggered several times by wolves (the RAG boxes have monitors that record which collar frequency triggered the device) and no depredations have been recorded.

Lethal Take Permits to private landowners can be issued beginning in February 2002. This year the Service will expand the use of the voluntary shoot-on-sight lethal take permits for chronic depredating wolves. Over the past 2 years 5 permits have been issued, all in Wyoming but no wolves were taken. This year all livestock producers on their private land in the experimental population areas who have had confirmed livestock losses caused by wolves in previous years and have confirmed problems again this year, can receive these permits. These types of permits are authorized under the experimental population rules. Producers who have had depredations in the past, and immediately adjacent ranches, may be issued a permit that will allow one wolf to be shot. Permits can be issued after a ranch has a recent confirmed depredation by Wildlife Services and the Service has authorized agency lethal control. After 45 days or after a wolf is taken, the permits are suspended until additional depredations are confirmed. Only a few dozen ranches in state have had chronic wolf problems on their private land and will qualify for the shoot-on-sight permits this year. By enlisting the assistance of local landowners the Service hopes to more effectively target the individual problem wolves that have been involved in chronic depredation situations. Contacts were made with various agencies in all three states to better coordinate efforts.

Research

Montana FW&P’s biologists were tagging elk west of Yellowstone National Park this week as part of the cooperative Montana State University study to look at the potential effect of wolf predation on elk populations in the Gallatin and Madison Valleys.

Wolf student volunteers in the Gros Ventre drainage near Jackson, WY are beginning to follow 20 recently radio collared elk in that area as part of a cooperative study to look at elk movements between winter feed grounds and the potential affect of wolf presence. This is the third year of the Service led cooperative wolf study but the first year of radio-tracking elk. This combined cooperative effort should greatly increase knowledge about elk use of the feed grounds.

Information and education and law enforcement

Doug Smith gave several talks this past week. He talked a mixed group of about 50 people with the German Wolf Preservation Society and students from a college in British Columbia. He gave a public talk at Old Faithful on the 15th to 100 visitors. He also gave two presentations to Park rangers, maintenance, and interpretive staff. Deb Guernsey talked with about 40 students from the Univ. Montana Wilderness Studies class.

British Columbia Environmental Stewardship biologists are considering a proposal that would liberalize wolf hunting below 1100m in the Yaak, B.C. area, primarily because of some confirmed and suspected cattle losses over the past few years. They called to discuss the proposal with the Service to see if additional wolf take in that area could hurt our recovery efforts. Our position is the more connectivity with the U.S. wolf population the better, but most interchange to date has occurred through the main Rocky Mountain area along the Continental Divide. Even though some wolves radioed in the U.S. have crossed into that area of Canada, we do not believe enough wolves will be taken that it could significantly affect U.S. recovery efforts which are essentially complete. They will continue to monitor the situation and keep us informed. Thanks!! for asking and we appreciate the continuing coordination with Canada.

On the afternoon of the 17th, Bangs, Asher (TESF), Carolyn Sime and other representatives from MT FW&P, graduate students from Montana State University and Dr. Garrott met with local area ranchers in the Madison Valley to discuss wolves, elk, and livestock. About 70 primarily local people attended. The meeting went well and most folks were just wanting to have more information.

A volunteer group of students at Utah State University has prepared a draft document "Wolves in Utah: an analysis of potential impacts and recommendations for management." The report will be presented at several conferences this winter and spring and should be posted at www.utahwolves.org in the next couple of weeks. They are searching for possible funding sources to independently publish the manuscript. Contact Dr. Robert Schmidt at USU, (435)797-2459 or fishnwlf@cc.usu.edu .

On the 16th of January, Montana released it draft state wolf management plan for public review and comment. The draft "Planning Document for Wolf Conservation and Management in Montana" and the Wolf Advisory Council’s "Report to the Governor" are available via MT FW&P’s website at: www.fwp.state.mt.us . To request copies call 406-444-2612. Public scoping comments on wolf management issues and alternatives will begin to be solicited in March 2002.

THE ANNUAL WOLF CONFERENCE WILL BE HELD IN BOISE, ID INSTEAD OF CHICO, MT THIS YEAR. THE CONF. IS SCHEDULED FOR APRIL 23rd and 24th at the Owyhee Plaza Hotel 1-800-233-4611. CONTACT Joe_Fontaine@FWS.GOV. Joe Fontaine (406)449-5225 x206. Please try to attend it should be a great conference. Joe is contacting potential speakers.

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