Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 1/16/04

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 1/9-1/16, 2004

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.

On the 12th, Jimenez and Hawkins & Powers Helicopters radioed collared 4 black wolves from the Teton pack [2 netted and 2 darted]. The alpha female was re-radioed and 3 pups [2 male and a female] were also captured. The pack consists of 2 adults and 6 pups, but a couple of yearlings tend to come and go from the pack so its size fluctuates between 8 and 11 members.

On the 13th and 14th, National Park biologists and Hawkins & Powers Helicopters captured and radio-collared 13 more wolves [3 in Agate, 2 in Leopold, $ in Druid, and $ in Slough Creek.

The last radioed Sentinel pack wolf [S. of Ennis, MT] was located on morality this week. It was near where 2 other radioed Sentinel wolves died and might have even died about the same time- November which is late in Montana’s big game rifle hunting season. Snow has hindered recovery of their carcasses but their deaths are under LE investigation. On the 16, Fontaine went to recover the carcass of a Big Hole, MT wolf. On the 15th he heard a mortality signal and saw its carcass in a creek. Its death is also under LE investigation.

A radioed 1-2 year old male from Taylor Peak wolf, that apparently has mange, was reported hanging out near ranch buildings. An investigation showed he was sleeping in a hay stack- likely to escape the cold weather. He is being closely monitored. He left that immediate area but if he appears to in too poor of condition or becomes a nuisance he will be euthanized.

Nez Perce Tribal biologists are preparing for their winter helicopter capture effort in central Idaho that starts the 19th. Hawkins & Powers will conduct the netgunning and darting operation.

Control

The wolf[ves] has not returned to the area where 2 heifers [mistakenly reported as calves last week] were killed and 4 others wounded between Wamsutter and Baggs, WY earlier this month. No specific control is being conducted but if wolves are seen in that area WS is authorized to take up to two wolves opportunistically.

Another 600lb. calf was reported as a possible depredation near Pinedale, WY on private land on the 13th, near where other depredations occurred last week. WS investigated and the calf’s death was not caused by wolves. WS is authorization to remove 2 wolves out of the 4 in that group. The ranch still has an active shoot on site permit for 2 wolves, but no wolves have been taken.

On the 14th, Wildlife Services confirmed a heifer was killed by wolves near Meeteesee, WY. This area is used by the Greybull River pack and they had several cattle killed this fall. WS is authorized to removed 2 wolves from the pack of 7-8. They will trap is possible and radio-collar and release a wolf on site. The last radioed pack member was illegally shot this fall so there is no way to easily find and remove the offending wolves or document other problems.

Research

The cooperative study of wolf and elk interactions near elk winter feed grounds by the Service, Wyoming Game & Fish, Forest Service and Grand Teton National Park has begun. Four volunteers are examining wolf-killed elk and documenting the response of elk on feed grounds to wolves. So far elk are still widely scattered and while wolves have killed a few on the winter feedgrounds but there doesn’t appear to be much interaction yet as the wolves are traveling very widely.

Information and education and law enforcement

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said on Jan. 12, 2004 that the process to delist the western population of gray wolves can begin once Wyoming approves key changes to state law and its wolf management plan. At the same time, the Service announced that wolf management plans developed by Idaho and Montana are adequate to maintain the population of gray wolves above established recovery goals. The review of each state’s management plans included peer review by 11 national wolf experts and state responses to those peer review comments. The Service’s responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act include ensuring that adequate management controls are in place to maintain population levels above recovery goals. Even with approval of the plans developed by Idaho and Montana, delisting cannot at this time be proposed because of significant concerns about Wyoming’s existing state law as well as its wolf management plan. Wolves in the three states are part of the same Distinct Population Segment and delisting occurs by population segment, not by state boundaries. The Service released letters sent to all three states announcing the status of their state wolf management plans and what needs to happen before the delisting process can move forward. Specifically, Wyoming must adequately address each of the following three concerns of the Service in order to provide greater assurance that management controls are in place to maintain population levels above recovery goals:

(1) Wyoming’s predatory animal status for wolves must be changed. The designation of wolves as "trophy game" statewide would allow Wyoming to devise a management strategy that provides for self-sustaining populations above recovery goals, regulated harvest and adequate monitoring of that harvest.

(2) The Wyoming state law must clearly commit to managing for at least 15 wolf packs that are well-distributed in northwestern Wyoming.

(3) As stated in the Wyoming plan, the definition of a pack must be consistent among the three states and should be biologically based. The three states are currently collaborating on the criteria that defines a wolf pack. If requested, the Service will help provide guidance to the Wyoming Department of Game and Fish in developing these changes.

On the 15th, Assist Secretary Paul Hoffman, Assistant Regional Director John Blankenship, and FWS Wyoming field supervisor Brian Kelly met with members of the Wyoming Legislative committee to discuss the Service’s position on the Wyoming state wolf law and wolf plan.

On the 16, Bangs and MT FW&P biologists met in Bozeman, MT with Wildlife Conservation Society biologists and an exchange group of about a dozen representatives from hunting and wildlife management organizations for the hunting lease system in Primorshiy Krai [equvilant to state/province] in the Russian Far East to discuss predator and ungulate management. They met with Smith in YNP on the 18th.

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