Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 11/05/04

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 10/29-11/05, 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.

Kent Laudon and Carolyn Sime [MT FWP] conducted 2 monitoring flights on 10/28 and 11/1 for packs in NW MT. Hog Heaven, Fish Trap, Wolf Prairie, Murphy Lake, Candy Mountain, Lazy Creek, Whitefish, Kintla, and Ninemile packs were located and found within their normal home ranges. Fish Creek, Kootenai, and Wigwam were not located. Red Shale and Great Bear were not searched for due to weather.

On Oct 29th, a coyote trapper in the Ninemile Valley in MT, incidentally caught a 60lb. black male pup in a #3 coyote trap. The trapper called WS and they collared and released the wolf on site. It was in good shape. The trapper and his wife assisted WS to collar and release it safely. We mailed the trapper our latest annual report and a note personally thanking him. Both the experimental population rules and 4(d) threatened rules accommodate the take of wolves during otherwise legal activities- if the take was truly accidental and reasonable precautions were taken to avoid taking wolves. We have now had over one half dozen wolves that were successfully radio-collared and released unharmed after being incidentally captured by coyote trappers, who quickly reported the captures. Radioing this pup allowed us to re-establish radio contact with the Ninemile pack. A big thanks to the trapper and WS.

On Monday the 1st, Ross and Asher set traps for Mill creek to collar and release on sight to improve monitoring. This pack has been involved in livestock depredations this year but all control have been completed unless other depredations are confirmed.

On the 4th a monitoring flight out of McCall, ID detected two more wolf frequencies (B127-M and B211-M) on mortality mode. B127-M is believed to be a lone animal, whereas B211-M is the alpha male of the Partridge Ck. pack. These are the 4th and 5th radio-collared wolves to go into mortality mode since the rifle hunting seasons began in ID; in addition an uncollared wolf was found dead recently. USFWS, in conjunction with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game when applicable, is investigating all of these mortality signals.

With the recent snowfall several visuals were obtained during the aerial monitoring of Idaho wolf packs. Fifteen gray wolves were seen in the Florence pack (ground work had indicated 11-14); 6-7 black wolves with the O'Hara Point pack (6-7 based on ground work), and 10 grays for Magruder (field investigations had indicated 8-9). These limited observations suggest that the observations obtained during the spring/summer field season appear reasonably accurate. Jason Husseman [IDFG] conducted flights in the Salmon region and observed the following: Jureano-found just above Salmon, got visual of min. of 6, and more likely 7-8 wolves. Moyer-didn't see wolves, but they were on a kill (looked like an elk). Morgan Creek-1 gray and 5 black wolves were seen but there might have been more as they were bedded in a patch of trees) Buffalo Ridge-saw 7 gray wolves bedded on ridgeline, Copper Basin--no visuals.

Wildlife Services, IDFG officers Olsen and Garwood, along with Michael Lucid visited a couple near Hailey that complained of a wolf repeatedly visiting their back yard. A wolf track was observed along with what appeared to be a wolf killed coyote a short distance away, and traps were set. However no wolf was captured. Due to the cold temperatures, traps were removed. Snares may be set in the area if the wolf reappears.

Fish and Game officers in the Salmon region located and photographed wolves from what appears to be a new pack along the Montana border. Wolf activity and reports are also becoming quite common in the southeast part of the state, though no new packs have yet been verified.

Control

On the 30th a sheep producer near Dillon, MT reported that a lone [black?] wolf had been seen harassing a flock of buck sheep near on his private land. The herder ran it off. We notified the rancher that his herder did the right thing and to keep harassing it if possible. Under the current experimental 10j regulations the wolf could only be shot if it was actually seen biting or wounding his sheep on his private land. We authorized WS to take a wolf, if they confirmed wolf-caused depredations. On the evening of the 31st the rancher called again and said WS had just confirmed that 5 buck sheep had been killed by a wolf. The rancher, who had sheep killed by wolves earlier this summer, and his neighbor were issued shoot-on-sight permits for one wolf. WS is attempting to remove that wolf.

On the 3rd, a ranch manager reported that 2 goats were killed on private property just SW of Livingston. MT. The ranch owner and manager did not want anything to be done via wolf control and weren’t too interested in compensation, but thought it worth reporting. The goats were within a well-constructed sturdy fence [5' woven wire with hot wire on top] but the wolves jumped it. The current 10j rules define livestock as only cattle, horses, mules or horses so no control is warranted because of this depredation. The two radioed members of the Lone Bear pack- which has already been involved in multiple depredations and who WS is trying to remove- were located right above the ranch. Asker, Ross [MTFWP], and Rost [WS] confirmed the depredation, met with the manager and advised him on ways he might further improve the fencing to reduce the chances of future problems.

On the 30/31st, members of the Owl Creek [south of Meeteeste] pack killed 2 adult cows on private land in WY. The pack consists of 2 adults [1 radioed] and 5 pups. WS was requested to remove 2 wolves but leave the radio. This pack killed cattle in the same area this summer and an adult pack member was removed.

On the 2nd, wolves from the 8 member unradioed Daniel pack killed a calf on private land in WY. The calf was killed in the same area where the pack had killed cattle earlier this summer and 3 wolves were removed. WS was authorized to remove two more pack members.

WS flew most of the week to remove the Phantom and Lone Bear packs but neither group was in an accessible area. Both packs have been involved in repeated livestock depredations in 2004 and are slated for removal.

Research

Yellowstone National Park is preparing to start its annual 30-day early-winter "Wolf predation rate" study that runs from Nov 15 to Dec 15.

Information and education and law enforcement

Please be careful out there! A man who shot his hunting guide in the Paradise Valley, MT this week, having mistaken two men and horses for wolves that were ‘attacking’ him, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and agreed to pay all the badly wounded guide's medical expenses. "I looked through the scope and it looked like a pack of wolves," the deeply remorseful man said in court, according to the Livingston Enterprise. Earlier in the hunt, people had been talking about wolves. The man was scared and fired at what he thought was wolves running toward him in the dark. His guide suffered a severe injury that likely will mean repeated surgeries and possibly a new elbow.

On the 3rd, Ross and Asher attended a range rider meeting with Predator Conservation Alliance [PCA], Madison Valley ranchlands group and MTFWP to discuss evaluation and summary of this summer’s efforts.

MT FWP welcomes Liz Bradley, Jon Trapp, and Kent Laudon to the state wolf program. Jon and Kent have already started their new jobs and Liz starts next week. Their contact information is: Liz Bradley -Dillon area, work= 683-2287, cell = 865-0017; liz_bradley@montana.net; Kent Laudon - Kalispell area, work = 751-4586, cell = 250-5047; klaudon@state.mt.us; Jon Trapp - Red Lodge area, work= 446-0106, cell= 425-1132, jtrapp@cablemt.net. They will be doing wolf monitoring, working directly w/ landowners affected by wolves, and public outreach as part of the interim Cooperative Agreements signed by MT FWP and FWS. Contact them or Carolyn Sime directly with wolf sightings in Montana.

Sime updated the MT FWP Commission on Nov. 4 with state program accomplishments. Sime also gave two presentations to students in Helena area high school biology classes on Nov. 5.

Steve Nadeau took a couple radio producers from the NPR series "Off the Trail" into Bear Valley to do a story on wolves. Steve also gave a presentation on wolf management to 60 sportsmen and women at the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council in Spokane on the 2nd.

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