Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 1/23/04

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 1/16-1/23, 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.

Nez Perce Tribal biologists began their winter helicopter capture effort in central Idaho on the 19th. Hawkins & Powers will conduct the netgunning and darting operation. Crews will be trying to tag packs through next week but so far things have been going well when the weather allowed. As of the 21st, wolves were radio-collared in the Cook pack [3 near the Salmon River], Scott Mountain pack [3 NE Boise], French Creek pack [2 Anderson Creek] and Hazard Lake pack [4 near Riggins]. Good going crew.

Two radioed wolves [335M and 281M] from the Taylor Peak pack in the Madison Valley are being monitored closely by Asher and Ross [MT FW&P]. One of the wolves was living in a hay stack near ranch building, obviously trying to escape freezing to death during an early Jan. cold snap [-30F]. Its amazing they can survive even typical winter weather and sometimes often don’t. He has since moved from that area but if he becomes a nuisance he will be euthanized. Both of the wolves have extensive hair loss [almost bare] on the tail, belly and back legs and have been seen scavenging on the remains of hunter-killed elk. Early this year pups from this pack were euthanized because of extremely poor condition and extensive mange infestation.

Control

The Fox creek pack in the Big Hole Valley killed another calf on the 20th. Except for moose, nearly all the wild ungulates migrate out of this area in winter. A pack member was shot by WS on the 21st but was in a very remote location and its carcass could not be recovered. This pack has killed 5 cattle in 4 separate depredations starting Dec 5, 2003 and likely wounded 5 others [one confirmed] starting in mid-November. WS was authorized to remove the entire pack, if possible. There were no radioed pack members. On the 22nd, WS shot the remaining 6 pack members near Polaris, MT. As would be expected, the 7 grey-colored wolves, were a new adult pair and their 5 pups. The pelts and skulls will be used for educational purposes.

 

A calf was confirmed killed by the Greybull River pack near Meeteese, WY. WS is authorized to shoot or trap 2 wolves at the carcass or in that area. There are no radios in this pack because the last radioed member was illegally killed this fall. Its death is under investigation.

On the 23rd, WS shot two uncollared wolves [grey and a black] from the Pinedale, WY foursome. They had killed calves on a couple of occasions this winter. The ranch is between two state elk winter feedgrounds. Two radio-collared wolves remain, one of them with a non-functioning radio. Agency control has been completed unless other depredations are reported but the landowner still has a shoot-on-site permit for 2 wolves.

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, Lindsey Reynolds, Leah Stanberg, Miguel Licona, and Susannah Phillips, are examining wolf killed elk and documenting the response of elk on feed grounds to wolves. The elk are currently widely scattered and have not started to intensively use the feedgrounds. Apparently a second case of brucellosis in cattle was confirmed in WY and the state may lose their brucellosis free status which may affect WY cattle markets. Some have tried to falsely stretch this issue to implicate wolves, ie. wolves pushed the elk off the feedgrounds to mix with cattle and this caused cattle to become infected. If it were only that simple.

Recent papers of interest. Smith, Douglas et al. 2004. ‘Winter prey selection and estimation of wolf kill rates in Yellowstone National Park 1995-2000.’ Kunkel, Kyran et al. 2004. J. Wildl. Manage. 68:153. ‘Factors correlated with foraging behavior of wolves in and near Glacier National Park, Montana.’ J. Wildl. Manage. 68:167. Cook, John, et al, 2004. ‘Effects of summer-autumn nutrition and parturition date on reproduction and survival of elk.’ Wildl. Mono. 155. Naughton, Lisa et al., 2003. ‘Paying for tolerance: Rural citizen’s attitudes toward wolf depredation and compensation.’ Cons. Biol. 17:1500. Shivik et al. 2003. ‘Nonlethal techniques for managing predation: Primary and secondary repellents.’ Cons. Biol. 17:1531.

Information and education and law enforcement

On the 20th, Bangs and MT FW&P Direct Hagner and Chief of Staff Smith, and Handegard and Hoover (WS) met with the Montana Association of Counties in Helena. The wolf management program and potential for delisting was discussed. About 20 people attended the 2-hour meeting. Many concerns were expressed about missing livestock, compensation, excessive impact to big game populations, wolves contributing to ranch subdivisions, and especially the Service’s rejection of the Wyoming wolf plan.

Jimenez and WS WY District Supervisor Nelson met in Rawlins, WY with the Range Conservation group for that area on the 23rd. Many local folks were wondering what’s up? and What are the regulations allowed now that a wolf has been seen near Wamsutter/Baggs. WY?

 

Hartman and pilot Dave Hoerner located Lupine wolf B79 in mortality mode SW of Lolo Pass. The location was several miles from highway 12, but the fog was so dense that the site couldn't be seen from the air. The mortality will be investigated by USFWS and the Nez Perce Tribe.

GRAY WOLF POISONED NEAR CLAYTON, IDAHO- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement agents have recently confirmed poisoning as the cause of death of a gray wolf in Idaho, and are seeking information from the public to help solve the crime. The collared wolf, known as B-143, was found to have been killed by a poison known as Compound 1080. The animal's carcass was found 6 miles northwest of Clayton, Idaho, in the Squaw Creek Drainage on May 18, 2003. Compound 1080 (sodium fluoroacetate) is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, water soluble, highly toxic chemical. The misuse of this chemical is unlawful. This chemical can be ingested by livestock, family pets, hikers, and children and can result in death from respiratory failure, seizures and heart attack. Animals or small children are most susceptible to poisoning due to ingestion, but the substance's toxins can also enter animal or human bloodstreams through contact with abraded skin or wounds, or through the respiratory system if dust particles are inhaled. "We are very interested in finding whoever is responsible for the crime. If anyone has information about the illegal killing of wolves, please contact the Service's law enforcement division. Callers may remain anonymous," said Scott Kabasa, a Special Agent in the Service's Boise field office. The killing of an animal protected under the Endangered Species Act is punishable by a fine of up to $100,000 and one year in jail. The Service is offering a reward of up to $2,500 for information leading to an arrest or conviction of the person or persons responsible for the poisoning of wolves. Service law enforcement agents may be reached at (208) 378-5333.

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