Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 10/03/03

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 9/19 to 10/03, 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.

On the weekend of the 20th , Frame caught 2 more grey Lazy Creek wolves in NW MT. An adult male and a male pup [52lbs] were caught radioed and released. The presence of the adult male in this pack, which was thought to contain only a pair of wolves and their offspring (yearlings and pups), means that the pack can be counted as a breeding pair toward recovery goals for 2003. The previous breeding male was hit and killed by a vehicle on highway 93 earlier this summer. Traps were pulled Sunday. Unfortunately, a dog was also captured over that weekend in a rubber-jawed trap on the Murphy Lake trap line. The owner released the dog [Golden Retriever] right away but was understandably very upset. The dog’s foot was swollen the next day but will be fine. The trap line was signed and in an area about 200 yds. from a private property line where traps had been set in 1999 but the property owner walked through the woods to the road and did not see the signs. These incidents are rare and regrettable and we strive to learn and do better to reduce the chances of this happening. We apologized for catching the dog.

Per Larson, who had been volunteering with the northwest Montana wolf capture effort for a month, returned home to Sweden after the World Wolf Congress in Banff.

A new wolf pair has been discovered near Shafer Meadows in the Great Bear Wilderness. Yearling female 271 dispersed east from the Spotted Bear Pack and was seen with an uncollared gray male.

Efforts continue to trap and radio-collar wolves in northwest Montana. Wolf numbers appear to be down, and it is more important than ever that we get reports of wolf sightings or wolf sign, so we can document the status of the NWMT wolf population.

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

Two more dead sheep were found near Daniel, WY and WS confirmed them as wolf kills. Since the sheep carcasses were old ones and sheep are being moved from the area no further control was conducted. More and more cattle are being moved off allotments and into this area to over winter. A dead adult male wolf was discovered in the area where the 4 wolf pups from the Daniel, WY pack was collared earlier this summer. It is being examined by LE to determine if it is a wild wolf or related to the captured pups. Its feet appeared somewhat smaller than expected, it was ‘found’ under unclear circumstances and not reported for several days. We have removed at least 3 released captive wolves in this general area.

The Service authorized WS to kill the ‘new’ adult male in the Green River pack. He was shot near a wolf-killed calf carcass on the 29th. The female and one pup were also nearby but the male [a former Teton wolf] had been involved in previous depredations and was near the depredation site previously. Another calf and a sheep were confirmed killed by the Green River female and possibly a pup/small yearling on the 30th. The pup/yearling will be killed and the radioed female left in the area. However, if she is involved in another depredation this year she too will be killed.

Wolves north of McCall, ID are now suspected of killing nearly 100 sheep from several different bands. Control to remove another adult from the pack is ongoing. This has become a controversial issue because of the number of sheep and ‘surplus’ killing rhetoric, but overall losses appear relatively low through Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming this year. Wolf opponents held a "news conference on the state capital steps and Niemeyer did TV interviews for three Boise, ID radio stations.

The Sentinel pack was seen feeding on an adult cow on the 28th on private property and the producer hazed them with a rifle. WS investigated on the 29th and determined the cow had not been killed by wolves but was being scavenged. The pack was reportedly harassed by ranchers early in the day after they were seen ‘chasing’ calves. Trapping was conducted at the cow carcass for 2 days but the traps were pulled because the pack moved away from the area. Any captured un-radioed wolves would have been radio collared and released on site.

 

Research

The World Wolf Congress: Bridging Science and Community [see agenda at- http://www.graywolf.ca/worldwolfcongress/wwc2003ataglance.html ] was held at 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 attended and presented several papers. It was an outstanding conference. They also participated in a livestock/wolf summit and learned about a world-wide perspective of wolf/livestock/human conflict. Congratulations to the Congress organizers for an excellent and well-run meeting.

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.

As scheduled, two of four GPS collars have fallen off wolves in Yellowstone National Park. They have been retrieved and the data are interesting and led Park biologists to one unknown wolf kill. The study looks at ways to improve and estimate wolf predation rates. The remotely downloadable function did not work on these collars but data was stored onboard the collars. The other 2 GPS collars are scheduled to come off in December.

Den and rendezvous visits continue and Yellowstone National Park staff have visited nearly every den site and picked up scats for all but 3 packs so far this summer. They plan on getting to another of the last three soon. Two dens sites are too remote to access. The scats indicate mule deer have again played a role in summer food habits and that one pack utilized beaver, but scats have not been fully analyzed at this time.

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

Two wolves died (#207M, #260F), both from the Rose Creek pack that lives along the north boundary of Yellowstone Park. LE is investigating.

Steve Nadeau [ID DF&G] did a local news story on wolf reporting and using the ID F&G website reporting form on Sept.23. The website is averaging about 20 reports a week and will be a valuable tool to help locate wolf activity. Steve also did a presentation to 20 members of the Ada County Fish and Game League in Boise on the 1st .

On Saturday the 20th Smith talked to 60 students from the Univ. of Montana Wildlife Ecology Class in YNP. On the 22nd, he gave an evening presentation to 50 people for the Yellowstone Institute fall lecture series. Doug continues to lead the wolf recovery program efforts to provide public information and presentations. Great work Doug!

On October 1st , Bangs gave an evening public presentation in Salt lake City at the University of Utah School of Law. The 6-part lecture series "Wolves & People: Seeking Common Ground" is an attempt to inform the public about wolves and to review the potential status of wolves in Utah. About 125 people attended.

On the 2nd, Bangs and Chris Smith [MTFW&P] gave presentations on wolves and delisting at the Univ of Montana, School of Law. They were part of the UM 27th Annual Public Land Law Conference. Nearly 75 attended. Bangs also met with UM graduate student Liz Bradley and Dr. Pletscher to discuss her paper on problem wolf removal that will be part of her MS thesis.

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