Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 3/5/04

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 2/27-3/05, 2004

Monitoring

NEW WEB ADDRESS- The 2003 annual wolf report was posted this week. It can be accessed at http://westerngraywolf.fws.gov/ and has maps of wolf pack locations and home ranges, tables of wolf numbers and depredations, litigation and funding issues, and summaries of scientific studies.

The Washakie pack that had 5 pack members captured and radio-collared on Feb. 14th near Meeteesee, WY, were located by aerial telemetry on the 4th. They were all back in their normal home range in the Dunoir Valley, just north of Dubois, WY. The ranch manager in the valley that is the center of their normal territory reported he also saw 7 tracks walking in fresh snow right down the road that morning. The ranch has had depredations in the past and having 6 radios [5 fresh and one old] in the group should be of help to him should there be depredations this summer. Cattle normal return to the ranch in May. He has a receiver and was provided the new frequencies.

Idaho wolf B172 (Partridge group) is on mortality east of Riggins. Wolf B99, a Selway pack wolf collared as a pup in 2000 that has been missing for almost a year, was re-found in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, not far from her natal territory. The Nez Perce Tribe recently had a report from ID F&G of 10 black wolves seen during their helicopter ungulate survey in this very area.

Control

On the 27th, WS confirmed a calf was killed near Cameron, MT by the Sentinel pack which has no radio collared members. The last radioed wolf in the pack was illegally killed several months ago. On the 2nd, a steer was killed by members of the Sentinel pack south of Ennis MT in the Madison Valley. Over the Leap Year weekend and about 12 miles to the north 2 more calves were killed and the Sentinel pack was suspected [but later it turned out not to be them]. Several wolves were reportedly seen among near cattle a day later but were chased away by the livestock producer. All 3 depredations [total of 3 calves and a steer killed] were on private land. Wildlife Services was already in the area and had been authorized to lethally removed wolves seen at the depredations sites and to try to get a collar in the Sentinel pack. All three of the pack’s radio-collared members had been illegally killed this fall and winter, leaving us no way to monitor the pack. On the 2nd, WS assisted by Asher [TESF] and Mike Ross {MT FW&P] darted and collared a gray female pup in the Sentinel pack. WS then flew to where the 2 calves were killed and found another unradioed group of 4 wolves. Unfortunately they were not able to collar any of that group. WS was asked to removed 2-3 members of the Sentinel pack and to get a collar in the group of 4 if possible. On the 5th, the Sentinel pack was chased out of cattle again and killed an Australian Shepard dog on private property. WS was authorized to remove the entire pack. No shoot-on-sight permits were issued then because we did not someone in this highly emotional situation to shoot the collared wolf, making control even more difficult. Unfortunately during the control on the 5th, the spotter plane found the radioed pup several miles away but it was apparently bleeding severely. LE is investigating this as a potential illegal take. The Sentinel pack was snow tracked back into the mountain forest and contact with them has been lost. Loss of the radioed animal has set back control actions to the beginning. Trapping will be conducted and shoot-on-sight permits will be issued to the affected producers.

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 were calving. 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, however later 2 calves were found dead and one was confirmed as a wolf kill the other was too old to tell. On the 1st, WS reported that while they were investigating a suspected calf kill a few miles to the south of Lone Pine, a wolf was on the hill watching them. They were told that if it was a confirmed wolf depredation to shoot that wolf if possible. They confirmed the wolf depredation and shot a gray female pup. Control has ended unless there are more depredations. The carcass was given to the Confederated Salish-Kootenai Tribes and they will take biological samples and use the skull and pelt for tribal educational purposes.

Two more calves have been confirmed as wolf depredations by WS near Hammett, Idaho on the 5th. This pack killed a total of cow and 3 calves on private land so far. This area is mainly in livestock production and non-lethal measures were exhausted since none were deemed feasible by the Service. On the 5th, WS shot at all 3 uncollared wolves believed to be involved from a fixed-winged aircraft. Two carcasses were located and the third is still being located.

A possible wolf-killed calf on private land was reported in the Avon area on the 5th. WS is investigating.

Research

The March Yellowstone National Park annual late 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.

The cooperative Service, Forest Service, WY G&F study of wolf/elk relationships on WY elk winter feed grounds in the Gros Ventre drainage continues. The pattern is very similar to previous years. Elk and elk kills appear slightly more spread-out than usual as elk are not as concentrated on feed grounds as they have been in past years. Elk feed grounds really haven’t been visited that often by the wolf pack and elk simply walk between feedgrounds if they feel pressured but really haven’t moved anywhere. Also there seem to be a few more bulls dozen or so compared to the ‘normal’ 3-4. Calf/cow ratios are over 23 calves/100 cows up again from previous years. Jimenez reported that volunteers have found about 37 kills or the typical 4-5 elk per week for the Teton pack of 11-14 wolves.

Information and education and law enforcement

On the 3rd, Secretary of the Interior Norton announced a proposal to give Tribes and Idaho and Montana more authority to manage wolf populations in their reservations and states, consistent with the requirements of the Endangered Species Act. "Wolf populations now far exceed their recovery goals under the Act in the northern Rocky Mountains, and Idaho and Montana have both crafted responsible wolf management plans for their states," Norton said. "Although we are unable at this time to continue with the process to delist the wolf population in the region because we do not have approved plans for all three states, we believe that it is appropriate for us to pursue as much local management for this recovered wolf population as we can." The proposed experimental population 10j amendment was published in the Federal Register this week. Comments will be accepted for 60 days. Comments should be directed to the following address: USFWS, Western Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, 100 N. Park, #320, Helena, MT 59601 or westerngraywolf@fws.gov .

Carter Niemeyer and Steve Nadeau attended and were introduced to the Idaho Legislative House Resource Committee where the Governor's Office of Species Conservation and IDFG Director Huffaker gave an update on the proposed 10(j) rule amendment. Niemeyer was interviewed by local television. Wolf training for Idaho Fish and Game personnel will begin next week.

Bangs gave a talk to a group from the Nature Conservancy in Tom Miner Basin [just N. of YNP] on the 27th. About 20 people attended. Their group went into YNP to wolf watch on the 28th and saw several wolves.

Bangs met with MT FW&P officials in Helena on the 2nd to discuss the potential for Montana FW&P biologists to fill the Kalispell, MT position just vacated by Tom Meier with a MT FW&P biologist. The state is also considering having their biologists ‘shadow’ our efforts in SW MT, in anticipation of the state assuming most authority for wolf management in Montana- even before wolves are delisted.

Volunteer Therese Hartman gave two wolf talk stalks in the Swan Valley that were well received. At the Swan Valley School, grades K-8, there were about 45 students and teachers in attendance. She talked about wolf biology along with why/how we trap and monitor wolves. In the afternoon she gave another talk to about 45 members of the local AARP group. She gave both groups lots of encouragement to contact us if they hear of any wolf activity.

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