Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 8/13/04

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 8/6 to 8/13, 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 mid-year rough estimate of the wolf population for Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming is about 66 breeding pairs. This will likely result in a total population estimate of 800 to 850 wolves in December 2004, a roughly 10% increase over the December 2003 estimate of 763 wolves in 51 breeding pairs [male and female that successfully raise at least 2 pups until December 31]. It takes lots of hard work to get these data and we appreciate everyone’s efforts, especially our hard working field crews. Reports from the public and other agencies are important to help our crews know where to start searching. Because of differences in the methods used to estimate wolf populations in each area [visual observations are more frequent in Montana and Wyoming than central Idaho because of less vegetative cover and less rugged terrain]. Therefore, fall/winter flights are especially important in estimating the status of the wolf population in Montana and Wyoming so all of these estimates should be considered very preliminary. The only ‘official‘ wolf population agency estimate is made four months from now, at the end of each year. This mid-year estimate is much more inaccurate than the end-of-year estimate but does indicate the wolf population continues to expand slightly, especially in Idaho. The specific break down is:

Yellowstone National Park- In Yellowstone National Park, the 2004 mid-year wolf population estimate is 12 breeding pair, 16 packs [two or more wolves traveling together] of wolves, and a total of about 169 wolves. Last winter’s count was 11 breeding pair, 14 packs, and 157 wolves. It appears the Yellowstone population is at or a little above what it was last winter, as expected because the Park seems full. Mid-year estimates for 2004 are: 340F group- 7 adults/no pups; Agate creek- 10 ad/4-6 pups; Bechler- 4 ad/3 pups; Chief Joseph- 7ad/2 pups; Cougar Creek- 5 ad/5 pups; Druid Peak2- 11 ad/7 pups; Geode Creek- 4 ad/11 pups; Gibbon Group- 5 ad/1 pup; Leopold- 6 ad/12 pups; Mollie’s- 4 ad/5 pups; Nez Perce- 4 ad/?? pups; Rose Creek II- 4 ad/??; Slough Creek- 7ad/7 pups; Specimen Ridge- 3 ad/5 pups; Swan Lake- 10 ad/3 pups; and Yellowstone Delta- 11 ad/6 pups.

Wyoming outside of YNP- In Wyoming outside of Yellowstone National Park there are an estimated 6 breeding pairs, 8 packs of wolves, and +68 wolves. In December 2003 there were an estimate 5 breeding pairs, 13 packs and 77 wolves. It appears that the number of wolves outside Yellowstone National Park is the same as last year or perhaps sightly lower.. Mid-year estimates for 2004 are: Teton- 9 ad/8 pups: Washakie- 5 ad/6 pups: Owl Creek- 2 ad/4 pups: Carter Mnt- 1 ad/4 pups: Absaroka- 3 ad/pups ??: Sunlight Basin- 8 ad/3 pups: Greybull River- 8 ad/pups but # unknown: Beartooth- 7 ad/pups??: Daniel Pack- unknown status: Green river- 2 ad/no pups: and 2003 packs no longer existing in 2004 because of control- Gros Ventre and Pinedale.

Montana portion of GYA- There are 38 adults and at least 33 pups in 8 breeding pairs [>2adults and >2 pups], and 10 packs [>2 wolves traveling together] of wolves in the Montana portion of the GYA compared to 5 breeding pair, 12 packs and 67 wolves in 2003. Mid-year in 2004 our estimate is: Red Rocks- 2 Ad/pups??; Freezeout- 8 Ad/7 pups; Bear Creek- 2 Ad??/0 pups, Chief Joe- 7 Ad/2 pups, Lone Bear- 4 Ad/3 pups; Casey Lake-2 Ad/5 pups; Sheep Mtn.- 2 Ad/1 pup; Mill Creek- 4 Ad/7 pups; Mission- 2 Ad/4 pups; Moccasin- 3Ad/+2 pups; Phantom [Red Lodge]- 2 Ad/2 pups. So the wolf population in the Montana portion of the GYA is about where it was last year.

SW Montana in central Idaho Ex. Pop. Area- The estimate for the packs in SW Montana is +16 adults and 9 pups, in 3 breeding pair and as many as 11 packs- up slightly from the 2003 estimate of 1 breeding pair, 5 packs and 23 wolves. In 2004 they are: Grassy Top- 2 Ad/? pups; Black Canyon- 3 Ad/? pups; Battlefield- +2 Ad/4 pups; Painted Rocks- +2 Ad/? pups; Sapphire- 5 Ad/3 pups; Skalkaho- +2 Ad/+2 pups; Como Lake- ?Ad/? pups, Willow Creek- ? Ad/? pups; Mt Haggin- maybe 6 Ad/? pups; Fish Creek- ? Ad/? pups; Lupine- ? Ad/? pups.

Central Idaho- In Idaho, NPT and IDFG crews have documented twenty-nine litters [minimum of 106 pups and 149 adults- it is very difficult to estimate numbers of adults and yearlings in each pack in Idaho because packs are rarely visible during aerial relocations] and all 29 of those packs qualified as breeding pairs. There are 45 groups of wolves currently being monitored in central Idaho. In 2003 central Idaho had 26 breeding pairs and about 368 wolves. At this pont in time it appears the nubmer of wolves will increase in central Idaho. The 2004 mid-year central Idaho minimum wolf population estimate includes: Bennett Mtn- 1 ad/0 pups; Big Hole- ? Ad/? pups; Buffalo Ridge 5 Ad/3 pups; Calderwood- 2 ad/ 3 pups; Castle Peak- ?Ad/? pup; Chamberlain- ? ad/ ? pups; Chesimia- 2 Ad/3 pups; Cold Springs- 2 Ad/4 pups; Cook- 9 Ad eliminated by control; Coolwater 2 Ad/3 pups; Eagle Mountain 4 Ad/3 pups; Eldorado- ? Ad/ ? pups; Five Lakes Butte- 2 Ad/? pups; Florence- 6 Ad/ 7 pups; Galena- 3 Ad/ 3 pups; Gold Fork- 2 Ad/ 3 pups; Golden Creek- 6 Ad/ 6 pups; Gospel Hump- 11 Ad/ 4 pups; Hazard Lake- 5 Ad/ 3 pups; Hemlock Ridge- 4 Ad/ 5 pups; Jureano Mtn.- ? Ad/ ? pups; Kelly Creek- 3 Ad/ 2 pups; Landmark/Bear Valley- 6 Ad/ 5 pups; Magruder- 10 Ad/ 5 pups; Marble Mtn.- 3 Ad/2 pups; Monumental- 3 Ad/ 3 pups; Morgan Creek- 5 Ad/ 2 pups; Moyer Basin- 2 Ad/ 4 pups; O’Hair point- 10 AD/ 4 pups; Orphan- 2 Ad/ 5 pups; Packer John- 2 Ad/ 5 pups; Partridge- 4 Ad/ 5 pups; Red River- ? AD/ ? pups; Scott Mountain- 5 Ad/ 4 pups; Selway ? Ad/ ? pups; Soldier Mtn.- 4 Ad/ 5 pups; Steel Mountain- 9 ad/ 4 pups; Timberline- 2 Ad/ ? pups; Twin Peaks- 2 Ad/ 2 pups; Warm Springs- 2 Ad/3 pups.

NW Montana- The 2004 mid-year estimate for NW Montana is +35 adults and 24 pups in 8 breeding pair compared to 92 wolves in 4 breeding pairs in 2003. The estimate in 2004 is: Ninemile- 3 Ad/? pups; Garnet- 1 Ad/? pups; Blanchard Creek- ? Ad/? pups; Halfway- 3 Ad/0 pups; Great Divide- ? Ad/? pups; Kintla- +2 Ad/+2 pups; Whitefish- 3 Ad/+2 pups; Murphy Lake- ? Ad/? pups; Wolf Prairie- 2 Ad/3 pups); Fish Trap- ? Ad/? pups; Candy Mtn- ? Ad/? pups; Grave Creek- ? Ad/? pups; Spotted Bear- ? Ad/4 pups; Great Bear- 2 Ad/? pups; Red Shale-+2 Ad/? pups; Kootenai- ? Ad/? pups; Yaak ? Ad/? pups; Green Mtn- ? Ad/? pups.

Nez Perce biologists have been attempting to document the status of wolf activity in the Monumental Creek drainage, within the Frank Church River-of-No-Return Wilderness Area for the past few years. An initial survey of the area this year indicated the presence of the uncollared Monumental pack, but status could not be verified. Holyan surveyed this area for the second time this year and was able to verify the presence of a minimum of 3 pups. He also captured and collared an adult female wolf from this pack. This radio collar will help us learn more about the status and territory of this newly radio-collared pack.

Nez Perce biologists Adam Gall and Ana Kampe attempted to capture and collar members of the elusive Magruder pack. This pack has eluded our collaring efforts for the past two years. Although we were not able to locate the only radio-collared wolf in this pack from the air to help direct the crews efforts, they were able to find the Magruder pack after backpacking in several miles to the bottom end of Dry Saddle Ridge. After setting and monitoring an extensive trap line, Adam and Ana were able to capture and collar an additional member of this pack.

After working with Dave Spicer, IDFG, to survey for the uncollared Marble Mountain pack last hitch, Anthony Novack and Meschia Connine returned for additional work in this area. Following up on additional information provided by Dave, they were able to locate the current rendezvous site, obtain a minimum pup count of 2, and captured and radio-collared two members of this pack. Thanks to Dave and the field crew, the Monumental pack is now back on the air.

Control

Dave Thomas {WS] confirmed a wolf depredation of a full grown cow on a grazing allotment on Potlatch land 16 miles SE of Elk River on the 10th. He had a significant attack and kill site and lots of tracks and scat. The wolves came back and howled at him while he was finishing up the investigation. He set two traps, via guidance from Niemeyer, to collar and release any captured wolves on site. An IDFG CO helped WS with this investigation. They captured, radio-collared, and released a gray, male pup (about 45-50 lbs) at the Elk River depredation site in central Idaho. This new pack may be called the Chesimia pack. WS will continue trapping.

WS confirmed a wolf predation of a 300 lb. calf near Fairfield, Idaho and didn't pick up any wolf radio signals in the area. WS set foot-hold traps and contacted the Forest Service to inform them of the wolf predation and that WS is trapping in the area.

On the 11th WS investigated a report of an adult cow killed by wolves in a valley next to the Dunoir Valley, north of Dubois, WY. The Washakie pack has killed several other cattle in that area. The carcass was being actively fed on by several grizzly bears and had been fed on by wolves. From the limited remains WS could only classify it as a probable wolf-kill. Lethal wolf control is ongoing because of the chronic level of cattle depredations by that pack this summer.

On the night of the 10th, members of the Teton wolf pack killed and ate a 400 lb. calf in Grand Teton National Park in NW WY. Jimenez confirmed the depredation and that the cattle were being legally grazed in GTNP. The WY Service field crew is on site with cracker shells, rubber bullets, and lights etc. During the night of the 12th wolves were in cattle chasing and testing them until they were driven off by cracker shells. The wolves quickly returned however and were driven off several times, but no depredations occurred. Our biologists will be camped by the cattle for another night. GTNP or the herder will take over those actions soon. The cattle are between the pack’s rendezvous site and a river bottom- where the elk are so the wolves are crossing back and forth through cattle to get to the elk. They were observed going through cattle again the night of the 11th . We will watch the situation closely for now and recommend a more active course of action if there are any additional depredations. Several conservation groups from the GYA have called asking about Service and Park response to this situation, and what they are going to do, if more conflicts occur.

MT FWP volunteer Hartman has been radio tracking the Wolf Prairie pack (new pack west of Kalispell) from the ground twice a week. Ranch hands reported seeing two large pups on July 30. On August 4th, Hartman located 1 dead cow and contacted the ranch manager. The ranch manager reported finding a total of 3 dead cows in the same area with similar injuries. The manager did not think the cows had been killed by wolves and did not contact Wildlife Services. Hartman examined the most intact carcass and believed that the wounds (withers area only) were not consistent with wolves. Bears have been seen in the area and sign was observed near the cow carcass suggesting the bear had at least been scavenging. A sweep with a metal detector was

inconclusive but ranchers reported that livestock had been illegally shot in the area in the past. Investigations will continue. Ground tracking indicates that the new pack is constantly near cattle, but no further depredations have occurred (since 1 confirmed calf, 3 probable calves, and 1 probable cow on July 14).

Research

Nothing new to report.

Information and education and law enforcement

A Lewiston, Idaho, man pleaded guilty in Federal Court on July 29, 2004, to the killing of a gray wolf 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 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 The Office of the Federal Register has confirmed that the Notice of Public Hearings for the proposed rule to delist the Eastern Distinct Population Segment of the Gray Wolf will publish on Friday, August 13, 2004. The notice was signed by Acting Director Elizabeth Stevens on August 6, 2004.

The Wisconsin DNR is providing opportunities for the public to comment on the state wolf management plan on the DNR web. The DNR will conduct a 30-day comment period through September 2 for interested person to submit comments. Web groups with interest in wolf management are encouraged to link to the questionnaire. http://dnr.wi.gov/org/caer/ce/news/on/2004/on040803.htm#art1 http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/land/er/mammals/wolf/

MT FWP biologists Therease Hartman gave a wolf talk at the Big Larch campground in Seeley Lake on Friday, August 6th. There were over 85 people in attendance. She began her talk with a

puppet show that has the wolf giving his side of the story regarding a couple of popular fairy tales. The puppet show also helps address the human safety issue that is a frequent topic at campground talks, where people might be hiking in wolf territory. After the puppet show she talked about wolf history and ecology, followed up by a question and answer period. Some attendees were locals and there were people from Colorado, California and Canada.

MTFWP is in the process of hiring 3 field-based state wolf management specialists. They plan to have the process completed and staff in place by the end of September. Nearly 140 people applied and competition for these Kalispell, Big Timber, and Dillon, MT based positions is high.

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