Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 3/12/04

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 3/05-3/12, 2004

Monitoring

NEW WEB ADDRESS- The 2003 annual wolf report was posted this week. It can be accessed at http://westerngraywolf.fws.gov/annualreports.htm 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 former alpha female of the Hog Heaven pack was found dead. Six other pack members were seen on site during the tracking flight. Her carcass was recovered on the 8th. She weighted 48 lbs., had turned white, her teeth were nubs, and she was missing toes on one of her front feet [a probable old trap injury?]. Her carcass will be examined to determine cause of death but starvation is suspected. She was one of five wolves darted and relocated from the Castle Rock pack [near Helena, MT and an attempt to reduce the potential for livestock depredations in that area] to Parsnip Creek in NW MT in March 2001 as a yearling.

The carcass of an uncollared black female [sex not absolutely certain] yearling from the Fish Trap pack was recovered along Hwy. 2 [mi 80.8] near Marion, MT on the 9th. She was apparently just hit by a vehicle and her carcass was severely mangled. Both carcasses are being examined by the MT FW&P wildlife lab in Bozeman, MT for examination.

The last radioed Taylor Peak wolf # 281, that like its pack mate had mange, was on morality mode on the 9th. On the 11th, its carcass was recovered and will be examined by the MT FW&P Bozeman Wildlife Lab. It was likely killed by complications resulting from mange. The Taylor Peaks pack is essentially gone. It appears the Madison Valley went from 3 known wolf packs [Sentinel, Taylor peaks, and Freezeout, and a recently discovered group of 5 Ennis Lake/Bear Trap? was found March 2004], now there will only the Freezeout pack left.

Control

A possible wolf-killed calf on private land was reported in the Avon area on the 5th. WS investigated and it turned out to be just a dead calf that was scavenged by birds and coyotes.

WS investigated a report that 2 ewes were killed and another bit in the face on private land by a lone wolf near Stanford in central Montana on the 7th. Tracks and howling from a lone wolf has been occasionally reported in this area in the past. WS concluded the sheep were attacked by coyotes but the guard dog also fed/disturbed the carcasses which led to the mistaken suspicion that a wolf might have been involved.

WS investigated a 3/7 report of a wolf on a dead calf on private land near Polaris, MT in the Grasshopper Valley- where the Fox Creek pack was removed. The young calf was confirmed a wolf kill by WS on the 8th. A lone wolf was responsible and WS was authorized to lethally remove it. It didn’t come back to the carcasses which was not consumed, apparently the rancher scared it off before it had a chance to feed.

WS confirmed that a lone grey wolf bit a llama on fenced private property in the Ninemile Valley on March 1. The landowner legally tried to shoot it, as it bit the llama. WS tracked the wolf but it appeared uninjured. The landowner was issued a shoot-on-sight permit for one wolf since this has been an area of chronic livestock depredations.

A rancher near Ennis Lake in the Madison Valley found a severely wounded heifer that he euthanized on the 9th. WS confirmed it was attacked by wolves. As they looked around for a place to trap or place its carcass they stumbled upon a steer that had been killed a few days earlier and had been fed on. It too was killed by wolves. The group of at least 4 uncollared wolves in the Madison Valley near Ennis Lake [Ennis Lake pack?] killed 2 calves on Feb. 29th. WS was authorized to remove all 4 wolves and these 3 ranches were issued shoot-on-sight permits for 4 wolves on their private land. WS were be trapping and flying the area in an attempt to remove both this pack of 4 and the Sentinel pack of 7. Asher and MT FW&P specialist Ross are on site and providing assistance. On the 11th, WS shot 5 from the Sentinel pack at a bait station. Three pups were females. The yearlings [nearly 2-yr-olds now] were a female and 2 males. One uncollared wolf was still unaccounted for. The injured remaining Sentinel pack member [it was observed limping but is moving around] will be monitored to see if it joins up with the 7th Sentinel pack member, but it will be removed as soon as practical next week. On the 12th, WS shot all 5 wolves in the Ennis Lake pack. One adult male [#249] had an old radio and it appears to have been still operating. He was a Nez Perce wolf collared in the Park on Feb. 2002 and last located south of Mammoth on Dec. 10, 2002. WS, Asher, and Ross did a very professional and thorough job. In total the Sentinel pack [7 wolves] killed a calf on the 26th, a steer on the 29th, and a dog on the 5th. The Ennis Lake pack [4 wolves] killed two calves on the 28th and a steer around the 7th and a heifer on the 9th. This control action has received almost daily media coverage for two weeks and statements of concern from both of Montana’s Senators, its lone Congressman, its Governor, and several county commissioners.

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. Pretty much a typical late winter kill rate so far.

There are 4 visiting scholars in Yellowstone National Park this winter are Dr. John Vucetich and Dr. Rolf Peterson from Michigan Technological University and Dr. Robert Wayne and Dr. Blaine Van Valkenbergh for University California, Los Angeles.

Information and education and law enforcement

Smith gave a talk to a trip/course of ten people taught by biologist Dr. Diane Boyd on the 5th. That afternoon he did an interview with Guy Clarkson who is making a Canadian film on the Rocky Mountains entitled "Shining Mountains". It will take a look at the Rocky Mountains including wildlife from Yellowstone north to the Yukon. On the 11th Smith talked with MSNBC Fred Francis about wolves in Yellowstone Park for a special show on "Yellowstone to Yukon". The MSNBC show will air Sunday night 3/14 at 8PM EST.

Dr. Rolf Peterson is teaching a wolf ecology course in Yellowstone Park over the weekend of the 13-14th.

Carter Niemeyer, Curt Mack, Rick Williamson, Craig Tabor , Mark Collinge (director WS), Jeff Allen (OSC), Steve Nadeau(IDFG) and Jon Heggen (IDFG enforcement chief), have been training IDFG staff and preparing them for wolf management by the state this past week. The first session was in Lewiston on March 9, with 85 IDFG staff attending, and the second training in Boise had 95 IDFG and WS staff attending. Training continues next week in Idaho Falls and Salmon.

JOBS- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seasonal wolf biologist positions will be advertised starting Wednesday March 10 and will close March 23rd. The FWS intends to hire 4 GS-7 seasonal wolf biologist positions [Cody and Jackson, WY and Kalispell and Missoula, MT] for this summer’s field season. If applicants want to be considered for all four locations they must submit an application for each location. See www.usajobs.opm.gov DEU6-04-26 thru 29 for details and to apply.

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 beginning March 9th. Comments should be directed to the following address: USFWS, Western Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, 100 N. Park, #320, Helena, MT 59601 or see westerngraywolf@fws.gov for details.

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.

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