Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 10/08/04

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 9/27-10/08, 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 Nez Perce Tribe’s field season has been completed. We thank biologists Kent Laudon, Adam Gall, Isaac Babcock, and Anthony Novack for another outstanding year of data collection. Our sincerest appreciation to the volunteers that helped out; Anastacia Kampe, Mischa Connine, Janeen Hetzler, Jennefer Donovan, Tyler Hollow, Jonathan Derbridge, and Doug Noel.

Preliminary information from this field season seems to indicate that the wolf population in ID is still growing, although our population estimate for '04 has not been completed. To date, at least 50 known packs, potential pairs, and areas of suspected wolf activity have been investigated, resulting in the documentation of 35 breeding pairs (including 2 in the MT portion of the Central Idaho Experimental Population Area [CIEPA]), a minimum of 112-124 pups, and the discovery of 9 new packs (3 other areas of high likelihood of pack activity). The number of breeding pairs and the number of pups counted are all-time highs for the CIEPA. Nez Perce Tribal crews documented 23 breeding pairs, accounting for 73-81 of the pups recorded. The remainder of breeding pairs and pups were noted by IDFG and/or WS personnel. Six of the new packs were detected by the Nez Perce Tribe wolf team, 2 by IDFG, and 1 by WS.

Documented mortalities were also a record high for the CIEPA in 2004: 25 wolves were lethally controlled, 5 were illegally killed, 3 died as a result of other human causes, and 5 died from unknown causes.

More wolves were captured and radio-collared in Idaho in 2004 than in any previous year: Twenty-seven wolves were caught during the helicopter capture operation in January (25 new and 2 recaptured), and 36 were trapped (33 new and 3 recaptured) over the spring-fall field season. Nez Perce Tribal personnel trapped/darted 21, Wildlife Services 7, IDFG 5, and FWS 3. Not all of the wolves trapped were fitted with radio-collars- some were pups too small to collar at the time of their captures.

Frame finished up the field season and headed back to Alberta to finish up his M.S. thesis. On the 1st, Frame retrieved the collar of a recently trapped Spotted Bear pup (MT, #333M) that had been on mortality. The pup was found dead and the case is under investigation. That was the only collar in that pack, so we have lost contact with it.

Idaho wolf B140, an approximately 2-year-old member of the Moyer Basin pack, was found dead on the 6th. Her remains were collected by IDFG wolf recovery project personnel. Her body will be sent to the Forensics Lab in Ashland to determine the cause of her death.

Asher and Ross collared a pup in the Freezeout pack in SW MT but within a few days the chewed off collar was retrieved. On the 6th, they collared another pack member, and hopefully its collar will stay on. Trapping for monitoring on that pack ended for this year.

Control

Wolves from the now 12 member [3 wolves were killed last month] Big Hole pack in MT killed another calf Sept 29th. WS was authorized to remove up to 3 more pack members.

WS removed 2 members of the 7 member Mocassin pack on the 28th. The pack had killed a calf on a Forest Service allotment the week before.

WS tried to remove 2 members of the Sheep Mountain pack and all the Lone Bear pack several times but they were both in thick timber. Interestingly on the evening of the 6th, the Sheep Mountain alpha male was south of Dome Mountain just north of Gardiner, MT, and the next morning he was with the Lone Bear female and 2 other adults, nearly 40 air-miles to the north. On the 8th, they were still together in the Lone Bear territory and WS removed an uncollared wolf with them. Control is ongoing. We suspect that since they are both without mates because of multiple livestock depredations and subsequent agency control, they are probably ‘dating’. If so, the Sheep Mountain male is unlikely to return to the Sheep Mountain territory. Leaving that pack without any radioed members. He was already slated for removal because of depredations.

Rick Williamson, WS Wolf Specialist, captured a pup in Copper Basin on 9/30/04. Two wolves are now radio-collared in the area, and should be beneficial in helping to monitor this pack in an area of intensive livestock production.

Twenty weaned calves [around 150 lbs] were reportedly smothered in a corral in the Madison Valley last week. The following night the cattle broke through a fence. WS investigated and found no sign that any type of predator was directly involved. The producer had immediately buried the calves so they could not be examined for possible wounds [apparently none were evidence when they were discovered in the morning]. Another landowner in the valley reported seeing a group of wolves over a week before and local speculation is that wolves were somehow involved. However, it turns out a couple of black bears had been hanging around and actually tore a door off a shed. At this point in time no wolf pack is known to be in that area and no evidence of wolves was discovered by the WS investigation- so it is unknown what may have spooked the calves.

WS investigated a report of a dead cow near Eureka, MT. It was nearly 3 weeks old but WS was surprised when they examined it. It had evidence of bite marks and they suspect wolves were involved. However, cattle were moved from this allotment and no control action is warranted.

On the 6th, WS confirmed 1 calf was killed by wolves in the Upper Green River drainage on USFS allotment and 1 calf was killed in the Wyoming range near Daniel, Wyoming. We are attempting to remove the offending wolves.

So far during the 2004 season, approximately 40 cattle, 5 sheep, and 1 dog have been killed by wolves in Wyoming. Five more cattle and 5 additional sheep were recorded as probable wolf kills. Three horses were attacked by wolves but none were killed. In response to these confirmed depredations 19 wolves were killed in agency control actions, including 2 killed by private landowners operating on their private land under Service shoot-on-sight permits. Three other wolf mortalities are under LE investigation.

Research

Nothing new to report.

Information and education and law enforcement

WY seasonal biologist, Jon Trapp was hired by the state of Montana to their state wolf management field person in Red Lodge, MT. Jon left the Service’s WY wolf field position on Oct 1. Idaho tribal seasonal biologist Kent Laudon accepted the MT FWP position in Kalispell. The state will fill one other position in Dillon and possibly another Helena in the near future.

Doug Smith rode into 4 outfitter camps just north of Yellowstone National Park to discuss wolves and elk research in the Park on the 4th. The back-country outfitters were concerned about the effect of wolf predation on elk and its potential effect on their businesses.

On the 1st, Bangs gave a presentation to the Western Literature Assoc. annual meeting in Big Sky, MT. About 20 people attended.

WY state field supervisor, Brian Kelly attended a meeting the MT Public Lands Council in Glasgow on the 1st. The group reacted favorably to the proposed wolf 10j regulations that would increase state management authority.

Carolyn Sime MT FWP and Bangs were interviewed for an article in Governing Magazine with publication anticipated in November.

Sime, Asher, Ross met with landowners in the Columbus MT area on the 8th.

On the 8th,. Bangs was on NRA radio discussing how hunters provide lots of food for large predators and scavengers, including wolves, during the big game rifle hunting season. There are hundreds of tons [reported hunter harvest about 14,000 ungulates annually] of ‘left-overs’ provided by hunters to predators in the Greater Yellowstone area alone and as a consequence, wolves in Montana almost stop hunting for themselves during and just after the 5-week long big-game rifle hunting season.

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