Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 9/26/04

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 9/11-9/26, 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.

Bob Danner, 63, a legendary aviator from Stanley, Idaho, was killed in a plane crash in the Frank Church Wilderness on Monday, September 13, 2004. He was alone in his plane (not searching for wolves) when inclement weather conditions closed in around him on a return flight to Stanley. Bob was part of the "wolf team" in Idaho and flew hundreds of hours of wolf monitoring flights on behalf of the Nez Perce Tribe, the U S Fish and Wildlife Service and Wildlife Services. Bob was the "eye in the sky" for wolf capture efforts when he flew his fixed wing above the helicopter and directed biologists to locations to capture and radio-collar wolves for wolf recovery efforts in Idaho. Subsequently, Bob would locate radio-collared wolves on a bi-monthly basis and report the information to wolf managers. His death is a tragic loss to all of us who loved him as a friend and co-worker. He will be missed.

The wolf community experienced another loss when Dave Hoerner’s son, Ryan was killed in an aviation accident in Alaska. Ryan was an avid outdoor enthusiast and passionate about wildlife. Dave [Red Eagle Aviation] pilots all wolf monitoring flights in northwestern Montana. He took some time off and only recently started flying again. Our deepest condolences to Dave and his family.

Jason Husseman (IDFG) caught and collared a pup from the Jureano pack {ID] on Friday. That makes 2 pups collared in the pack, should be enough to help locate the pack in the spring.

Fish and Game officer Jeff Day followed-up on report of dead wolf that turned out to be bear. Hybrid wolves are becoming more of a nuisance and IDFG is handling calls from upset neighbors or concerned residents. Owners are often wanting to get rid of them or are unable to properly contain them at their residences. Hybrids can be dangerous. Fish and Game code requires hybrids that show primary wolf characteristics to be registered, but loose hybrids or hybrid concerns are under jurisdiction of either counties or cities ordinances related to domestic dogs. They aren't wolves.

Following a news release asking for hunters to report wolf observations, a flurry of reports on IDFG website have been reported. Reporting wolves online provides us with needed information to verify packs. "Our ability to monitor these new and existing packs and maintain a decent population estimate depends a great deal on the public reporting sightings in a timely fashion." The website address is: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/wildlife/wolves/report.cfm

Ross conducted an aerial telemetry flight on the 15th and found the pup from the Kaycee pack on mortality mode. The pup was retrieved on the 16th by Ross and Asher and taken to the Bozeman lab for necropsy. The death is under investigation.

Ross received a sighting of 1 black and 2 gray wolves on the Wall Creek Game Range on the 17th. The game range is about 30 miles south of Ennis, Montana. There are no know wolves in the area although there have been several other sightings just south of this area.

Michael Lucid assisted by IDFG personnel worked the Timberline pack area near Idaho City last week and located the pack and verified reproduction. He also captured and radio collared a gray yearling male wolf B154. B155 had not been found for several telemetry flights and Michael determined that the collar frequency had drifted as B155 was located with B154 in the same area.

Jason Husseman was working with Upper Snake IDFG and Forest Service personnel to verify reported wolf activity west of Yellowstone. None of the radio frequencies of Park wolves or missing Idaho wolves were located in the area, though sign of several wolves was verified. Traps were being set to try to capture and collar a member of the pack.

A "wolf" was reported hanging out in the Elk City, Idaho town site early last week worrying officials and parents. Larry Wilmott (IDFG) and Kent Lauden (NPT) investigated the observations and found that a wolf hybrid named "Prince" somehow got loose and the owner later picked him up, but not before he created quite a stir.

MT FWP volunteer Hartman flew the packs in NW Mt on Sept 21 and 23. All packs were in their usual home ranges, but there were few visuals. The radio-collared pup in the Spotted Bear pack was on mortality. We suspect it is a shed collar and will retrieve it soon. The Red Shale, XXX were not located despite an extensive search.

Biologist Paul Frame is trapping for the Candy Mnt. pack in the Yaak, MT area, but may move back to Spotted Bear since the pup shed its collar.

One of our FWS seasonal biologists had just put out traps for the Fish Creek pack, NW of Missoula, MT and was near the trail-head talking to an outfitter that just arrived. The outfitter’s dog was loose and it was captured in front of them. It was released uninjured [rubber-jawed traps] but the outfitter was extremely upset and ended up hitting our biologist with the trap. FWS LE was contacted and we were advised to notified the sheriff to pursue assault charges. The biologist said he didn’t want to do that, so the incident is done and all traps were pulled. Trapping for monitoring becomes increasingly difficult on public lands- especially in the fall when hunting season begin.

Visuals on Carter Mtn. Pack indicate there is just one female with 5 pups. The alpha male wolf was removed earlier this summer after several livestock depredations, but female and pups appear to be doing well.

Yellowstone field crews picked up another chewed collar from a Bechler wolf this week. A telemetry flight indicated only one pack was still at a rendezvous site. Rose Creek was found N. of the Park.

On the 27th, Bangs recorded a wolf incident from the Ennis, MT area [5 miles SW near the road to Virginia City]. A lady called to report that she had seen a lone grey wolf near her home on several occasions but on August 28, her 15 year-old reported a wolf had their collie corner on the front porch. The wolf had its front feet on the porch 8' away and was snarling. The daughter opened the front door and just let the dog in. After she closed the door, she looked outside the wolf was gone. There have been no further problems. The women was not upset or expect for anything to be ‘done’, but just wanted someone to know about the incident. She had also been in contact with MT FWP. We appreciate her calling us.

Control

On the 4th, WS confirmed that suspected members of the Lone Bear pack in the Paradise Valley killed 3 ewes and a lamb on private property. Wolf #283 a 3-yr-old female was located nearby on a telemetry flight shortly after the depredation. WS was authorized to remove her and if possible collar another wolf in the pack, since it will only have one collared member left. Helicopter and pilot availability and weather delayed control efforts but the landowners were given shoot-on-sight permits after the second depredation. On the 11th Asher and Ross met with Defenders of Wildlife representative Linda Thurston to hang fladry around the 22 acre sheep pen where the Lone Bear pack had just killed 2 ewes and injured a third that was killed on the 12th by the producer. Thurston spent the night monitoring the pack and determined #283 was in the area. WS has been requested to remove #283 and two other uncollared wolves and if possible radio collar another member of the pack.. Asher brought extra equipment to finish the fladry on the 12th and looked for where the wolves were crossing. That night Thurston ran wolf #283 from the area. Asher, Ross and Thurston met with the producers and a fence builder to discuss fencing options. On the 15th WS tried to dart a member of the Lone bear pack but were unsuccessful. The Lone Bear pack by-passed the fladry and killed 3 additional ewes on the 16th. WS was requested to remove the entire pack. Two wolves were killed on the 17th but the remaining pack members got away in the dense forest. The remaining pack members [2 ad and 3 pups?] will be removed when they move out into the open and weather permits.

WS confirmed that the Mill Creek [Paradise Valley, MT] pack killed 3 ewes on the 13th. Traps were set to try and place another radio collar in the pack. On the 17th the traps were removed at the request of the producer because they wanted to turn their dogs loose again. A shoot on sight permit was issued to the producer until Asher and Ross can get back to the Mill Creek area and try to place a radio collar in the pack.

WS confirmed that the Battlefield pack west of Wisdom, Montana killed an adult cow. An archer accidently came across the freshly killed cow on the 11th and saw 4 wolves feeding on it. It took an extra day to determine who the producer was in the area. On the 17th WS located the pack and lethally removed 3 wolves. There were 15 wolves in the pack. There have been no additional depredations and control has ceased.

On the 21st WS investigated and confirmed that wolves killed a calf on Dome Mtn north of Gardiner, MT. Due to the number of archers in the area and inaccessibility the situation will be monitored to see what control can be conducted. The landowner had several paying archers hunting in the area and did not want agency control to disrupt them. WS was asked to place another collar in the group if possible and remove the alpha male [the only radioed animal] as soon as that happened. In the interim, WS was authorized to remove up to 2 uncollared wolves to reduce the packs food demands.

On the 24th, the 7 member Moccasin pack [S. Big Timber. MT] was seen feeding on a calf on a public grazing allotment. WS hiked in the next day and confirmed it as a wolf kill. WS was directed to removed one third of the pack [2 wolves] but leave the radioed pack members if possible.

On the 9th, WS confirmed 3 depredations in the Green River area since the removal of the Green River female and another male wolf with her this summer. After these last 3 depredations, a 2-yr-old female wolf (#332 from the Sheep Mnt Pack) was removed. This brings the total of 8 wolves removed this year from the Green River area.

On the 13th, WS confirmed a calf killed by wolves near Merna, WY, possibly by the remnants of the Daniel Pack. Wolves did not return to the area, by we will try to trap & collar wolves if the opportunity arises.

On the 16th, WS confirmed another calf was killed in Green River [WY] drainage in the same are as the previous depredations. After several telemetry flights, no other collared wolves were located. Control actions will continue to attempt to remove problem wolves.

On the 17th, another calf was killed by wolves in North Cottonwood Creek drainage near Merna, WY. This is in the old home range of the Daniel Pack. Given there are no collars left in this pack, the initial control will be to collar wolves. This depredation occurred on private land, but the owners did not want wolves trapped and released back on their property. We will wait until there is an opportunity to trap/collar these wolves somewhere else. No further control actions will be attempted at this time.

On the 17th, WS confirmed that wolves killed 2 ewes and 5 other ewes died when wolves ran them over a cliff near Afton, WY. There are no known wolf packs in this area, but we will monitor the situation and will attempt trapping & collaring if there are repeated problems.

On the 20th and 22nd, two calves were killed by wolves in the Green River basin. WS flew several times attempting to remove the wolf, but no wolves were located. Control actions will continue.

On the 22nd, USFWS confirmed a 9th calf killed by wolves in the Dunoir Valley near Dubois, WY. There is an ongoing trapping/collaring effort as well as a control action to remove more wolves. The producer also has active shoot-on-sight permit and had taken 2 wolves earlier this summer.

The Partridge pack reportedly killed 5 sheep and injured 4 others on the 13th, east of McCall, ID. Telemetry indicated the two adults were in close proximity to the sheep band. Control was authorized to remove at least one of the radioed adults or any other unradioed adults near the depredation site. Any pups inadvertently captured will be collared and released on-site.

A new pack of wolves with pups was found on public land in the Copper Basin in south-central Idaho. Ws discovered the pack after calf depredations were reported. One calf was confirmed killed and two other dead calves were probable kills on Sept 3. Other calf remains have been located and calves are reportedly missing. WS captured, collared and release adult male B-128 on the 4th. Other adults and pups were heard nearby. Over 1500 cattle are scattered in this area preventing effective non-lethal measures. Removal of 2 adult wolves has been authorized, and members of the livestock association were issued a permit to shoot wolves in the act of depredating on this grazing lease.

Research

Bangs, Smith, and Sime made presentations at the annual meeting of The Wildlife Society in Calgary, Canada, Sept. 19-22. Smith reported on radio collared wolf survival rates and causes of mortality- and the potential ecological effects of wolf restoration. Bangs, Sime, Dr. John Shivik [WS research], Liz Bradley, and Paradise Valley MT rancher Bruce Malcolm gave presentations at a symposium "Managing wolf depredation on livestock across North America".

Dr. Robert Wayne from UCLA visited Yellowstone last week. He discussing data gaps and

analyses for our genetic analysis of MT, ID, and WY wolves. Dr. Wayne and his colleagues are analyzing all blood samples from our wolves in a major collaborative research effort.

Information and education and law enforcement

The FWS Montana wolf project leader Joe Fontaine took a 2 month detail to a National Wildlife Refuge in PA. This is a chance for a great experience for Joe but he will be missed.

MT FWP volunteer Hartman gave a presentation to about 50 MT FWP employees at an in-house meeting the week of the 20th.

Bangs and Sime met with staffers for MT Congressman Denny Rehberg in Bozeman, MT on the 24th. They had been hearing many complaints about recent wolf depredations in MT. They wanted to more information and to discuss wolf control, the status of the new 10j regulations, and the increasing participation by MT FWP.

On the 24th in Denver, CO, MT FWP Director Jeff Hagener, Chief of Staff, Chris Smith, Todd O’Hair the natural resources policy advisor for the MT Governor, and MT legal counsel met with Service Director Steve Williams, his advisor, Clint Riley, Ralph Morgenweck, Region 6 Regional Director, Mary Henry ARD of ES, and our DOI solicitor to discuss Montana’s proposal/insistence to delist Montana separately from Wyoming. Since the wolf population has recovered and Montana has a great wolf management plan, Montana is very frustrated that delisting can not proceed just because of Wyoming’s position. The FWS understands Montana’s concern and the meeting was very informative for all involved. On the 23rd, MT Congressman Rehberg met with the Secretary of the Interior to discuss those same issues.

On the 14th, Jimenez gave a talk at Grand Teton Park research seminar for park staff, rangers, & employees, approx. 90 people attended.

Steve Nadeau conducted a television interview with local news on Friday regarding reporting wolf observations on our website. Steve and Michael Lucid took a Washington State University wildlife class of 30 students into Bear Valley over the weekend to locate wolves and discuss wolf ecology and management in Idaho.

There are currently five active cases regarding wolf issues. A lawsuit by Defenders of Wildlife et al. [Portland, OR] and another by National Wildlife Federation et al. [Vermont] l regarding the 2003 national wolf reclassification and establishment of the three wolf Disticnt Population Segments. Three other separate lawsuits involve the Service’s rejection of the Wyoming state wolf plan. They were brought by the state of Wyoming, a coalition of Wyoming grazing/guiding interests, and Park County, WY. Wyoming also is appealing the district court’s rejection of their case against a FWS WY biologist for criminal trespass and littering. This litigation consumes much of our time in reviewing legal documents, responding to FOIA requests, and preparing administrative records. This litigation will like take 5-10 years to resolve, given the high potential for appeal by all the various involved parties.

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