Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 2/27/04

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 2/21-2/27, 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 interagency report is finalized and will be posted on the web site today or earlier next week and mailed in early March.

The NPS and FWS in Wyoming wrapped up their routine winter wolf capture efforts in Wyoming. On the afternoon of the 20th, the Beckler pack [6-7 wolves] in the SW corner of Yellowstone was located just inside the Park and in the open by Jimenez. Hawkins & Powers and Jimenez put together a quick capture operation and did their usual great job. The adult male’s dead collar was replaced and 3 pups [2 male and a female] were collared and released

FWS and WS made an attempt to capture members of the Freezeout pack out the 23rd. The pack got into scattered timber and none were captured. On the 24th, a Sentential pack yearling had 2 darts skip of it and the alpha was darted but did not go down- unknown why. On the 26th, another attempt was made but no wolves were in the open. We thank WS for such a determined effort under very tough circumstances.

An Idaho wolf was killed near mile post 87 on Highway 21, east of Lowman, ID. The IDFG warden, Matt Ericksen, retrieved the wolf from the highway after the Department of Transportation hit the dead wolf with the snowplow and then reported the carcass. When the wolf was picked up, other wolves were howling in the area. It was an estimated 90 pound, uncollared, female wolf was 3-5 years old and was in full breeding condition (most likely the alpha female. She was showing some graying in her pelage and was neither gray nor black in color (more of a blueish tone). The hide and skull were salvaged for ID F&G educational purposes. A piece of the tongue was saved for its DNA and the uterus was saved to see how many pups she may have had. Matt Ericksen was a big help, thanks.

Control

We euthanized male wolf #335 from the Taylor Peak pack on the 25th. He had severe mange and had been hanging around people and sleeping in haystacks near houses earlier this winter. We were going to euthanize him about a month ago but then he suddenly moved to a more remote area to feed on remains of hunter killed elk. At that time we decided to give him another chance in hopes it was just the January cold spell that forced him to be bold and seek out any spot he could find to avoid freezing to death. However, on the 25th [daytime temperatures in the 40's] he was again reported back near residences and haystacks and we removed him. He had severe mange.

Wildlife Services in Idaho reporting a confirmed wolf depredation incident on a ranch near Hammett, Idaho on the 26th. A domestic cow and calf (unrelated to each other) were killed on private land by one to three wolves (tracks in the mud) according to the WS Specialist. WS was authorized to set traps and capture and collar one wolf for release on site. If depredations continue to occur wolves may be removed.

On the 27th, WS confirmed a calf was killed near Cameron, MT. This is likely the Sentinel pack which has no radio collared members. The last radioed wolf in the pack was illegally killed several months ago. WS will attempt to capture and radiocollar a pack member and any potential subsequent control will be determined at that point.

On the 27th, a livestock producer near Lone Pine in NW MT reported that a lone black wolf with a front-leg limp was in among his cows, which are calving now. No depredations were reported. He was informed he can run it off, shoot it if it is attacking livestock, and if it hangs around he can obtain a permit to use less-than-lethal munitions. The situation will be watched closely.

A livestock producer along the Salmon River in Idaho had a long history of coyote depredation problems before wolves were ever reintroduced and for the last several years he has had wolf as well as coyote depredations. M-44s were historically used every winter by Wildlife Services on this producer's property, but the presence of wolves has precluded this as an option much of the time in recent years. In response to recent complaints of coyote predation on this producer's sheep, Wildlife Services deployed breakaway neck snares in conjunction with carcass draw stations in lieu of placing M-44s on the producer's property. During the week of

February 23-27, sign in the snow confirmed that an elk and 2 wolves were captured in breakaway neck snares at one site on this property, and that the breakaway snares functioned as intended, with all 3 nontargets breaking cleanly free and escaping unharmed.

The Predator Conservation Alliance published the first volume [Vol. 1 No. 1:1-16.] of their newsletter "Wild Guardian: A field journal for coexisting with wildlife." Articles included: Training a guardian dog, What’s behind grizzly bear conflicts on Rocky Mountain Front ranches, International wolf livestock summit, trademark for predator friendly, kennel protects pets form wolves, and Living with predator resource guide series available. For further information about this newsletter or to submit articles please contact editor Janelle Holden at janelle@predaotrconservation.org or 406-587-3389.

Research

Training for the late winter Yellowstone National Park winter predation study began this week. Wolves on the northern range are followed from the ground and air as frequently as possible during March to determine locate kills and prey selection.

Information and education and law enforcement

Tom Meier, the FWS lead wolf biologist for NW MT, who was co-located with MT FW&P in Kalispell, MT was selected for the wildlife biologist supervisory position in Denali National Park in Alaska. Tom’s last day was the 27th, the day he completed the 2004 annual wolf report. Congratulations Tom, thank you for all your hard work and good luck in AK.

Jimenez gave a presentation on wolves and their use of WY state elk feed grounds at a meeting in Buffalo, WY on the 17th. The meeting was held by the state veterinarian to discuss the state’s brucellosis issues. About 100 people attended.

Just over a week ago a bobcat trapper near Orofinio/Weippe, ID incidentally caught a wolf that broke the trap chain and escaped with a trap on its foot. The trapper notified us and Nez Perce Tribal biologists tried to capture it to remove the trap [ground darting, bating and neck snares with stops] but were unsuccessful. On the 27th, Niemeyer and Trapp were giving it another try.

Smith gave a talk at the Mammoth School on the night of the 23rd. Members of the Swan Lake pack have been seen in Mammoth at night and have killed four elk. Some people were concerned about human safety. Doug did a good job of summing things up "The risk to human safety from wolves is about zero, but it isn’t zero. Treat them with respect just as you would other wildlife animals."

Bangs and Smith gave presentations at the MT Chapter of The Wildlife Society on the 25th, in Bozeman. About 200 biologists attended.

On the 28th, Bangs participated in wolf watching weekend for the Nature Conservancy near Gandiner, MT.

Niemeyer talked at a meeting in Crouch, Idaho, on the 15th. He met with about a dozen residents to discuss allegations of a wolf walking up on the deck of a house near the door. He checked the tracks and they were from a domestic dog. Other concerns were that horses wouldn't eat their hay, wolf tracks were in calving pastures and residents were concerned for their children's safety. Four lion hunters expressed their concern that wolves may kill their dogs. The Scott Mountain wolf pack is known to frequent an area east of Crouch.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game issued a news release this week warning people near Waggonhammer Springs, north of Salmon, ID- that poison laced meatballs had been found in the area. The poison baits were discovered after a young boy was walking his dog and it became ill and disoriented. Fortunately a local veterinarian quickly recognized the problem and saved the dog’s life. LE agents found other baits in the area and the chemical used is highly toxic to pets, wildlife, and people. This incident is under LE investigation.

A landowner near Meeteesee, WY apparently is claiming that the FWS trespassed on his land during the routine helicopter capture and radio-collaring on the Washakie pack on Valentines Day. False rumors quickly spread that wolves were being ‘reintroduced’ onto private land. This incident is being is being looked into and if trespass truly did occur it was completely unintentional, the Service is deeply sorry and offers its apologies, and we will accept full responsibility. We do not knowingly go onto private property without permission.

The Nez Perce Tribe is seeking volunteers to assist on the Idaho Gray Wolf Recovery Project for the 2004 field season. This is a great opportunity to gain valuable field experience while working in the rugged and beautiful backcountry of Idaho. Applications must be received at Gray Wolf Recovery Project office no sooner than March 1 and no later March 31, 2004. How to Apply: Submit a cover letter expressing interest in the Project, and resume detailing educational and employment backgrounds, along with the name and contact information of 3 work-related references. Send application materials to: Nez Perce Tribe Gray Wolf Recovery Project, Attn: Volunteer Program, P.O. Box 1922, McCall, ID 83638.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seasonal wolf biologist positions will be advertised this spring- The FWS intends to advertise for 4 GS-7 seasonal wolf biologist positions [Cody and Jackson, WY and Kalispell and Missoula, MT] for this summer’s field season. These will be our typical field biologist jobs that include locating wolves and wolf dens, wolf capture and radio-tracking, assisting Wildlife Services as requested, and interacting with the public and other agencies. Lots of travel and remote back-country work may be required. Successful competition for these types of positions is usually very difficult without previous large carnivore field experience. Information about these seasonal positions- that normally run from April/May through September/October- will be accessible through USA Jobs in about a month. Please do not call this office about any additional information about these jobs until we announce that they are being advertised and where and how to apply. Thank you.

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