Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 1/31/03

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 1/24 to 1/31, 2003

Monitoring

NEW WEB ADDRESS- See WesternGrayWolf.fws.gov/annualreports.htm  for the 2001 annual interagency wolf report. It contains maps of wolf pack locations and home ranges, tables of wolf numbers and depredations, and summaries of scientific studies. The 2002 annual report should be completed and on the web site by March 1, 2003.

Mill Creek pack female pup #297 was found dead on the 29th. WS collared her last month. LE was notified. Val Asher investigated and found that a mountain lion [possibly with a kitten] had killed, cached, and partially consumed her. Her signal was ok on the 28th. Good job Val!

Lone wolf #210 is suspected as being killed by neighboring wolf packs in the Slough Creek area of Yellowstone National Park. The carcass will be recovered soon. The newly formed Slough Creek and #261 group were both found in the general vicinity when #210 was killed.

Jimenez and Western Air Research found the Nez Perce pack early this week. Good work! Seventeen pack members were on the northern end of the National Elk Refuge, just outside Jackson, WY. The Nez Perce pack’s home range is normally in the middle of Yellowstone Park but last year they traveled to the northen range and got into a tiff with the Druid’s then traveled to SE Idaho. This year they are near Jackson. It could signal that the center of the Park in winter, with mainly bison and some elk, doesn’t have enough vulnerable prey to support a large pack.

Tracks of 2 maybe 3 wolves were detected by Wildlife Services near Soda Springs in SE Idaho on the 24th. No problems had been reported but sheep are common in this area in summer and a wolf was killed a couple of years ago after a series of depredations.

Helicopter capture efforts in Idaho were completed this past week. Weather, low snow pack, timbered terrain, and small pack sizes increased difficulties of wolf capture efforts this year. Despite unfavorable conditions, 14 new collars were placed on 6 different wolf packs, exceeding expectations. Nine wolf packs were initially targeted for capture efforts. Capture and radio-collaring efforts were conducted on 7 of these packs, as 2 packs were not accessible. Radio-collaring goals were met for 5 of these 7 wolf packs. Capture operations were based out of McCall and Challis, Idaho.

A black and 3 grey wolves were sighted on the Flying D Ranch near Bozeman. Several observations of this uncollared wolf group, including what were believed to be 2 pups, have been made since Thanksgiving. It appears that a new pack has formed, just southwest of Bozeman. Collaring efforts are being coordinated with MT FW&P.

Please report any sightings of wolf activity to the nearest U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state Fish and Game Agency, Forest Service, BLM, Tribal, or USDA Wildlife Services office. We thank everyone for their cooperation.

Control

WS confirmed that wolves killed and fed on an adult bull west of Avon, MT on the night of the 27th. That’s the first bull we have had confirmed killed by wolves. The rancher shot one wolf by the carcass after he had moved it to an adjacent field. He immediately reported it and LE is investigating. WS shot one of four wolves [uncollared yearling male] feeding on the carcasses the night of the 28th. A telemetry flight morning of the 29th indicated that the Castle Rock was responsible. Lethal control of 4 more wolves was authorized because this pack has attacked cattle on several occasions and killing adult cattle indicates the pack is seriously hunting cattle.

On the 29th, WS confirmed that wolves killed a cow [with calf] N. of Avon, MT and chased several other cows through a fence. Radio telemetry indicated then Halfway pack was responsible. A radio-collared former member of the Castle Rock pack recently joined with this pack. Because of chronic cattle harassment, active hunting of adult cattle, and previous depredations lethal control of the entire pack [estimated 4-5 wolves] was authorized.

A shoot on site permit for 2 wolves near his cattle was authorized for a rancher in the Paradise Valley. The 7 member Mill Creek pack has killed several sheep and cattle in that area, despite aversive conditioning and continues to routinely used the pasture where calving will soon occur. In addition WS may conduct control of up to 2 wolves in addition to trying to get additional radios in the Mill Creek, Sheep Mountain, and Chief Joe packs. Also see lion kills #297 "Monitoring."

Research

Tom Meier et al. are working on compiling and summarizing data for the 2002 annual interagency wolf report.

Information and education and law enforcement

Bangs, Fontaine and several MT FW&P’s employees, including Chris Smith, Chief of Staff, attended a Jan 20th 6PM meeting hosted by local ranchers in the Avon area west of Helena, MT. Nearly 120 people attended. Several wolf packs are in that area and several depredtions have been confirmed. Many ranchers were worried about missing livestock they feel were killed by wolves and reported incidents of "harassed" cattle. The idea was floated by the meeting’s organizer that all the landowners should close their land (nearly 500,000 acres) to hunting and "encourage" the Service and MT FW&P to delist wolves and then classify them as predators. The meeting was constructive and a lot of information was exchanged but no final course of action was agreed upon. See control section above for developments since meeting.

Bangs introduced 2 wolf movies for the International Wildlife Film Festival organization at the Roxy Theater in Missoula on Friday evening of the 24th. The NWF’s "Wolf" and the Alliance for the Wild Rockies’ sponsored the "Cost of Freedom" [a film critical of agency radio-collaring and wolf management] were shown. About 80 people attended. Bangs gave a short presentation and then answered questions. The meeting was constructive and many issues were discussed.

Smith and Carolyn Sime & A. Dood [MT FW&P] gave presentations at a MT teachers’s continuing education course in the Lamar Valley on the 25th. Twenty-three teachers attended.

State Legislatures in Montana and Wyoming had meetings and hearings about wolf resolutions and proposed wolf legislation this week. The Service is closely cooperating with the state fish and game agencies as their states debate the important issue of how wolves will be managed if the Endangered Species Act protections were to be removed.

Smith traveled to Salt Lake City to give a wolf presentation to the Conservation Alliance’s annual meeting [a large trade show that includes 70 outdoor recreation/sport businesses] on Feb. 1.

Niemeyer met with the Oneida County Commission on January 27 in Malad, Idaho, at their request after allegations that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was releasing/radio-tracking wolves in the county during the night time hours in government licensed trucks. Further allegations were that we had a white airplane with the numbers taped over flying around areas where wolves had been sighted. Several people, including one of the Commissioners, had engaged in conversation with unknown persons in federally licensed trucks while those persons had radio-tracking equipment, computers and dog kennels in their vehicles or their possession. None of this information was verified or accurate, and the rumors were resolved.

Jenny Valdivia and Carter Niemeyer attended the Elk Summit at the Red Lion, Lewiston, Idaho, on Saturday, January 25. The Summitt was well attended (estimate150-200 people registered) and participants stayed for the whole day. Senator Crapo and his staff ran the meeting and did an excellent job of selecting good speakers, keeping the meeting on track, and keeping on schedule after each speaker. The Senator emphasized collaboration throughout the meeting. The speakers were excellent-composed of Idaho Fish and Game biologists, Tribal representatives, University of Idaho, Forest Service managers and Jack Ward Thomas (retired Forest Service Chief)-each speaking about Clearwater issues including habitat, predator/prey relationships, fire/vegetation management and future management implications for the Clearwater. The speakers all emphasized that elk were an issue, but that species diversity in the area dictated that any management implications would affect fish- sapsuckers to salamanders, so managers had to consider the big picture.

Fontaine traveled to Nashville, TN the 27-30th, to give a presentation to the National Cattlemen’s Association. He was invited to participate on a panel for special pilot project to investigate ways to be more productive in conflict resolution. Service Director Steve Williams also spoke to the conference later in the week and the first 2 questions to him involved wolf issues.

Bangs, Jimenez, Smith and others did many interviews for wolf stories, mainly recovery, state wolf management plans, finding the Nez Perce pack, and delisting including: Scientific American, the AP Western wire, papers in Denver, Helena, Jackson, and Billings.

An on-line story accompanied the Jan. 20 National Geographic Explorer story about wolf delisting. It can be accessed at the National Geographic web site. Go to the On T.V. section, and then click United States, then N.G. Today web stories. Here is the link to that story: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/01/0122_030122_tvwolves.html

The CENTRAL ROCKIES WOLF PROJECT is pleased to announce that registration has begun for the WORLD WOLF CONGRESS 2003 - BRIDGING SCIENCE AND COMMUNITY, to be held at the Banff Centre (Banff, Canada) from September 25-28, 2003. Please visit www.worldwolfcongress.ca for complete information.

The Service's weekly wolf report can now also be viewed at the Service's Region 6 web site at WesternGrayWolf.fws.gov. This report is government public property and can be used for any purpose. Please distribute as you see fit.

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