Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 9/03/04

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 8/21-9/03, 2004

HAVE SAFE LABOR DAY WEEKEND

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.

Mike Ross and Val Asher collared a 48-pound female pup from the Phantom pack, on the 26th. The pack is thought to be responsible for a number of sheep and calf depredations near Roscoe, MT since mid-March. Based on earlier sightings there were thoughts of there being two separate groups of wolves, so this pack will be monitored to determine their movements and possible involvement. Traps were pulled Aug 31 and a receiver was left with the landowner who will share location data with neighbors. Project personnel got a visual on the pack and think the group consists of two adults, one gray and one black and two pups, one gray and one black.

Jack Bucklin removed all of his traps near the Sapphire pack [east of Hamilton, MT] rendezvous site on the 25th. A number of ATVs came into the meadow and apparently displaced the wolves. Trapping has discontinued but will resume in the Ninemile Valley after the holiday. A family that was camping on the edge of the meadow watched the adults bring a small animal to the pups as the pups moved out into the meadow. One of the adults came within 200 yards of the camp, sat down, and watched the family for about 30 minutes before going back to the pups. The family thought it was a great opportunity to see the wolves. Sightings from the people in the area and this family indicate that there are 5 adults and 5 pups.

Paul Frame captured a 40-pound male pup on the 21st belonging to the Spotted Bear pack. On the 26th he stopped trapping and will be taking a few days off before trying to collar members of the Murphy Lake pack. Diane Boyd began searching for the Painted Rocks pack in the west fork of the Bitterroot on the 23rd but there was little sign and trapping was unsuccessful.

On the 26th Doug Hansen (Nez Perce [NP]) and Justin Mann, WS, captured a 100-110# gray male wolf in the same set that B-45 was captured in. near McCall Idaho This wolf had an old non-functioning radio collar that appeared to have been put on the wolf as a pup and a yellow ear tag in the left ear. It was a Greater Yellowstone Area wolf #239 that dispersed from the Washakie pack near Dubois, WY to western Idaho, a distance of approximately 333 airline miles.

Jason Husseman (IDFG) has been searching for suspected wolf packs in the North Fork of the Salmon River, and assisting Rick Williamson (WS) in attempting to capture wolves in the Salmon area. Michael Lucid and Lauri H-Brown (IDFG) have been searching and trapping in the Copper Basin area for suspected wolf activity. Although wolf sign has been found, wolf pack activity centers have not but this effort continues.

NP biologists set up a trapline around the O'Hara Peak pack's rendezvous site but were unable to capture any wolves. They also attempted to locate and trap the Orphan pack. Although they picked up signals from alpha female B61, there was not sufficient sign to warrant setting up a trapline. An extensive trapline was run in the Eldorado wolf pack's territory, but biologists were not able to locate concentrated wolf sign or capture wolves.

NP biologists are trying to document the status of a new wolf group north of McCall. They suspect recently captured wolf B45 was associated with this group and may be the alpha female. They trapped this area for a few days and although was not able to capture a wolf, confirmed the presence of at least 3 adults. Justin Mann, WS, recently trapped a second wolf with a non-functioning radio collar in the same area B45 was captured and suspect this wolf is also associated with this new group of wolves. This latest captured wolf is male Y239, a wolf born into the Washakie pack near Dubois, Wyoming. Y239 was recollared and Tribal crews will continue to monitor Y239 to determine the status of these wolves.

Isaac Babcock (NP) successfully ground darted a pup, B222, from the Chesimia pack near Elk River, ID. This pack, composed of what appears to be just the alpha pair and their 3-4 pups, was documented when Dave Thomas (WS) captured and collared B221, also a pup, during a control action about 2 weeks ago. This is only the second time a free-ranging wolf has been captured using this technique, both times by Isaac.

Kent Laudon (NP) scoured the area where the uncollared Eldorado pack had a rendezvous site in '03, but despite extensive and intensive surveys, he was unable to capture a wolf. This pack was not using the '03 site and Kent was able to find wolf sign only at widely scattered locations in the vicinity.

Anthony Novack and volunteer Anastacia Kampe (NP) attempted to radio-collar additional members of the O'Hara Point pack north of Elk City, ID. To date no wolves have been captured, although the rendezvous site has been located and traps are set nearby. A dead wolf pup was discovered at the rendezvous site; it was collected and will be sent to the Forensics lab in Ashland, OR to determine the cause of death.

 

Jim Holyan (NP) spent 3 days searching for the Orphan pack in hopes of conducting a trapping operation there, but was unsuccessful in locating the pack. He then began surveying in the Burgdorf area where recent reports indicate that yet another pack, including pups, may be established. He heard 2-3 wolves howling and is continuing to trap.

In a previous control action, WS collared a lone wolf in the Sunlight Basin area that was using the home range of the Absaroka Pack. On a follow-up flight, WS located the Absaroka Pack and confirmed 5-6 adults and 4 pups. All the wolves looked healthy with no signs of mange.

Jon Trapp and Liz Bradley trapped and collared 3 more wolves in the Teton Pack, deploying a total of 3 GPS collars for Grand Teton NP research and 3 VHF for routine monitoring. Their trapping efforts will shift to the Washakie Pack.

While investigating a suspect bear-killed calf [was just being scavenged by a bear] WS also located sign of 3 wolves that were also scavenging on the carcass in the upper part of the West Fork of the Madison Valley in SW MT. No radioed groups of wolves are believed to be using this area.

Control

Rick Williamson (WS) captured and collared a pup (B223) from the Jureano Mountain pack near Salmon, ID during a control action there. This confirms that the Jureano Mountain pack reproduced this year, although at this time it is not known if they qualify as a breeding pair. Alpha male B106's signal has not been heard for some time, and because he was the only collared wolf, documenting the status of this pack was difficult. The addition of B223 will greatly facilitate monitoring here.

A reported depredation south of Grangeville, ID was being investigated by Justin Mann of Wildlife Services. Control actions for the Gold Fork and B45 packs have concluded.

Gary Looney (ID WS), confirmed 3 more depredations on sheep by the Steel Mtn. pack. He was authorized to lethally remove one adult wolf and started trapping. On Tuesday the 24th, he captured a 50-# gray male pup. Since he did not have a collar with him at the time and it was a 25-mile trip to get in cell phone range to try and get a radio collar, he released the pup on site. The depredations have stopped since the capture and release of that pup and trapping has ceased as of the 30th.

Three members of the Hazard Lake wolf pack in west-central Idaho were lethally removed by helicopter gunning on August 31 (B-182 and B-185, both subadult females) and September 1 (B-105, the alpha male) after repeated efforts to remove them by ground techniques had been unsuccessful. B-105 has a long history of being involved in livestock depredations. The Service, WS and the Tribe provided non-lethal training and less-than-lethal munitions and RAG boxes to the sheep producer and their personnel on July 8 and in late July. The producer also used multiple guard dogs and herders with each band of sheep in conjunction with the non-lethal techniques provided, but still suffered repeated depredations. Incremental removal of the Hazard pack was authorized beginning July 29 after one lamb was killed on July 23 and another 23 sheep were injured and missing. The July 23 attack was followed by another depredation on July 29 when the Hazard pack was implicated (telemetry) in the injury of 21 sheep and the disappearance of another 14 sheep. Two wolves were lethally removed on July 30 (subadult male) and August 1 (subadult female). Subsequently, nineteen more sheep were classified as "possible" kills or missing on August 4 from attacks by the Hazard pack. B-105 and B-182 were documented to be in the area of most of the depredation incidents and were specifically targeted for removal. Lethal ground removal efforts to remove the Hazard pack continued without success through August 23 when six more sheep were killed and six were injured. The Service authorized the removal of one additional wolf (B-183 or B-185) for removal in addition to the ongoing effort to remove B-105 and B-182 at that time. Remaining members of the Hazard pack include B-183, the uncollared alpha female and at least 3-5 pups. Control actions have ceased unless further depredations occur.

On the 26th, WS confirmed that wolves had attacked two yearling heifers about two weeks apart on private land near Red Lodge, MT.  The first heifer appears to be healing but will be scarred. The other heifer sustained more injuries and will be euthanized by the ranch.  A black and gray wolf were seen by employees of the ranch. WS will trap to radio collar and will monitor the situation unless more depredations occur.

On Aug. 23, Mike Ross and other FWP personnel issued cracker shells to an allotment rider in the Taylor fork area as wolves had been seen in the cattle. The rider hazed wolves on numerous occasions and asked for more shells which were issued on the 25th. Both the Chief Joe and Bear creek radioed animals have been in the area and no depredations have been found or documented as of yet. The rider commented that he shot off a cracker shell under a black radio collared wolf (possibly the Bear Trap male) and since then has seen its behavior change to being wary when he rides up on it. We will follow up on the riders opinion on harassing tools and their effectiveness.

Ross received a call from a pet owner in the Norris area Sept.3 that her dog was killed by a wolf while out on its chain. The owner did not want project personnel to investigate and felt it could have been another predator as bears have been seen frequenting the area.

A sheep producer on a remote [5 miles from a road] Forest Service allotment had his sheep band tested by wolves on the 29thth but his herder and dogs drove the wolves off. On the 30th the wolves returned and killed his border collie.  His guard dog was badly wounded and is now missing. WS headed to the area in the Gravelly range NE of Dillon, MT and confirmed the wolf attack and a dead herding dog. It doesn’t appear that any sheep were killed either night. WS set traps and will attempt to put collars on this pack, to determine if this is a new pack or if it is the existing Freezeout pack and hopefully drive them from the area. The producer drove up that night and gave the herder another guard dog. He was issued a special take permit to take up to 2 wolves in the act of biting grasping wounding his sheep, horses, or livestock herding or guarding animals on that allotment. WS pulled traps Sept. 2 as the area is swarming with bow hunters.

On the 27th, a rancher in Paradise Valley reported that wolves killed a calf near the Sheep Mtn. pack territory. WS confirmed the loss of the calf to wolves and the Sheep Mtn. pack was located via telemetry very close to the depredation site.  Wolf 334 was previously located by aircraft several times in the cattle and was in cattle during a confirmed depredation. WS was authorized to remove wolf 334 and did so on the 31st. At the time #334 was thought to be the alpha male for the pack but turned out to be the alpha female. Evidently the capture sheets were switched or mislabeled at the time of its capture with another wolf, #332. Regardless, she was the primary wolf preying on the cattle. The male, (whose number is now #332) has not been found since March of 2004.

Ross and Asher visited a landowner in the Boulder area E. of Livingston, MT on 9/1 after receiving reports of the Moccasin Lake pack harassing cattle on FS allotment. A meeting to discuss wolf issues with project personnel and landowners in the area was discussed but no date has been set. The landowner has a shoot-on-site permit for his private land..

WS examined a calf west of Kalispell on the 27th on a forest company allotment and confirmed that wolves were responsible. This is an area north of the Fishtrap pack and south of the Wolf Prairie pack. WS will try to harass wolves out of the rendezvous site and away from the cattle.

A landowner in the Ninemile Valley called to report that a wolf just went thru an electric fence [provided a couple of years ago by Defenders of Wildlife after several other llamas had been killed] to try and kill some young llamas. The llamas scattered thru the back side of the fence. The landowner shot several times in the air and drove the wolf back thru the electric fence. The fence had just been checked and was in good working order. About 3 weeks prior to this incident another wolf came into the yard before being drove off by shotgun blasts as well. The landowner could hear other wolves howling about a mile away. A shoot on sight permit was renewed for the landowner. Jack Bucklin will begin trapping in the area to radio collar one of the Ninemile wolves and monitor the situation. WS will assist when trapping has ceased west of Kalispell.

WS investigated the possible depredation of a horse near Plains on the 30th but it was not confirmed.

WS specialist from the Dillon, MT area trapped a member of the Battlefield pack on the 31st, but couldn’t locate it. He is used his dog to trail it but with no luck that day. The control action [collar and release on site] was in response to a confirmed calf depredation last week. WS continued to search and found the yearling male on the 1st. He was in good shape and was radio-collared and released on site.

On August 21, USFWS and WYG&F examined a dead cow on the Teton Park grazing allotment. The cow was not killed by wolves or grizzly bears, but had been scavenged by a bear. The carcass was removed and we will continue to monitor wolves and cows in the Park closely. At the Park's request, the livestock producer has stationed a ranch hand on the allotment to monitor wolves and cattle throughout each night. Teton wolves have not recently been in the cattle.

On August 25, USFWS examined the remains of a calf possibly killed by wolves on a ranch adjacent to Teton National Park. USFWS is working with the rancher and we will continue to keep a close watch.

Two wolves [52 lb pups] were killed near Dubois, WY under a private land shoot-on-site permit. At least 7 calves have been killed by these wolves this summer. The Washakie pack presently consists of 7-8 adults and 4-5 pups. On the 1st another calf was killed by the Washakie pack on a Forest Service allotment and WS was asked to remove 3-5 more wolves from that area.

A lone wolf that killed a calf on an public land grazing allotment near Kemmerer, WY around the 23rd, and was just been monitored to see if it stayed in the area or killed more livestock, was confirmed to have killed another calf on a public land grazing allotment on the 1st. WS was asked to lethally remove it.

Research

Three GPS collars were placed on Teton Park wolves which will be part of a joint study with Grand Teton Park, USFWS, and the Teton Cougar Project. One study objective is to investigate interactions between grizzly bears, wolves and cougars. In addition 3 regular VHF collars were put in the pack by our WY field crew. Good job, Mike, Liz and Jon.

Two radio-activated blow-off Televilt GPS collars on wolves in Yellowstone National Park did not blow-off. The were designed to be activated at the users discretion and but both attempts from the air and ground failed. There is a programmed "back-up' scheduled to blow off mid-winter so we may have to wait to get the collars back then. Den visits continue in Yellowstone NP to pick-up scats and take den measurements.

Information and education and law enforcement

Therese Hartman [volunteer Mt FW&P] gave a presentation to about 15 people at the Holland Lake campground on August 21. She began with a puppet show and then talked about wolf history in North America and wolf ecology followed by Q and A. Most attendees were from Montana and one family was from Alaska. There were lots of questions about the locations and numbers of wolves in Montana and a good deal of interest in how wolves will be managed by the state while the delisting process proceeds. After the talk everyone took the opportunity to look through the wolf box, posters and a photo album full of pictures of local wolves.

Carolyn Sime, Mike Ross, MT FWP, Val Asher, TESF and Doug Smith, NPS, attended the Montana WS annual conference near Red Lodge. Sime and Smith gave presentations about their respective programs.

On August 30th Doug Smith gave a Yellowstone National Park Amphitheater talk at Canyon to general public. Nearly 100 people attended.

Steve Nadeau gave a presentation and update on wolf management in Idaho to about 100 IDFG wildlife biologist on August 17 at Coeur D'Alene. Jason Husseman and Michael Lucid also presented information on wolf monitoring protocol to the group.

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