Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 4/04/03

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 3/28 to 4/04, 2003

Monitoring

NEW WEB ADDRESS- See  the 2002 annual wolf report at http://westerngraywolf.fws.gov/ for maps of wolf pack locations and home ranges, tables of wolf numbers and depredations, litigation and funding issues, and summaries of scientific studies.

Jim Holyan retrieved a radio-collar on mortality from one of the Big Hole wolves near Lolo Pass on March 24th. Apparently the 2-year old collar was just chewed off. The previous week volunteer Therease Hartman attempted to hike into the area but deep soft snow prevented her from reaching it.

A male 100lb. wolf-like canid killed near Spalding, Nebraska December 15, 2002 turned out to be a dispersing wolf from the Midwest, according to recently completed DNA analysis. It is under LE investigation. The last wolf known taken in NE was in 1913.

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.

Control

Agency control [traps pulled] has ended in the Ninemile Valley on the 4th. No wolves were controlled and there have been no further depredations. On the 4th, Fontaine met with local residents to provide less-than-lethal-munitions training and explain the new 4d regulations. He was accompanied by a writer who is doing a story for the LA Times Magazine about wolf management.

On the 29th, an unidentified group of four gray and one black wolf were seen outside of Cameron, MT in the Madison Valley. They attacked a black lab who had chased them. The dog got away with several puncture wounds but appears to be doing ok.

Taylor Peak wolves fought with dogs in the Bear Canyon area on the 29/30th. One dog had wounds in several places but will recover. The dog owner ran them off. Sentinel pack has also been found on the Madison Valley several times. They are being monitored to see if they are excavating a den in the area. If so, project personnel will try to push them back into the Taylor Fork drainage.

Sheep fencing is being built in Paradise Valley through Defenders of Wildlife pro-active fund in the Mill creek area. The Mill Creek pack had attacked sheep in that pasture several times. A special thanks to Val Asher for making all that come together.

Research

Yellowstone National Park’s late winter 30-day wolf predation study ended on March 30th. Spring kill rates seem similar to previous years [elk kill/pack every 3 days with more bulls that are in poorer condition than elk kills in fall]. The lower than expected number of calves killed appears to be a result of lower overall calf numbers in the northern range herd.

Information and education and law enforcement

Correction: Bangs met with some ranchers from the Madison Valley Ranch Lands Group, other state and federal agencies, and conservation organizations in Three Forks, MT March 24th. The group works to keep ranches viable in face of a variety of social and economic pressures.

Congratulations!! to Dr. Douglas Smith. Doug was just awarded the National Parks Service’s: Director's Award for Natural Resource Management. It is a National award given to one Park Service employee each year. In some part due to the outstanding level of personal commitment required and to the success of the Yellowstone Wolf Recovery program, last year Wayne Brewster, the assistant director for the Park’s Yellowstone Center for Resources received the same national award. Great job Doug! and certainly well deserved.

Gray wolves throughout the eastern and western United States were downlisted from endangered to threatened status effective April 1, 2003. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it established three Distinct Population Segments (DPS) for the gray wolf. Wolves in the Western DPS and Eastern DPS were listed as threatened but in the Southwestern DPS wolves remain listed as endangered. The experimental population areas in central Idaho, Yellowstone, and the southwest remain unaffected by this listing action. The new threatened status in N. Montana and N. Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada and the northern portions of Colorado and Utah [N. Of I-70] is accompanied by a special 4d rule that allows wolf management very similar but slightly more flexible than that already allowed in the experimental population areas.

In the western DPS [outside the experimental areas which remained just as they were] the 4d rules allow: 1. Anyone to harass any wolf at any time as long as the wolf is not injured; 2. Landowners may shoot any wolf that is physically attacking [biting, grasping] livestock [defined as- cattle, sheep., horses, or mules, and guarding and herding animals- such as llamas and certain breeds of dogs] and domestic dogs on private property [it must be reported within 24hrs]: 3. Federal grazing permittees that have a confirmed wolf depredation may receive a permit from the Service to shoot wolves seen attacking livestock on their federal grazing allotments. 4. The Service may issue permits to injuriously harass [rubber bullets, etc.] wolves; 5. The Service may issue permits to private landowners to shoot wolves on-sight after 2 or more livestock depredations; 6. People who accidentally kill a wolf will not be prosecuted if they were involved in otherwise legal activities and they took reasonable steps to not kill a wolf [Note- hunters are always responsible for identifying their target and "accidentally" shooting a wolf may be prosecuted]; 7. The States and Tribes, or-if 10 or more breeding pairs are established the Service, may relocate wolves that are causing excessive predation on native ungulate herds; 8. No land-use restrictions are envisioned unless the federal activity may kill wolves. There are no land-use restrictions on private land. 9. The Service and other Service-authorized agencies may take wolves under a permit for a variety of other reasons, including research or wolves that look or behave strangely. 10. Of course, as already allowed by the ESA, anyone may kill any wolf that is posing a direct and immediate threat to human life.

The Defenders of Wildlife served the Service with a 60-day Notice of Intent to sue over wolf reclassification on April 1, the same day the rule was published. The issue was widely covered by the media.

Montana Wolf Management Draft EIS was released and public meetings set. Public meetings on the future of state wolf management in Montana will be held from 6:30 till 9:00PM March 27 in Billings; April 1 in Glasgow; April 3 in Avon; April 8 in Missoula; April 14 in Bozeman; April 15 in Gardiner; April 16 in Butte and in Dillon; April 17 in Ennis; April 21 in Great Falls; April 23 in Kalispell and Whitefish; and in April 24 in Rexburg. In addition mail-in and on-line comments will be accepted through May 12. Visit www.fwp.state.mt to review the plan and submit comments or write Wolf Plan EIS, MT FW&P, 490 N. Meridan Rd, Kalispell, MT 59901. To request a copy of the draft EIS call 406-444-2612.

Doug Smith gave a lecture at the University of Wyoming on the 2nd. About 50 people attended.

On the 4th Doug Smith met with Jeff Corwin and staff of the Animal Planet, who did interviews and filmed in the Park for a future segment on wolf recovery in Yellowstone Park.

Carter met with representatives of the Wolf Education and Research Center on the 29th & 30th to update them on wolf management strategies in the Idaho recovery area and talk about reclassification and delisting of the gray wolf.

Litigation- Western Watershed vs Sawtooth National Forest, Service. On April 2 the Judge for the Federal District Court of Idaho issued an order that denied a request that livestock grazing within the Sawtooth National Recreation Area be prohibited until Forest Service NEPA analysis is completed. He did however grant a renewal of last year’s injunction that prohibits the Service from lethally controlling wolves in the SNRA. In response to the Service’s request for clarification, he said the injunction also applied to private land within the SNRA, but he also suggested further briefings would be considered. The Service/DOI requested DOJ to file an appeal of the court’s rulings.

The 2003 North American Interagency Wolf Conference will be held April 8 - 10 at Chico Hot Springs, Pray, MT. The theme is wolf/ungulate relationships. The registration website is https://keysecure.com/forwolves.org/confer2003.html The agenda is attached.

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, early registration ended April 1. All proposals/abstract had to be received by March 15. Those talks selected to be given at the Conf. will be notified after the peer review process is completed. In addition a select group of papers will be compiled into a book, that represents significant aspects of the Conf.

The Service's weekly wolf report can now also be viewed at the Service's Region 6 web site at  http://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