Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 7/11/03

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 7/4 to 7/11, 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.

Recent wolf flights have yielded no new confirmations of pups and few wolf sightings overall, probably because hot weather makes wolves stay under cover and less visible from the air. A recent sighting by a local landowner indicated the Taylor Peak pack in SW MT has 5 pups [only 2 had been seen before.

WE NEED HELP FROM COOPERATORS AND PUBLIC- We are currently into the trapping season, when we try to radio-collar wolves from previously unknown packs and beef up our collar coverage in known packs. 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.

Ross (FWP) and Fontaine investigated a possible slipped radio collar by the Sentinel pack alpha male. The male had been located in the same spot during the last three aerial locations and it was thought that the collar must have malfunctioned and not gone on mortality mode. The collar could not be located and it may have just been a coincidence that the locations were similar. They did find the rendezvous site for the pack and saw 3 pups. On the way out they stopped and talked to a local livestock producer that was missing a calf shortly after the wolves were seen in the area.

Control

On the 7th, a young uncollared female wolf was captured and euthanized just outside the elk-fence in the Sunlight Basin where the two calves were killed. Since a wolf returned to that specific area, even though the calf carcasses were cleaned up, we consider the 2 dead ‘probable’ calves as now being ‘confirmed’ wolf depredations. Traps will remain set but any other wolves captured will probably be radio-collared and released on site. The ranch has also made several modifications to the fence to try and reduce the number of spots wolves can get in.

The Absaroka pack still has mange. The alpha male died from manage this past winter. There have been reports of other mangy wolves in this pack’s territory. Volunteers watched a mangy wolf near coyotes- he was attempting to scavenge and they were following/harassing him. On the 5th, male #240 was captured near a recent calf depredation. He was involved in the depredation but also had very severe mange, and was euthanized. Trapping is continuing to radio-collar and release on site, because only one radio remains in the pack. Any wolves captured will be injected with Ivermectin to see if it can help the infected individual wolf. We offer a special thanks to Wildlife Services specialist Marshall Robin and NW College [Powell, WY] volunteer Keysha Fontaine [no relation to Joe]. They have been working closely to follow-up on these recent depredations, monitor wolves, investigate the mange issue, and are actively helping to trap, radio-collar, and monitoring wolf activity and assist with any potential depredations. Thanks for all your hard work, skill, and long hours!

On June 30 Wildlife Services confirmed wolves killed a lamb and probably killed 3 other lambs and 2 ewes about 10 miles NE of Riggins, ID on a Forest Service allotment. The producer was moving his sheep soon so no control was taken. It appeared to be an unradioed pair and 4 pups. The producer had a herder and 2 guard dogs protecting the sheep, but the dogs were relatively inexperienced. His best guard dog was killed by wolves 2 months ago, but Defenders of Wildlife helped replace it. On July 2nd, 4 more ewes were killed, 2 confirmed and 2 probable. Trapping was initiated but was stopped when the producer moved his sheep on July 5th.

Asher and Fontaine have been working with the Madison Valley Ranch Lands group in an effort to prevent any depredation by the Taylor Peak pack on a band of sheep that will be used to try and control weeds along the Madison River including the islands. The sheep will be grazing in part of the Taylor Peak pack territory. On the 9th they borrowed some Premier electro fence from CMR Refuge (Thanks Randy and Bill). The fencing is light weight, 4ft high and consists of alternating positive and negative wires separated by plastic stays that push into the ground. Two solar panels are used to keep the batteries charged. The fence will be used around the night bedding pasture and will be moved daily to a new bedding ground. Hopefully the system will help deter any problem wolves. This type of fencing connected to nylon mesh has been successfully used to contain Mexican wolves during relocation as well as the wolves relocated to Spotted Bear.

Research

The World Wolf Congress 2003, announced the Scientific Advisory Committee selected the oral and poster presenters several form the northern Rocky Mountains. There are a wide ranging number of presenters and topic areas in wolf research, conservation and management. Please visit www.worldwolfcongress.ca for a tentative list (in alphabetical order) of presenters. On the Congress home page, click on the ‘July 7’ announcement. There are four (4) documents (in both ‘html’ and ‘Word’) that will explain these presentation areas. The Conf. is Sept. 25-28 in Banff Canada, check the website for details.

Prescott University grad student Jon Trapp is investigating wolf den sites in northwest Montana. Jon and his crew have been assisted by USFWS, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, National Park Service, U. S. Forest Service, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Plum Creek Timber Company and other individuals in locating dens in Montana.

Information and education and law enforcement

On the 9th, Smith gave an evening presentation to about 400 general park visitors at Bridge Bay.

On the 10th, Stahler gave a presentation to about 20 Wildland Study Group students from UC Santa Barbara who were visiting the Park.

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