Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 4/25/03

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 4/26 to 5/2, 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.

Seasonal biologist Paul Frame is in the Noxon area, where he is trapping for the Green Mountain Pack. He is also looking for sign in the Bull River and Clark Fork drainage. Seasonal biologist Paul Hansen came on board the 25th and is trapping around the Clearwater Game Range near Ovando, Montana. On the 27th, a trap was missing and it was assumed a dog had been caught. On Tuesday a person called about her friends dog being caught in a trap. The area had been properly signed and the animal was caught in a rubber-jawed trap. All the proper trapping protocols were followed and in this instance, it wasn’t a big issue. Apparently they were walking their dog and came into the area through the brush and not down the road.

On Sun. the 27th, Mack thought he detected wolf R241, and possibly R242 (both Sheep Mtn. dispersers from north of YNP), near Idaho City, ID. A later flight confirmed that R241 was by itself near Idaho City but close to 4 other wolves that were verified by Niemeyer. Volunteer Jon Tapp had investigated reports to the north and northeast of this same area and observed tracks of at least 3 wolves. This appears to be a newly establishing pack.

USFS, NPR and NPR biologists began coordinating efforts to search for missing radio collars in the three (or more) state area. About 40 wolves, collared in the last 5 years, are currently missing. Searches will concentrate on likely wolf habitat where no wolves are known to be radio-collared.

Williamson and Niemeyer searched for the pack of 10 wolves sighted along the Morgan Creek Road this winter on 4/29-4/30 northeast of Challis, Idaho. According to local residents the wolves moved out of their winter haunts about a month ago. Further attempts will be made to locate the pack and instrument a pack member with a radio collar.

Nez Perce Tribal program staff held outreach meetings in Mala. City this week in response to recent reports and documented presence of wolves in the area. The purpose for this outreach effort was to coordinate information sharing to better document status of wolf activity in the area and increase pro-active and responsive wold management in the event of future conflicts with livestock. Coordination meetings were held with County Commissioners, federal land management agencies including U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, livestock producers, and the local community.

Aerial monitoring information in Idaho indicates that as many as seven documented packs may be denning at this time. Summer field activities to document breeding status of wolves will be initiated next week. Efforts to document and radio collar new wolf packs and radio-collar additional members of existing packs was initiated this week. Current efforts are focused in the Salmon and Lochsa River corridors.

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

On the 29th, WS investigated a possible calf depredation near Skalkaho pass west of Phillipsburg, Montana and near the Sapphire pack area. The calf had been dead about a week and was nearly consumed. Marks on the hide and hemorrhaging signs on the underside of the hide indicated a probable depredation. No control will be taken at this time.

Wildlife Services investigated another single calf depredation incident that was probably killed by members of the Buffalo Ridge pack near Clayton, Idaho. This is the third probable calf loss, but little evidence remained to confirm the depredation. Any further confirmed losses will result in incremental removal of wolves responsible for the depredation. An electronic monitor was placed in the vicinity of the first probable depredations and radio-collared members of the Buffalo Ridge pack have triggered the monitors on several occasions.

Research

Congratulations to Doug Smith, Rolf Peterson, and Doug Houston who co-author an article "Yellowstone after Wolves". It was the cover story and was just published in Bio-Science [April 2003, Vol 53 No. 4: 330-340. Great piece of work- Doug, Rolf and Doug!

Information and education and law enforcement

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced several new appointments for Pacific Region (Region One):

Dave Allen, Regional Director (RD)

Dave Wesley, Assistant Regional Director (ARD)

Jeff Foss, Field Supervisor, Snake River Fish and Wildlife Office, Boise

Dave Allen transferred from his former position as RD for the Alaska Region. Dave Wesley has most recently served as the Pacific Region's ARD of Migratory Birds and State Programs in Portland. Jeff Foss joined the Service in May, 2002, as the new Deputy Field Supervisor in Boise, coming from his previous position with Boise National Forest. Foss replaces Bob Ruesink, former Snake River Fish and Wildlife Office Field Supervisor.

Niemeyer presented a briefing to the RD Dave Allen and other staff members on 5/1 in Boise, giving him an update on critical wolf related issues in Idaho.

TWO RESEARCH JOBS- Two research technician jobs are available for carnivore-cattle study in Arizona for 1 year starting May 19, 2003. If the program is extended opportunities for graduate study will be available. A multi-agency and partner team is investigating causes of cattle death and grazing rotation schedules on very remote grazing allotments in Arizona. Mountain lions, wolves, coyotes and black bears are in the study area and their sign will be monitored. Applicants must have college degree or closely related field. Horseback, hiking and ATV travel is required. Contact Dr. Stewart Breck at stewart.w.breck@aphis.usda.gov or (970)266-6000 or mail cover letter, resume’, college transcripts, and GRE scores to Dr. Stewart Breck, USDA/APHIS/Wildlife Services, National Wildlife Research Center, 4101 LaPorte Ave., Fort Collins, CO 80521.

The Nez Perce Tribe is in the process of hiring of 1 seasonal biologist and a crew of volunteers for this summer’s wolf monitoring work.

Gray wolves throughout the eastern and western United States were downlisted from endangered to threatened status effective April 1, 2003. The new regulations can be viewed at the Federal Register April 1, 2003 or at http://midwest.fws.gov/wolf/fnl-rule/ .

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 over. Public meetings on the future of state wolf management in Montana are completed but 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.

For those that are interested in getting some training, Dr. Mark Johnson is teaching two wildlife chemical immobilization courses, Bismarck, ND in June and Bozeman, MT in July. For additional details check his website at www.wildliferesources.org

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