Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 10/11/02

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 9/27 to 10/11, 2002

Monitoring

NEW WEB ADDRESS- See  http://WesternGrayWolf.fws.gov/annualreports.htm for  maps of wolf pack locations and home ranges.

Nez Perce biologists located a new pack in the St Marie area. That makes 12 breeding pairs for Idaho. Although recent control in Jureano removed alpha male so its back down to 11.

Meier conducted a flight in NW MT on the 2nd. Red Shale (N. Fork of the Sun River) 5 gray and 4 black and Hog Heaven (7 gray) packs were seen. The Spotted Bear (2 collars), Fishtrap (2 collars), Murphy Lake (2 collars), Grave Creek (1 collar), Kintla (2 collars 1 mile in Canada), Whitefish (1 collar, 3 seen), and Lazy Creek (2 collars) were also found.

While during coyote removal on the 7th,Wildlife Services saw 2 black wolves and a gray adult near Dillon, MT where wolves had killed 15 sheep (producer was missing 30) and where two black wolf pups had pulled M-44's last month. WS immediately pulled the M-44's they had put back out in the area after their earlier searches couldn’t find any other wolves. On the 8th, WS darted and radio-collared the black adult female. The black wolf with her was believed to be a pup. We will monitor them to see how many and where they go. They will be removed as soon as conditions permit. Plans are to hold them in a pen until they can be relocated this winter/spring.

Fontaine located the Great Divide pack and trapped to re-radio a pack member. The alpha female was killed along the highway last month but the rest of the pack including at least 2 pups seem to be doing fine. On the 8th, he collared a small [40lb.] gray female pup. Good job Joe!! However, the collar was on mortality on the 10th, and had been chewed off by other pack members. Rats!!

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

Control

It appears, from the ongoing monitoring, that the Washakie pack has split into two separate groups and the original radio-collared wolves are being located away from where cattle were killed. WS and Jimenez radio-collared and released an adult male in the Washakie II? pack on the 7th. Traps were pulled on the 10th. This sub-group is likely responsible for the 4-5 calves that have been confirmed killed this summer. We plan to lethally remove several of these wolves if weather and helicopter availability permit. Cattle have been pulled off Forest Service allotment and the producer suspects he is 20 or so short. The Diamond G Ranch owner’s horse broke its leg in a hole and had to be put down. As far as anyone knows this had nothing to do with wolves although the owner may suspect otherwise.

On the 7th, WS Wolf Specialist Rick Williamson lethally controlled via helicopter B46, the alpha female, and an uncollared yearling male (black in color) of the Jureano Mountain pack. Fladry apparently helped keep this pack out of livestock on one ranch for several months but they eventually crossed the barrier and killed a calf. They were also implicated in at least 6 other confirmed and 1 probable calf kills on other ranches this year and had confirmed depredations in prior years. It is hoped that killing these 2 wolves will end this pack's livestock depredations. Prior to the control 1 gray and 5 black wolves were seen, so there should be sufficient remaining wolves for the pack to reproduce in 2003, unless there are further depredations.

On October 8 Niemeyer, DOW members Suzanne Laverty, and Laura Jones took down the remaining fladry (2 miles) from a ranch near Stanley, ID within the SNRA. Lone wolf B107 had killed a calf and a court order (which is still being appealed by the Service) prevented lethal control. Cattle are being shipped and no further depredations had ben reported. Livestock producers appreciated the Service’s, Wildlife Service’s and DOW’s efforts to avoid additional losses. The Defenders deserves a special WELL DONE for their [and their volunteers] efforts to try a wide variety of non-lethal tools, including fladry, to help livestock producers avoid/reduce wolf depredation. DOW helped the Service purchase 4 miles of fladry for future use.

A sheep producer near Dillon who had previous wolf-caused sheep depredations on his private property shot a collared gray male wolf on the 7th- #252, a former Druid wolf. His sheep bands were being moved onto his ranch prior to shipping. He had been issued a shoot-on-site permit for one wolf on his private land. This was the first time a wolf was killed under these permits. See Monitoring for additional details.

Wolves from the Ninemile pack (3-4 wolves remain) killed two other sheep around the 1st. No control was conducted. Earlier the Defenders of Wildlife offered to buy the remaining half dozen sheep at twice market value but the landowner didn’t respond to their offer. He also refused to take any steps to night pen or protect his few remaining sheep. However, the owner did began to pen his sheep and guard them more carefully but on the 9th another one was killed and a previously wounded sheep was wounded again. Wildlife Services will try to shoot a wolf that returns to the carcass.

Research

Univ. Idaho M.S. Graduate student successfully defended his two part thesis on the 3rd. His will submit one paper on GIS analysis of wolf habitat selection in the N. Rocky Mountains. He has already revised another paper on cattle/wolf conflict in central Idaho based upon peer review and has resubmitted it for publication. Congratulations John!!

John and Mary Theberge are in Yellowstone National Park, conducting research on wolf howling.

Information and education and law enforcement

On the 30th, Bangs, Fontaine, Meier, Jimenez, Niemeyer, Rick Williamson (WS), and Doug Smith (YNP) attended an ACETA refresher course on helicopter capture safety. Instructor Mike Coffy did a great job as usual.

Bangs and Smith attended the 3rd annual Predator Conservation Alliance’s Conference in Yellowstone National Park. International speakers discussed work on African Wild Dogs & Lions, Asiatic Lions and Snow Leopards in India, Canadian wolves and bears, Namibian cheetah, and Scandinavian wolves, lynx, brown bears, and wolverine. Bangs help conduct a field trip on livestock conflict in the Paradise Valley on the 5th. We very much thank local rancher Bruce Malcolm who took part of his afternoon to talk about ranching amongst grizzly bears and wolves with a group of about 30 people who visited his ranch.

Norwegian biologist (and former UM student) Dr. Scott Brainerd visited Helena earlier in the week and on the 1st, met with Niemeyer, Bangs, Fontaine, Meier, and UM graduate student Liz Bradley to compile data on the effect of alpha wolf removal on subsequent pack structure and reproductive success. Scott is tasked by Norway and Sweden to develop a white paper on the subject. He then attended the Yellowstone Conf. and presented information about hunter and large carnivore conflict in Europe.

Bangs gave a talk to a Univ. MT wildlife management issues class on the 8th about 30 studens attended. He gave a another talk to a wildlife symposium/issues class at MT State Univ. on the 10th and about 60 people attended.

Dr. Douglas Smith traveled to Oregon to speak to the Oregon Game and Fish Commission on the 9-10. Smith and several other North American wolf experts were invited to give presentations on wolf ungulate relationships to the OR Wolf information Group and Commission. Smith will then travel to Germany where he was invited to give a wolf presentation during the week of the 14th.

Fontaine gave presentations to 2 Helena High School biology classes on the 9th.

Jimenez gave an evening presentation to about 40 Cody, WY Audubon members on the 10th.

Bangs and Fontaine will attend a after-church local public meeting in the Ninemile Valley Community center on Sunday the 13th. Wolf management and the upcoming reclassification will be discussed. The meeting is being hosted by MT Senator Jim Elliot, Defenders, and local folks.

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