Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 4/11/03

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 4/04 to 4/11, 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.

Many breeding females appear to be localizing near their usual den sites. In Idaho much snow remains at higher elevations and while lower elevation packs are near dens, higher elevation packs are still on ungulate winter ranges.

Seasonal biologist Paul Frame was accompanied by Dean Cluff, a wolf expert from the NW Territories looking for wolf activity and to begin trapping and radio-collaring.

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

Another sheep [third this year] was killed in the Ninemile Valley on the night/morning of the 5th/6th. Wildlife Services was instructed to kill up to 2 wolves, preferably by shooting at the sheep pasture. Male wolf #501, who had been involved in previous depredations was shot on the sheep carcass the night of the 6th. Control has ended unless further depredations are confirmed. On the 9th, a lady riding with her dog in that area saw 2 gray wolves, that her dog then chased. The dog returned later and was uninjured. Additional rubber bullet training in the area will be conducted.

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

On the 5th Bangs and Asher were accompanied to the Paradise Valley by a reporter and photographer who are doing a story for L.A. Times Magazine. First Bangs and Asher examined the old den site of the Chief Joe pack, to fill it in if it looked active, but it wasn’t. That afternoon, they and the reporters visited with a local rancher who had depredations in the past. Defenders of Wildlife representative Susan Stone and the T.V. crew from Animal Planet, Jeff Corwin Show looked at the new fencing, RAG box, and fladry that rancher was using. Then they visited another rancher as part of their piece on living in large carnivore country.

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. The new regulations can be viewed at the Federal Register April 1, 2003.

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 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.

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 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.

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 was held April 8 - 10 at Chico Hot Springs, Pray, MT. The theme was wolf/ungulate relationships and nearly 150 biologists, media and public attended. Several awards were given. The Service’s wolf recovery team was recognized as Service national team "Recovery Champions" [as well as the recovery team with the oldest average age and most diverse range of psychological problems] by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, certificates of appreciation and a group photo was awarded- Congratulations to Mike Jimenez, Tom Meier, Joe Fontaine, Carter Niemeyer, and Ed Bangs. The Service recognized the outstanding personal effort on behalf of wolf recovery of Suzanne Stone {formerly Laverty] and Rick Williamson, WS, and awarded them plaques. A special thanks! and Great Job- Suzanne and Rick! The 2003 Alpha Award went to Mike Jimenez the Service’s Project Leader for Wolf Recovery in Wyoming. Mike does an outstanding job and always puts forth extra effort- Congratulations Mike and well done!! There was high media coverage of the meeting and the wide range of papers that were presented. Many interviews were given by Service biologists.

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