Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 7/23/04

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 7/9 to 7/23, 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.

The Yellowstone Park wolf team has confirmed that a carcass and a radio collar, thought to be that of wolf 21M, the long time alpha male of the Druid Pack, has been found. He was perhaps the most viewed wolf in the world. Park biologists picked up his carcass on the 23rd and he is suspected to have died of natural causes [other wolves]. His mate was killed by other wolves this winter.

A Park visitor reported seeing a member of the Chief Joe pack with hair loss on its tail and sides. This probably means that mange has been discovered on a wolf in the Park for the first time. However, Chief Joe spends most of its time outside Yellowstone Park and mange has been discovered in several packs north, east, and west of the Park as well in numerous coyotes outside the Park. So it was really only a question of when and how it might spread?

So far this summer 30 groups of wolves have been surveyed by the Nez Perce tribe and Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game. Twenty-one litters were documented (Buffalo Ridge, Calderwood, Cold Springs, Coolwater, Eagle Mountain, Florence, Galena, Gold Fork, Golden Creek, Gospel Hump, Hazard Lake, Hemlock Ridge, Magruder, Morgan Creek, Moyer Basin, Orphan, Packer John, Partridge, Scott Mountain, Steel Mountain, Twin Peaks, and Warm Springs); 66-75 pups counted; 6 new packs documented (Calderwood, Cold Springs, Coolwater, Golden Creek, Packer John, and Warm Springs). They still have 11 known wolf groups to cover and then start in on areas of suspected pack activity.

Steve Nadeau [ID F&G] verified an uncollared pack with pups over the weekend while horseback riding in Bear Valley in central Idaho. He then spent a couple days with Jason Husseman (IDFG) trapping the new pack by horseback. The alpha male and an adult female of the pack were captured and collared. This pack is using an area the old Landmark pack used to use, however, it may be a new Landmark pack. ID F&G also verified pups in the Steel Mtn., Galena, and Twin Peaks pack.

Most wolf packs in northwest Montana seem to have moved to rendezvous sites and many wolves were seen near creeks and rivers trying to escape the heat. As before, the Bob Marshall packs (Red Shale and Great Bear) could not be found despite significant search effort. Tracking flights this week in SW Montana saw both Mill Creek and Freezeout packs, and each had 7 gray pups.

Control

WS trapped an adult black male from the Absaroka pack on the 10th. It was radioed and released on site. It was in good shape and did not have any visible signs of mange. It has since been seen with an uncollared grey wolf on the ranch where the most recent cattle depredations occurred. It will continue to be monitored and if other depredations are documented additional control actions may be taken. Another calf was killed on an allotment by the pack around the 18th, totaling 2 confirmed and 3-4 probable wolf depredations this summer. The chronic nature of the depredations, rough terrain, and widely dispersed livestock negate the chances for successful non-lethal control. WS was asked to remove 2 wolves from the pack of 5. On the 22nd, WS used a helicopter to shoot 2 grey wolves [1 male and 1 female]. Neither had mange, which is good news but may indicate the old Absaroka pack has been replaced by a new Absaroka pack or a splinter group from the adjacent Beartooth pack. Control has ended unless further depredations are confirmed.

WS confirmed that 2 bull calves were killed on private land by a wolf in Johnson County [Kaycee, WY] around the 17th. This is about 15 miles from where a wolf was killed earlier this summer by an M-44 coyote device. Nearby, 4 sheep [at least 2 lambs] on private land were suspected to have been killed by a wolf around the 20th. Observations by local residents indicate a lone grey wolf has occasionally been seen in the general area. On the 22nd , another lamb was reported killed and WS is continuing to investigate. WS verified there was 1 confirmed and 4 probable wolf kills, 2 unknowns and 2 other ‘missing’ sheep. WS was asked to remove the suspected lone wolf if possible. They are trapping near the calf and sheep carcasses since they were not extensively fed on and the responsible wolf may return to them.

WS trapped and euthanized an uncollared male wolf from the Washakie pack. This pack has now been confirmed to have killed 6-7 calves and 3 collared and 1 uncollared wolves have been removed.

WS confirmed a calf had been killed by wolves on a Forest Service allotment in the Gros Ventre on the 19th. There are no radioed packs in the area but WS saw 3 wolves from a possibly uncollared group. Teton pack has visited this area in the past. No control is planned at this time and we’ll monitor the situation closely to see if it escalates.

There were more sheep depredations by the Cook pack in central Idaho earlier this week and more than 100 sheep have been killed. The operator had already been issued cracker shells, rubber bullets, and RAG boxes. The Tribe monitored and hazed the wolves and with WS, issued equipment and training to the herders and attempted to trap wolves but unfortunately these efforts did not stop additional depredations from occurring. The Cook pack continued to use areas in the vicinity of two sheep bands north of McCall, ID. The situation was monitored on a daily basis, hazing wolves from sheep bands, coordinating with cooperators, producers, and herders, and providing herders with radio-receivers to help them know when wolves are close to sheep. Losses continued and a control action on the 20th removed all 9 pack members by helicopter gunning. The control action was widely reported in the Idaho media. Since 1987, the Service has had to remove about 15 entire wolf packs due to chronic livestock depredations.

A sheep producer that was moving a band of sheep on private land east of McCall, Idaho experienced a depredation from the Partridge pack [adjacent to the Cook pack]. A wolf apparently killed a ewe from that band around 10:00 AM on the 17th. When the foreman first saw the dead ewe, an uncollared wolf was standing over it. He was within about 15 feet of the wolf, but didn't have his rifle with him. He ran back to camp to get the herder and a rifle, but of course the wolf was gone when they returned to the dead ewe. They picked up the signal from #855 of the Partridge pack. On the 21st a plane was sent to locate the 2 collared members of the Partridge Pack and remove up to 2 uncollared adults. Only the collared adult wolves were seen so no wolves were removed. Control has ended unless there are additional depredations. Steve Nadeau (IDFG) spoke with local reporters and TV stations regarding the Cook pack control action on July 22.

Defenders of Wildlife donated additional funding ($3,500) for flight time to help monitor wolves north of McCall, including the Cook, Partridge, and Hazard Lake packs. There are 8 bands of sheep and three different wolf packs left in this area. More frequent monitoring will allow cooperators and producers to better address this problem area. There was also a report on the 20th, of a wolf depredation on other sheep near this general vicinity, reportedly in a remote area of the Hazard Pack's territory. WS will investigate but the Hazard pack was implicated in chronic depredations in this same area last summer, and problems were anticipated as soon as the sheep entered this area.

On the 20th, WS confirmed that members of the Lone Bear pack south of Livingston, Montana attacked and severely bit a calf. A week prior to this the livestock producer saw another calf with its tail chewed off which wolves sometimes do. The producer was unable to find that calf again. The pack’s den and rendezvous site are on the producer’s private land. A shoot on sight permit to kill one wolf was issued to the producer and two of his neighbors. The rendezvous site is in as good an area as can be expected in this area of intensive livestock production and the landowner indicated we might as well leave them there rather than push them into a worse situation on his neighbor’s ranches, so no attempts were made by agency biologists to bump the pack into another area. No agency control is being conducted at this time other than issuing the landowners permits to shoot a wolf near their livestock.

A lethal control action on Sheep Mtn. was attempted by WS on July 15 but was unsuccessful. Agency control to remove a pack member will continue for another week or so because of several cattle depredations in the area earlier this summer and suspect depredations last year.

A ranch manager in the Mill creek area called in a collared wolf and a pup that killed a fawn in his back yard. Asher and Ross investigated and Sheep Mtn. wolf #334m was in the area. Less-than-lethal munitions training was given to the manager on July 20.

On July 23 Asher and Ross retrieved a RAG box from Cinnabar basin as there has been no wolf activity in the basin for some time. Wolves from the Swan Lake pack had been chasing domestic bison calves in the area this spring.

On the 22nd, WS, confirmed that dispersing Lone Bear female #284 killed 3 buck sheep and injured 3 others that will probably die near Blacktail Wildlife Management area southwest of Dillon, Montana. She was seen jumping a fence and leaving the depredation area. This is the same area that the Gravelly pack occupied about 2 years ago but was removed because of chronic sheep depredations. WS lethally removed #284 on the 23rd at the request of the Service. Sheep are already protected as best they can be by dogs and herders but are widely dispersed throughout this area so further non-lethal measures were likely to not be effective.

Asher, Ross and Fontaine met with seasonal Defenders of Wildlife biologist Nathan Varley and Linda Thurston in Bozeman on the 22nd to discuss the building of an electric fence on a sheep producer’s land in Paradise Valley. There was also a discussion about nonlethal methods that have been tried in Paradise and Madison Valley and if additional producers were requesting that type of information or needed guarding dogs. A request was made of Defenders to provide about a mile of additional fladry for larger calving and lambing areas.

WS in NW MT reported that they and MT FWP volunteer biologist Hartman collared and released two 2-3 year-old wolves (male and female that had weaned pups, both gray) on the 15th near Lost Trail, MT. On the 14th, a calf on a private lease had been confirmed injured by wolves in that area. WS looked at 3 other calves and 1 cow that were considered probable wolf kills. MT FWP volunteer Therease Hartman flew on the 16th and found the two collared animals about 5 and 10 miles away to the northwest. On 21st, she located the animals from the ground. The male was near where the female was located on the 16th, about 10 miles from the depredation site. She visited with the hired hand and the wolves have not been back and no other losses were reported. The injured calf is still alive and seems to be doing better. Sime spoke with the livestock owner on the 21st. They were advised of the federal regulations and the hired hands were encouraged to harass any wolves seen near livestock. Hartman will continue to monitor this pair from the ground every few days for the next couple of weeks. No other control is ongoing at this time.

On the 21st, Sime received a phone call about a possible wolf sighting just outside of Marion near Bitterroot Lake near a domestic dog on private property. The dog had barked the previous two nights and the large canid was seen the next afternoon. The owner was advised about the regulations [they can legally shoot a wolf attacking a dog on private property in the NW MT threatened area], strongly encouraged to secure the dog and just harass the wolf whenever it presented itself.

 

Research

Nothing new to report.

Information and education and law enforcement

On July 16th the DOI and Service announced a proposal to delist the Eastern Distinct Population Segment of the gray wolf. The wolf population in the DPS is estimated at more than 3,200 wolves in Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin, and the numerical recovery goals have been met for the DPS. All three of those states have state laws and state wolf management plans that will assure the wolf population remains recovered should the Endangered Species Act's protections be removed. The proposal was published in the Federal Register on 7/21. All outreach documents, including a pre-publication version of the proposed rule on file at the OFR, are now on our web site at: http://midwest.fws.gov/wolf/edps/eastern-dps.htm

Curt Mack [Nez Perce Tribe] made a presentation at Project Wild in McCall on the 14th. Isaac Babcock led a wolf howling field trip for Project Wild on the 15th. Jim Holyan made a fireside wolf presentation at Ponderosa State Park around the 16th.

On the 22nd, Smith gave an evening Amphitheater presentation in Yellowstone National Park, about 200 people attended.

Carter Niemeyer, Mike Bodenchuck (WS state director in Utah) and Suzanne Stone (Defenders of Wildlife in Idaho) participated on a wolf panel presentation/question and answer session for the Utah Farm Bureau Conference being held in Park City, Utah on July 10-11. Each panelist presented a 12 minute program on wolf depredation management/lethal and non-lethal management techniques and wolf compensation before the audience of 100+ Farm Bureau members asked a series of questions of the panelists. The Farm Bureau leaders and members were cordial hosts and expressed their appreciation to us for participating.

Niemeyer is detailed to the Mexican wolf recovery program in Albuquerque, New Mexico and Alpine, Arizona from July 11-31 to assist in day-to-day administrative and field duties during the current absence of a Project leader.

As requested, Bangs, Nadeau [ID F&G] and Sime {MT FWP] talked with the CO wolf advisory group in Denver, CO on the 14th. Bangs continued south and along with Niemeyer participated on the Gray Wolf Southwestern Distinct Population Segment Recovery Team in Albuquerque, NM the 15-17th.

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