Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

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

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 12/05 to12/12, 2003

Monitoring

NEW WEB ADDRESS- See 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 9th, Jimenez and Hawkins & Powers net-gunned, radio-collared and released a young female in the Sunlight Basin pack. She had a light case of mange. The other collared pack member [an older female] was seen but appeared to be in very poor condition and unable to keep up with the pack. The Sunlight pack consists of 7 wolves. Jimenez and crew also captured a 110lb female and 118 lb. male out of the Carter Mountain threesome, south of Cody, WY. All 3 are now collared and appeared to be in great condition. Great job Mike!

Idaho trappers reported that two wolves were incidentally captured in leg hold traps set for coyotes and escaped. Another wolf was accidentally caught by a coyote set but it also escaped. We thank the trapper who reported these incidental captures as they often give us the opportunity to radio-collar and release the wolves for monitoring purposes.

A B.C. big game hunter reported shooting a 3-yr-old female wolf [ear tag #257] that was radio-collared in July 2001as a member of the Graves Creek pack in NW Montana but that has been missing since March 2002. The man was hunting 15 miles north of Eureka, MT and the Canadian border on Nov. 18. He reported he saw more deer and elk in his usual hunting area than ever. The pack of 6-8 wolves howled and several moved past him. He legally harvested one that was in prime condition and it turned out to be collared. We thank him for reporting the harvest information and for returning the radio-collar.

Control

An uncollared group of 5 wolves in the Big Hole Valley of SW Montana [in the ID ex. pop. area] near Jackson, MT killed a calf on the 4th, another on the 5th [as reported in the 12/5 weekly], 2 more on the 6th, and one calf is severely wounded. WS was authorized to remove the entire pack, which is likely a new pair and pups. The rancher was issued a shoot on site permit for 3 wolves on his private property on the 9th. Nearly all of the wild prey [except moose] move out of this area in winter. The only the abundant prey left are livestock, and they are very numerous. None of the previous packs that tried to establish in this area survived because they too became chronic livestock killers and were removed by agency control actions. Control is ongoing.

The Lone Bear pack [GYA] near Livingston, MT was suspected to have attacked a band of sheep on private property on the 10th. The band of 98 sheep were in a 10 acre pasture enclosed by woven wire and 2 strands of barbed wire. Wolves have been in the area several years but there haven’t been any sheep problems previously. Six ewes were killed and at least 3 others were injured and may die. WS was authorized to remove 1/3 of the pack. The next night wolves returned killed 10 ewes and wounded another 4-7 that may die, on the adjacent private property. Asher located Lone Bear wolves in the vicinity late on the night of the 11th [great extra effort Val]. On the 12th aerial tracking early AM found the Lone Bear wolves near the sheep and WS ground shot a collared male and uncollared female. Both wolves had moderate mange. Thanks to WS for an effective and timely control effort. A total of 6 wolves, 3 radioed and 3 unradioed, were seen feeding/near the sheep. Agency control is completed unless there are more depredations. The 4 landowners were issued shoot on site permits for their private property that allow a total of 2 more wolves to be killed if they return to this area.

Research

Yellowstone National Park is wrapping up their early winter study [Nov 15- Dec 15] to determine wolf predation rates. There is low snow cover and as would be expected wolf predation rates appear typical for early winter. Field crews saw the Agate and B-302 packs [was a male, female with two pups] clash. A dead B-302 pup was found on site, and the other is presumed dead.

Jessica Montag, Michael Patterson, and Bethany Sutton [Wildlife Biology Program, School of Forestry, Univ. of Montana] have published their final project report 2003 "Political and Social Viability of Predator Compensation Programs in the West". It is available at http://www.forestry.umt.edu/pcrp/

Information and education and law enforcement

Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming completed their analysis of the peer reviewers comments on the state wolf management plans. WY G&F posted their comments on their web site. This is just one of the many steps in the Service’s process to decide whether a delisting proposal is warranted at this time. The Service will develop its recommendations based upon the peer review comments, the state responses, and other relevant information by mid-December. These recommendations will go up through the chain of command in the Service and DOI. The Director hopes to make a final decision on the adequacy of the state wolf management plans by early January. The decision to propose delisting is a subsequent and separate decision that should also be made in early 2004.

The 12/11 Bozeman Chronicle reported that big game hunters in Region 3 [southwest MT adjacent to Yellowstone National Park] experienced a very good hunting season due to healthy herds and weather. Despite this year’s high harvest MT FW&P is looking at increasing harvest even further, possibly allowing 2 cow elk limits in some areas, to reduce herd size to within management objectives.

Bangs was interviewed by a Billings TV station on the status of wolf recovery and the delisting efforts.

The states of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming forwarded their comments on the peer review of their state wolf management plans to the Service on the 10th. We appreciate their quick turn-around and thoughtful responses. Their effort completed the peer review process. The next step is for the Service to develop its independent recommendations for the FWS Director to consider. He is expected to decide if the three state plans are adequate to move on to the next step- which is a decision if delisting should be formally proposed at this time. The Director indicated he hoped to make that decision by early 2004.

Jimenez attended the Predator Board meeting for Park County, WY on the 2nd. About a dozen people attended. On the 5th, he talked to about 60 people from the Teton Science School in Jackson, WY. He is meeting with the Ten Sleep, WY Predator Board on the 12th.

2004 North American Interagency Wolf Conference Call for Papers

Papers are now being accepted for the 2004 North American Interagency Wolf Conference, April 6 - 8, 2004 at Chico Hot Springs, in Pray, Montana, northwest of Yellowstone National Park. Please submit a single spaced abstract, up to 500 words, and include your full contact information, affiliations, and authors, by email to: Joseph Fontaine at Joseph_Fontaine@fws.gov .

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