Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 6/18/04

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 6/04 t0 6/18, 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.

Gary Skiba with CO DNR reported they picked up a dead radioed wolf about 30 miles west of Denver, CO on the 7th [just west of Idaho Springs]. It had been dead a few days but was relatively fresh [reports indicate in was 1st seen dead on the 5th]. It was been shipped to the Service’s National Fish and Wildlife Forensics lab for a detailed necropsy. It was a 2-year-old grey yearling female originating from the Swan Lake pack in the NW corner Yellowstone National Park. A rough map measurement indicted the distance is about 420 miles straight line [within potential wolf dispersal distance]. It was radioed [darted] as a pup Jan 8, 2003 in YNP. The last location was near Mammoth [in its home range] on Jan 15, 2004. It was on our missing list but was never located alive again. It was found dead on Interstate 70 and reportedly had broken legs and appeared to have been hit by a vehicle. However, there is always the chance it was killed somewhere else and hauled there. As expected there was no evidence of having pups or being with other wolves, since either event would be highly unlikely. If it got there on its own-which appears to be the case at this point in time, it was just a lone long-range disperser that suffered the fate common to many dispersers. There was extensive news coverage in CO of this event.

On June 3, Niemeyer set out 3 trap lines in the vicinity of Pike Fork Creek north of Idaho City, ID. He checked traps for three nights and captured a wolf that pulled the trap about 30 feet before pulling its foot out and escaping. At least two wolves howled and barked at Carter while he searched for the trapped wolf. Last year he collared a wolf in this vicinity that was illegally killed last fall and ear-tagged a pup that was too small to collar. He also searched an extensive area to the east, north and south of Idaho City during those three days, but found no other evidence of wolves. He also checked out wolf sighting near Clear Creek and Grimes Creek south and west of Idaho City. The observer saw two dark canines run across the road and reported "could they be wolves". The area is very residential and did not appear to be likely wolf habitat. During the week of the 7th he trapped near Riggins, ID where maybe over 100 sheep were killed by the unradioed Florence pack last year. Lightening can strike twice and on the 17th, he captured a pack member but it pulled out of the trap. Both pullouts were in Rancher #7 with studs. His luck changed and on the 18th he and a Nez Perce biologist radio-collared a member of the Florence pack. They will continue to trap through the weekend to try and get another radio in the pack.

Pup counts are coming in as Nez Perce and ID F&G crews continue their field work. There are a minimum of 7-8 grey pups in the Florence Pack, at least 3 grey pups with B141, a new pack. Three pups were seen with B109, also a new pack. Four 4 pups [3 gray- the other’s color unknown] were seen in the Moyer Basin pack. Four 4 black pups were with the O'Hara Point pack, but crews were not able to determine denning status of the Red River pack. Four pups were counted in the Gospel Hump pack.. Three pups were verified in a new pack called Warm Springs. To date the Tribe and Idaho F&G have documented 10 litters including a minimum of 40-43 pups in Idaho. Good work team!

MT FW&P Volunteer Hartman flew the northwest Montana packs on June 3 and June 5. She could not locate Great Bear or Red Shale in the Bob Marshall wilderness. Other packs were in their usual home ranges at or near dens. A couple packs may already have moved to a rendezvous site. Service biologist Paul Frame confirmed 4-5 pups in the Kootenai pack (this primarily Canadian pack denned about 5 miles inside the U.S. this year). We also suspect denning by the Whitefish, Murphy Lake, Hog Heaven, Candy Mountain,, Lazy Creek, Fishtrap. Denning status is unknown for Red Shale, Great Bear, Ninemile, and Fish Creek packs.

MT Service biologists Boyd and Bucklin caught the lactating female from the Whitefish pack and a 104 pound 2-year-old male. They have moved the trapping operation to the north end of Glacier National Park to try and radio collar a Kintla pack member and will be trapping for another week or until one other wolf is caught. A pair of biologists collecting grizzly bear hair samples accidently walked in on the Kintla pack den and reported seeing 5 pups.

Frame is trapping the Kootenai pack and accidently caught one of the pups which was released unharmed. The female is now somewhat wary of his trapline but he is determined to catch the alpha female and change out her collar. Great effort by all the trappers considering all the rain and wet ground conditions.

On June 5, Hartman observed 2 Murphy Lake wolves near the U.S./Canadian border in Kasanka Creek in the old Grave Creek pack territory. (That pack disappeared and no consistent wolf sign has been reported within its territory.) Foraging strategy for that pack lately includes scavenging white-tailed deer road kills on Highway 93 between Trego and Eureka. A single pair appears to have puppies and easy carrion may be luring these animals toward the highway. On Saturday June 6, the Lincoln Co. Sheriff's Office in Eureka and local MT FW&P warden Jim Roberts received numerous calls about seeing a wolf "struggling" on the side of the road. It was thought that the animal had been struck by a car. On Monday, MT FW&P biologist Tim Thier relocated the animal and it appeared to be mobile based on the changing signals. Service biologist Frame actually observed the animal later that same day. She was moving back to the den site. Frame reported that the animal was walking in the borrow pit along Highway 93 and was not discouraged by his presence until he harassed it by yelling, running towards it, and throwing rocks on several different occasions within an hour. He did not use cracker shells or rubber bullets.

Asher and Ross caught and re-radioed the lactating alpha female in the Freezeout pack. Her collar was about 4 years ago and on its last legs. When they examined her they found a stick wedged between her carnassials across her palate. The stick had been there some time because her teeth were rotting and several holes had opened into her sinuses, otherwise she appeared in great shape. A wedged stick is often seen when a wolf is trapped and that is why we always closely check the mouth when we trap wolves. She had never been trapped to the best of our knowledge. The stick was removed, she was given a dose of penicillin, and was released on-site. They located the Lone Bear female 284F on the SE end of the Snowcrest Ranch on the 13th and 15th. She had been missing from Paradise Valley since April 22 of this year. It is unknown if she is with other wolves. They pulled all the traps on the 16th because of weather-caused poor trapping conditions.

A sheep herder SW of Ruby reservoir reported seeing 3 wolves close to where WS had set some M-44 coyote getters. The M-44's were immediately removed by WS but it was raining so hard and they couldn’t find any wolf sign. If those were really wolves, they weren’t with the Freezeout pack and might be a new pack. Searches will continue and if no wolf sign can be located, M-44's may be deployed again.

The Delta pack wolves chewed off another radio-collar. Yellowstone crews boated across Yellowstone Lake and found a chewed-off collar but thankfully no dead wolves. This pack has a history of chewing off radio-collars. Two radio-collars from the Beckler pack are on morality and in a remote location so they may have also been chewed off. Both collars will be aerially located once more to see if any dead wolves are involved, before field crews are dispatched to the area.

Fontaine gave a presentation at the Wall Creek Game Range to members of the Elkhorn Working Group, a Washington Game and Fish biologist and several ranchers from Washington and Idaho. There were approximately 15 people. The tour was sponsored by Fred King MT FW&P, to discuss cattle grazing and elk. The group was interested in how to co-exist with the wolves and some management options they could employ. One of the concerns was about displacement of elk of the state winter range onto private land.

Control

Conservation Officers Dave Cadwallader and Pat Hylton investigated a report of a wolf depredation on a calf in Ruebens area while WS staff were at a WS conference. The rancher shot a mongrel dog near the area on the same day. A report and photographs were sent to WS and FWS. Carter indicated based on the evidence he did not think the depredation was wolf, and wounds were more consistent with dog.

A pair of uncollared wolves that has sporadically, but repeatedly, killed cattle and sheep around Fishtail, MT reportedly killed more 5 buck sheep on private land the 9th . WS is continuing to investigate and pursue control. A kill order for WS for both wolves was already authorized. Over a half dozen shoot-on-sight permits have been issued to the affected landowners. WS flew on the 16th but could not find the wolves. Roaming uncollared and non-denning wolves can be very difficult to locate.

WS was contacted on the 16th by a neighbor of the sheep producer near Hall, MT that reportedly lost 9 lambs. The neighbor saw a wolf packing off what she thought was a lamb. The producer counted the flock and was indeed another lamb short. All tracking and sighting information about this wolf indicate that it is probably just a lone animal. WS has been asked to lethally remove this wolf if the opportunity presents itself.

A livestock producer near Helmville, MT contacted WS on the 31st about a wolf killing and packing off a newborn calf [he videoed the event]. Traps were set to try and radio-collar the wolf. On the 13th WS was checking the line and saw the wolf in the trap. When they approached it the wolf lunged away and pulled out of the trap. WS flew the area on the 14th since they were in the area hunting coyotes but were unsuccessful in seeing a wolf. It too was caught in a Rancher #7 with rounded off studs. A colleague in B.C. Canada just [6/18] reported that he too had just had a wolf [the only one caught in 2 weeks of trapping] and a bear pull-out of a rubber-jawed #7. He reported conditions were very wet and he believe the springs were older and perhaps a little weak. The Rancher #7 are usually very reliable traps but that just happens sometimes when trapping. Although 4 pullouts [2 in ID, 1 in MT & 1 in BC] in the past month seems to be some sort of bad-luck record.

Research

John and Mary Theberge at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada have a book out called

The Wolves of Algonquin Park: A 12 Year Ecological Study. You can order it [$23.50 Canadian or $20 US] from Kate Evans, Univ. of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada: email: bkevans@fes.uwaterloo.ca phone: 519 885 1211 Ext 3278, fax: 519 746 0658

The Yellowstone summer wolf predation study using GPS collar technology continues to go well. The have found elk calf kills, something they thought would not happen, but GPS units have registered location clusters for dead elk calves. The separate study of elk calf mortality is ongoing and biologists caught and radio-tagged nearly 50 newborn elk calves again this spring [this is the second year of that three year project] in Yellowstone National Park to determine the primary causes of calf mortality.

Information and education and law enforcement

Idaho Department of Fish and Game hired 2 biologists that are heading to the field June 7. Jason Husseman will be stationed in Salmon and will be covering Salmon and Upper Snake Regions. Michael Lucid will be stationed in Nampa, and covering Southwest and Magic Valley Regions. Both will coordinate with Steve Nadeau the state’s large predator coordinator to assist in the rest of the State. Steve will supervise both of the field biologists and coordinate statewide wolf monitoring and management activities with assistance from the Regions and coordination with the Service, WS, and Nez Perce Tribe. During the winter, Jason and Michael will be assisting regional staff with increased monitoring of elk.

Steve Nadeau (IDFG) attended the Wildlife Services Idaho State Conference on June 8 and gave a presentation on coordination and State management, and introduced the 2 new wolf biologists Jason Husseman and Michael Lucid. Carter Niemeyer also attended. Nadeau gave a presentation to the 40 or so WS staff on coordination and State activities. Jason and Michael have finished training and gearing up and will be heading to the field next week. Jason visited the Moyer Basin pack, and located the den. The alpha female followed him and barked at him at a distance of 80-90 yards. The behavior is consistent with a protective female at a den site.

The Nez Perce Tribe will be monitoring mostly within the Clearwater Region and McCall Subregion. During the summer transition of management from federal to state authority under the proposed Sec.1 0(j) rules amendment, the Tribe, FWS, and Wildlife Services have agreed to continue to provide ID F&G with assistance when and where needed. Within the Clearwater and McCall areas, ID F&G staff will also closely coordinate monitoring with the Tribe. An MOA is still under development between the State and the Tribe.

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 biologist Carolyn Sime attended a public breakfast meeting in Stanford, Montana hosted by the local NRCS office and the agricultural extension agent for Judith Basin County. About 45 ranchers and landowners attended. She spoke about the current status of the federal program and rules, Montana's plan, what to do if a person experiences a livestock injury or loss.

Sime also participated in the USDA Forest Service Large Carnivore Conservation class in Yellowstone National Park during the week of the 7th. Sime also did a TV interview for Montana Secrets, which airs on a popular outdoors cable channel.

Fontaine, Boyd, and Bucklin attended a meeting of MT FW&P biologists in Missoula, MT on the 7th. They met at the Regional MT FW&P office and discussed the wolf management program and upcoming transition to an increased state role.

Bangs was interviewed on a Twin Falls, ID one half hour morning radio show on the 18th.

Everyone in the world wants wolf talks from Dr. Doug Smith and he can barely meet the demand. In the past two weeks he has given 5 talks. He spoke to: the USDA Forest Service Large Carnivore Conservation class in the Lamar Valley, the National Park Service Professional curators, this summer’s Yellowstone Park Youth Conservation Corps. enrollees, Gallatin National Forest Seasonal employee orientation (2 talks by both Doug and Dan), and an interview with German reporter about a book project. Smith also met with researcher Mark Lung from Western Michigan University who is studying elk in the Park. In his spare time Smith also reportedly broke in 2 new horses for the Park’s summer field work.

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