Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 6/24/05

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 6/17 to 6/24, 2005

Monitoring

NEW WEB ADDRESS- The 2005 annual interagency wolf report [covering all of 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, an extensive bibliography, and additional informational websites.

Carter Niemeyer, Tyler Hollow(NPT), and Steve Nadeau (IDFG) searched the area near Lost Ck, and Graves Creek on the Lochsa on June 13th and 14th, looking for wolf sign following reports from IDFG crews and a local outfitter. Sign was found and traps were set. Carter coordinated with Tyler, Isaac Babcock, and Barry Braden to take over the trap line while he began another capture operation near Avery. On the 16th, a 75-lb. gray female wolf was radio-collared. She will be monitored to determine if she is a member of the Kelly Creek pack, or potentially part of a suspected pack that is referred to as Postoffice Creek. The natal den was located and pups were heard howling, although a definitive count was not obtained. At this time the official estimate is 2+ pups. In addition, B7 and B11 were both seen, they were released in 1995 during the initial reintroduction and were classed as subadults then, so they could be 11-12 years old now. They are the last known remaining original wolves in either central Idaho or Yellowstone recovery areas.

On the 16th, Carter, Dave Spicer (IDFG), Mark Bowen (IDFG), and Josh Stanley (IDFG) set traps near an uncollared pack north of Avery. On the 17th, three wolves were captured, the alpha male, a subadult female and a pup. Collars were placed on the 2 older wolves and reproduction was verified. The new pack is called the Avery pack.

Michael Lucid (IDFG) verified reproduction for the Steel Mt. pack (4 plus pups), and attempted to trap and place another collar in the Calderwood pack.

Jason Husseman (IDFG) verified reproduction in the Morgan Ck Pack. (5 pups), and attempted to trap a wolf in an uncollared pack in the upper North Fork of Salmon River.

Since they were in the area, Hollow, Babcock, and Braden also coordinated with MTFWP biologist Liz Bradley to investigate a wolf sighting from late May in Burdette Creek area provided by black bear hunters, they observed 9 pups. They began trapping concurrently with the Big Hole pack operation and set traps for the uncollared wolves in Burdette Creek. The captured and radio-collared the alpha female and a large 2-3-year-old male. This interagency effort worked impeccably well.

Mack investigated last year's Cold Springs rendezvous sites, B147's recent locations, and returned to the newly-documented Jungle Ck. pack's rendezvous site. He found no evidence of wolf use at the Cold Springs sites. He was able to determine that the Jungle Ck. pack was still present, but could not obtain a pup count.

Holyan and Sean Babcock conducted a trapping operation for the O'Hara Point pack, but succeeded only in capturing a male pup that was too small to radio collar. They also investigated former Gospel Hump rendezvous sites, but found evidence of recent use. A single set of old wolf tracks was found in the vicinity of Haystack Mt., W of Elk City, ID, where there had been a report of wolf pups seen on a closed logging road. In addition, the Red River pack was located, (neither radio-collared wolf had been located for several months), at a rendezvous site; this pack has a minimum of 2-3 adults and 2+ pups based on howling.

An uncollared pack, the Hayden Valley pack, has been seen regularly in Hayden Valley in Yellowstone National Park resulting in wolf viewing traffic jams.

On the 13th, Laudon (MFWP), captured and collared an adult male wolf in the Lazy Creek pack, for a total of 2 radio collars in that pack. Trapline was closed on Saturday.

MFWP Sime found the Halfway pack north of Avon, MT on June 23rd. Although we have not had any visuals the last 2 months, the pack is suspected to have denned since all the locations have been in the same general area. A second collared wolf has been reported in the area but no "missing" wolves turned up on the flight.

Control

WS wrapped up control actions on BLM grazing allotments near the Prospect Mtns. north of Farson, WY where 14 sheep were killed by wolves in late April. On the 22nd, as directed by FWS, WS shot the female from the air and 3 pups from the ground at the new rendezvous site. WS set traps and killed 3 more pups that returned to the old den, by the 25th, concluding control efforts. No sign of the male has been found despite repeated aerial and ground searches, meaning he probably died several weeks ago.

WS confirmed that another calf was killed by wolves on private property near Meeteetse, WY on the 17th, by members of the former Owl Creek pack, a radioed male and uncollared female, that have pups. Trapping to radio and release the female is ongoing. If there are additional depredations the entire pack will be removed.

After recent sheep depredations, the Service in Idaho issued a Shoot-On-Sight written authorization to an Idaho sheep company that is valid from June 21-August 4, 2005. It covers their active private sheep grazing allotment in Valley and Adams County. The authorization allows the shooting of two gray wolves on the private allotment during a 45-day period or until the livestock leave the allotment.

WS pulled traps set for a depredating lone wolf at Phantom Lake. It hasn’t been back and there haven’t been any further problems. WS is still monitoring the area and working with the landowner who had the last confirmed depredation. The 45-day control period ends July 15.

Research

Two GPS collars, as part of the predation study, are still working in the Yellowstone summer research project. One wolf has become a lone wolf and having a difficult time and may not make it. The wolf is not making any kills but is scavenging old kills. He is from the Geode pack and we are questioning the continued existence of this pack since all the members are widely dispersed. Another GPS collar on a Nez Perce Pack wolf appears to have dispersed as well and was located with Mollies pack.

Information and Education and Law Enforcement

FWP TAKES LEAD IN WOLF MANAGEMENT IN MONTANA- News release-

Federal wildlife officials turned over most authority for the state's recovered but still federally protected wolf population to Montana today allowing the state to carry out much of its approved wolf conservation and management plan. "It's been a long time coming, but the people of Montana worked hard over the past 10 years with the expectation that the wolf would one day be delisted and managed among all of the state's wildlife," said Jeff Hagener, director of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks "The agreement is confirmation that the people of Montana did their part to restore the wolf in this part of the country. It allows Montana to make wolf management decisions, which puts us in a better position to meet the challenges of living with the recovered population instead of waiting for delisting."

Under the agreement, Montana will conduct population monitoring, research, and public outreach, in addition to determining when non-lethal and lethal wolf-control actions are appropriate to reduce conflicts with livestock. Because wolves in northern Montana are currently classified as "endangered" and wolves in southern Montana are managed under a less restrictive "experimental, non-essential" classification, Montana still must follow federal guidelines related to lethal control.

"While the ultimate vision is delisting the wolf, this is an important interim step that recognizes the commitment and good will of the people of Montana," said Ed Bangs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's coordinator for wolf recovery in the Northern Rocky Mountains. "We're enthusiastic about this management transition because it is good for the wolf and for the people who live with them."

The agreement will allow Montana to apply its federally approved wolf conservation and management plan to: manage wolf numbers and distribution and maintain the wolf's recovered status; help landowners reduce livestock-depredation risks; use wolf-management techniques to resolve wolf-related conflicts, based on a benchmark of 15 breeding pairs of wolves in Montana;

help establish an independent financial compensation program for wolf-related losses; monitor deer and elk populations; and ensure human safety.

Because the wolf is still protected under the Endangered Species Act, hunting is prohibited until the wolf is delisted. The agreement is effective through June 2010, or until the wolf population in Montana is removed from the threatened and endangered species lists. Federal funding sources will cover work of FWP's wolf management coordinator based in Helena, and wolf specialists based in Kalispell, Bozeman, Dillon, and Red Lodge. Under the agreement, FWP must prepare annual reports to document the recovered status of the Montana wolf population.

The biological requirements for wolf recovery in the northern Rocky Mountains of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming were met in December 2002. To take wolves off the endangered species list, however, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming must each have federally approved plans. USFWS approved Montana and Idaho management plans in 2003, but asked Wyoming to make adjustments to its plan and associated state laws. The hoped for proposal to delist gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains is delayed indefinitely because Wyoming has not made the requested adjustments. Wolves from Canada began to naturally recolonize northwestern Montana in the mid 1980s. In the mid 1990s, to hasten the overall pace of wolf recovery in the northern Rockies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released 66 wolves into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho. Since then, wolves have expanded in number and distribution throughout the federally designated Northern Rocky Mountain Recovery Area in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. Federal officials estimated in December 2004 that at least 153 wolves, in about 40 packs, and about 15 breeding pairs inhabit Montana.

GRAY WOLF CONFIRMED SHOT NEAR BANNER SUMMIT, IDAHO- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) law enforcement agents have confirmed that a gray wolf was illegally shot around noon on Tuesday, June 21, south of Banner Summit (between Grandjean Road and Banner Summit) on Highway 21. The incident was reported to the U.S. Forest Service at the Lowman Ranger Station by concerned citizens. The reporting party described the incident, indicating that as they rounded a bend in the highway, they observed a man with grey hair shoot a wolf that was standing on the road between the two vehicles. The individuals did not obtain a license plate number, but they reported observing the shooter standing near a newer-model black (or dark-colored) pickup truck that was pulling a large camp trailer. U.S. Forest Service and Idaho Department of Fish and Game officers later located the carcass of a wolf in that area that appeared to have been shot. The Service’s Office of Law Enforcement is asking for the public’s assistance in identifying the driver of this vehicle. Craig Tabor, Service Resident Agent in Charge, said, "It’s bad enough that this person shot a wolf, apparently with no legal justification, but, from the description given, it sounds like he shot down the road at the wolf with an occupied vehicle in or near his line of sight. He may be very lucky this is not a homicide investigation."

The killing of an animal protected under the endangered Species Act is punishable by a fine of up to $100,000 and one year in jail. A reward of up to $2,500.00 may be paid for information leading to a conviction of the person or persons responsible for the illegal shooting of this wolf. Persons with information about this case, or any other illegal gray wolf killings, are urged to contact Service’s Law Enforcement at (208) 378-5333. Callers may remain anonymous.

From June 10-17th, Niemeyer provided technical assistance to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) in various locations in northern Idaho by trapping and radio-collaring wolves in reported wolf activity areas. One subadult female wolf was radio-collared in the Lost Creek area (special thanks to the Nez Perce Tribe for helping out) near Powell, Idaho, an adult male and subadult female wolf were radio-collared near Wallace, Idaho and a wolf pup was captured and released near Wallace, ID. This new pack containing at least two pups has been named the Avery pack. IDFG conservation officers and biologists were very helpful in locating wolf activity areas and providing assistance in trapping and handling the wolves.

Niemeyer gave a presentation on the Idaho Wolf Recovery program on June 22nd to Island Park, Idaho residents, at the request of the mayor. Reported wolf activity in the area has become a focus of local communities in the area. About 75 people attend the community meeting.

Steve Nadeau [IDFG] gave a presentation to the Elk River city council and about 50 citizens on wolves and wolf management on June 14th.

Smith [NPS] has been giving lots of wolf talks this summer. On June 13th he visited with personal involved with NPS horse training in YNP & wolves and horses in backcountry; the National Parks and Conservation Assoc.; and he and Carolyn Sime [MFWP] visited with the USDA Forest Service’s class on large carnivore management to 25 agency managers. On June 15th, Smith talked to 75 people for the Explorers Club (based in NYC) in Seattle. In Yellowstone he visited with Defenders of Wildlife [15 people] on June 16th; June 20th, another YNP horse training group [15 people]; June 21st, US Forest Service- Gardiner district- Seasonal employee training talk; and June 22nd, MSU graduate student documentary, on-camera interview and field work.

On the 23rd, Jimenez spoke to a wildlife class of 10 students and 2 instructors, sponsored by the Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative.

Laudon (MFWP), gave a talk to 7 students at the Glacier Institute.

Ross, Bradley and Asher [MFWP] will be in Miles City, MT over the weekend attending the National Trappers Convention.

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