Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 9/12/03

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 9/6 to 9/12, 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.

The wolf re-radioed by WS last week near Moccasin Lake was a dispersing Sheep Mountain female #242 that has been missing about a year.

On the 9th, Mike Ross [MT FW&P] caught the 80lb. alpha female of the Chief Joe pack. It is wonderful to have MT FW&P biologists assisting with field work! Asher had helped set traps but had a meeting that morning and missed the handling, ie bureaucrat. The pack has been without a radioed member for over a year despite repeated capture attempts by darting, ground calling, and foot-trapping. Traps were pulled on the 10th because of snow and cold weather. Good work Val and Mike!

WY WS caught two 60lb. pups near Daniel, WY on the 11th. Great job! Wildlife Services specialist Steve Moyles!! The pups were radio-collared and released. They are in a pack of 16, 10 gray and 6 blacks, and we suspect a double litter at least. Trapping is continuing to get an adult radio, if possible. See control.

Jason Husseman captured and collared two new wolves in the new O'Hara Point pack. This new pack has concentrated its summer activities north of Elk City, Idaho. The pack now has three radio-collared members.

With the help of the Nez Perce National Forest, tribal crews have been working this summer to determine the relationship between the Gospel Hump pack and observed wolves of unknown origin on the eastern edge of their territory, south of Elk City, Idaho. It is not known whether

the observed wolves are part of the Gospel Hump pack, or belong to a different undocumented pack. This week, Jim Holyan captured and collared a wolf pup in what now appears to be a newly documented pack. Monitoring of this new collared wolf will be helpful in finally determining the relationship between these two neighboring groups of wolves.

Fish and Wildlife and Tribal field crews continue to investigate additional areas of suspected wolf packs. Wolf activity continues to be documented in the greater Bear Valley, however, the status of these wolves is yet unknown. Wolf activity continues to be reported in the Monumental Creek area. Evidence indicates that the Monumental pack has denned this year, however, the number of wolves or pups in this un-collared pack remains unknown. Recent reports of wolves in the upper Big Creek drainage indicate increased wolf activity in this area. This is within the Wolf Fang packs territory. Radio-contact was lost with this pack last year, however, recent evidence may indicate that this pack is still present. Additional surveys are needed to determine the status of wolves in this area.

We estimate the likely number of wolves and wolf breeding pairs in 2003 will be slightly higher than last year but the rate of growth in the population is slowing. While these estimates are admittedly very rough and could change significantly once fall/winter aerial tracking with snow cover has been conducted, we have currently documented an estimated wolf population of: By recovery area- northwestern Montana- 90 wolves and 3 breeding pairs; central Idaho 362 wolves and 21 breeding pairs; Greater Yellowstone Area 295 wolves and 22 breeding pairs. By state these estimates are: Montana- 161 wolves and 8 breeding pairs; Idaho 346 wolves and 21 breeding pair; Wyoming 240 wolves and 17 breeding pairs. The total wolf population estimate for 2003 is 747 wolves and 46 breeding pairs compared to 663 wolves and 43 breeding pairs in 2002.

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. Big game hunters are an important source of wolf sightings. 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

A calf was reportedly killed in the Big Horn Mountains, east of Ten Sleep, WY on the 9th. Multiple wolves maybe in the area where a depredating wolf was shot off a sheep carcass by WS on the 5th. Trapping to collar and release will be conducted as soon as the weather dries out.

A calf was killed earlier this week [8th] on a BLM allotment immediately adjacent to private land just west of Daniel, WY [near Pinedale]. WS caught 2 pups on the 11th and they were radio-collared and released on site. The new pack of 16 is suspected of having resulted from a double litter. A couple of weeks ago 2 adult wolves [younger adult female and older male] died during a control action resulting from an earlier depredation and control action. The Daniel pack lives in open sagebrush habitat, where more than 30,000 sheep and cattle winter. If they continue to depredate they will be removed.

 

A calf was killed by wolves on the Diamond D [neighboring the Diamond G] Ranch, near Dubois, WY on the 8th. Two wolves have been repeatedly seen in the area and this is where the Washakie pack denned this year. Control has authorized lethal removal of 2 wolves, by either the property owner [he was issued a shoot-on-sight permit on the 9th] or WS. The pack has been involved in cattle depredations for the past several years and some pack members were involved in depredations this year.

Research

Nothing new to report.

Information and education and law enforcement

The U.S. Dept. of Justice Appellate Section filed the Federal Appellant’s Opening Brief on Western Watersheds Project v. Sawtooth National Forest on Sept. 2, 2003. The case involves the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and the Judge’s order that prevents problem wolf removal.

Steve Nadeau, IDFG, and Niemeyer spent three days in the Bear Valley of Idaho searching for wolves through howling techniques and searching for physical sign of wolves. More importantly decisions about transition responsibilities for wolf management from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to state management were discussed and explored. Wolf sign was observed.

MT FWP Director Hagener signed the Record of Decision on the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Montana Gray Wolf Conservation and Management Plan on September 11. He selected the Updated Council Alternative (also identified as FWP's preferred alternative in the EIS). The FWP Commission concurred with the decision and approved the selection of the Updated Council Alternative as Montana's final plan.

http://midwest.fws.gov/wolf/fnl-rule/index.html

The Service sent out the completed Idaho, Wyoming and Montana wolf management plans for independent scientific peer review on September 12th. The peer reviewers are all recognized professional wolf management and scientific experts from North America. The peer review should be completed by October 31, 2003. Peer review is the next step in the process for the Service to determine if a delisting proposal is appropriate at this time.

The radio-collar from the Red Shale pack wolf that was recovered and first believed shed, had knife marks on it, indicating illegal killing. The case has been turned over to LE for investigation.

The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service has prepared a web page that has various links to state wolf management plans, information about wolf reclassification and delisting. It can be accessed at

http://midwest.fws.gov/wolf/fnl-rule/index.html

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