Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 5/14/04

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 5/7-5/14, 2004

Monitoring

NEW WEB ADDRESS-  2003 annual wolf report is at http://westerngraywolf.fws.gov/ . It has maps of wolf pack locations and home ranges, tables of wolf numbers and depredations, litigation and funding issues, and summaries of scientific studies.

Frame conducted a survey flight on May 13, to determine which packs being monitored from Kalispell in the NW Montana recovery area are denning. The Fishtrap, Lazy Creek, Whitefish, Murphy Lake, and Kintla packs are tending dens. Further investigation is required to tell if Candy Mountain and Hog Heaven have denned. Great Bear, Red Shale, and Fish Creek will be surveyed on the next flight. The trans-boundary Kootenai pack that usually dens in Canada was visiting the U.S. on Wednesday and may have denned in the NW Montana recovery area this year, but further investigation will be required. The Spruce Creek den, which is located five miles north of the Canadian border in the North Fork of the Flathead River drainage, was active. This den may be important as a source for future immigrants to the NW Montana recovery area.

A flight in SW Montana on the 9th, indicated most females are localized [denned]. A pair of black wolves was reported south of Clark Canyon Reservoir, south of Dillon, MT on elk kill.

The Nez Perce Tribe got the first pup count of the season on the 7th. Biologists Trapp and Holyan located the Gold Fork pack's den and observed 3 black pups inside (eyes not yet open). The signal of the alpha female was in the same area the following day, so it appears our intrusion did not result in abandonment of the area.

Control

WS investigated a possible wolf killed calf just east of Lincoln, MT on the 7th. The producer saw a black wolf leave from where a dead calf was found. There was no indication that the wolf killed the calf but had scavenged the carcass. There are no established wolves known to be in the area and the black wolf is probably a loner. A number of dispersing radio collared wolves have been located in this general area.

On the 9th WS confirmed that a wolf killed 9 lambs and consumed 2 of them near Hall, MT. Traps were set by WS to try to radio-collar and release it on site. The wolf returned the next evening and consumed a 50 pound lamb that it had previously killed. Unfortunately, the wolf returned by a completely different route and was not caught. Trapping is ongoing and is still a catch and release control action.

ID WS killed a gray colored, 2-year-old male wolf on private land during a depredation control action morning of the 14th, from fixed-wing aircraft north of Shoshone, ID. The wolf was a member of the Bennett Mountain pack/group. WS saved the skull for educational purposes but the hide was not retrieved due to its poor condition. This pack has been involved in repeated depredations in that area over the past month.

The Nez Perce Tribe received a telephone message on the 13th from a rancher near Kendrick, ID reporting wolf depredations on cattle. There are no known wolf groups in that area at this time but the investigation is continuing.

Asher is bringing fladry to the Madison Valley the weekend of the 15th. The faldry will be used to help protect sheep that are brought into the area for a weed control project in Wall Creek/Madison Valley area. Sheep will be brought in on May 18, they will be night pastured in fladry/electric fencing, and will be protected by both a guard dog and herder.

Research

Yellowstone National Park’s GPS collar downloads from wolves began May 1 and have been going very well. Collars are locating the wolf every 30 min for 48 locations/day. After retrieving the first series of downloads, NPS biologists found 3 kills over a 11 day period by walking to clusters of location points. Two cows and a calf had been killed (last year’s calf, almost a yearly now). Smith et al. are very pleased and this technique holds great promise to help estimate wolf summer predation rates. The other downloadable GPS collar unfortunately is on female that denned. It is 1 of 2 denning Druid females, with multiple litters in that pack again. The data indicated she hung around the den just prior to the birth of the pups- so the collar works fine.

Information and education and law enforcement

Long time Kalispell, MT wolf biologist/volunteer Therese Hartman left the program to move on to bigger and better things. Therese helped trap and radio-collar wolves, conducted many of our radio-collaring flights, and was a huge help in the NW Montana program for the last 4 years. While a work-study student, she assisted in the development of the MT state wolf EIS and management plan. She was co-located with Tom Meir and Carolyn Sime in the MT FW&P Kalispell office. Last year she completed her B.S. degree at Univ,. Montana. While at UM she continued to volunteer for wolf ‘duty’ in the Missoula area. Thank you for a great job and good luck in your future endeavors.

Bangs participated in an hour long presentation/radio talk show for Agriculture Appreciation Days in Butte, MT on the 12th. About 50 people were in the audience and a dozen stayed another 45 minutes after the program to talk further about wolves and wolf management. Several people commented that they approved of the Service’s 10 j proposal to increase wolf management flexibility and the state’s role.

Nez Perce seasonal wolf biologists Isaac Babcock and Adam Gall start work in Idaho on Monday the 17th. They will be headed up north to begin trapping on the Big Hole pack, as well as possibly investigating the reproductive status of other packs in that area (Eagle Mountain, Eldorado, Hemlock Ridge). Kent Laudon and Anthony Novack return to work on the 24th.

ID F&G hired 2 biologists for their state wolf management positions. Jason Husseman and Michael Lucid will be starting the 24th of May. Welcome aboard! Steve Nadeau did an interview with a Boise television station on the 11th discussing the State's role and preparation for State management of wolves.

10j Amendment-Public Comment Period closed on May 10th, 2004.

The proposed experimental population 10j amendment was published in the Federal Register and at http://westerngraywolf.fws.gov/ . It will likely take several months to analyze the nearly 20,000 comments. After all the issues brought up by the public and agency comments are reviewed and addressed, a final rule will be drafted. Decision-makers will decide what the final rule will be and if it should be adopted. This federal regulatory process normally takes a year from the time the draft is published in the Federal Register [March 10], but we will attempt to develop a final rule and obtain a decision as soon as practical.

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