Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 3/29/02

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 3/22 to 3/29, 2002

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s email and web sites are back. Thanks for your patience. Please forward copies of the 2001 annual report and weeklies to others.

Monitoring

A radio location flight (2/23) found all 6 Gravelly pups still in NW MT. The pup that had been in Canada is back. They were in a group of 4 (Pete Cr) and a pair (SE. Vinal Lk.). The relocated adult male and female weren’t found during the most recent aerial search (3/23) in ID, WA and Canada and we won’t search for them there any longer unless public reports indicate they may have moved back into the U.S. Meier and MT FW&P warden Jon Obst traveled to the Yaak Valley on the 22nd, to contact local folks and check on the location of the Yaak pups. They tried to approach the pups on the ground to test their wariness and fire cracker shells and rubber bullets if the wolves appeared unwary. The pups had just killed a deer but ran away from the carcass before the biologists could get close enough to see them. They showed no sign of boldness or habituation. On the 23rd, Obst reported the 4 were back near the deer carcass. No problems have been reported in the Yaak but they were reported near houses (with dogs) 3 times in the past 4 months. However, the pups appear to be acting like regular wild wolves which is very promising.

The Nez Perce Tribe’s monthly wolf report summarizing this year’s activities so far and the Tribe’s Annual Wolf Progress Report covering 1999-2001 can obtained by contacting Cheri Ramos at cramos@nezperce.org, Or write to Nez Perce Tribe Wolf Recovery Project P.O. Box 1922, McCall, ID 83638 or (208)634-1061.

On March 21, Williams (WS), Niemeyer and Mack attempted to locate, dart, and radio-collar wolves in the Fairfield, ID area. Sightings indicate an uncollared pack is using that area. Fresh wolf tracks were observed but no wolves were captured.

See the 2001 annual report http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/wolf/annualrpt01/ for a map of pack locations and home ranges. The interagency 2001 annual report is available and we should begin mail distribution around April 10th 2002.

Please report wolf sightings in MONTANA, IDAHO, OR WYOMING!! If outdoors enthusiasts or AGENCY BIOLOGISTS report evidence of wolves to you please pass that information along to the Service. This appears to be a record year for wolf dispersal and evidence is mounting that there are several packs and pairs that have formed that do not contain radio-collared members. We find them primarily through public and agency reports- so please help!!

Control

A llama was attacked by wolves in the Ninemile Valley last week. It was bitten in the hind quarter but survived. This week control to remove 2 pack members was conducted from a helicopter on the 25th. Two adult males, one gray, the other black were removed. The black male had a severe injury to its hindquarter, including muscle atrophy, likely a result of being kicked by prey.

The Sheep Mountain pack killed a calf on private land in the Paradise Valley on the 18th. Prior to that a cow was fed on by wolves but it appeared that wolves didn’t kill it, but they may have chased it through a fence. A few days later a still born calf was consumed by wolves in the same area. Control removed 4 pack members on the 26th. All 11 pack members were present when the 3 males and 1 female were shot. Wolf #224 (a disperser from the Druid pack) was removed because its radio signal indicated it and 2-3 others were often near where the depredations occurred. One of the wolves that was shot had a "rope tail" meaning it probably had mange.

Rick Williamson (WS) and Stuart Breck (Wildlife Services Research) reported that radio activated guard (RAG) boxes were triggered by collared members of the Whitehawk pack in the East Fork of the Salmon River on March 27. The RAG boxes and associated monitors indicated that at least 5 pack members were frightened away from a calving pasture in at least 3 locations. Nine RAG boxes have been deployed in this area for over a month and have repelled pack members at least 3 times. The RAG boxes are being tested to determine their effectiveness in preventing depredations on calves. Ranchers in the area have been cooperating with the Service, Wildlife Services, and the Nez Perce Tribe to conduct the tests. RAG boxes are just one more tool to help discourage wolves from frequenting small, confined livestock production areas.

Val Asher (TESF) spent a lot of time in the Paradise Valley. During the last week she spent a night in a calving pasture after wolves were repeatedly seen in the area, helped install a RAG box, removed a dead cow (not a depredation) from a private calving area so it wouldn’t attract wolves), put flagging around another calving pasture where the Chief Joe pack had recently killed an elk and a deer (snow tracking indicated the wolves approached but wouldn’t cross flagged area), and provided less-than-lethal training and munitions to local ranchers. Great job Val and thanks!

Research

The Yellowstone National Park winter predation study began on March 1 and will end on March 30. The 30-day study follows wolf packs every day on the ground and by aircraft [weather depending] to measure the predation rate and prey selection of wolves. This work has been conducted Nov.15-Dec.15 and March 1-30 for the past 5 years. This has been the worst winter weather on record for flying but ground crews are doing their best to keep up.

The Diamond Moose calf mortality study is wrapping up. Dr. Dennis Murray and M.S. student John Oakleaf with the University of Idaho are putting the finishing touches on the final report in preparation for publication.

The Panther Creek winter predation (wolves and lions eating elk and deer) study is also wrapping up. University of Idaho graduate student Jason Husseman successfully defended his thesis work, that should be finalized by June 2002.

Information and education and law enforcement

On March 21, Rick Williamson gave a presentation on wolves to about 200 people who attended a Rotary Club agriculture appreciation night banquet in Twin Falls, ID.

On March 25, Niemeyer and Justin Mann (WS) met with Valley County Commissioners in Cascade, ID and presented an update on wolves and wolf management.

On the 29th, Bangs and Asher attended the third workshop of "Evaluating the effectiveness of Predator Compensation Programs" in Missoula, MT. The group includes about 30 representatives including the livestock industry/organizations, conservation groups, USDA Wildlife Services, MT, ID, and WY state fish and game agencies, Forest Service, BLM, and University of Montana. A PhD. graduate student Jessica Montag reported on her in-depth interviews with livestock producers in Augusta, MT, Dubois, WY, Salmon, ID, and her plans for interviews in Jan. 2003 in Kaycee, WY. The larger mail survey portion of the study (livestock producers and the general public) was also discussed. The study should be completed in 2003. Information about the cooperative effort can be obtained from susanbury@vcn.com .

The Nez Perce Tribe has met with many Idaho groups this year including: Senators Larry Craig and Mike Crapo’s staffs, Idaho Cattle Assoc., Idaho Office of Species Conservation, Idaho Outfitters and Guides Board, Boise and Valley County Commissioners, and held a ful day field trip for the Univ. of Idaho’s Upward Bound Science Class. Tribal Wildlife Program Director Keith Lawrence gave a presentation on wolf recovery and other ESA issues to the Clearwater RC&D Private Landowner Conf. in Moscow, ID

On the 16th of January, Montana released its draft state wolf management plan for public review and comment. After seven community work sessions with four more to go Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks’ innovative scoping meetings are going well. So far, evening discussions have been held in Billings, Missoula, Glasgow, Bozeman, Gardiner, Dillion, and Great Falls. The sessions are well attended and well covered by local television, radio and newspapers. Nearly 90 participants came to Missoula, 30 in Billings, 10 in Glasgow, 130 in Bozeman, 65 in Dillion, 103 in Gardiner and 20 in Great Falls. The meetings have been defined by a welcoming open-house atmosphere and by the civil tone of the participants who are eager to be a part of a community process where they can speak freely as FWP listens to and records every issue and point of view. FWP’s Carolyn Sime, Glenn Erickson, and Tom Palmer are coordinating the sessions with the help of FWP’s regional staff. They note that people attending the sessions have something important to say about wolf management and that the issues and concerns are being discussed with passion, yet respectful, from all sides.

FWP is working to have a wolf management plan complete and adopted by December. The effort is part of a year-long process to prepare and environmental impact statement whose proposed action is to develop and adopt a state wolf management plan to use when the wolf is delisted by the Service. 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 are being solicited in March 2002. FWP l hosted several additional community "scoping" meetings from 6:30pm to 9pm on 2/26-Kalispell, Flathead Valley Comm. College; 3/27 Butte, Red Lion Inn, 3/28 Ennis, High School Library and April 1, Helena, Colonial Inn .

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.

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