Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 10/29/04

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 10/16-10/29, 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.

B5-M, from the Selway pack in Idaho, was on mortality during the Oct. 14 monitoring flight. His carcass was recovered by USFWS LE on the 19th; and an LE investigation is underway. B5 was one of the original wolves translocated from Canada in 1995. He may have been 12.5 years old at the time of his death. He was the last original wolf from the '95' and '96' releases that was still being monitored, although B7-M and B11-F, the founding alphas of the Big Hole pack, were seen this year (their radio-collars expired in early 2003). Other wolves from Canada still be present: A radio-collared white wolf was reported by U of I researchers this spring in Cold Meadows, which likely would be either B9-M or B16-F of the Chamberlain Basin pack; B18-M and B35-F, formerly alphas of the Twin Peaks pack, were relocated to Shearer airstrip in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness in March 2000, but then turned up near Mt. Haggin (Anaconda, MT) though their radio signals have not been detected since October 2000; B28-M was last known to be with the Orphan pack, but has not been detected since Jan. 2002 and is probably not with that pack any longer; B33-M of the Landmark pack; and B36-F, White Cloud alpha female, were relocated to Elk Summit off the Lochsa River in April 2000, and were later observed with 2 pups near Gibbonsville, ID. She then moved into the Big Hole valley where her radio signal was last heard in Feb. 2001.

B139-F, possibly the new alpha of the Gospel Hump pack, was retrieved by USFWS LE on the 19th. Her death is under investigation. She had not been located on the past few monitoring flights, and her radio-collar was not functioning when LE took possession of her carcass.

B179-M, a yearling from the Scott Mountain pack, was retrieved by IDFG personnel in Whitehawk Basin. His mortality is also under LE investigation.

Control

On the 19th, a MT rancher near the Canadian border about 7 miles N. of Babb watched a group of 5 wolves [mixed colors] attack a 500 lb. calf on private property. The wolves were driven off but the calf had to be euthanized and was butchered. WS was asked to see if they could get a collar in the group but trapping was futile as there were no cattle remains, the pack was driven off before feeding, and it snowed several inches. We are monitoring the area and see if a radio can be put in the group when and if the opportunity arises but no other control is planned at this time.

On the 21st, a yearling heifer was killed on private property by the Greybull River Pack in WY. This is the 4th calf killed by the Greybull River Pack this summer/fall. Big game hunting season is ongoing and many hunters scattered through out the area, so WS may not be able to attempt any control at this time. We are monitoring the situation and will see if there are any further problems.

On the 21st, WS investigated a dead calf in the Meeteetse, WY area, but determined that the calf was not killed by wolves.

On the 22nd, one calf was confirmed killed by wolves in the Absaroka Pack west of Cody,WY near Hart Mountain. This depredation occurred on private property. For the last several years, there has been a dispute about a road accessing the property. At the present, no one is allowed on the road, so we will wait to see if the owner would like us to further investigate and perhaps attempt some form of control.

Research

The National Park Service issued its annual accomplishment report for the "Multi-trophic level ecology of wolves, elk, and vegetation in Yellowstone National Park" this week. Yellowstone, US Geological Survey, and Univ. of Minnesota continued a 3-year PhD. graduate student study of elk calf mortality in Yellowstone’s Northern Range elk herd. During May/June 2004, 44 calves less than 6 days old were radio-tagged and monitored daily. To date 31 calves died, [29 to predation, 2 to other causes]. Preliminary causes of death were 18 by bears [grizzly and black], 3 by wolves, 4 by coyotes, 1 by a golden eagle, 1 by either bears or wolves, 2 by unknown predators, and 2 by non-depredation causes. The first year of the study in 2003 had very similar results.

Information and education and law enforcement

Bangs talked to 20 students at a Wildlife Management Issues class at UM in Missoula on the 19th. On the 28 he gave a talk to 20 law students at Stanford in CA.

On the 25th, Bangs, Niemeyer and the Service’s Regional Directors from both R-6 [Denver] and R-1 [Portland] and Service & legal staff met with Tribal, legal, and biological representatives from the Nez Perce Tribe in Boise, ID. The Tribe requested Government to Government negotiations regarding the future of wolf management in Idaho where the Tribe has ceded land and treaty rights, and to inquire about the status of the proposed 10j experimental rule. The meeting was very cordial and informative. The Tribe recently sent a draft of its plan to manage wolves in its ceded lands in central Idaho to the Service’s Director. The Tribe has done an outstanding job to help manage wolves in Idaho under its cooperative agreement with the Service for the past 9 years.

Curt Mack (NPT) and Steve Nadeau (IDFG) participated in the University of Idaho's School of Law (Environmental Law Society) panel discussion on the future of wolf management in Idaho on the 20th.

Jim Holyan (NPT) led a field trip for the Mammalogy class of New Meadows High School on the 20th, where he showed them a wolf den and discussed wolf biology and ecology with the students.

On the 26th, Bangs, Asher, Sime, Jon Trapp [new MTFWP biologist in Red Lodge], other MT FWP staff and WS attended a meeting hosted by MT Congressman Denny Rehberg in Columbus, MT. The panel also included Todd O’Hare natural resource policy adviser to MT Governor Martz and MT Carbon County Commissioner, John Prinkki The meeting was attended by about 80 local ranchers, local public, and elected officials and was very informative and well run.

Since October 2003 until the present time, LE Special Agents in Montana and Wyoming have investigated the deaths of 13 wolves. Two were killed incidental to lawful predator management programs and were not ruled as illegal kills. One was caught in a neck snare set for coyotes and the other pulled an M-44 device set for coyotes. Two other wolves were hit by vehicles, another was a natural mortality, and the cause of death for two other’s are still being investigated. Six deaths were believed to represent unlawful takings and are under active LE investigation. There is one active prosecution, involving 2 subjects who killed a wolf in 2002, but the wolf’s carcass not discovered until 2003. Charges have been filed in the District of Wyoming.

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