Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 5/28/04

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 5/21 to 5/28, 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.

Nez Perce biologists Isaac Babcock and Adam Gall were able to obtain a minimum pup count on the Eagle Mountain pack; they observed 3 gray pups at the den site on the south side of the Lochsa River downstream of where this pack denned last year. Isaac and Adam were unable to locate any trappable wolves in the Big Hole, Hemlock Ridge, or Eldorado packs.

Nez Perce biologists Kent Laudon and Anthony Novack flew into Cold Meadows in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness to trap for and get a pup count on the Chamberlain Basin pack. There have been no functioning radio-collars in this pack since 2001. Good luck guys!

Nez Perce biologists Jim Holyan and former Project office assistant Cheri Ramos located the Orphan pack den and observed a minimum of 4-5 black pups. This is the first time alpha female B-61 has produced more than a single pup.

Dispersing wolf B147-F, from the Jureano Mountain pack, was located about 15 miles NE of her last location. The most recent flight location was in the head of Skookumchuck Ck. (east of White Bird, ID).

B97, the Moyer Basin alpha male {ID], whose signal was located on mortality the past flight, was not heard at all on the most recent flight. His fate is unknown.

The Cook pack, containing 4 radio-collared wolves in Idaho, shows no sign of localization; all radio-collared wolves have been located together for the past 4 flights, in widely separated locations. On the most recent flight they were found in the French Ck. drainage, where they have not been located before. Reproductive status of many other packs is starting to become apparent based on information from den survey flights.

The carcass of B116, the alpha male of the Orphan pack, was recovered by NPT and USFWS Law Enforcement (LE) personnel. This wolf's death is under investigation by LE. The loss of B116 could reduce the chances for the survival of this pack's litter. B117, formerly the suspected alpha male of the Gold Fork pack, has been associating with the Orphan pack since January, but has not been located with B61 (Orphan alpha female) since 4/23/04. If B117 reunites with B61 the situation for pup survival should improve.

The Kootenai pack, which usually dens in Canada, has been localized in Montana for the past few weeks suggesting they have denned in the U.S. this year. The Candy Mountain pack has also localized and is likely denned. Service biologist Paul Frame will trap for these two packs over the next few weeks to try getting more radio collars out. Right now just one individual in each of these packs is collared.

Packs that are know to be denning in NW Montana are Kintla, Whitefish, Lazy Creek, Murphy Lake, Fishtrap, Candy Mountain, and Kootenai. Wolf sightings near the old Spotted Bear den suggest they also have denned. We are still unsure if Hog Heaven, Great Bear, and Red Shale have denned and we will continue to monitor these packs to find out.

The Teton pack [9 wolves] has denned in their usual location in Grand Teton National Park. Recent sightings of 9 pups indicate they have had a double litter this year. Cattle are being grazed in the Park now, but they will not be near the den for another month or so. If cattle or killed by wolves or grizzly bears the cattle will be moved.

Control

On the 16th, a calf was killed on private property next to Teton National Park by members of the Teton pack. WS trapped and was authorized to remove up to two wolves on that private property.

No wolves were captured and traps were by the 28th.

Around the 20th, a calf was killed on private land near Big Piney, WY. The producer called Jimenez over the weekend and WS investigated on the 24th. The carcass was pretty well melted down but they could see old wounds and sign and confirmed it as a wolf depredation. There are no known radio wolves or packs in that area. The wolf had not returned to the carcass lately so no traps were set and no control is ongoing.

A calf was confirmed killed by wolves on private property north of Dubois, WY. The Washakie pack is denned adjacent to this ranch but other uncollared wolves have also been reported in the area. This ranch has had repeated wolf depredations in the past and is also extensively used by grizzly bears, making wolf trapping difficult. WS confirmed the fresh depredation on the 22nd. No agency control is being conducted but the producer was given a shoot-on-sight permit.

A pair of uncollared wolves that has sporadically but repeatedly killed cattle and sheep around Fishtail, MT reportedly killed more sheep on private land the 28th. WS is continuing to investigate. A kill order to WS was already authorized, as well as several shoot-on-sight permits to the affect landowners. The latest landowner’s kill permit for his private property was re-authorized immediately by phone.

MT FWP biologist Carolyn Sime received another call on May 27th from a landowner in the Blankenship Bridge area just south of Glacier National Park. A large gray canid was seen chasing a domestic dog towards the house late at night around May 22. The dog was reported to have had saliva on its neck. The same landowner reported missing a few free-range chickens during the week of May 17th, but did not report the loss until May 27. The landowner was advised of the 4(d) rules permitting non-lethal harassment or defense of property on private land.

Research

Yellowstone National Park Wolf Project used a foundation grant to hire three biologists this summer to initiate the "Food for the Masses [Summer]. It is a study of scavenging on wolf kills during summer in the Park. This study would follow on the heals of the very successful study of scavenging on wolf-killed ungulates during winter. Speculation suggests there would be much more avian scavenging in winter than summer, now we’ll find out.

The second year of elk calf capture has begun for the three year research project on "Elk calf survival and cause specific mortality" is underway, a graduate student is being supervised by Dr. L. David Mech, the principle investigator. As of the 28th, nearly a dozen calves had been radio-tagged, hopefully up to 50 calves may be tagged as the calving season progresses.

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/.

MT FW&P announced a cooperative agreement with the Service to increase the state role in wolf recovery efforts in NW MT. Wolves there are listed as threatened and can be managed under the flexibility of the April 2003, 4d rule. The Service will fund their assistance 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.

Curt Mack and Carter Niemeyer participated in events at Redfish Lake (Stanley) sponsored by the Idaho Conservation League on the 21st and 22nd. About 15-20 people attend each of the Friday and Saturday afternoon sessions.

The Nez Perce Tribe's 2003 Annual Report is now available on the Tribe's website: www.nezperce.org. Click on Departments and then navigate to the Natural Resources section, followed by Wildlife Program.

On the 25th, Doug Smith talked with 15 Regional Wildlife Biologists from the Forest Service on a field trip in Yellowstone National Park. Also on the 25th, Deb Guernsey gave an evening talk to 50 Park concessionaire employees. On the 28th Smith participated in a field trip with a dozen members of the Yellowstone Park Foundation.

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.

Bangs and Fontaine have been reviewing agency, organization, and public comments made on the Service’s proposal to change the nonessential experimental population [10j] rules that regulate wolf management in much of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. About 23,00 comments were received before the public comment period closed on May 10th.

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