Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 4/8/05

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 4/4 to 4/8, 2005

Monitoring

NEW WEB ADDRESS- The 2005 annual interagency wolf report [covering all 2004] can be viewed at http://westerngraywolf.fws.gov/ . It has maps of wolf pack locations and home ranges, tables of wolf numbers and depredations, discussions of litigation and funding issues, summaries of scientific studies, and an extensive bibliography and additional informational websites. We will not be mailing hard copies of the report out as we have done in past years, unless we have specific requests.

The Slough Creek pack appears to have denned in Yellowstone National Park in Slough Creek, this week [6th or 7th]. This is the first known den this spring.

Jason Husseman [IDFG] began trapped in the Hughes Creek area of Idaho that had reports of recent wolf activity. During the morning trap check, a wolf was howling in the vicinity. IDFG personnel will continue efforts to collar this pack.

Control

On the 6th, WS confirmed that wolves had killed a calf on private property south of Avon, MT. The landowner also believes he lost a dog to wolves last week but this was never reported or investigated. MTFWP directed WS to trap to radio-collar and release a wolf on site, to see if there could be a new pack in the area of the old Great Divide pack.

On the 6th, a lone uncollared 82lb female wolf was trapped and killed where the calves had been attacked last week on the Blackfeet reservation in NW Montana. It had severe mange. At least 6 calves were bitten and 2 have died so far. Now all the damage is confirmed as wolf-caused. It appears that the calves were attacked on at least two occasions, probably 3 on 3/28 and 3 on 4/3. This was resolved quickly and proved that a lone wolf was responsible. Our thanks to the Blackfeet Tribe and WS for excellent coordination and follow-up.

A MT rancher S. of Sula called WS on the 6th to report he had a single gray wolf harassing his cattle that morning in his pasture. He shot at it first to try to scare it off and then a second time to kill it, but missed. On Dec. 15th he reported seeing 2 grays in his pasture and MTFWP had discussed the old 10j rule etc., with him at that time. Bradley [MTFWP] discussed the new 10j rule with him.

The nearly year-old wolf that was legally shot by a landowner as it attacked his mules, near Gardiner, MT last week was probably from the Leopold pack. The Leopold pack is currently the largest pack in the Park [was 25] and occasionally left the Park this winter. Radio locations had the pack a few miles away a few days earlier. The female sub-adult apparently stayed in the area after the pack left and was harassing mules when shot.

Brief informational discussion about wolf control and pack removals- On 3/28/05, the USFWS killed the remaining 5 wolves from the Daniel Pack after 3 confirmed cattle depredations occurred in one week on private property. Over the last 3 years, the Daniel Pack has been involved in 21 confirmed depredations and 20 additional probable depredations in an area full of cattle and sheep grazing on private property and public allotments.

Are there any wolves left in the Daniel Pack? As far as we know the pack no longer exists but some wolves may still be in the area. Estimating the exact size of any wolf pack can be difficult and depends on the pack’s sight-ability, time of year, and how often it is monitored. It’s normal for the number of wolves in any pack to fluctuate throughout the year. In addition to seasonal fluctuations, over 10% of a wolf population is usually made up of single "satellite" wolves that hang around established packs or have dispersed to find new packs/mates but aren’t directly associated with a pack. In 2003, the Daniel Pack consisted of 18-19 wolves. Over the next 2 years, 17 Daniel Pack wolves died. Two adult wolves and one pup died in capture-related control efforts; 1 adult wolf and 3 sub-adult wolves were found dead [under LE investigation]; 5 wolves were killed in 2 separate control actions in 2004; and 5 wolves were killed in a control action in 2005.

Throughout winter 2005, local residents reported seeing 6-7 wolves in the area, however no other wolves were seen during the control action on 3/28/05. Neither of the two female wolves killed in that control action were pregnant. Could there be a single remaining Daniel Pack female denned in the area? Possibly, but March 28th is too early for wolves to den. A possible scenario is that last year’s control action, that removed 5 wolves, disrupted the pack’s social structure sufficiently that the breeding female was lost and no new alpha female took her place in time to breed.

In saying the Daniel Pack was eliminated by control does not mean there are not other wolves in the Daniel or Big Piney areas- there probably are some individuals or soon will be. The USFWS will continue to monitor the area for other wolves. We appreciate and depend on wolf reports from the public and our agency cooperators to detect new wolves- please help. Thanks.

Research

Reprints of- Bangs, E., J. Fontaine, T. Meier, C. Niememyer, M. Jimenez, D. Smith, C. Mack, V. Asher, L. Handegard, M. Collinge, R. Krischke, C. Sime, S. Nadeau, D. Moody. 2004. Restoration and conflict management of the gray wolf in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. Trans. N. American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference Vol 69:89-105, are now available.

Information and education and law enforcement

The Idaho Wolf Recovery Program's 2004 Progress Report, prepared by the Nez Perce Tribe in cooperation with IDFG, USFWS, and USDA Wildlife Services, is now available on the Tribal website (www.nezperce.org).

Michael Lucid [IDFG] gave a presentation on wolves in Idaho to Homedale High School biology classes this past week.

The Idaho Senate rejected House Memorial 5 on wolf management that they feared could have been used against the state in court, saying it was more important to gain control over Idaho's wolves than to make statements about them. The memorial stated "wolves are predatory animals and should be managed as such".

The latest issue of Yellowstone Science focuses on the Park’s wolf program and celebrates the 10th year anniversary of the first wolves being released in the Park. It will be posted at: http://www.nps.gov/yell/publications/yellsciweb/issues.htm

Bradley (FWP) gave a talk on wolf management to approximately 30 people at an afternoon science seminar at the University of Montana Western in Dillon on the 4th, and about 50 students in a wildlife class at the University of Montana, Missoula on the 7th and on the 8th gave a wolf program to a group of 30 seventh and eighth graders in Potomac.

Bradley (FWP) met with Forest Service permittees in Wise River on the 6th and discussed the new 10j regulations.

On the 5th, Sime and Trapp [MTFWP] met with forest allotment permittees and representatives from NRCS, Boulder Watershed Group, U.S. Forest Service, and Predator Conservation Alliance on a range rider project south of Big Timber. On the 7th, Sime attended the second work session to discuss a potential state wolf damage compensation program. Nearly 40 people, representing a diversity of interests, state/federal agencies, and Tribes, attended the session in Helena.

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