Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 5/17/02

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 5/04 to 5/17, 2002

Monitoring

See http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/wolf/annualreports.htm for maps of pack locations and home ranges. The interagency 2001 annual report is available and has been mailed. Single copies can be obtained by writing to USFWS, Wolf Annual Report, 100 N. Park, #320, Helena, Montana.

Wolf packs are denning and monitoring flights are still being conducted to determine the number and location of dens. In Idaho Selway, B-93 and B-95, Jureano, and probably Gold Fork are denned. The Tribe will continue to investigate denning status as the summer progresses.

In the Greater Yellowstone area (14 have denned, 6 might have denned and one group did not den. The Teton (2 females may have bred again this year and at least 4-5 pups have ben seen), Washakie, Sunlight, Absaroka (the alpha male that had manage this winter is still going strong), Beartooth, Green River have denned. The Gros Ventre and Greybull River may have denned and we are continuing to investigate. One of the yearlings from the Teton pack and 5 from the Yellowstone Delta pack [2 collars left] have apparently chewed off their radio collars that were put on this winter. Swan Lake, Leopold, Rose, Druid [2 dens], Mollie’s, Nez Perce, Cougar Creek, Taylor Peak, and Freezeout [female seen nursing 3 pups- she was the original alpha female of the Taylor Peak pack but dispersed in 2001] packs have denned. Yellowstone Delta, Chief Joe, Sheep Mountain, and Mill Creek have probably denned but we aren’t sure at this time. The Tower pair has not denned. Observations on the 14th indicated that Leopold, Swan Lake and Druid moved their dens to new locations. The alpha female (#7) of the Leopold pack (who was the daughter of #9 also reintroduced in 1995) died and the initial necropsy indicates she was probably killed by other wolves.

Wildlife Services flew about 2 hours near Red Lodge where a group of 4-5 wolves has been repeatedly observed. WS was hoping to catch them in the open and put a collar in the currently unradioed group. No wolves were seen but wolves are still being reported in that area. Thanks to WS for trying though.

This week a den with 5 pups, Great Divide pack, was located just north of Helena, MT. The den is attended by a radioed female whose radio is apparently not functioning. An attempt last week to trap and radio a wolf in the area because of repeated sightings and before the den was found- ended badly. Apparently the wolf, likely the alpha male was trapped [trap drag marks up to a road], but he disappeared, foul play is suspected and the case is under investigation.

On April16th, Wildlife Service’s caught and released a gray male wolf just north of Avon, MT. He was located with the Castle Rock pack [4], that has apparently denned. The potential denning status of other packs in Montana are [pack size Jan 1 is in brackets] : Apgar [4](old S. Camas) no den female lost in summer 2001; Kintla [6](old N. Camas) maybe but unknown; Murphy Lake [3] yes; Ninemile [11 but 4 removed this spring] yes; Whitefish [4] yes; Grave Creek [6] yes; Spotted Bear [4] yes; Danaher [?] pack status unknown; Fishtrap [7] no- male dead and female moving widely; Gates Park [8] maybe unknown; Fish Creek [3] maybe unknown; Lupine [5] maybe but pack status unknown; Yaak [8- one died from snare injury] no, relocated ones too young; Little Thompson River [3] maybe unknown; Lazy Creek [2] maybe unknown; Hog Heaven [2] yes; Clearwater [2] no female dead; Trout Creek [2] maybe but unknown; and Great Divide [2] den and 5 pups observed but the male is probably dead. Out of 20 potential wolf groups in NW MT, 8 are confirmed denning, 8 maybe denning but are not confirmed, and at least 4 have not denned.

Two of the 5 surviving relocated Gravelly pups are still in the Yaak Valley but 3 are missing. The yearling male returned from spending the winter in Canada and was near Flathead Lake on his last location. The adult female is still presumed to be in Canada.

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.

Control

On the 9th, a young adult male black wolf was shot by a landowner as it fed on a calf it had just killed on private property in the Paradise Valley in the northern portion of the Greater Yellowstone area. Wildlife Services and Service LE investigated and confirmed the calf was killed by the wolf and the wolf was legally taken as allowed by the experimental population rules. In response to the depredation, the landowner and adjacent neighbors were issued shoot on site permits that will allow them to take one (in total) other wolf if they see it on their private property in the next 45 days. Wolves killed a deer in the same pasture near livestock on the 13th.

A cocker spaniel dog was apparently attacked by a lone wolf near Livingston, MT in late April. The dog was rescued by its owner who frightened the wolf away. The dog was severely injured but will likely live. Neither control nor compensation is provided in these types of situations.

Research

Bangs attended a wolf PVA/Conservation meeting in Sweden May 1-4 and gave a presentation about wolf conservation issues on the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska, the northern Rocky Mountains, and the recent peer review questionnaire about wolf population viability. Six North American biologists/geneticists were invited to attend along with 15 or so Swedish and Norwegian biologists. The wolf population in Sweden and Norway was extirpated many years ago but recently a few (3 in total) dispersers from western Russia/eastern Finland made it into central Sweden. The population now totals about 80 animals, nearly all of which are in Sweden. The growing wolf population is an increasingly controversial issue to the two countries’ resource agencies and politicians. The issue has the usual cast of characters including native reindeer herders, livestock’s producers, hunters, wildlife advocates, wolf conservation groups, animal rights groups, and urban vs. rural attitudes as well as agency biologists and every level of local to international politics. The primary issue discussed was how many wolves are enough and is there a problem with genetics since there were so few (three) founders. The key issue that everyone seemed to agree on was the importance of maintaining gene flow. The Swedish government policy is to encourage wolf population growth to 200 wolves then reevaluate if more are needed to sustain a viable population in Sweden. Sweden also has about 1500 European lynx (20-25 kg), 1,000 brown bears (smaller and more secretive than those in N. America), and an unknown number of wolverines. Very interesting and informative meeting with direct application to the issue of wolf population conservation in the northern Rocky Mountains of MT, ID, and WY.

Information and education and law enforcement

The Service is advertising for a seasonal wolf biologist to help trap and radio collar wolves this summer. The announcement opened on the 13th and will remain open for the next two weeks. See USAJOBS for details.

The Nez Perce Tribe has opportunities for field volunteers to assist in their wolf recovery efforts. Contact (208)634-1061 or email at cherir@nezperce.org. Please submit current resume’ by April 30, 2002.

On the 14th, Fontaine and Defenders of Wildlife Representative Suzanne Laverty met with local residents in the Ninemile Valley in NW MT to discuss wolves and if the Defenders can help with preventive measures to reduce the potential for wolf/livestock conflict.

Niemeyer, Mack, and the Service’s R-1 Regional Director met with wolf advocates in Boise, ID on the 16th, to hear their concerns. The RD had met earlier in the year with primary those who opposed wolf restoration efforts.

On the 16th, Bangs attended and gave a presentation at the MT FW&P Region 2 biologists meeting in Missoula, MT. About 20 MT FW&P employees and a MT Fish and Game Commissioner attended.

On the 15th, Bangs was interviewed for an article for Range magazine. Reporter Tim Finley drove to Montana from Fallon, NV for the story.

Jimenez attended a meeting in Pinedale, WY with Forest Service, Wildlife Services, WY G&F, John Shivik (WS Research) and a wool grower to discuss wolves, bears and sheep. Jimenez also met with the Jackson Hole Cooperative Elk Study Group (FS, WY G&F, National Elk Refuge, Grand Teton Park) in Jackson on April 23rd.

Dr. Douglas Smith gave a talk to the University of Idaho graduate seminar on April 25, 10 students attended. On the 26th, he talked to 75 Univ. of Idaho students with the College of Forestry and Wildlife. On te 28th he talked to about 20 students at the College of Southern Idaho. Smith attended the Northern Range working group meeting on the 14th, and gave a talk to Park bus drivers on the 13th. He traveled to S. CA and gave talks at the Univ. of CA, San Diego on the 17th, and 2 talks on the 18th at the CA Wolf Center.

On the 10th, Bangs did an interview in Boise, Idaho for a High Country News radio show.

On the 11th, Bangs and Curt Mack (Nez Perce Tribe) met with Peter Jennings and an ABC documentary crew in Stanley, ID. Interviews were done in a helicopter as the Wild Horse pack was located near Sun Valley, ID. The pack of 5 has not denned this year- it appears that the alpha female was killed by an elk in early winter and the pack did not find a replacement in time to produce pups this year. The alpha male (B-2) is one of the original 1995 reintroduced wolves and is noticeably gray. After the helicopter flight, on-film interviews were conducted. The hour long documentary will examine the role and relationships between federal and state governments, using the wolf recovery program as an example of the complicated and often conflicting relationship between state and federal authority under our system of government. The show will air this fall.

Cater Niemeyer went to New Mexico on the 9th, to assist the Mexican wolf program in catching a radioed pair that had wandered outside the recovery area. Their 7 pups had already been removed from the wild. Early Friday morning on the 10th, both adults were quickly darted. By that evening they were placed in an enclosure with their pups, and immediately re-bonded. Carter "the darter" pulls it off again- great job! On the night of the 11th, he met with Peter Jennings and the ABC documentary crew in Boise, ID.

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