Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 12/03/04

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 11/19-12/03, 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.

A monitoring flight was conducted by MT FWP in NW MT on the 30th. Hog Heaven, Fish Trap, Wolf Prairie, and Lazy Creek Packs were located within their normal home ranges. Murphy Lake signals were heard, but not located due to low clouds. Monitoring was limited due to weather and further postponed due to scheduling. Attempts to aerially monitor wolves in this area will resume next week.

Jason Husseman [IDFG] collared wolf--B228- incidentally caught by a coyote trapper near Challis who reported it to IDFG. It appears to be a member of the Morgan Ck. pack. Jason and Gary Gadwa have also followed up on reports of wolves near a residence near Peach Ck around Stanley. The wolves appear to be the Buffalo Ridge pack.

Control

On the 20th, a ewe was killed and extensively fed on by a wolf on private land in the Tom Miner Basin in MT. The ewe was one of 14 night-bedded by a barn. Reportedly, the landowner’s son saw tracks of a lone wolf just prior to the depredation, but also a small group of 4-5 wolves, possibly a split off from the Swan Lake or Chief Joe packs had been reported nearby. Asher checked the area for radios and found none. No control is warranted at this time.

On the 22nd WS confirmed a ewe was killed on a BLM allotment near La Barge, WY. Two wolves were reported observed in that area. A lone wolf was reported in the area 2 weeks ago when 2 ewes were determined to be probable wolf kills. At that time WS was authorized to remove one wolf. WS is now authorized to take 1-2 wolves in that area.

On the 1st, two calves were killed near Roscoe, MT and the Phantom pack is suspected. The pack has 3 members, 2 pups [one radioed] and the adult male. Apparently during a control action in November a wolf was shot and went down but its carcass could not be found. Since only 3 of 5 have been seen, the control action that removed the alpha female also apparently removed a sub-adult. Efforts are ongoing to removed the rest of the pack.

Research

Yellowstone National Park’s early winter wolf predation rate study is continuing. So far overall kill rates are low, probably due to the abundant forage this summer which put elk in very good condition and low snowfall. More bulls and fewer calves than normal are being killed. Also it appears that there is a lot of wolf social interaction going on in the northern range. Nez Perce pack moved into the northen range for about 10 days and they and other packs were involved in several confrontations. It also appears some northern range packs are fragmented, splitting, and trespassing- a sign of increased social conflict. Wolf populations tend to control their own numbers and density in relation to prey availability and vulnerability by these types of social interactions. We speculate that these types of pack conflicts will result in reduced wolf density on the northen range.

On Nov. 29, Steve Nadeau and other IDFG staff met with Jim and Holly Akenson, with the DeVlieg Foundation, and Dept. Ag. researcher Pat Clark to review research potential on wolves and ungulates at the Taylor Ranch facility on the Middle Fork Salmon, including options using newly developed GPS radio collar technology. Steve, Jason Husseman, and Michael Lucid have been analyzing the year's field work and observation data for the annual report.

Information and education and law enforcement

Reportedly a 14-year-old boy in NW MT shot a wolf while he was hunting big game around the 20th. Reportedly, it was getting dark, the boy was separated from his brother, nervous, and was firing his gun to located his brother- when he thought he heard a wolf howl. He thought it was following him and then he shot at a wolf that was ‘running’ toward him. He thinks he hit it but wasn’t sure as he immediately left the area. His father reported the incident after the boy told him about it. FWS LE and MT FWP are investigating. Please just a reminder!! While wolves [mainly those habituated to people by feeding] have attacked people in North America a dozen or so times in the past 400 years, no one has ever been killed by wild wolves in North America. The ESA and in particular the special regulations for wolves in the NW US allow a person to legally kill any wolf that is directly threatening human life. So while it is fun and almost a tradition to tell tales of terror in hunting camp, please don’t frighten people into being irrational, it can lead to tragic results. Deer and horses have wounded and killed hundreds of times more people than wolves. Just last month a SW MT hunter from MS [after hearing ‘wolf’ stories around the campfire] shot his guide out of the saddle because he thought "a pack of wolves was running toward him". Enjoy your hunt and be safe. As always we encourage hunters to report any wolf observations to us so we can better keep track of the wolf population status.

Sime and Jon Trapp [MT FWP] attended the Montana Woolgrowers annual convention in Billings, MT on the 3-4th. They were giving a presentation on Montana’s increase role in wolf management.

Bangs had dinner with faculty from Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA on the 1st. He gave a talk that evening that was attended by over 120 students and local residents.

On Nov. 30, Jimenez talked to about 90 Forest Service personnel at Dubois, WY for the USFS’s Annual meeting for the Shoshone National Forest. On the 2nd he gave a talk at the Annual Wyoming Wildlife Society Meeting in Dubois, WY. On the 3rd, he talked at a Jackson Hole Wildlife Symposium. It was a sell-out crowd of 185 people. The symposium is a day-long event featuring wildlife management and research in the Jackson, WY area.

On November 12 Niemeyer spoke to the Idaho Woolgrower's at their annual convention in Sun Valley, ID. Niemeyer provided updates on the Idaho wolf population, agency challenges and future management goals to be shared by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the state of Idaho and the Nez Perce Tribe. The Woolgrowers were very cordial hosts. On December 3, he provided a wolf management update to stockmen and Wildlife Services personnel at a predator board meeting in Boise, ID.

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