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 8/14-8/20, 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.

Therese Hartman conducted a monitoring flight in NW Montana and all packs appear to be at their normal rendezvous sites. No signal could be located for the Red Shale and Great Bear packs. Therese searched the area from Glacier National Park southward throughout the Bob Marshall and along the east front where there have been wolf reports but still no sign of them. She also listened for missing radio collared wolves.

Val Asher continues to try and radio collar a member of the Phantom pack near Roscoe, Montana. Jack Bucklin removed his traps from the vicinity of the Sapphire pack southwest of Phillipsburg, Montana for a short period of time and is now trapping near the pack again. We initially thought there was a Skalkaho pack as well as a Sapphire pack but observations by Bucklin and landowners in the area indicate by the number of adults and pups that this is the Sapphire pack. Paul Frame is continuing to try and capture a member of the Spotted Bear pack but no luck yet. Therese continues to monitor the Wolf Prairie pack at least twice a week from the ground or air. She located the rendezvous site and is coordinating with the livestock producers in an attempt to prevent additional livestock depredations. Diane Boyd is heading to the west fork of the Bitterroot on the 23rd in and attempt to radio collar a member of the Painted Rocks pack.

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.

Control

WS confirmed that a pair of uncollared wolves, a gray and a black, the Phantom pack, that has sporadically but repeatedly killed cattle and sheep around Fishtail, MT killed 8 ewes on private land August 18th. Confirmed livestock depredations on private by this pair has been ongoing since mid March when they killed a calf and March 21st they killed a ewe about 10 miles away. This producer also lost some sheep during the summer of 2003. April 9th the pair killed another calf and on April 14th another calf was confirmed killed by a single wolf. They killed 3 bucks, 2 ewes, and 2 lambs on the 21st of May but the WS wasn’t able to confirm wolves, as black bears were a possibility. On the 28th of May, 4 ewes and 8 more lambs were killed in the same manner and wolf depredation was deemed responsible. On the 2nd of June, another ewe and 2 lambs were killed. WS has been requested to lethally remove this pair of wolves and any other wolves associated with them.

Several wolf packs have been involved in livestock depredations in Idaho during the past week. Domestic sheep in the vicinity of the Gold Fork, Partridge and Steel Mountain wolf packs have been confirmed killed by wolves. Control actions on adult wolves in these packs is pending depending on future depredations.

The Jureano wolf pack is suspected of the confirmed killing of a domestic calf west of Salmon, Idaho. Trapping, radio-collaring and release will be the first incremental step in determining if the Jureano pack is involved since only the alpha male is collared and has not been located in the area.

The Chesimia wolf pack south of Elk River was confirmed to have killed an adult domestic cow. Trapping and radio-collaring efforts continue for this newly identified pack. One pup has been collared.

The Bechler pack from Wyoming was suspected in a confirmed calf depredation east of Ashton, Idaho. Trapping efforts in this area have been discontinued by WS since no wolves returned to the depredation site.

During recent wolf control actions near McCall, Idaho, an old, gray faced adult female (showing signs of past lactation) wolf was captured by Wildlife Services personnel and unfortunately released without its non-functioning radio-collar being replaced. We are certain that the wolf was B-45, the controversial wolf that dispersed into Oregon from Idaho, and was subsequently helicopter captured and returned to Idaho in March 1999. The radio-collar was old, non-functioning and had colored remnants of tape that identified it as B-45. B-45's radio-collar ceased functioning nearly two years ago. It was unknown whether she and her radio-collared mate (his collar is non-functioning) were alive or dead until this recent capture. Efforts have been ongoing in recent years to capture and recollar both wolves. She may represent another unidentified wolf pack in the immediate vicinity of recent sheep depredations near McCall.

Research

Nothing new to report.

Information and education and law enforcement

Niemeyer gave a presentation on Idaho wolf recovery to a Defenders of Wildlife conference at the Yellowstone Institute in the LaMar Valley in Yellowstone National Park on August 15.

MTFWP is in the process of hiring 3 field-based state wolf management specialists and currently screening applicants. 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