Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 2/11/05

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 2/6 to 2/11, 2005

Monitoring

NEW WEB ADDRESS- The 2004 annual wolf report [covering all 2003] can be viewed 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. We are preparing the latest annual report that will cover all 2004 and it should completed and distributed by March 1, 2005.

On the 9th a coyote trapper north of Helena, MT accidentally caught a wolf that escaped with the trap on its foot.  We thank him for quickly reporting the incident.  The wolf is probably a member of the Halfway pack. MTFWP located the pack with telemetry on the 11th, but the only radioed pack member was 5 miles away and in timber and could not be seen.  We will continue to locate the pack to see if the trapped wolf might be one of them and if possible remove the trap- if it hasn’t already come off on its own. We recommend that anyone who is trapping coyotes in wolf range be sure to: Not make coyote sets around known wolf-killed ungulates or in areas of recent high wolf track activity; Use equipment that is unlikely to hold a wolf such as standard #3 soft-catch, leghold traps smaller than #3, or breakaway neck-snares; Anchor neck snares to solid objects to increase the likelihood that the breakaway mechanism works properly; Use stout trap-drags with a little extra chain- even with staked traps- so a wolf will be less likely to pull the stakes loose and then escape with the trap; and Be sure trap stakes are long enough, or use crossed double stakes, particularly if using shorter chains on traps.

On the 11th, Jimenez responded to a call from a coyote trapper near Dubois, WY who reported he accidently captured a wolf in a #2 coyote trap. Jimenez examined the black yearling female [probably from the Washakie pack] and radio-collared and safely released her that morning. She had only been caught by a toe and was in great shape. We thank the trapper for quickly reporting the incident.

IDFG and NPT completed some flights on February 10 found the following: Y239 + mate: Observed two black wolves bedded on ridge West of Middle Fork Salmon River near Flying B ranch. Jureano Mountain: 4-5 wolves observed in bottom of Trail Creek (trib of panther) walking up through burnt area. Moyer Basin: 9 gray wolves walking rim of upper Moyer Basin (this is highest count thus far…most likely the whole pack). Morgan Creek: Observed 4-5 black wolves on ridge above Camas Creek; appeared they had been working a herd of approx. 80 elk based on behavior of the elk (very tightly bunched at the end of the ridge; saw wolves after looking in direction the elk were staring. The wolves had apparently given up as they were trotting up the ridge in opposite direction). Galena: Observed 7 gray wolves bedded on a open hillside East of Redfish Lake on East side of HWY 75 (highest count to date). Buffalo Ridge: Saw 4-5 gray wolves bedded under a tree in the Sullivan Creek drainage. B196: Picked up signal of Morgan Creek disperser in exact location as where Buffalo Ridge wolves were located (possibly attempting to join with B-ridge pack?). B228: Possible disperser from Morgan Creek pack—was observed by himself on a ridge North of Morgan Creek (still-noticeable limp in back leg that was missing toes; I picked up signals of this wolf by himself previous week as well). Copper Basin: Picked up both signals of this pack in a small gulch/canyon west of HWY 93 and Northwest of Mackay Reservoir. Five Lakes Butte was found on north side of N. Fk Clearwater and Larson ck. Eagle Mt. pack was located south of Lone Knob. Kelly ck pack was located south of Bighorn Point. Big Hole was between Savage Ridge and Colt Killed ck. Hemlock Ridge was in the Crane Ck and Lolo ck area. Chesimia was west of Elk Ck Falls. Marble Mt was near Fish Hook Point. Coolwater Pack was near Glover Saddle. Wolves from the Buffalo Ridge pack have been killing elk near the town of Clayton, Idaho causing some local residents concern.

Control

On the 7th, Idaho WS reported that a rancher near Mckay, ID had a dead calf that appeared to be a wolf kill and wolf tracks on some fresh snow around the calf carcass. WS confirmed the kill that day and that two wolves may be involved. WS was authorized to remove them both as the area is intensively used for livestock production. The wolves appeared to be staying near the calving pasture in some cottonwood stands. Trapping and call shooting was implemented that morning. Another calf was confirmed killed by wolves on the 8th on nearby ranch. Thousands of cattle will soon be calving in the area precluding any non-lethal methods to protect livestock. WS howled one wolf out of a cattle herd on Feb 9 and shot it. The wolf consumed another calf that morning. A second wolf was briefly held in a foot-hold trap on Feb 10 but escaped. The wolf that was shot was a dispersing gray, male wolf (B-193) from the Buffalo Ridge pack near Clayton, Idaho. The radio-collar was non-functional. B-193 was still with its pack on January 11, 2005 and the collar had been working at that time.

On the 9th, WS killed the 2 remaining members of the Lone Bear pack. Alpha male #334 [formerly a Sheep Mtn wolf] and a adult female that had pups last year were shot from a helicopter. The male had mange on his belly but not severe. The female looked fine. The control action on Lone Bear has been completed. Control of the Phantom pack near Roscoe, MT is the only control action currently active in Montana.

Research

Nothing new to report.

Information and education and law enforcement

NEW 10J EXPERIMENTAL POPULATION RULE EFFECTIVE FEBRUARY 7- A new 10j rule became effective Feb 7, 2005. It will immediately allow increased mgt. flexibility in the experimental population areas of states with Service-approved wolf management plans {Montana and Idaho]. The rule will also allow the States and Tribes to lead nearly all wolf mgt. activities if they wish to develop cooperative agreements and Memorandum of Understandings with the Service or DOI. The rule is at http://westerngraywolf.fws.gov/ or at the Federal Register.

On January 31, 2005, the U.S. District Court in Portland, OR [Civil No. 03-1348-JO] issued a decision that the Service understands to reverse the Service’s April 2003 reclassification of the gray wolf to threatened status. Under the agency’s reading of the Court’s order, wolves outside the experimental population areas are now considered endangered. The Service also understands the Court’s order eliminated the special 4(d) rule that allowed landowners outside the experimental areas to legally kill or harass wolves that were seen physically biting or wounding their livestock or dogs on their private property. As a result of the Court’s order, the agency believes that at this time all wolf management outside the experimental areas can only be conducted by the Service and not by private individuals. The Service strongly advises private citizens not to harm or kill wolves outside of the experimental areas. Any wolf control within the experimental population area must comply with the 10j experimental population rules. The Service is consulting with Dept. of Justice attorneys to determine the effects of the Court’s order and to assess its legal options. The OR court order can be viewed at http://westerngraywolf.fws.gov/ .

The International Wolf Center in Ely, MN is pleased to announce their fourth international wolf conference - Frontiers of Wolf Recovery: Southwestern U.S. and the World. The conference will be held October 1-4, 2005 in beautiful Colorado Springs, CO in the shadow of Pike's Peak and Garden of the Gods. Proposals for papers are due March 15, 2005. Contact http://www.wolf.org/wolves/wolfconference/presentationcall.asp  or info@wolf.org for more information.

On the 7th, Smith talked to 40 people from National geographic today Mammoth, WY in Yellowstone NP.

The MFWP Director, Chief of Staff and Sime briefed the Montana Governor on Feb. 4. They presented a "state of the state" summary of the history, status of the tri-state and Montana populations, recent developments, and potential future direction. On Feb. 7, MFWP Sime, Area Wildlife Manager Kurt Alt, and Ross gave a presentation to the Park County Commissioners. Approximately 50 people attended. On Feb. 9, Sime, Ross and Asher had a meeting with FWP staff in the Helena, MT area to bring them up to speed. Approximately 20 people attended.

On February 7 representatives of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Wildlife Services, the Nez Perce Tribe and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service met at the Snake River Fish and Wildlife Office in Boise to discuss and evaluate the 2004 wolf population estimate figures for the Central Idaho Experimental Population Area.

NPT biologist Babcock spoke with a resident of Round Valley, near Smith's Ferry, ID, concerning harassment of dogs by wolves at a semi-isolated home. Coordination with FWS and WS was undertaken.

Niemeyer and Jeff Foss of the Snake River Fish and Wildlife Office in Boise were guests of the Nez Perce Tribe at an evening Legislative Reception held in Boise on the evening of February 7.

Niemeyer and Susan Stone of Defenders of Wildlife attended an ID Office of Species Conservation county commissioner wolf compensation meeting in Boise the evening of February 7. The commissioners met to evaluate and award compensation for missing and unconfirmed wolf depredation losses.

Niemeyer gave Less-than-Lethal Munitions training to a private landowner from Round Valley near Cascade, Idaho, on February 11. The landowner experienced six wolves in a pasture, three of which were approaching her dogs earlier this week. She fired rifle shots near the wolves, but the wolves paid little attention as they walked into nearby timber. The landowner was reminded of the new 10(j) Rule implications but requested non-lethal munitions as the first choice. She reported that a horse was frightened by the wolves over a year ago, fell and broke a shoulder and was euthanized by a veterinarian. There have been occasional wolf sightings on her private land and adjacent properties during the last three years.

Niemeyer provided helicopter capture protocol for wolves to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game in the event that helicopter crews capturing deer and elk locate wolf packs without radio-collars this winter.

On February 8 a meeting between Soulen Livestock Company, Defenders of Wildlife, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Office of Species Conservation, Wildlife Services and the Service was held at the Snake River Fish and Wildlife Office in Boise to discuss livestock depredations losses in 2004 by wolves and methods that the state of Idaho, the federal wolf management agencies, Defenders, and local ranchers can work together to manage wolf depredations in the most efficient manner. Lethal and non-lethal techniques were reviewed and protocols discussed to assure the best communications possible during the next grazing season.

The new IDFG wolf webpage has the latest information regarding the new 10(j) rule with regard to hunting with dogs, livestock operations, and other pertinent changes. The webpage is found at: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov./wildlife/wolves/ .

The Service's weekly wolf report can be viewed 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