Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

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

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

Fontaine and Asher attempted to trap and put more radios in the Taylor Peak, Sentinel, and Freezeout packs in the Madison Valley in SW MT. Freezeout and Sentinel moved out of trapping range and the only Taylor Peak radioed wolf [a yearling male] apparently dispersed south. Cold weather and snow hit early on the 10th and traps were pulled before wolves were captured.

NPT biologist Jason Husseman verified the presence of a pack northeast of Kamiah, ID. We have received reports of wolves in this area for awhile, but until now had been unable to document that a pack was established. Jason heard at least 2 pups howling, so this group, the Eldorado pack, will qualify as a breeding pair. Despite a concerted trapping effort he was unable to radio-collar any wolves.

NPT biologist Adam Gall conducted a trapping effort on the Magruder pack in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness with the aid of an outfitter that was generous enough to pack in his gear. Wolves were seen in the area and did use a trail where Adam had some sets, but none were captured. The Recovery Project would like to thank the outfitter- he has helped us in another area, too, over the years.

WS Wolf Specialist Rick Williamson radio-collared an adult male wolf in the Little Smoky drainage north of Fairfield, ID on 10/3/03. This wolf, captured by a coyote trapper working the area [Thanks! for so quickly reporting the capture], may potentially be a member of the Soldier Mountain pack or a lone wolf dispersing through the area. Additional monitoring will be conducted to determine the affiliation of this animal.

We are doing the last minute push for trapping and radio-collaring for our wolf monitoring program in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming before the weather turns too cold to trap and/or big game hunting season begins and the woods fill with people. Please report all observations of wolves or their sign to us as soon as possible. Thanks! we need and appreciate your help

Control

On October 8, Rick Williamson (WS), Jeff Ashmead (WS) and Niemeyer finished removing approximately 3-4 miles of fladry from fences on a private ranch within the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA) south of Stanley, Idaho. The fladry was installed in early September by Defenders of Wildlife guardian volunteers and local ranch hands to protect about 50 cow/calf pairs in two large pastures. The ranch has historically experienced depredations on calves by wolves and they decided to try fladry as a preventative measure to deter possible wolf depredation this fall. A local wolf pack resides nearby, but has caused no problems this summer. Great effort!

Niemeyer did a short interview with the Capitol Press, an agricultural news publication for mostly rural readers. The subject was the recent wolf depredation on over 117 sheep with 40-60 more missing north of McCall, ID area during August and September.

WS field agent Justin Mann lethally controlled a second wolf north of McCall, ID on 9/22/03. This is where numerous domestic sheep have been killed by wolves. It appears that a new pack, the Cook pack, has usurped this area from B45 and her companion. The control effort was terminated by WS after unknown members of the public interfered with control activities. Justin also captured, radio-collared, and released an adult male during another control action on 10/1/03. This wolf was caught near the depredation site, which is within the Hazard Lake pack's territory, but it is not known at this time whether it is associated with that pack. A subadult male was lethally controlled in this area earlier this year. Further monitoring will be conducted to determine the relationships of wolves in these areas.

Mack and Holyan removed fladry at a private residence on the 8th. The ranch had about 40 sheep attacked by the B105 Hazard Lake pack near Riggins, ID in May [about 14 killed and some wounded]. He sold all a dozen of the surviving sheep. The wolves were in the general vicinity all summer but it is unknown if they ever came back to that farm. They have not been nearby lately.

A calf was killed by the Willow pack SW of Drummond, MT [3-4 wolves] on the 9th. WS was flying and located the radioed wolf in with cattle on private land and that afternoon the ranch reported they found a suspected wolf-killed calf, that WS confirmed on the 10th. The pack killed a calf in that same area in August, but efforts to trap them then were unsuccessful because of wildfires and they moved out of the area. WS may trap off the calf’s carcasses to collar and release on site and/or shoot an uncollared pack member.

Research

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 are available now.

Information and education and law enforcement

On October 1, 2003, 12 environmental groups, led by Defenders of Wildlife and represented by the MN law firm of Faegre & Benson LLP, filed a Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief with the United States District Court of Oregon. They allege that the reclassification of the gray wolf to threatened status on April 1, 2003 violated the Endangered Species Act and the Administrative Procedures Act. Numerous local and national media interviews and stories developed because of the lawsuit.

Holyan presented information concerning wolf recovery to a class of 7th and 8th graders at Payette Lakes Middle School in McCall, ID on 10/8/03.

October 19-25 is National Wolf Awareness Week. mailto:twa@northlan.edu 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!- others can buy them from the above website for $6-postage included] can be obtained from any of the northern Rocky Mountain wolf field offices or cooperators in Montana, Idaho, or Wyoming. This is an outstanding educational poster.

Many elk hunters in central Idaho and just north of Yellowstone National Park in SW MT are reporting very low hunter success and telling the Game and Fish agencies that they are seeing very few elk. While this could be do to a wide variety of factors, including warm temperatures during the hunting season, the ongoing drought, recent or ongoing fires, changes in elk behavior, and predation- including that by wolves- so far rumor is widespread that it is mainly due to wolves killing all the elk- which may or may not be true. While there is no doubt that elk populations in several areas are lower than they were during historic highs in the early 1990's, at least so far count data and various research projects have not picked up the drastic changes in elk populations that hunters are reporting this year. Good state elk survey and harvest data and the results of ongoing University and multi-cooperator research projects that are specifically looking at elk/wolf relationships should help provide a factual basis for future discussions about what if anything should or could be done.

The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a web page that has various links to state wolf management plans and 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