Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 1/05/04

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 12/12/03 to1/2, 2004

HAPPY NEW YEAR

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 2003 annual report is in preparation.

A 2 year-old male wolf [B-144] from the Moyer pack near Salmon, ID [last seen there Oct 22] was incidentally captured by a coyote trapper in the Paradise Valley south of Livingston, MT on Dec 19th. That is a 180 mile straight line distance. He was re-radio-collared and released unharmed by WS and Park biologists. He appears to be associated with the Lone Bear pack in that area. The coyote trapper deserves special recognition and thanks for quickly reporting its capture quickly so it could be re-radioed and released unharmed. We appreciate the help.

On January 4, a Kalispell fur trapper caught a wolf in a trap set for coyotes in the Thompson River valley. He reported the catch to state biologists, who contacted USFWS biologist Meier. The wolf, an 8-month-old female from the Fishtrap Pack, was radio-collared and released in good condition. A special thanks to the coyote trapper for quickly reporting the incidental capture.

Jimenez and Hawkins & Powers helicopters netgunned 3 females from the Sunlight pack on the 19th of Dec. The net often only slows the wolves down and sometimes they must be darted also- normally a CO2 dart pistol is used. One had moderate mange and 2 others light mange, they were given a dose of ‘Invermectin’ to reduce mange damage. Another 2-3 year-old female was netted and then darted but the impact [fired from a dart rifle with low charges] broke her femur and she was euthanized. She was in poor condition and had severe mange that likely contributed to the injury. The Sunlight pack now has 7 members. A collared wolf from the Sunlight pack joined the Beartooth pack which has 6-7 members. A hunter in the area called and was very upset that his elk hunt was disputed by the helicopter activity. While the capture was cleared for the private land, it was near the Forest boundary. We apologized and typically avoid capture operations in areas with active public hunting. Female wolf #41 [an original reintroduced wolf] was seen with the Sunlight pack but she appeared to be limping and in poor condition.

 

Control

On PM the 24th, Jimenez confirmed that 2 calves were killed and a couple of others had their tails clipped by wolves on private land near Pinedale, WY. The ranch has state elk feed grounds at each end and the pack of 4 wolves [one radioed Teton disperser] moves back and forth between the feedgrounds and through abundant cattle. On the 1st another calf was killed there. The rancher was given a shoot on site permit for 2 wolves and WS may initiate lethal control.

On the 2nd, WS confirmed that wolves killed 3-4 calves on private land about 20 miles north of Baggs, WY [just north of the CO border]. The area is a checkerboard of BLM leases, where numerous cow/calf pairs will be wintered, starting this month. It appears 1 maybe 2 wolves were involved. WS was authorized to remove up to 2 wolves.

Three wolves were shot out of Sheep Mountain pack [9 present and 1 of the 4 radioed ones wasn’t in the group] on Dec. 21st, completing the agency control action on that pack, just north of Gardiner, MT. The pack now numbers +6 wolves. A black yearling male and gray adult female were recovered, one was in an avalanche chute and was not recovered. No sign of mange was found.

Research

Yellowstone National Park completed their early winter study [Nov 15- Dec 15] to determine wolf predation rates. There was low snow cover and as would be expected wolf predation rates appeared typical for early winter. Kills were mainly calves and very old females, however the percentage of bulls being killed continues to be a little higher than historic levels. The Park has recovered all 4 GPS collars they put out last winter and are beginning to analyzed those data. They plan to put out 6 move GPS collars this winter.

Toni Ruth, Doug Smith, et. al. published "Large-carnivore response to recreational hunting along the Yellowstone National Park and Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness boundary" Wildlife Society Bulletin 2003, Vol 31(4). The study generally found that when rifle hunting seasons start elk move into the Park to escape hunters. Grizzly bears move outside the Park to feed on gut piles, mountain lions move in the Park to hunt live elk, and wolves didn’t change their movements as they fed both on gut piles and live elk.

Another publication worth looking at is: Citation is:Musiani, M., Mamo, C., Boitani, L., Callaghan, C., Gates, C.C., Mattei, L., Visalberghi, E., Breck, S., and Volpi, G. (2003) Wolf depredation trends and the use of fladry as barriers to protect livestock in western North America. Conservation Biology 17: 1538-1547. The study took place in Alberta and Idaho and indicated fladry barriers restricted wolf movements for up to 60 days.

Information and education and law enforcement

The annual interagency wolf management meeting was held in Missoula, MT on the 17th PM and 18th AM. USFWS, Wildlife Services, States, Tribes, Forest Service, and Univ. attended. The agenda covered: monitoring, capture, reclassification, litigation, delisting, control & management, research, LE and I&E. Preparation of the 2003 Interagency Annual Wolf Report has begun. Field work in 2004 will be pretty much the same as previous years, however transition to greater state participation in field activities has begun, with the idea of a shrinking Service presence, regardless of delisting or litigation.

On the 16th, the core FWS wolf team met in Helena, MT. In the morning of the we dealt with administrative issues. In the afternoon we discussed program status and our future as we transition to state and tribal management, and possibly delisting.

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