Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 8/6/04

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 7/23 to 8/6, 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.

Idaho- Nez Perce and ID F&G biologists surveyed the Marble Creek area for the uncollared Marble Creek pack. Wolves are still in the area and a suspected rendezvous site was found. At this point, it appears the Marble Mountain pack is still intact, but their reproductive status is unknown. Biologists also surveyed areas along the north side of the St. Joe between St. Maries and Avery. They observed one wolf and additional sign. Another wolf group is probably in this area. Thanks to Dave Spicer and Chuck Stock for helping out. Following recent reports of wolf activity in the lower Johnson Creek drainage, tribal biologists surveyed for the Thunder Mountain pack but after surveying the traditional rendevous sites, they observed only scattered wolf sign and were not able to verify pack activity. They were able to capture and collar two wolves in the Five Lakes Butte pack [in the Panhandle area of North Idaho], but were not able to verify reproduction. Thanks to Mark Rhodes for his help. The uncollared Kelly Creek pack was at their traditional rendezvous site and they had pups. Unfortunately, trapping to collar wolves was unsuccessful. Jason Husseman (IDFG) located the recently radio collared wolves in Bear Valley and identified 5 pups, 4 yearlings, and 2 adults. This is likely not the old Landmark pack as there were no wolves seen with any old non-functioning radio collars.

Jack Bucklin, Service seasonal biologist, appears to have located the Sapphire pack with pups near Skalkano Pass, west of Hamilton, MT and will begin trapping on the 6th to place a radio collar in that pack.

Mike Ross [MT FWP] started trapping to radio collar a member of the Kaycee pack just north of Jardine, MT on the 3rd and caught 3 pups on the 4th. Two of the pups were too small to radio collar so they were PIT tagged and released. The third pup was fitted with a radio collar and released on sight.

Trapping from radio-collaring and monitoring was suspended in the Sunlight and Beartooth areas in NW WY because of numerous campers, hikers, dogs, etc. using the same trails and roads where we were setting traps. Trapping efforts will resume in September when there is less recreational use and pups are large enough to trap.

Efforts to locate and radio collar wolves from the Daniel Pack, near Green River, WY began this week. All four collared wolves died last winter. Biologists had not located the 4th collared wolf since early last winter but it was found in the same area as the other 3 on the 5th and seems to have died about the same time as the others- and poisoning is suspected. Its carcass was sent into the Service’s National Forensics Lab for LE investigation and area will be searched for other carcasses. There are thousands of sheep in the home range of the Daniel Pack, but no problems have been reported. We suspect the pack that had over a dozen wolves last winter may be gone.

Control

The Partridge pack continued to test sheep in the Little French Creek drainage. Nez Perce biologists worked with herders to haze wolves from the sheep band. No additional sheep losses have been confirmed. They also worked suspected lone wolves B147, B127, and B157. No evidence of pack activity or reproduction associated with these wolves.

Both the Partridge pack and the Hazard Lake pack continue to be in close proximity to bands of sheep. Nez Perce biologists are monitoring these packs closely from the air and ground and working closely with the producer to address this situation. Herders have been issued radio receivers and rubber bullets and are doing a good job of monitoring and hazing wolves. The herders are also bedding the sheep at camp so they can keep a close eye on things. Sheep bands are protected by 4-5 guard dogs/band. The producer and staff are working overtime to keep wolves out of their bands. We appreciate everything they are doing to try to keep wolves away from the sheep and mitigate losses but suspected and verified depredations on sheep are continuing in the McCall area. After unsuccessful attempts at non-lethal, the Service requested WS to kill 2 radio-collared wolves from the Hazard Pack that have been implicated in the depredations.

Two bands of sheep, on a state allotment, are now in close proximity to the newly documented Packer John pack. Nez Perce biologists are working with the producer to help address any potential problems in this area. The producer has been provided a receiver and rubber bullets and we are monitoring this pack closely.

On July 26th, WS set raps in Johnson County, WY in response to confirmed depredations of several sheep and 2 calves on July 16th. It was suspected that a lone wolf was responsible for these depredations. WS was asked to remove the offending wolf. Traps were set for a week, but pulled on August 1st after no further wolf activity. No other depredations have been reported and we will monitor the situation.

In response to depredations in Sunlight Basin, WY- WS trapped and radio collared a male wolf on the 11th in an area that was previously the home range of the Absaroka Pack. The Absaroka Pack has had chronic mange problems over the last several years and it has been unclear whether the pack has produced pups or even still persisted as a pack. This latest wolf showed no signs of mange and was seen traveling with 4 other wolves. This may be remnants of the Absaroka Pack or an off-shoot of one of the other packs in the Sunlight areas. Over the last several years, the livestock producer in this allotment has lost cattle to wolves. On July 20th, wolves killed 2 more calves and 2 wolves were removed on the 22nd.

WS is still attempting to kill the Green River female who has been involved in chronic cattle depredations for the past almost three years. Her past three mates were killed for chronic depredations shortly after that began associating with her. Unfortunately, a new uncollared [assumed] male has recently joined the ‘Black Widow’, and his days are probably numbered too if she is not removed quickly. He is not known to have depredated and if trapped will be collared and released on site. If they depredate, both will be removed.

On August 1, WS confirmed a calf killed on private land by wolves near Dubois, WY. in a valley adjacent to the Dunoir Valley. The Washakie Pack uses this area, but we routinely get reports of other wolf (wolves) in the drainage. The producer lost other calves to wolves last year. He was issued a shoot-on-site permit to kill one wolf on private property to protect his livestock because of the wise-spread nature of grazing in this area and the history of chronic depredations.

On May 20, 2004, a horse from a dude ranch situated along the Gros Ventre River was treated by a Jackson Hole veterinarian. The horse had gone lame from a wound along the tendon on its right hind leg. When the hind leg was x-rayed, there appeared to be several bone fragments. The horse treated with anti-biotics, but never recovered and was later euthanized. The vet probed into the hind leg and discovered that the fragments seen in the X-ray were in fact 3 pieces of a large canine tooth embedded in the tendon sheath of the leg. WYG&F was contacted, who then contacted the Service. Everyone started thinking: large canine tooth, attacking a large animal in the hindquarters, and "wolves" became the most likely suspect. After speaking with the vet and the owner of the horse, the USFWS requested that the tooth fragments be sent to the USFWS Forensic Lab in Ashland, Oregon. Based on structural characteristics, the lab determined that it was a cougar tooth. Cougars are common in this section of the Gros Ventre and the people at the ranch have seen cougars in the immediate area in the past but no problems were suspected.

Four wolves were recently seen in the Roscoe area and included a gray and a black. This may be the pair of uncollared wolves that has sporadically, but repeatedly, killed cattle and sheep around Fishtail, MT and killed 5 buck sheep on private land the 9th of July. One of this group of four wolves, was killed on the 27th. Shoot on sight permits that had been issued due to the continued depredation by wolves in the area. Asher went there on the 2nd to begin trapping to place a radio collar in the group to determine if this is the pack that was preying on livestock. Prior to this only an adult black and gray wolf were seen.

On the 1st, WS investigated the death of a cow and calf near Dome Mtn. in Sheep Mtn. territory. There were numerous wolf and bear tracks in the area but the cause of death could not be determined. WS was also contacted about a dead cow near Trail Creek in the territory of the Lone Bear pack but there was not enough remaining of the cow to determine the cause of death. The producer said there were a number of bears feeding on the carcass.

WS looked at a dead sheep just north of Avon Montana in the Halfway pack territory on the 29th. It appeared to be a wolf kill but the evidence was minimal. Traps were set and an adult uncollared female wolf was caught, radio collared, and released. An adult female was caught in the same area last year by a coyote trapper and was radio-collared. She was probably the last of the Halfway pack and remained in the territory since late last fall. Toward the end of July she was joined by a dispersing 2 year old male #78 from Pincher Creek Canada wearing a GPS radio collar. He moved south right along the East Front foothills. It appears there are now 3 adult wolves in this pack. We will monitor the situation to see if there are any additional depredations.

Research

Service biologists in WY are attempting to trap and place GPS collars on adult wolves to assist research in Grand Teton National Park. The Park is closely monitoring wolf movements as part of a study looking at wolf/coyotes interactions and relationship to prey movements and abundance. They are also looking at any relationships between the livestock grazing program in the Park and the Park’s only ‘resident’ wolf pack, the Teton Pack..

Information and education and law enforcement

Carolyn Sime was recently selected as the wolf coordinator for Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks. Congratulations Carolyn! Selection for Montana’s three wolf specialist positions should be made in a few weeks; about 70 applications were received.

A Lewiston, Idaho, man pleaded guilty in Federal Court on July 29, 2004, to the killing of a gray wolf. He plead guilty and was ordered to serve one year of probation with nationwide revocation of hunting privileges, and to pay $21,252 in civil restitution to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. The man admitted in court that he had shot and killed the wolf during a 2003 elk hunt near Elk River, Idaho, and that he had taken the tail of the wolf to his Lewiston residence. The wolf, an adult female, was not radio-collared. Congratulations to FWS and IDFG partnership in bringing this one to a successful closure of this law enforcement case.

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.

Doug Smith gave a presentation to the Utah Wolf Advisory Committee in Salt Lake City on the 7th. About 14 Committee members and 10 members of the public attended. On the 14th he will give a presentation to the high Desert Museum in Bend, OR as well as helping with the Oregon Department of Wildlife state wolf management plan.

Wolves in Wisconsin killed 17 dogs in 2001, 10 in 2002 and 6 in 2003. So far this year they have killed only 2 dogs and neither were in hunting/ training situations. The Wisconsin DNR and the National Wildlife Federation prepared a handout about how to reduce conflict between wolves and hunting dogs. It can be viewed at the following website:

http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/land/er/mammals/wolf/wolfhuntdog.htm

Fontaine gave a presentation for MT FWP for their Spring Meadow wildlife lecture series in Helena, MT on the 3rd. About 50 kids and adults attended.

Fontaine met cooperators of the Ranger Rider program in Ennis on the 6th to discuss how well the program is working and where it is headed in the future. There was also a discussion about data collection and the collaring of the Red Rocks and Freezeout packs.

Steve Nadeau (IDFG) flew to Taylor Ranch in the Idaho wilderness on Aug. 3 to visit Jim and Holly Akenson and their interns, discuss their research, and review the work Troy Hicks is conducting on wolf/elk predation in Big Creek. Steve gave an evening presentation to the dozen or so interns, visiting biologists, and staff on wolf and grizzly bear management in Idaho.

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