Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 9/19/03

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 9/12 to 9/19, 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.

WY WS and the Service caught two 50 & 55lb. female pups, one gray one black near Daniel, WY on the 12th. Great job! Trapping is continuing to get an adult radioed, if possible. See control.

On the 12th, Kraig Glazier [WS] reported he was sitting in Avon, MT [NW MT] having lunch with some WS specialists/trappers from Grand Jct. CO who were here in Montana to learn about wolf stuff, and a guy walked in the restaurant and said "Are there wolves around here?" Kraig thought it must be someone who knew them and was joking but NO!- the guy just was coming through and saw some wolves and wanted to know if that was possible! The guy said he just saw 3 wolves [ad gray and 2 gray pups] cross the road just out of Avon and right where the old Halfway pack used to be. So Kraig et al. drove to the spot and howled a pup out of the woods right there. They have traps in the area to try and radio-collar a pack member.

NPT biologist Jim Holyan and volunteer Emily Babcock captured and radio-collared a total of 3 pups from the Red River pack. This pack is located south of Elk City, ID. Reports from the U.S. Forest Service, and ID Dept. of Fish and Game, over the past 2 years finally led to documentation of this wolf group. There are at least 4 adults and 4 pups present.

NPT biologist Jason Husseman and volunteer Karen Loveless captured and radio-collared 2 additional members of the O'Hara Point pack, north of Elk City, ID. A subadult female (B163) and a male pup (B162) joined male B111 as collared animals. They collared a grey female pup in the Galena pack on the 19th.

NPT biologists Kent Laudon and Anthony Novack captured and radio-collared a male pup (B169) from a previously uncollared pack in the Slate Creek drainage northeast of Riggins, ID. This group was observed earlier in the summer with at least 2 pups. They will be known as the Florence pack.

Missing wolf male B52, from the Jureano Mountain pack, it was relocated to Fish Lake in 1998, may have been re-discovered in southwest MT. The signal was very weak and there was lots of static, so its presence has not been confirmed yet. Personnel from the MT wolf recovery program will investigate further.

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. These estimates are admittedly very rough and could change significantly once fall/winter aerial tracking with snow cover has been conducted. We currently estimate a 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 sheep carcass was found north of Idaho Falls, ID on the 12th and tracks of 2 wolves were near it. The sheep belonged to the Sheep Experiment Station. The herder also reported seeing two wolves in the area. WS is trapping to try to radio-collar one of them but traps were pulled after no further wolf sign was documented. Any control action will be determined by subsequent monitoring.

A depredation occurred east of Burgdorf, ID (approx. 30 miles north of McCall, ID) involving what may be an unknown group of wolves over the weekend of the 12th-14th. Over 50 sheep were confirmed killed by wolves. Lethal control was authorized for the removal of 2 adult wolves. On Sept. 16 Wildlife Services' field agent Justin Mann trapped a pup, but it pulled out of the trap and escaped. On Sept. 17 Justin caught another pup (B168), which was radio-collared and released. Several adult wolves were heard howling in the vicinity, leading to the removal of an adult female. The control action will continue until a second wolf is removed or the depredations stop. This is the area that B45 was known to use, but her radio-collar expired last year. She was previously seen with another radio-collared wolf, identity unknown, but it was thought that this pair had never produced pups. Further field work will be conducted to determine the identities and status of the wolves in this area. The total number of dead sheep is in the 70's and 4-5 bands that are protected by dogs and herders have been hit. This group of wolves is likely the same bunch that has been killing sheep about 7-8 miles away. WS was authorized to kill this pack of 4-5 wolves.

A ranch between Deerlodge and Avon that had repeated calf depredations before the Castle Rock pack was removed, reported a possible wolf kill the 11th. There were wolf tracks by the carcass but it looked like it may have been killed [or taken over] by a black bear [hide inside out], it was classified as unconfirmed. No further problems have been reported.

Lethal control was authorized to remove 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. Aerial shooting is pending when weather allows.

The Daniels pack of up to 16 wolves near Daniels, WY moved into the foothills and timber and they killed two more sheep on the 15th. While investigating they found another calf that was probably a wolf kill. Sheep and cattle are being moved off the allotment and from that area and no further control is planned at this time.

WS shot a large adult grey male out of the Washakie pack on the 19th. The pack was on a Forest Service allotment when found and had been involved in several depredations this summer. This ended the control action since many bow hunters are starting to use the area.

On the 17th, WS investigated a calf carcass in Tom Miner Basin where the Chief Joe pack had killed a calf last week. The calf was not killed by a predator but was just scavenged. The collared female has remained in or near Tom Miner Basin.

A cattle rancher just east of Tom Miner Basin and north of Gardiner, MT reported his cattle had been run through several fences earlier this week, likely by the Sheep Mountain pack. On the 17th, he and another rancher found the lower part of a calf’s leg in a trail heavily used by wolves. They are continuing to ride the area to search for dead livestock. We have increased the level of aerial monitoring to help detect if there is an ongoing depredation problem.

Research

The World Wolf Congress: Bridging Science and Community [see agenda at- http://www.graywolf.ca/worldwolfcongress/wwc2003ataglance.html ] is being held in Banff Canada Sept. 25-28. The meeting is held every ten years and is attended by wolf biologists, managers, and researchers from all over the world. Northern Rocky Mountain wolf recovery staff will be presenting several papers.

The Univ. of Chicago Press is taking pre-orders for the epic all-encompassing book "Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation" Edited by L. David Mech and Luigi Boitani. 2003. University of Chicago Press. You can order from the International Wolf Center by calling 1-800-359-9653 ext 21. They should be available in October 2003.

Information and education and law enforcement

The National Wolf Awareness 2003 wolf poster is available from the Timber Wolf Alliance www.northland.edu/soei/timber_wolf.html or twa@northland.edu . It is a stunning painting of an adult wolf in forest shadows called "The Glance" by Jim Turgeon. On the back is a map of wolves in the U.S. and current accurate information on gray and red wolves in the U.S. Limited copies [please- for educators or classrooms only!] can be obtained from any of the northern Rocky Mountain wolf field offices or cooperators in Montana, Idaho, or Wyoming. Congratulations to the Timber Wolf Alliance! This is an outstanding educational poster.

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

On Sept. 17 Jim Holyan gave a presentation to about 35 10- and 11-year-olds at the McCall Outdoor Science School. The children were from the elementary school in Kamiah, ID.

Niemeyer, Nadeau, and others appeared on ID Public Television on Sept. 18 as panel members on a show entitled "Focus West." The show was a forum discussing predators and their management in the west. It will air again on Sept. 21 at 7:00pm Mountain time in ID. The show can also be accessed at http://focuswest.org/index2003d.cfm .

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