Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 7/2/04

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 6/25 to 7/2, 2004

HAVE A HAPPY AND SAFE 4th of JULY!!

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.

The WS State Director for Utah reported that the same sheep herder who lost sheep to wolves two years ago east of Ogden, UT reported that he heard 2 wolves howling near his camp on June 20th. He hasn’t reported any suspect wolf-depredations and WS is calling and shooting coyotes but has no equipment set in the area. WS will continue to monitor the situation.

Ground observations indicate the Washakie pack, north of Dubois, WY, has 7 pups. Two adults have been removed from the pack so far this summer [one by trapping and one ground calling and shooting] and 2 more adults will be removed when conditions allow.

Wolves in Yellowstone National Park are still around dens. Some pup mortality may be occurring because some pup counts seem lower, but other estimates of litter size are increasing with better counts. Famous wolf #21 has been missing for 3 weeks and appears gone for good. He was 9 years old and had been alpha male of the Druid Peak pack since Dec 1997. He may have been the most viewed wolf in the world. His absence created an interesting social shift in the Druid pack. Two males, 1 from the pack and another outsider #302, are vying for alpha position. They don’t spend time together, and the resident male seems to dislike #302. However, #302 was accepted by other pack members and he was observed double scent marking with the alpha female. Wolf #302 was collared 1.5 yrs ago but his Telonics collar has malfunctioned.

On the 1st, Service biologist Diane Boyd caught, radioed and successfully released a non-lactating adult-sized female in the Big Hole, MT pack. A friend of the local WS specialist reported seeing wolf pups and hearing wolves howl on the 20th in that same vicinity. Great job Diane and a special thanks for the report of wolf activity that allow us to zero in on this pack so quickly.

Ross and Asher were searching for places to trap members of the Lone Bear pack on the 30th and located their den site. They will begin limited trapping operations on July 1st on private land until after the holiday weekend and interviews with the Voice of America reporter on the 5th.

Frame didn’t catch a member of the Murphy Lake pack and removed his traps on the 30th. He did hear two pups howl. Paul will be on leave for the next 3 weeks.

MT FWP volunteer Hartman flew the Northwest Montana packs on 28th and 30th. All packs were in their usual home ranges. Five pups were seen in the Fishtrap pack. An extensive, high elevation search of the Bob Marshall wilderness from north to south (Highway 2 to the Blackfoot River) did not locate the Red Shale or Great Bear packs. Forest Service personnel recently reported wolves in the vicinity of Gates Park. Collar malfunction is suspected for these wilderness packs, although the radio collars in both packs were put out less than 2 years ago. The Hog Heaven pack appears to be traveling widely and may not have denned this year. Glacier National Park Wildlife Technician Amy Edmonds has been monitoring the Whitefish and Kintla packs from the ground regularly and reports that they have been spending most of their time in the park.

MT FWP and Frame received reports of 6 adult wolves near 10 Mile Creek on the east shore of Koocanusa Reservoir in NW MT.

Dailey GPS collar locations from a wolf radio-collared in SW Alberta indicate it is still dispersing south along the East Front foothills, on the 7th it was just outside Helena, MT near the Great Divide Ski resort. We thank Canadian biologists for forwarding the location data.

The former alpha female of the Whitefish pack has been traveling alone, but is near the pack's territory. She has been seen by private citizens in the Coal Creek drainage. On June 27, a MT FWP fisheries technician doing routine field work in the area reported that she saw it digging for ground squirrels and that it didn't leave immediately when she yelled at it but that it eventually did. The technician was concerned and reported the incident. Upon investigation, it was learned that a loose dog was also at the scene. The wolf's behavior was entirely consistent with the fact that wolves perceive dogs as trespassers/threats and focus attention on them, often ignoring people. The technician was advised to harass the wolf and to leave the dog in the vehicle. The wolf reportedly appeared skinny and, given her age and the fact that she's traveling alone, getting enough food may be challenging for her.

MT FWP Sime and the Kalispell-based MT FWP Wildlife Program Manager Jim Williams investigated a report of a wolf being killed on Highway 35 near Kalispell on July 2. No animal was found.

MT FWP Sime received a report of a "wolf" just west of Kalispell on June 30. The report also indicated that the animal was wearing a colored collar with tags and had ribbons hanging from it. Sime notified Flathead County Animal Control, who had also received the report. County officials were attempting to live capture the animal, but it had apparently left the area.

Jack Bucklin was to begin trapping the Fish Creek pack, but the pack moved to a very remote rendezvous site. Jack is now checking out a sighting of wolf pups in the Ninemile Valley. If they are located he will begin trapping after the holiday weekend.

MT FWP said a warden captain in Miles City had a rancher stop in to report seeing 3 wolves about 30 miles south of Miles City, in Custer Co. He reported seeing them at relatively close range, 2 were gray/light gray and 1 was black, and with no radio-collars. WS was notified and the situation will be monitored but there have been no conflicts reported.

On the 23rd, Service biologists in Wyoming- Bradley and Trapp- caught a radioed yearling male from the Teton pack. He was released in good shape on site. Like all our other areas, trapping on public land for routine monitoring has been suspended for the 4th holiday weekend. Too many people [and dogs] out and about to continue trapping.

From June 22-26 John Stephenson of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Bend, Oregon, accompanied Niemeyer to the Red River and Gospel Hump area near Elk City, Idaho, to possibly attempt to radio-collar wolves in that area. During the trip Niemeyer and Stephenson set traps, howled up wolf pups ( and observed them from 10 feet away), examined a rendezvous site, and located wolf tracks and droppings. Trapping proved unnecessary after it was determined that only two wolves (one was radio-collared) were in the territory with a litter of pups. John will use this information and experience to begin surveying for wolf activity in Oregon if and when needed.

Idaho Fish and Game field crews verified more denning wolf packs this week. Jason Husseman verified pups in the Morgan Creek pack. He also located the uncollared Landmark pack and will try to trap the area next week. Michael Lucid verified pups in both the Soldier Mountain and Scott Mountain packs.

Nez Perce field crews just wrapped up their latest hitch. Based on a tip from Jim and Holly Akenson, at the Taylor Ranch, Isaac and Ana surveyed for wolves in the Golden Creek area north and east of Taylor Ranch. Jim packed the crews up to an area where he had observed wolves just a few days before. Although the wolves had left the area, Isaac and Ana were able to relocate the wolves and determine that this was a reproductive pack. In addition to documenting the presence of pups, the crew also captured and collared two members of this pack. We thank Jim and Holly Akenson for all of their help in coordinating their observation of wolf activity with us in a timely fashion, rearranging their busy schedule to pack crews to and from the site, sharing their knowledge of wolves in the area with us, and hosting crews at Taylor Ranch. Although we are not sure if this wolf pack is the Chamberlain pack or a different pack at this point, our best guess is that these wolves represent a different pack. Monitoring the newly collared pack members will help us to determine if the pack is a new one.

Nez Perce biologists Jim and Doug were able to count 3 grey pups with the Hazard Lake pack. They were not able to access the Partridge pack's den area. After surveying the Red River pack, evidence indicates that this pack may not have reproduced this year. Adam was not able to determine the reproductive status of the Big Hole pack. This is the second time they have worked this pack. B151, the only radio-collared wolf in this pack is moving extensively, over a large area, making it difficult to locate a den or rendezvous site. Adam did document a new pack during his field work. Dispersing O'Hara Point female B163 has apparently formed a new pack and is raising her first litter of pups of at least 3 pups between the Selway and Lochsa. B163's new pack was officially named the Coolwater pack. Anthony and Mecia surveyed for uncollared wolves in upper Big Creek and Monumental Creek drainages. No sign of wolves was observed in the upper Big Cr. drainage. The crew observed scattered wolf sign in the Monumental Cr drainage, but capture efforts were unsuccessful. We would greatly appreciate receiving any reports of wolf activity in these two drainages, as this would greatly help us to determine the status of wolves in this area.

Nez Perce biologists Kent and Jonathan spent a tedious 10 day hitch assessing the reproductive status of the Selway pack. We suspect now that after producing litters for the past 8 consecutive years in the same den, this pack may not have reproduced this year. Reports of wolf activity within this packs territory - Upper Running Cr., Lynx Cr., Bargamin Cr, upper Meadow Cr., Upper Red River, Upper Big Mallard Cr. - would be greatly appreciated to help determine the status of this wolf pack.

Based on a report from WS's Doug Hunsaker, Jim and Kent were able to document the presence of a new pack around Smith's Ferry, south of Cascade, ID. Doug had observed one adult wolf and Jim and Kent observed two pups in the same area. Jim and Kent are now trapping to capture and radio-collar members of this newly discovered pack. Thanks to Wildlife Services for passing on this information in a timely fashion.

In Idaho, a catch-up of ongoing events- Dispersing Scott Mountain wolf B141's new pack is officially named the Calderwood pack. B141 did not disperse very far from her natal pack. She simply moved south across the S. Fork of the Payette River, settled down with a new mate and had some pups. This new pack is concentrating their movements in the Grimes Pass area, just southeast of Garden Valley, ID. Dispersing Wolf Fang female B109's new pack is officially named the Hot Springs pack. Aalpha female B109 and alpha male 190 have established their territory along the South Fork of the Payetter between Lowman and Gran Jean.

Control

Correction- the cow and 2 calves that were investigated by WS as possible wolf kills, but had died of Larkspur poisoning and a vehicle strike-were in the Sunlight Basin near where the Absaroka pack hangs out- not near Riverton as mistakenly reported in the June 25th weekly.

WS confirmed the Owl Creek threesome [who appeared to be denned in the Owl Creek area] killed a calf on private south of Meeteeste, WY on the 27th. WS was authorized to remove one adult wolf- preferably not the alpha male because he is the only radio-collared pack member. On July 1, an uncollared black adult-sized male wolf was shot by ground calling and shooting. The pelt and skull will be donated for use at the local Meeteetse Museum for educational purposes. Control has ended unless there are more depredations.

A sheep producer near McCall, Idaho, experienced severe depredations on a band of sheep NE of McCall, Idaho, on the evening of June 29 on state land [treated as private land under the experimental regulations]. Wildlife Services confirmed that at least 46 sheep were killed, 19 injured and several head missing after the attack by wolves, probably the Cook pack. The Nez Perce Tribe will attempt to fly the area to determine the location of any radio-collared wolves in proximity of the attack. The Service authorized WS to remove wolves from that vicinity. These and other sheep bands are being trailed to higher elevation summer public land grazing allotments- many of which have newly established wolf packs. The producer will be issued a shoot-on-sight permit for the state grazing lease and a shoot-in-the act-of depredating permit for the federal allotment.

Livestock are arriving on Forest Service public allotments. Curt Mack form the Nez Perce Tribe worked with producers and Forest Service personnel on the Nez Perce and Payette National Forests to coordinate information regarding overlapping wolf range and livestock grazing areas and to discuss and implement potential conflict resolution measures including non-lethal deterrents, increased wolf monitoring, animal husbandry practices, grazing routes, and wolf control options.

Research

The summer wolf predation project using GPS collars has ended prematurely in Yellowstone National Park. Only one of the 5 GPS collars [Televilt] that had been deployed is still working. The second to the last functioning collar quit last week after it indicted a low battery signal and stopped giving location data. At least 60 days of good location data were retrieved from it but further field work and enhanced equipment reliability will be needed for this type of an effort to be proven successful.

Information and education and law enforcement

Wyoming Wolf Recovery Project Leader Mike Jimenez and RO Service representatives attended a federal court hearing in Cheyenne, WY on the 30th. Travel problems caused Bangs to miss the proceedings. The case involved Wyoming state charges of criminal trespass and littering against the Service. This past winter Jimenez helped capture and radio-collar 5 members of the Washakie pack when they traveled to Meeteetse, WY far outside their normal home range. The state [via the Park County, WY] alleged that the wolves were inadvertently captured and immobilized on private land [and left there to recover, hence the littering charge] and that violated state law. After hearing legal arguments from both sides, the Federal Court rejected the state’s claim that the case should be tried in state court in Cody, Wyoming, and dropped all charges against the Service and the employee of the helicopter company that assisted in the wolf radio-collaring effort. Thanks to the Wyoming Federal Attorney’s office for a great job.

Service Administrative Officer Fern Thompson left the Service’s Helena field office to take a job with Bureau of Reclamation in Billings, MT. Fern has been a critical component of and good friend to the wolf recovery program for the past 12 years. She helped organize the complex travel, logistics, and funding for the wolf reintroduction and help track our expenditures to keep us within our budget. She will be sorely missed and we wish her the best in her new career.

An Idaho Valley County Commissioner/rancher and his hired hand have been fined $750 each in the shooting death of a radioed wolf from the Orphan pack in Idaho. The wolf, protected under the Endangered Species Act, was found dead by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service enforcement officers May 25 on the 6,000-acre ranch north of Cascade after Nez Perce tribal biologists detected a mortality signal from its radio-collar. A ranch hand, told officers he shot the wolf May 24th while it was running away from a herd of cattle north of the Warm Springs Highway but did not report the shooting until contacted by LE agents. No depredations were involved in the case.

Litigation whether the Service violated the law by not accepting Wyoming’s state wolf plan is ongoing. The Wyoming District court granted a Service/DOJ motion to extend the Service’s answer to Wyoming’s Complaint deadline to July 21, and the State of Wyoming filed its Amended Complaint last week. On June 29, a coalition of groups [Wyoming- Wool Growers, Stockgrowers, Farm Bureau, Conservation Districts, County Commissioners, Wyoming Predatory Boards, Sportsmen groups and others] filed a 60-day Notice of Intent to sue over the Service’s rejection of Wyoming’s wolf management plan. On the 22nd Park County, WY filed a separate 60-day Notice of Intent to Sue’ the Service over the same issue. The Jackson Hole Outfitters and guides Association had already filed a 60-day notice on March 12. There are many potential interveners on both sides of this litigation and it could go on for many years.

The litigation over the nation-wide reclassification of wolves is ongoing. Last week a Portland, OR federal district court refused a Service request to consolidate the legal proceedings that were initiated in Oregon by the Defenders of Wildlife and about 20 other groups, with the similar litigation filed in a Vermont federal district court by the National Wildlife Federation and other groups. Litigation on the Distinct Population Segments and wolf reclassification rule will be going on simultaneously in two federal courts, one in Oregon and one in Vermont.

Seasonal biologists Liz Bradley and John Trapp gave a wolf talk along with Mike Jimenez in Teton National Park the evening of July 1. It was part of a Univ. of Wyoming summer lecture series and about 25 people attended.

Dr. Doug Smith had led a field trip for Greater Yellowstone Coalition on 6/11, into Cougar Meadows in the Park. There were about 16 people.

On June 24, FWP volunteer Hartman gave an evening program on wolf ecology, the recovery program, and the local packs at a campground near Glacier National Park. About 75 people attended. On June 26, Hartman and Sime gave a program to about 12 people at Lone Pine State Park just outside of Kalispell. On June 28, Sime gave a presentation to about 10 people at a

recent Wolf Ecology class at the Glacier Institute.

Steve Nadeau [ID F&G] gave a presentation on "Wolves and Ungulates in Idaho" to the Utah Wolf Working Group on June 29 in Salt Lake City, UT. UT is attempting to write a wolf management plan for their state.

On June 20thth, a Johnson County-hired coyote trapper/control agent reportedly incidentally took a wolf with M-44s set for coyotes on private land in the Dull Knife Reservoir area, south of Ten Sleep, WY. He immediately contacted WS and they got him in touch with Service law enforcement agents in WY. The investigation is continuing. It appears that 11 sheep were killed by what at the time was thought to be a dog in the same area a few days earlier. After the wolf was found dead, the WS specialist went to the area, examined evidence and confirmed- from a wounded sheep that had recently died from its injuries- the depredations were likely caused by wolf attack.

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