Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 7/9/04

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 7/4 to 7/9, 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.

Val Asher and Mike Ross MT FWP caught and radioed a grey yearling male from the Lone Bear pack, southeast of Bozeman, MT on the 4th. Nick Smith NM F&G biologist with the SW DPS gray wolf project was visiting and assisted. They also caught and PIT tagged a 35 lb. male grey pup. They pulled their traps on the 4th. They observed the den, with 3 holes, but the pack had already moved to a nearby rendezvous site. Great job Val, Mike, and Nick.

Ross and Asher found the Moccasin lake den. Fresh pup sign was observed but no pups were seen. Both collared females were in the vicinity and there were fresh parts of a deer fawn on site. They tried howling but no response.

In Idaho, Idaho F&G and Nez Perce field teams documented the following pack information: Red River- no evidence of pups; Big Hole- unknown but B163 has denned and started new pack [Coolwater] minimum 3 pups all grey; Golden Creek- 4-6 adults 1-2 grey pups; Hazard Lake- 3-6 pups; Packer lake- minimum of 2 pups maybe 5; Selway-no evidence of pups; and Magruder- unknown, no evidence of pups yet; Warm Springs- B109 & B190 plus 3 grey pups; Calderwood- B141, 2 adults plus 3 grey pups; Landmark- historic den not used; Morgan Creek- B197, B198, 1 black yr/adult, minimum of 2 pups; Moyer Basin- B140, B145 plus 3 probably 4 grey pups; Soldier Mountain- B150, B149, B191 plus 3 black and 2 grey pups. Also, Jim Holyan documented a new pack - the first west of Hwy 95 - northwest of Riggins between the Salmon and Snake Rivers. This new pack is called the Cold Springs pack. Thanks to Joanne Bonn with the Salmon River District of the Nez Perce National Forest for passing on the hot wolf sighting tip. Adam Gall was able to reconnect with the Hemlock Ridge pack, which had eluded him so far this summer. He was able to confirm reproduction and place a radio collar on a grey female yearling wolf. The Tribe was able to relocate the Magruder pack during the last monitor flight. This pack has been missing since late last winter and their reproductive status is currently unknown. Tribal biologist Isaac Babcock will attempt to ground track this pack to assess their reproductive status and radio-collar pack members. Tribal biologist Anthony Novack is trying to assess the Red River pack's breeding status one last time. Curt Mack coordinated monitoring flights this week. Wolf packs are now leaving denning areas, establishing rendezvous sites, and pack members are more dispersed within their territories. Wolf movements were shared with cooperators, land management agencies, and potentially affected producers and outfitters.

A band of sheep was being grazed between Deer Lodge and Anaconda, MT earlier this week. They got into some Death Camas and a dozen or so lambs died. WS confirmed the losses were caused by poison. The producer piled their carcasses in a ravine but the next night adult wolves were seen packing some of them off. Boyd and Fontaine searched the area for pups. The producer had more sheep die later this week, again from poisoning so he is moving his sheep from that area.

NOTE: Poisonous plants have been more of a problem this year than usual in both sheep and cattle. The early summer rains have been a welcome relief for most areas of the state but can probably take credit for the increased poisonous plant problem. In sheep, Death camus has been particularly troublesome. Death camus is a slender, perennial herb, growing from an onion-like bulb and reaching a height of 8 to 24 inches. Flowers are whitish to yellow, growing along the main stem and leaves are 8 to 26 inches long, with a width of up to one-half inch. Sometimes confused with the nonpoisonous wild onion, it does not have the characteristic onion odor and, while looking fairly benevolent, can be very detrimental to livestock. Sheep deaths as a result of death camus usually occur shortly after a rain when bulbs can easily be pulled out of the ground and eaten, or when sheep are trailed through an area and they graze while passing through, rather than selectively grazing.

Rodney Kott

Extension Sheep Specialist

Thanks Rodney!

Control

The Tribe, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wildlife Services, and the producer are still working together to prevent additional sheep depredations north of McCall. The Cook pack is suspected of killing 46 and injuring 19 sheep last week. Some of the injured sheep have since died and the total killed is now close to 70. Wildlife Services placed traps around the depredation site, however, no wolves returned to the site and no captures were made. Traps were pulled earlier this week. Tribal biologist Kent Lauden continues to monitor the movements and activities of the Cook pack and coordinate his findings with the producer, cooperators, and herders. Herders were also provided radio-receivers by the Tribe to help detect when wolves are in close proximity to the sheep bands. This week, the Cook pack moved 6-8 miles north of the band. No further depredations have occurred. WS will conduct RAG box training for the herders. Also Defenders of Wildlife has cost shared multiple guard dogs with sheep producers this summer, including this producer. Additionally, DOW is assisting the Tribe to conduct weekly aerial telemetry flights to alert the herders to the location of wolves so they can move the bands away from direct encounters.

The Defenders of Wildlife reported that with the assistance of the Wolf Recovery Foundation and private supporters, they just finished a project near Clayton, ID where they paid for cattle to be grazed away from the active den of the Buffalo Ridge pack. The pack successfully raised their new pups and have now moved farther into the national forest land. The rancher is moving his cows and calves to the grazing pasture adjacent to the den site. For the second year no livestock were killed by these wolves.

A calf was reportedly killed by the Sheep Mountain pack on the 3rd. So far this year a calf and an adult cow have been killed. An extra rider was hired by the Predator Conservation Alliance to help detour chronic livestock depredations in this area. The Sheep Mountain pack was right in that area. WS was requested to remove 1/3 [2] of the adults in the pack of 6 adults/yrlngs plus pups. This pack’s rendezvous site is on private land where cattle are being intensively grazed and we will attempt to harass them out of the area and to another more remote rendezvous site.

A calf was killed on an allotment in the Green River Grazing Association on the 7th. WS confirmed the loss and found radioed black female #237 [formerly a Gros Ventre wolf] with an uncollared black [suspected] male near the depredation. She may have just picked him up as she was near the Teton pack earlier this month but had been seen alone until this latest flight. They are both whitening/graying because of suspected advanced age and she does not have pups. She has been involved with numerous cattle depredations for at least the past two years and all 3 of the males she has associated within the past were killed because of chronic livestock depredations. The male was shot and killed from aircraft on the 8th, but she was not killed at that time. WS was only asked to remove any uncollared wolves found at the latest depredation site so they did not shoot her until they confirmed we wanted her removed. When we found out she was involved in more depredations we requested WS remove her too as soon as practical. This area has widespread dispersed cattle grazing so further non-lethal methods are unlikely to be successful, and this female has been a chronic depredating wolf.

A fourth calf was killed by the Washakie pack, just north of Dubois, WY on the 3rd. The first three were killed on private land in June. The most recent one was on a Forest Service allotment. Lethal control is ongoing. On the 8th, 2 more calves were killed on allotment. Two pack members have already been killed and on the 9th a black radioed yearling wolf was shot from a fix-winged aircraft. There are 2 radioed wolves, 3 uncollared yrl/adults, and 7 pups remaining. We asked WS to remove the 3 unradioed wolves, if possible. Cattle are widespread in very remote terrain which is also occupied by several grizzly bears. Catch and release, increased monitoring, and other non-lethal deterrents have been unsuccessful at preventing this chronic pattern of depredation from continuing.

The Absaroka pack killed a calf on private land in the Sunlight Basin [west of Cody,WY], on the 3rd. WS was unavailable and Jimenez investigated the report. This pack has a history of livestock depredation in the area but this appears to be the first kill this year. There are no radios in the pack and WS is trapping to radio and release a wolf on-site initially and then the need for any additional control will be evaluated. It is unknown if this pack still has pups or a severe mange problem it has had for the past 2 years.

A newly establish pair [Carter Mountain pack] with 4 pups west of Meeteetse, WY killed 4 adult cows on private land on the 6th. They appeared to die about the time. Both adult wolves are radioed. This was a very unusual depredation since calves were also in the same area but only the cows were killed. An experienced WS specialist conducted a particularly thorough investigation. He skinned the carcasses and found numerous hemorrhages and wounds and wolf tracks. The cow’s gut cavities had been opened up, but they were not extensively fed on. He also checked the surrounding area looking for poison weeds or some unusual contributing factor, but nothing was evident. Because livestock are abundant in this area and native prey are not, and multiple adult cattle were killed, WS was authorized to remove the radioed alpha male. A lone female is unlikely to continue to kill cattle, especially adults. If depredations continue, all the remaining pack members will be removed. On the 7th, a helicopter was used to remove the adult male. Control has ended unless there are further depredations.

Research

Nothing new to report.

Information and education and law enforcement

Correction- It was the U.S. Attorney’s Office from Colorado, not the U.S. Attorney from Wyoming that represented Mike Jimenez/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when the state of Wyoming pressed charges of trespass and littering. The Colorado Attorney’s office did a very professional, thorough, vigorous, and successful defense. We apologize for stating they were from Wyoming, and thank them for their hard work. We hope this unfortunate incident is behind us and we strongly reaffirmed that the Service would never knowingly go onto private land without the landowners permission.

Jobs: Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Wolf Field Specialist positions; Position # 45803 (Kalispell), #45804 (Dillon), and #45805 (Big Timber/Columbus) Wildlife Management Spelialists [Wolf], new positions, closing date July 23, 2004. Call MT FW&P at 406-444-5653 or see- http://www.discoveringmontana.com for application and details.

Bangs participated on the interview/selection panel for Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks for their state wolf coordinator position on the 7th. The process was impressively professional and thorough. There were several highly qualified candidates. Like Idaho, which already has its core wolf management team in place, Montana will do a great job of leading wolf conservation and management efforts in their state.

Niemeyer and Williamson (WS) conducted an informational presentation on wolf recovery, control, and management for approximately 30 teachers attending a summer session with the Livestock Resource Commission in McCall, Idaho on July 8. The session included a trip to see range sheep on trail and a discussion of how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wildlife Services, Nez Perce Tribe and Idaho Department of Fish and Game cooperate with livestock producers in minimizing livestock damage by wolves. Several non-lethal management techniques and other equipment were demonstrated and lethal measures explained. A lengthy question and answer period followed the presentation.

Bangs and Asher met a correspondent with "Voice of America" radio in the Paradise Valley on the 5th. They toured some of the projects the Service has initiated to mitigate the impacts of wolves on local residents. Earlier that day she visited with several local Paradise Valley ranchers. On the 6th Yellowstone Park rangers helped her see wolves and wolf ‘tourists’ in the Lamar Valley. On the 7th, Asher, Ross [MT FWP], and Fontaine toured with the reporter in the Madison Valley looking at wolf-related projects. The program is looking at the Endangered Species Act using the Florida Panther, salmon, and wolf recovery programs to illustrate the successes and challenges of recovering imperiled species.

MEXICAN WOLVES CAN STAY IN ARIZONA AND NEW MEXICO: U.S. District Judge M. Christina Armijo ruled in favor of the Mexican wolf reintroduction program over the objections of counties and ranchers, reported the Associated Press on 7/8. A group calling itself the Coalition of Arizona-New Mexico Counties for Stable Economic Growth, along with eight other groups, filed a motion for an injunction against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s reintroduction program last October saying that wolves have attacked cattle and could breed with dogs to create a hybrid species. Judge Armijo ruled that, "the animals' survival is more important than minor economic losses."

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