Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 4/29/05

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 4/22 to 4/29, 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.

Last week, a pair of wolves was seen in the Big Sandy basin in Wyoming near the Prospect Mountains. The female appeared ready to den. At least 3 sheep producers will soon graze sheep on public allotments in the area. To better monitor these wolves, WS began a trapping and radio-collaring effort. However, due to the recent bad weather, we suspended the trapping effort. The storm covered traps and roads with over 10" of snow, made it impossible to check traps daily. WS pulled their gear on the 29th. We will continue to monitor the situation and stay in touch with the sheep producers in the area.

MT FWP is still awaiting the final lab results for a suspected wild wolf that appeared very ill and was euthanized on private land north of Gardiner, MT earlier this month. Early test results were surprisingly odd, and shed doubt into its origin. DNA and further sampling is being conducted. A MT FWP biologist doing ungulate survey work, observed a radioed wolf on nearby Dome Mtn. He reported that it was nearly hairless from mange and the helicopter blade-wash nearly knocked it over. It is unlikely to survive long.

Control

On the 22nd, WS received two calls about possible depredations in NW MT and investigated them the same day. The dead calf near the Murphy Lake/Graves Creek area near Fortine, MT had nothing to do with wolves even though a producer saw 2 grey wolves in the general area of the calf’s carcass. Another producer near Wolf Prairie reported finding a half-eaten calf carcass. WS listed it as probable, while the carcass was killed by a predator like wolves, due to field conditions, no wolf sign was located. The Little Wolf pack den is about 5 miles away. WS/MT FWP took a RAG box to the site, as the pack that was involved in depredations last year in this same area- has two radioed members. The RAG box could scare wolves from the small pasture & confirm if radioed wolves re-visited the area. The producers were notified about the Oregon court ruling and what that meant in terms of their potential response to wolf depredations... ie. Private individuals may not take wolves in NW MT unless human life is directly threatened, and only permitted agencies can take problem wolves listed as endangered.

WS confirmed that 4 lambs and a ewe were killed in the Black Canyon Horse Prairie area of SW MT on the 23rd. The pack of 4-6 wolves in that area killed a calf and wounded a dog earlier this year, and a shoot-on-sight permit was issued but no wolves were taken. Each time a different producer was involved. WS will attempt to trap and release a wolf on sight and take one wolf if the opportunity presents itself. The landowner was issued written authorization for a 45 day shoot on sight to take one wolf.

On the 28th, a local resident in the Big Hole Valley in SW MT reported shooting a wolf. He reported that 2 uncollared wolves were in the calving pasture. A black 2-3 yr-old male with no mange and in good shape was shot while reportedly chasing livestock. The gray one then ran off. This is the third wolf in this Valley, likely from the Battlefield pack, that has been shot this spring. Service LE is investigating.

On the 28th, WS confirmed that 4 rams and the next night 3 ram sheep were killed by wolves on private land NE of Dillon, MT. The sheep are protected by herders & dogs, and are night bedded. The herder shot at and missed a wolf on the first night. Freezeout pack that had 15 members last winter but apparently split up this winter or a new uncollared pair [that was involved in other depredations] could both be using this area. Only the Freezeout alpha female is radioed. WS was requested to trap on site of the depredations and get additional collars on the wolves responsible. In addition, the herders are Spanish and Bradley [MT FWP] had previously had the guidelines for the new 10j rule translated into Spanish, so herders can more easily learn what they can legally do to protect the sheep.

Wildlife Services discontinued a trapping effort near Riggins, Idaho, where a calf was confirmed killed by wolves on April 15. We hoped to radio-collar and release a wolf on site to see what wolves may have been involved, but the depredating wolves have moved out of the area.

On April 23 a lone wolf, possibly from the Galena wolf pack, killed a chicken near a rural residence south of Stanley, Idaho. The wolf was observed standing over the pullet and cracker shells were fired at it. No further action will be taken.

Williamson (ID WS) located the densite for the Copper Basin wolf pack on April 27. The wolf den is approximately ten miles from several ranches that the wolves have been frequenting for the last two months. The den may be in an area where the federal grazing allotment will not be utilized by cattle this summer.

Research

The Northern Range Cooperative Wildlife Working Group conducted its annual late-winter classification of northern Yellowstone elk on March 9. A total of 3,508 elk were classified. Survey conditions were poor due to patchy snow cover. Estimated sex and age ratios were 13 calves and 20 bulls per 100 cows. Calf/cow ratios were lowest in Yellowstone Park. The overall ratio is similar to those from 2000-2004 but less than the range of 22-34 calves/100 cows for the 6 years prior to 2000. This is the fourth consecutive year of low calf recruitment. Predation was the primary mortality factor of calf elk. This spring is final year of a three-year neonate calf mortality study, and elk calf capture and radio tagging will begin next month- to date most calf predation was caused by bears.

Information and education and law enforcement

NEW BOOK. "Decade of the Wolf" by Dr. Douglas Smith and Gary Ferguson. It is an overview of the first ten years of wolves in Yellowstone National Park using individual wolf stories to highlight general ecological principles and wolf biology. Most book stores have it on-line now, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Lyons Press out of NYC is the publisher and they have a web page telling about how to order it. World-renowned wolf biologist Dr. Douglas Smith, author of "Decade of the Wolf: Returning the Wild to Yellowstone," appeared at the IMAX Theatre at the Minnesota Zoo, spoke and signed his new book as part of a special conservation fund-raiser Thursday, April 28. All proceeds will benefit the Minnesota Zoo’s conservation fund and the International Wolf Center.

On the 27th, Bangs and Smith gave wolf presentations at the annual Yellowstone NP Resource Workshop in Mammoth, WY. About 80 Park employees attended.

Jimenez gave a wolf update to the Jackson Hole Elk Working Group on April 21. Approx. 24 biologists and managers from the WYG&F, Grand Teton National Park, National Elk Refuge, and US Forest Service attended.

"To kill a wolf" a film by Univ. Montana film-school graduate student Tyler Duke will air on Montana Public Television May 5. The film looks at wolf recovery and management in Montana.

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).

Curt Mack [NPT] made a presentation to the Environmental Journalism class at the University of Idaho on Thursday 27 April. On Friday the 29th he gave a presentation to the Environmental Science class at the McCall High School.

Mary Allen joined the Nez Perce Tribe's Wolf Recovery Team as the new Office Assistant. Consuelo Blake, former Office Assistant for the Wolf Project, took a job with Defenders of Wildlife in Boise, ID. Mary brings many years of experience and valuable skills to the project. She is a much welcomed addition, especially for Isaac who was filling in for Consuelo, and is already a great team player. Welcome Mary.

The latest issue of Yellowstone Science celebrates the 10th year anniversary of the first wolves being released in the Park. ‘Ten years of Yellowstone Wolves 1995-2005’ is posted at: http://www.nps.gov/yell/publications/yellsciweb/issues.htm It does contain one error in a short article by Bangs regarding a quote supposedly by Aldo Leopold. The December 1944 quote "‘There still remain, even in the United states, some areas of considerable size in which we feel that both the red and gray [wolves] may be allowed to continue their existence with little molestation.’ Yes, so also thinks every right-minded ecologist,..." The first sentence is actually by authors Stanley Young and Edward Goldman and is being quoted by Leopold in his review of their book- The Wolves of North America. The second sentence is actually Leopold’s, who whole-heartedly agrees with their conclusion and goes on to question and criticize the US Fish and Wildlife Service for continuing its campaign of wolf extermination- despite such thoughts. Leopold specifically mentions Yellowstone and its adjacent wilderness as the types of places wolves should be restocked.

A report summarizing the current understanding of wolf-ungulate studies in MT is available from Carolyn Sime [MTFWP] at csime@state.mt.us It is dominated by elk, simply because that's what has been researched the most to date.

National Geographic’s Strange Days on Planet Earth aired on Wednesday April 27 on PBS. One of those segments included a piece about large predators and an interview about wolves with Fontaine [FWS].

On the 13th, the Montana Legislature passed Bill 461, which Bill mandated that MT FWP maintain at least one radio-collar in each chronic depredating wolf pack. An earlier amendment that mandated telemetry receivers be given to every landowner was removed before it was passed. If as expected, the bill is signed into law by Montana’s Governor it will emphasize radio-collaring and releasing wolves on-site as the primary initial response to livestock depredation in Montana.

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