Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 5/21/04

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 5/14-5/21, 2004

Monitoring

NEW WEB ADDRESS- The 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.

A wolf crossed into Montana from Canada last week. Alberta biologist Carita Bergman reported that male yearling wolf #78 [who is wearing an Argos GPS collar] dispersed south from his home territory 100 km southwest of Calgary. His pack was involved in cattle depredations this past spring but he hasn’t been in any trouble since. He crossed the border in the wee hours of May 14th. He was located near Hwy 89 between St. Mary and Kiowa and still appears to be heading south and was just west of Choteau, MT on Wednesday. The Blackfeet tribal and MT FW&P biologists were notified. The wolf will continue to be monitored. Thanks to Carita for such great coordination.

Nez Perce biologists Isaac Babcock and Adam Gall are running a trap line in hopes of getting more radio-collars in the Big Hole pack. They have located wolf sign near last year's den site.

Jon Trapp was on hand to assist Dave Thomas (WS) in radio-collaring and also searched for wolf activity in the area near the recent confirmed wolf depredation on a domestic calf near Southwick. He did not locate any wolf sign, but heavy rains may have eliminated recent tracks. Howling surveys did not elicit any responses. Dave also conducted investigations near Kendrick and Genesee, but did not find evidence of wolf involvement. Jon will soon be leaving the Nez Perce Tribe Wolf Project to work for the FWS in Wyoming this summer. We thank Jon, and his wife Barbara, for all of the help they have given to us in the last year.

Nez Perce biologist Jim Holyan attempted to investigate the area of wolf B42-F's mortality signal, but was unable to reach the site due to high water in Kelly Creek. If the batteries hold out for another 2-3 weeks a second effort will be made to retrieve the radio-collar. IDFG Conservation Officer Mark Rhodes and USFS employee Brooks Beegle took part in the retrieval attempt.

Curt Mack and Carter Niemeyer will be participating in events at Redfish Lake (Stanley) sponsored by the Idaho Conservation League the weekend of the 22nd & 23rd.

Gary Gadwa (IDFG Conservation Officer) collected a yearling gray uncollared female wolf that had been hit by a vehicle on Highway 21 [MP 113] near Cape Horn (25 miles northwest of Stanley) on the 20th. The nearest known wolf pack is the Landmark pack, so we assume this wolf is a member of that group. The pelt was not salvageable but the skull was saved for educational purposes.

Jureano Mountain wolf B147-F, missing since last November, was aerially located near Slate Creek, north of Riggins. The finding of this disperser was facilitated by a report from a bear hunter to the Wildlife Biologist (Joann Bonn) at the Slate Creek Ranger District. Recovery Project personnel were able to contact the bear hunter, who reported that the black wolf was radio-collared. A search of the area focused on all missing black wolves and led to the detection of B147-F. She was observed, but appeared to be alone. Den survey flights will be concluding soon and monitoring flights will be conducted once per month, so hopefully the Recovery Project can maintain contact with this wolf.

The following packs in Idaho are classified as denning; Buffalo Ridge, Galena, Gold Fork, O'Hara Point, Red River, Soldier Mt., Steel Mt., and B109/190. Those suspected to have litters are; Big Hole, Eagle Mt., Gospel Hump, Hazard Lake, Morgan Ck., Moyer Basin, Orphan, Partridge Ck. group, Scott Mt., Selway, B127, B141, and B157. The denning status of the packs listed below is unknown (in most cases because there are no radio-collared members in those packs); Bennett Mt., Castle Peak, Chamberlain Basin, Cook, Eldorado, Five Lakes Butte, Florence, Hemlock Ridge, Jureano Mt., Kelly Ck., Landmark, Lupine, Magruder, Marble Mt., Monumental, Thunder Mt., Timberline, Twin Peaks, and Wolf Fang. All the ‘regular’ packs in the greater Yellowstone area appear to have denned and pups are occasionally beginning to be seen at a few dens.

Control

On the 16th, a calf was killed on private property next to Teton National Park by members of the Teton pack. The landowner reported seeing a black wolf [a likely Teton pack member] leaving the carcass which was pretty much consumed up to the front shoulders. WS is trapping and was authorized to remove up to two wolves on that private property.

Val Asher and Mike Ross (MT FW&P) visited with ranchers in the Cinnabar basin on the 19th, after they reported ten gray wolves [5 radioed] were near their house, in their domestic bison, and fought with one of their dogs- nothing was injured. They reported a couple of missing bison calves from earlier this spring. The wolves had killed a calf/yearling elk in the basin. Location and the all-grey color indicated it was 10 of 11 members of the Swan Lake pack, who denned in the Park. The elk carcass was removed so the wolves wouldn’t stick around to scavenge on it. Asher and Ross set up a RAG box at the ranch to use as a warning/scare device but no wolf frequencies have been detected yet. They encouraged everyone to keep an eye on dogs and livestock (as usual) and harass any wolves in the basin if the opportunity presented itself. Work has also begun to identify the den locations of packs in the Paradise Valley, and possibly ‘bump’ those wolves from intensive livestock production pastures.

WS pulled all the traps in the Roscoe area on the 18th. The uncollared gray and black wolf that have killed sheep and calves on several occasions have not returned to the area in 16 days. Numerous shoot on sight permits have been issued but the wolves haven’t been seen. No additional agency control will be attempted unless they return and kill more livestock.

A producer in Pine Creek [GYA, Paradise Valley] called about 3 wolves going through their pasture on the 19th . The wolves are probably part of the Lone Bear pack. The producer declined the Less-Than-Lethal munitions training. Asher and Ross talked to a couple of other producers about the Lone Bear pack. They will be turning out their livestock onto allotments in the near future.

ID WS killed a gray colored, a 2-year-old male wolf on private land during a depredation control action the morning of the 14th, from fixed-wing aircraft west of Fairfield, 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. Rick Williamson and Gary Looney [ID WS] collared and released an 80-pound yearling female wolf from the Bennett Mountain pack on the 19th, near Morris Flat. Morris Flat is maybe 6-7 miles north of Bennett Mountain. They pulled all their traps because of weather and having this animal has been collared. Hopefully this wolf will enable the Recovery Project to determine the current reproductive status of this pack, which might influence future control activities.

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 by WS is continuing.

Asher is bringing fladry to the Madison Valley the weekend of the 15th. The fladry 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 continues to collect GPS collar location data and walk into location ‘clusters’ to quantify summer predation rates. So far it seems to be working well.

Yellowstone National Park, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Lab, and Nez Perce Tribe have initiated a collaborative research project with Dr. Robert Wayne, UCLA, to investigate "Genetic characterization of gray wolves in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming to determine individual identity, paternity, maternity, and social structure." Tissue and blood samples from more than 500 wolves have been collected and will be part of the analysis.

 

Information and education and law enforcement

Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks is advertising for the position of Wolf Coordinator. This position will be open May 19 - June 11, 2004. Application materials may be submitted to: Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, 1420 E. Sixth Avenue, Helena, MT 59620. For the complete job posting and application material requirements, please see the FWP website http://fwp.state.mt.us/.

Doug Smith did a TV interview with Color 8 News out of Billings, MT. They are doing a 3-piece segment on Yellowstone National Park on May 25-27th. Wolves will be one segment, not sure which night.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hired 4 seasonal biologists for this field season. Dr. Diane Boyd and Jack Bucklin will be stationed in Missoula, MT. Liz Bradley and Jon Trapp will be stationed in Lander, WY. They will begin work to help monitor wolf populations [locate, trap, radio, monitor] June 1. The list of qualified applicants was unusually strong and we thank everyone for their interest in these positions.

A former Idaho rancher is reportedly making money in a different way, by selling plaster wolf tracks. The producer got out of ranching and is now running a local store. One of the Idaho packs frequents a nearby pond/muddy area on a regular basis and he makes casts of the tracks and sells them in his store. An innovative way to make money from wolves.

Fontaine attended a meeting in Ennis, MT at the Madison Valley Ranchlands office on the 19th to discuss the Range Rider program for the valley. This is a collaborative pilot project to test whether increased human presence will reduce conflicts between wolves and livestock. From June-September, two people on horseback will monitor and respond to interactions between wolves and livestock on public grazing allotments. The project is being headed by the Predator Conservation Alliance, Madison Valley Ranchlands group along with support from Turner Endangered Species Fund, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the Service and cooperation from the Forest Service and BLM.

MT FW&P announced they have signed a cooperative agreement with the Service to increase their role in wolf recovery efforts in NW MT where wolves are listed as threatened and can be managed under the flexibility of the April 2003, 4d rule. The Service will fund their activities and is pleased that the state is taking a more active role in wolf management. Both wolves and the people that live near them will benefit from more local state involvement.

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