Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 5/13/05

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 4/29 to 5/13, 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.

All radioed packs in Yellowstone National Park denned and pups are starting to be seen by some dens. The Slough Creek dens are visible from the road [up to 4 females may have denned adjacent to each other], and Yellowstone NP has hired two people to monitor the situation and educate visitors about wolves.

Asher and Ross [MFWP] picked up a dead nearly year-old grey wolf, possibly with mange, near Daily Creek, NW edge of Yellowstone Park on the 13th. It was probably from Chief Joe. It was badly decomposed. It is being examined by the MFWP lab and Service LE.

Results for denning to date in NW MT is- Appear to be denning: Whitefish, Kintla, Murphy Lake, Lazy Creek, Fishtrap, Wolf Prairie. Unsure: Hog Heaven, Candy Mountain, Kootenai (located 5/11 20 miles north of the US border. Laudon [MFWP] began trapping & radio-collaring for the Murphy Lake pack.

John Vore and Liz Bradley [MFWP] trapped and collared 2 wolves in the Bitterroot 5/4 near Sula, MT. One was an 85 lb black yearling female (SW19) and the other was a 98 lb gray adult male (SW20). Visual observations of this group indicate at least 5 individuals (4 black and a gray). This pack is hanging tight just W. of Sula and are likely denning in the area. We are continuing trapping efforts in French Basin up the E. fork of the Bitterroot but have pulled traps W. of Sula. Thanks to Dave Romero (USFS biologist) for helping process the wolves yesterday. Good job.

Jason Husseman [IDF&G] verified a new pack of wolves west of Clayton Idaho. This pack had been reported by locals with as many as 14 wolves in it. Although there are no active radios in the pack, it may be the Twin Peaks or Landmark pack that currently do not have radios and may have moved into the area. Jason will try to trap a member of this pack to find out.

Michael Lucid [IDF&G] captured a 74 pound female gray in the Timberline Pack territory on the 8th. The Timberline pack lost both it's collared animals last year. Michael said that he found a road killed deer that he had temporarily stored 20 feet from his tent. When he awoke, he found that the wolves had dragged the carcass away and consumed it. He was able to capture one of the wolves with a full belly.

Jimenez spent lots of time the past three weeks talking with everyone in Wyoming [BLM, USFS, WS, WY G&F, livestock associations, and sheep and cattle permittees] concerning the sighting of 2 wolves [one reportedly pregnant looking] on BLM land near Big Sandy, WY [base of the Prospect Mountains] several weeks ago. WS investigated and found tracks from a lone wolf. Traps were set in that area but nothing was captured before bad weather cancelled the trapping effort. For some reason- this fairly routine situation for us- has received considerable media attention, some mis-informed rhetoric, and even requests that these ‘suspected’ potentially problem wolves be ‘preemptively’ removed. Mike hiked around the area and on the 11th had a volunteer crew in the area to look around further but they were again snowed out. WS arranged for their pilot to look for wolves when they are flying in the area doing coyote control. There is a sheep/lambing operation and a cattle grazing association that uses those BLM allotments. They will put 1,000's of sheep and approx. 2,300 head [mostly cow/calf pairs] there by late May. The head of the grazing association said he had heard reports late last fall of 1 or 2 wolves in the area during hunting season. The situation will continue to be closely monitored. If there are wolf depredations on legally present livestock in that area, we will deal with those situations as they develop- just as we always have- including lethal removal of wolves if ultimately necessary. On the 12th, a sheep producer reportedly heard a wolf howl. On the 13th, a sheep producer in that area reported 2 wolves [one ‘pregnant’?? looking] chasing sheep & WS is investigating.

The Service issued a news release about reported wolf sightings near Upper Souris NWR in North Dakota. The AP news story reported that up to three suspected wolves were seen. Time will tell if any of the sightings were wild wolves or if any wolves might have stayed in that area. Wolves found in the Dakotas in the past have either been from Canada or Minnesota populations.

Control

Correction to the last wolf weekly: The Wolf Prairie probable depredation is actually in the Wolf Prairie Pack territory. Little Wolf Pack was a previous pack in that area removed by control for chronic depredations.

On May 1, a radio-telemetry flight from the 2 remaining members of the Phantom pack on a freshly killed calf on private property. WS investigated and confirmed it as a wolf-kill. WS was authorized to kill both wolves and the landowner was issued a shoot on sight permit for 2 wolves on the private property. Lethal control has been initiated due to the packs depredation history and potential for continued problems.

On the 12th, 11 sheep [4 ewes and 7 lambs] were killed at night on private property in the Paradise Valley, south of Livingston, MT in the old Lone Bear pack territory [eliminated in 2005 because of previous depredations]. Unfortunately, the producer reported that while sheep were a night pen that had been built after sheep depredations there last year but the gate had been left ajar. WS reported seeing 2 sets of tracks. A lone uncollared wolf was seen nearby just after WS confirmed the depredations as wolf-caused. WS had already set traps and was authorized to collar and release a wolf on site and if successful the need for additional control will be evaluated.

Laudon [MT FWP] and visiting Swedish biologist Jens Karlsson, set up fladry and a RAG box [that would also record if radio-collared wolves came within its range] at some Fortine area ranches that had a complaint last week (determined not wolves) as proactive measure since the rancher saw 2 wolves on the ranch. These wolves could be from Murphy Lake, but there is a chance it could be an uncollared group in the Graves Creek area. To date no wolves or additional losses have been detected.

On the 2rd, a black bear hunting guide/outfitter was using Walker hounds in central Idaho NE of Orofino when he thought his dogs were in a fight. By the time he arrived 3 dogs were dead and others were scattered. He never saw the wolves bvut WS confimred the depredations. Under the new 10j rule, guides/outfitters that lease private land are considered ‘landowners’ and may shoot wolves that are attacking their dogs on their active lease. This same guide had 3 lion hounds killed by wolves this past winter. It is believed the Chesimia pack may be responsible. IDFG, WS, and the Nez Perce Tribe are working with him to reduce conflicts. He was provided a radio receiver and the frequencies of possible radioed wolves in that area.

On April 24, WS investigated a report of injured and dead sheep in the Medicine Lodge drainage in SW MT near Clark Canyon Reservoir. This area is thought to be occupied by the Black Canyon pack. WS confirmed 4 lambs, 1 injured lamb, and a dead ewe on private property. For this group of wolves, this is the 2nd confirmed depredation in which livestock have been killed on private property in addition to an injured dog since February 28. WS is working on getting a radio into this elusive pack and to remove one wolf. Written authorization was given to the producer such that between the producer and WS, one wolf would be removed. All producers in this area were updated on the new 10j regulations.

On April 28, WS investigated and confirmed injured and dead sheep in the Rock Creek drainage of SE of Dillon, MT. On the 26th, wolves killed 3 buck sheep. On the 27th, around lunch, 2 wolves were observed by the herder attacking sheep again and 4 bucks were injured. The herder discharged a firearm with the intent to kill the wolf, but missed. This is a lambing area that is closely tended by 2 herders who also use 4 dogs and night pens. These herders are familiar with the 10j regulations. WS and MFWP are trying to determine whether this is a splinter group of the Freezeout pack (known to have killed dogs near here last summer area but are not known to have had confirmed kills since April 2003) and a pair of wolves that has been involved in depredations near Dell. WS is trapping to put a collar out and MFWP is closely monitoring the Freezeout packs radio collared animal thought to be the breeding female.

On May 5, WS confirmed that a colt had been killed and fed on by at least one wolf on private property in the Big Hole Valley in SW MT. Also on the night of May 3, a different landowner reported that a wolf (only collared one in the Battlefield pack) was harassing his livestock. Had he had a gun, he would've shot it. He chased it off. After much discussion among the cooperators, we are moving forward to remove the remaining 2-4 members of the Battlefield pack. The remaining pack members have shown an increasing pattern of actively "hunting" livestock - particularly since March 2005. Had the new 10j regulations not been effect, additional losses would've been likely as 3 wolves were shot while they were attacking livestock by landowners. WS has the lead and MFWP will provide support in monitoring the collared animal as they request it. WS will try to get this done as soon as possible to help prevent further losses.

Research

The Yellowstone National Park summer wolf predation research project has begun. A Geode Creek wolf has a downloadable GPS radio obtaining locations every 30 min. Downloads have begun, hiking to "clusters" has begun and the summer work is underway. The objective is to determine prey selection and kill rate of wolves in the summer. Five GPS collars were put out this spring but unfortunately 2 are not working, another was on a wolf killed by a neighboring pack, but the other two are functioning.

Information and Education and Law Enforcement

BE SAFE OUT THERE! On the 9th, Bradley ran into a rain/hail squall while driving in the mountains. She before she could react, she hit some frozen slush and her vehicle went off the highway edge. Fortunately Liz was wearing her seat belt and was not injured but her vehicle sustained damage. We have been remarkably lucky given as much time as we spend on the road and in the air in all kinds of weather and all times of day or night- that we have not had any serious injuries in the past 17 years. We want to keep it that way- so please be extra careful.

MFWP Sime gave a presentation to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Headquarters staff in Missoula on March 26 to about 75 people. She talked about wolf conservation and management in MT, the transition to state leadership, and some of what is known about wolf-elk relations. Sime also attended a meeting of the Landowner Advisory Group of the Blackfoot Challenge on April 27 to provide an update on the court ruling back to endangered status in northwest Montana and the transition to state leadership. About 10 people attended. This is a collaborative group of landowners bordering the south end of the Bob Marshall Wilderness that also does projects in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service private lands program. Correction Carolyn Sime’s email is casime@mt.gov .

On April 27 and May 11, MFWP hosted the last two stakeholder work sessions to develop a Montana compensation / incentive program. The diverse stakeholder group included representatives from various organizations (Defenders of Wildlife, Montana Stockgrowers, Montana Woolgrowers, Montana Wildlife Federation, Predator Conservation Alliance, Madison Valley Ranchlands Group, Turner Endangered Species Fund, National Parks Conservation Association, Montana Farm Bureau), various government agencies (Montana counties, US Forest Service, Natural Resource Conservation Service, USDA Wildlife Services, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Montana Department of Livestock), and private individuals from around Montana representing hunters, landowners, wolf educators, livestock producers, and the general public. The group's work was facilitated by an independent contractor. The group agreed to a general framework aimed at decreasing the risk of losses through prevention, active management of the population guided by federal regulations (while listed) and the state's approved plan, and through a program to reimburse operators for losses. A smaller subcommittee will continue working on some details. A lack of funding was identified, but in the interim, Defenders indicated they will still provide their compensation program.

On May 2, MFWP Sime gave a presentation at a meeting of the Montana Professional Wilderness Outfitters Association and about 45 people attended. She clarified the endangered status for NW Montana wolves and outlined the transition to state management.

Michael Lucid [IDF&G] gave a presentation to 20 second and third graders on the 10th in Nampa, ID and Steve Nadeau gave a presentation to the 30 members of the Meridian, ID Rotary club on the 9th.

On May 2nd Trapp [MFWP] attended a Boulder, MT Range Rider Project meeting in McLeod, MT. The meeting focused on rider protocols and the roles of the different groups involved. The Project is expecting to have riders on the ground the first week in June.

On the 6th, Trapp gave a presentation with Gary Ferguson to the Montana Wilderness Association. Ferguson spoke about the Yellowstone wolf reintroduction and his co-authorship with Doug Smith on the new book, "Decade of the Wolf." Trapp spoke about the status of wolves and the Montana management plan. There were approximately 100 people in attendance.

The Mexican Wolf Recovery Team found a wolf/dog hybrid litter this past week. The captive-reared female was in estrus when she was released this spring near a wild male. Unfortunately, they failed to find each other and she dispersed into an area with many dogs and apparently bred with one. The pups were euthanized and efforts are underway to catch the female. Fortunately we have never had to deal with captive-reared wolves in our recovery program or any hybrid issues [showing the great wisdom of not letting things be driven to extinction in the wild before trying to restore them].

Utah has a website about wolf planning efforts in that state and links to other information about wolves and wolf management. Please see http://www.wildlife.utah.gov/wolf/ .

The California Wolf Center in S. CA is seeking a full time professional who has a passion for wildlife conservation and possesses excellent business and organization skills. The successful Conservation Associate will have the opportunity to expand her/his position responsibilities while assisting in the development and continued growth of the California Wolf Center. This position involves a wide variety of responsibilities in the areas of development, education and administration, supporting the Center's programs and operations. To apply, please send resume and cover letter to: Executive Director CA Wolf Center Director@thecaliforniawolfcenter.net

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