Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 9/20/02

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 9/13 to 9/20, 2002

Monitoring

NEW WEB ADDRESS- See http://westerngraywolf.fws.gov/ maps of wolf pack locations and home ranges.

Nez Perce biologists radio-collared 2 female pups in the Gospel Hump pack, renewing telemetry contact with that pack. Denning has been confirmed in 9 radioed packs in Idaho and one unradioed pack. Investigations of another 7 packs are ongoing.

On the 15th, Wildlife Services [THANKS!] trapped and re-collared wolf #281, who along with 4 other siblings were relocated in early 2001 to Lake Koocanusa in NW MT. Her shed collar was found in this area in spring 2001 and at that time she was suspected of making it back to the Boulder pack territory. She is now the presumed alpha female of the Halfway pack north of Avon, MT. When she was being tagged, a black wolf was seen nearby- which is somewhat surprising since the aerial observation of the Halfway pack indicated 2 ad gray and 6 gray pups. Four of the five wolves from the Castle Rock/Boulder pack that were preemptively relocated in winter 2000/2001 have bred. Two (#281 and the recently killed by a car- Great Divide, alpha females) traveled 220 miles to get back to the Avon, MT area. That one relocation effort led to four new packs in NW MT, now that was a successful relocation effort!

Jimenez caught and radio-collared a black 62lb. pup from the Teton pack on the 15th when the pack traveled south of the Park into an accessible area of Forest Service land. The pack moved back into Teton National Park immediately after the pup was captured and released. On the 17th, a WS trapper catching coyotes for a Grand Teton National Park research project caught a yearling black wolf from the Teton pack. The yearling female had been darted last winter but had her collar chewed off. She was caught is a #3 soft-catch with a tranquilizer tab. She was collared and released in excellent condition and Jimenez reportedly didn’t even have to immobilize her due to the tabs effect. She walked off after being collared.

A relocated wolf from the Gravelly pack was legally shot by a hunter in Canada. Male wolf #234 was chasing an elk an hour’s drive north of Bonner’s Ferry, ID when the Canadian hunter shot him. The hunter reported harvesting the wolf and took the collar into B.C. wildlife officials. We thanked the hunter for returning the collar and providing us with the information. Some people have been saying that hunting will never control wolf population in the western U.S. I strongly disagree with their opinion. Having worked on a wolf harvest program in Alaska, I strongly believe wolves in most of the western U.S. will be very vulnerable to hunting/shooting because of the open terrain and amount of public access in the west compared to wolf-country in Canada and Alaska. Many areas of open prairie will remain nearly wolf-free solely from shooting. Many of the wolves that have been tagged in the U.S. but traveled to parts of Canada that is more forested and less open than most of Montana, Idaho, or Wyoming were still quickly harvested by hunters or landowners.

Please report wolf sightings in MONTANA, IDAHO, OR WYOMING!!

Control

Wildlife Services confirmed that several sheep were killed in the Gravelly Range by either a mountain lion or wolves but since the sheep bands were being moved off of their Forest Service allotment around the 15th, no control or further investigation was pursued.

A calf was killed by wolves on the Diamond G Ranch near Dubois, WY on the 14th. However, the radioed members of the Washakie pack were not in that area. Traps will be set in that area next week to radio-collar wolves, and depending on what wolves maybe involved appropriate control will be implemented.

In response to a calf being killed in the Sunlight pack (the 4th so far this summer and 7 last summer) Wildlife Services caught the alpha male #52. He was radio-collared and released on site on the 17th. The next day a black uncollared yearling male was trapped and euthanized. Control has been terminated unless there are further depredations.

Goldfork pack continues to be implicated in livestock depredations. The pack has frequented areas with both sheep and cattle throughout most of the summer. Sheep herders and their guardian dogs have run members of the Goldfork pack off on numerous occasions. Although no depredations were confirmed, a cattle producer found and WS has investigated several dead calves which were determined to be "probable" wolf kills. No control action has been initiated this summer. One additional calf carcass was discovered this week, investigated by WS, and determined to be a "probable" wolf kill. In all cases, the carcasses were too decomposed, or there was not enough of them left to determine cause of death. Cattle are scattered across a large timbered allotment, making it difficult to find carcasses.

On the 12th, WS made an attempt to shoot the alpha male of the Jureano pack because of repeated livestock depredations. The attempt was unsuccessful because he stayed in heavy timber. This week another calf was killed on the Diamond Moose allotment by the Jureano pack, control is continuing.

Various legal motions were filed in the ongoing Sawtooth National Recreational Area litigation and agency wolf control- other than preventive- is still on hold. Wolf B107 returned to the area where it had earlier killed a calf. Fladry was put up by Defenders volunteers and Niemeyer, to deter the wolf from re-entering the private property where the first depredation occurred.

On the 19th, Wildlife Services checked traps set in the Halfway pack territory [Ovando, NW MT) and found an adult male, almost certainly the pack’s alpha male dead in the trap. It appears he was likely caught shortly after the traps were checked the day before and died from exposure. Plans were to remove the alpha male in response to calf depredation on the 3rd and subsequent sheep depredations. The adult female was captured on the 15th, collared, and released on-site. The remaining traps have been pulled and control has ended.

Research

Graduate student John Oakleaf [as of September 23, the Service’s field project leader for the Mexican wolf recovery program] will defend his M.S. thesis at the University of Idaho on Oct 3rd. John did an outstanding project that looked at wolf habitat suitability throughout Montana, Idaho and Wyoming using wolf location data and GIS analysis. John also conducted the research on causes of cattle death on a remote grazing allotment in central Idaho. Both of those efforts will/have been submitted for peer review publication. Congratulations John- you did outstanding work and welcome to the Service!

A hybrid Mexican wolf litter was suspected born this spring and the pair and their pups were brought into captivity. Subsequent analysis showed the once captive but now free-roaming Mexican wolf was bred by a dog. Her mate was apparently injured during the breeding season and somehow she bred with a dog. The pups were euthanized after DNA confirmation of dog hybridization. The female is in captivity. This is the first time gray wolf hybrids have been confirmed born in the wild in North America. This has happened in Europe a few times and historical records in N. America suggest it may have happened in the past. Despite decades of intensive wolf research and almost unlimited potential for hybridization to occur in N. America, it is apparently an extremely rare and isolated event. Hybridization between wild wolves and dogs is, somewhat surprisingly, virtually unknown in the wild and apparently has no impact on wolf population viability or genetics in North America.

Service seasonal biologists Jaffe and Babcock traveled to Bozeman, MT on the 19th, to help set up trapping and radio-collaring efforts for the cooperative MSU, MT FW&P, Service, Park Service, and landowner study of the potential effect of wolf predation on heavily hunted elk populations. Radioed elk and wolf packs are being followed to determine any relationships between movements and mortality. See http://www.montana.edu/ecology/staff/garrott/index.htm for more information.

Information and education and law enforcement

Doug Smith did interviews for NBC News and a Japanese film crew. Early in the week Bangs was interviewed several times about a WY G&F Commission question whether the Service thought delisting could proceed if wolves remained listed as state "predators" [no legal protection] throughout all WY except National Parks and Wilderness areas. The Service’s Director will provide WY a reply ASAP.

Nez Perce Tribe Wildlife Program Director Keith Lawrence, met with Idaho F&G representatives and the Idaho Governor’s Office of Species Conservation on the 12th to explore the Tribe’s role in wolf management after delisting.

Wildlife Services concluded searches for wolves on private property near Dillon, MT where 2 wolf pups were killed after they pulled WS M-44 devices that had been set for coyotes several weeks ago. We now suspect the sheep depredations were actually caused by a previously unknown wolf pack with pups that moved into the area- probably remnants of the old Gravelly pack. The WS specialist searched for wolves and their sign on the 10th from aircraft while doing coyote control. He howled and searched for tracks pm 10th to am 11th, and howled and search for tracks again on pm the 16th to am 17th. No sign of any wolf activity was discovered. Based upon those five searches WS was informed that the Service did not consider that area to be occupied by wolves and they could re-set M-44 devices for coyote control beginning September 18th. If any fresh wolf activity is discovered, they will immediately pull M-44 devices and confer with the Service, regarding further control efforts.

Cheri Ramos, the Nez Perce Tribe's Office Assistant, has taken another job with the Nez Perce Tribe's Fisheries Program. Cheri was a valuable team member and did a great job for the project over the past two years. She will be missed and we wish her the best in her new job.

The IUCN/SSC Canid Specialist Group announces the launch of CANID NEWS, an online journal on the biology and conservation of the Canidae. Canid News is a new electronic, peer-reviewed, scientific journal devoted to the rapid dissemination of current research on all members of the family Canidae (wolves, dogs, jackals and foxes).

The journal can be accessed at http://canids.org/canidnews/ and will be mirrored on two additional servers: http://www.iucn.org/themes/ssc/sgs/sgs.htm and http://www.carnivoreconservation.org

Canid News seeks papers that are novel and written in a way that is accessible to an audience that includes an array of disciplines (conservation biologists, ecologists, wildlife managers, government officers, canid enthusiasts, etc.) concerned with an array of issues (e.g. biology, conservation, livestock losses, animal welfare, methodology). We encourage papers that make use of the unique opportunities of an e-journal: color illustrations, photographs, links to video clips, downloadables, and other novel inventions that may encourage reader interaction.

The International Wolf Center has produced an exciting new Wolves and Humans informational series to help foster wolf/human coexistence.

http://www.wolf.org/wolf/learn/mgt/basics/wolves_humans.asp

one is about identifying wolves;

http://www.wolf.org/wolf/learn/mgt/basics/W&H_was_that_a_wolf.pdf

and the other contains tips for avoiding conflicts with wolves.

http://www.wolf.org/wolf/learn/mgt/basics/W&H_avoiding%20_conflict.pdf

The International Wolf Center encourages the reproduction of these informational sheets for your personal use, or for distribution to any audience.

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

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