Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 5/23/03

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 5/16 to 5/23, 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.

Meier and Frame caught a second yearling male wolf from the Whitefish Pack in Glacier National Park, on May 18. They discontinued trapping in the park, and Frame returned to Canada to resume his research on barren-lands wolf dens. Thanks to the Nature Conservancy of Montana and the Polebridge Ranger Station for providing housing and help for the trapping effort.

Most collared wolf packs in Northwest Montana appear to be denning, with the exception of the Murphy Lake Pack, which was found south of Pleasant Valley on May 22, some 40 miles south of their usual range. The Red Shale Pack also appears to be traveling widely, moving back and forth between the North Fork of the Sun River and the South Fork of the Flathead River. The Continental Divide in that area is marked by the cliffs of the Chinese Wall, which they must find their way around.

Two traps, which were taken away by a couple whose dog had been caught in one of them, were returned to USFWS with the help of Libby wolf researcher Jay Mallonee. Our thanks to the couple and to Mr. Mallonee for the return of the traps, which cost about $150 each.

Idaho wolf denning and parturition appears to be early this year. Of the four litters documented so far, pups in three of these litters are already out of the den - in one instance, 6-7 pups were observed, from the air, traveling up a steep ridge with an adult wolf. Jim Holyan and Jason Husseman ground tracked the two new collared wolves in the Big Smokey area and confirmed reproduction. This new pack is now called the Soldier Mountain pack. Isaac Babcock and volunteer Anastacia Kampe documented at least one pup with the Moyer Basin pack. Tribal field crews are now on board and are conducting summer field activities. As usual, it will be a busy summer as field crews will be investigating the status of 34 known and suspected wolf groups across the state.

Subadult male wolf B143 of the Buffalo Ridge pack died. His carcass was recovered by the USFWS and his death is under investigation.

Trapping efforts in northwest Montana will resume after the Memorial Day weekend. Spring bear season is open until May 30 east of Highway 93. Traffic on forest roads should be considerably lighter after the weekend and the close of bear season, making trapping efforts easier.

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

Wildlife Services and the Tribe continue to work on an ongoing control action involving a sheep producer in the Riggins area. B105 has been implicated. A rag box and fladry were set up around the sheep pasture. Tribal efforts continue to verify denning and pup production in the area. No further depredations have occured.

The potential for wolf-livestock conflict involving the Buffalo Ridge pack has greatly reduced through a cooperative efforts between the wolf program, two permittees, Defenders of Wildlife, and federal land management agencies. The Buffalo Ridge pack has denned within an active

BLM grazing allotment. Through collaborative efforts agreeable alternatives were found to delay turnout of cattle in this area until wolf pups are old enough to move out of the area. The efforts of all are greatly appreciated. We would like to particularly thank the patience and willingness of the permittees to work towards creative solutions to minimize conflicts.

Idaho recovery program personnel are coordinating with permittees and the Forest Service to reduce the potential for wolf-livestock conflicts during this summer grazing season in several area across the state including the Sawtooth Valley, Big Smoky, and Boise River areas.

Trapping and control efforts on ongoing near Dubois and Meeteetse, WY. No wolves have been removed and there have been no further wolf depredations.

Research

Former Univ. Idaho graduate student Jason Husseman [now working for the Nez Perce Tribe] just published his M.S. work on mountain lion and wolf predation on wild ungulates in Idaho. Jason S. Husseman, Dennis L. Murray, Gary Power, Curt Mack, C.R. Wenger, and Howard Quigley. 2002. "Assessing differential prey selection patterns between two sympatric large carnivores." OIKOS101:591-601. Great job Jason!

Another former Univ. Idaho graduate student [and current the Service’s Mexican Wolf field biologist] just published part of his M.S. thesis. John K. Oakleaf, Curt Mack, and Dennis Murray. 2003. Effects of wolves on livestock calf survival and movements in central Idaho. Journal of Wildlife Management 67(2):299-306. Congratulations John! it was a great study and paper.

Elk calf captures in Yellowstone National Park began this week. Elk have barely began to calf and ground crews haven’t seen a calf yet. Helicopter use began late this week. Calving is in full swing around June 1. The study will examine causes of elk calf mortality.

Yellowstone National Park is also moving on to the next phase of their pilot study to examine summer wolf predation in more detail besides just tagging elk calves. They have been monitoring members of the Druid pack using GPS locations [multiple locations are taken each day] were that are downloaded weekly. Starting June 1 the Park will step-up those efforts by having volunteers watching the pack as much as possible and by walking the course of GPS locations and cluster to look for kills.

Information and education and law enforcement

Margot Zallen, the lead attorney for wolf legal issues, from the Solicitors Office in Denver, vacationed in Yellowstone National Park the 16-18th. On the 17th she and her husband saw their first wolves in the Lamar Valley and they were excited to see the real results of all her hard work. Congratulations Margot and Thanks!

Jimenez gave an evening presentation to the annual meeting of the N. American Moose Conf. in Jackson, WY on the 19th. About 75 folks attended.

On the 13th, Smith gave a presentation to 20 visiting biology students from Bowling Green Univ. On the 14th he talked with about 20 "Gifted Scholars" from Clemson Univ.

Niemeyer and Mack participated in the annual Wild Idaho Wolf walk in central Idaho on the 17th. Nearly 100 people attended and there was considerable interest and rumor regarding the Service’s legal interpretation of the Court’s order in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. The Service’s legal advisors say the order means that no agency wolf control, including non-lethal, is allowed if a depredation occurs.

The Summer 2003 issue of "International Wolf" magazine [Vol 13 No. 2] had articles about- "Wolves have reached recovery levels in the Northern Rocky Mountains: How does delisting happen?" [pg 21-22] by Ed Bangs; and under Personal Encounters "Howling with the Faunce Pack, 1976" [pg 24- 25] by Tom Meier.

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