Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 6/04/04

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 5/28 to 6/04, 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 Tribal biologist Isaac Babcock observed 2-3 pups near the Buffalo Ridge den site. The alpha male, B93, has an injured front foot and was being dominated by an uncollared pack member. It is not known if B93 is still the alpha or if his injury has temporarily made him vulnerable and a change in status could result in his displacement. Isaac also saw a minimum of 3 pups with the Galena pack. B167, a yearling with this pack, also has a severely injured front paw. It has been localized near the den, despite the fact that the other wolves, including pups, have moved to a rendezvous site. A monitoring flight on the 1st indicated that this wolf had moved several miles from where it had been seen, so it may be able to recover. Isaac also investigated the den area which the Landmark pack has used for the past few years; he found wolf sign in the area, but not as much as in the past, and determined that the pack, if denning, is using a new area this year.

The NPT is coordinating with the U.S. Forest Service and livestock producers in areas of known wolf range. Communication between agencies and individuals enables all parties to keep abreast of potential wolf-livestock conflicts and help implement strategies to lessen the potential for depredations.

Pups are being seen at the mouths of several dens and pup counts are beginning to come in. There are some indications that a few packs might have moved to nearby rendezvous sites already.

Control

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. They killed 3 bucks, 2 ewes, and 2 lambs on the 21st but the WS wasn’t able to confirm wolves, as black bears were a possibility. On the 28th, 4 ewes and 8 more lambs were killed in the same manner and wolf depredation was deemed responsible. On the 2nd, another ewe and 2 lambs were killed. All these sheep are considered confirmed wolf depredations, unless other evidence is uncovered that indicates otherwise. The producers is also having loses caused by coyotes and black bear. A kill order to WS was already authorized, as well as several shoot-on-sight permits to the affected landowners. The livestock producer with the latest depredations had his kill permit for his private property re-authorized immediately by phone. On the 4th, WS investigated a report of a possible den on some adjacent property and while only old [coyote?] dens were located, some wolf sign was seen. But at this time it does not appear that these wolves are tending an active den but search and control efforts are ongoing.

On the 30st, a 6 year-old cow was reportedly killed by wolves near Dome Mountain, just north of Gardiner, MT. WS investigated that day and confirmed it as a wolf depredation. Traps were set in an attempt to get a radio in the group responsible but nothing was captured. The Sheep Mountain pack appears to have split and may have 2 dens, so sorting out the ‘responsible’ party may be more difficult than usual. We may attempt to ‘bump’ one of the packs out of a den that is very near [if not on] private property where many cow/calf pairs will soon graze.

WS investigated a suspect wolf depredation in the Moccasin Lake pack territory along the West Boulder River on the 30th, but evidence indicated coyotes were responsible.

Another calf was killed by the Washakie pack on private property, north of Dubois, WY on the 1st. WS couldn’t respond right away so the Service investigated and confirmed the depredation. We will coordinate initiating lethal control with WS. WS and/or FWS will attempt to remove 3 wolves by trapping, or ground or aerial shooting.

A livestock producer near Helmville, MT contacted WS on the 31st about a wolf killing and packing off a newborn calf. The producer was checking the cattle on horseback and found a newborn calf that had been partially consumed. The calf was healthy when it was born. The rancher looked up and saw a black male wolf. He left the area and returned with a video camera. He video taped the wolf urinating and then approaching the calf carcass. The producer then came closer to the calf on horseback and the wolf retreated a short distance and then returned to the calf, picked it up, and left the area. According to WS western district supervisor Kraig Glazier, the footage was very good. Traps were set to try to radio collar the wolf. This is close to the area a couple of years ago where a coyote researcher incidentally caught a wolf and was attempting to jab stick it when it pulled out of the trap. Seasonal biologists Boyd and Bucklin searched for additional wolf sign on the 4th.

Asher and Ross met with Bob and Eby Kunesh, the riders for Predator Conservation Alliance’s range rider program in cooperation with Madison Valley Ranchlands, on the 1st, to familiarize them with wolf sign and wolf behavior. They hiked up near the Chief Joseph den area to see fresh wolf tracks and scat and to get a pup count of which 2 were seen. Training on less than lethal munitions will be conducted in the near future. The Range Rider program involves conservation groups paying for extra riders to more closely monitor cattle on federal allotments. The riders also camp near the cattle herd and have telemetry equipment so they can harass any radioed wolves that appear to be too close. They will also monitor wolf sign in and around where the cattle are being grazed. This is a test program being tried in the Madison and Paradise Valleys.

Research

Summer predation study using GPS collars in Yellowstone National Park is still going well. Six carcasses [last one a calf] were discovered for the study pack in May.

Information and education and law enforcement

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.

MT FW&P has signed on Therese Hartman as a volunteer to assist with public outreach efforts. On May 29th, she gave a wolf program in Seely Lake at the Artisan Festival. Topics covered were wolf ecology, update on wolf recovery efforts in Montana, and status of the local area packs. Approximately 30 people attended and it was well received. She fielded several requests for

additional programs at area campgrounds later this summer and will coordinate through MT FW&P in Kalispell.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hired 4 seasonal biologists for this field season. Dr. Diane Boyd and Jack Bucklin are stationed out of Missoula, MT. Liz Bradley and Jon Trapp are stationed out of Lander, WY. They began work to help monitor wolf populations [locate, trap, radio, monitor] on June 1. For the first few days they were in safety and protocol training.

Bangs and Fontaine reviewed 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.

Yellowstone National Park reports that people continue to flood into the Lamar Valley in hopes of seeing wolves. It seems like every summer the amount of interest in viewing wolves increases.

Doug Smith gave a presentation to about 30 representatives from 6 different tribes at a Tribal Council Coordination meeting in Yellowstone National Park on the 3rd.

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