Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 7/22/05

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 7/08 to 7/22, 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, an extensive bibliography, and additional informational websites.

Mischa Connine is volunteering her services with MFWP field efforts in NW Montana. Welcome Mischa!

Laudon (FWP) and Gall (IDFG) worked a trapline for an uncollared pack on the Montana/Idaho border west of Troy, MT. Connine (FWP) and Derbridge (FWP) helped scout surrounding areas, looking for fresh wolf sign that would indicate wolves are still present in the area. The trap line is closed for the weekend of July 15th since the trail is popular with horse riders and their dogs.

Bradley [MWFP] caught and collared a gray 3-year-old, 110 lb male wolf in the Willow Creek

drainage, W. of Phillipsburg, MT on the 20th. He was on the missing freq. list and it appears that his radio collar malfunctioned, it was producing a very weak signal. Wolf B142, was collared in the Buffalo Ridge pack in Idaho as a pup, January 2003. He was last located in Idaho on 10/26/03. A big thanks to Alice Whitelaw, (Working Dogs for Conservation), and her scent dog Tsavo for scouting the area and finding fresh sign of this pack. Liz will be continuing to work in the Phillipsburg area scouting and trapping for the uncollared Sapphire pack.

Ranch hands in the old Castle Rock/Boulder pack territory south of Avon and west of Helena, MT reported hearing a calf bawl and saw bunched cattle on the 21st, with 7 wolves, 2 black and 5 gray, in the vicinity. One calf might have been bitten but otherwise seemed Okay and was reported, but no sign of any other problems were found. Sime [MFWP] talked with local landowners and loggers who reported they had been seeing wolves throughout the winter. However, she didn’t find much fresh wolf sign as search conditions were poor. Ground surveys will continue next week.

With the help of the FS, the Nez Perce Tribe [NTP] was recently able to document the presence of a new wolf pack in the South Fork of the Clearwater River. The Earthquake Basin pack is between Grangeville and Elk City. Isaac Babcock was in the area trying to put radio collars out but multiple truckloads of cattle arrived at the same time, preventing him from trapping. We don't know how many adults are in the pack but are keeping close watch on them and coordinating with the livestock permittees. There are 6 pups, 3 grey and 3 black.

Jason Husseman [IDFG] continued efforts to radio collar a member of the Hughes Creek pack. Jason observed an additional pup in this pack, which brings the pup count up to 5, 4 black and 1 gray. He trapped in Moyer Basin from the 18th -21st. On the 19th, a pup too small to collar was captured and released with no visible injury. On the 21st, 3 adult gray males were captured and collared, two 2-3 year-olds, 1 prob. one-year-old.

Steve Nadeau and Michael Lucid [IDFG] confirmed reports of uncollared wolves in the Bull Trout lake area of Idaho. They will begin trapping efforts this week.

Nadeau and Lucid spent a few days investigating reports of multiple wolves howling near a campground in Stanley Basin. Wolves were seen and heard over the week and traps were set. After a few days of investigating, it was determined that the wolves were uncollared members of the Warm Springs pack at a rendezvous site and multiple pups were present. The wolves appear to have moved on. Brochures and impromptu talks with campers and campground personnel provided an opportunity to educate the public while listening to wolves howling. Additionally, the Idaho team discussed an intensified effort to locate and collar all packs within the Lolo Zone in the upper Clearwater drainage over the next few weeks.

Tyler Hollow [NPT] conducted a capture operation for the Kelly Ck. pack. Multiple adults were heard howling near the traditional rendezvous site. Tyler captured and radio-collared 2 wolves and documented 3 gray pups.

Isaac and Sean Babcock [NPT] documented reproduction at the Monumental pack den/rendezvous site; there is a minimum of 2 gray pups present. University of Idaho researchers Jim and Holly Akenson followed up with a capture effort, but did not catch any wolves.

They also attempted to capture and radio-collar wolves from the newly discovery Earthquake Basin pack, but the wolves had moved from the rendezvous site and could not be located. In addition, cattle were brought into the area and may have been the cause for the abandonment of the rendezvous. Thanks to Sean for his help from May through mid-July.

Isaac Babcock spent 2 days searching for the Cold Springs pack but did not pick up the sole radio collared wolf's (B206-F) signal and did not locate evidence of reproduction. Isaac also investigated the Partridge Ck. pack to determine reproductive status for this year. He was able to locate the alpha female, B180, but she was alone that day and no evidence of pups were observed. Mack had previously surveyed this pack and found no evidence of pups either. He saw one gray adult and heard 2 other adults howling.

Mack [NTP] also reexamined the Jungle Ck. pack rendezvous site, where multiple adults and pups had previously been heard howling. He saw one gray pup and heard several others howling.

Mack met with Don Stewart, foreman for Little Land and Livestock, concerning their sightings of wolves in the vicinity of cattle near Cascade, ID. Mr. Stewart said that his crew had heard and seen wolves in this area for the past 2-3 weeks. Curt induced multiple wolves to respond, and possibly a pup. This area is not far from last year's Orphan pack den, and where an earlier trapping effort was conducted in May. On Friday morning one black adult and one black and one gray pup were seen. Previously all Orphan wolves have been black. Traps have been set.

Jim Holyan [NTP] documented 2-3 pups (2 seen, poss. a 3rd heard) in the Five Lakes Butte pack. He also met with the personnel of the B-Bar-C Outfitters, discussing wolf issues and updating them on the status of wolf activity in their area of interest. Thank you to the Cabral family for the good eats! Holyan also spent a day investigating a former Kelly Ck. pack rendezvous site at Pony Flats; no evidence of wolf activity was found. Isaac had earlier surveyed the Hanson Meadows area, also a former Kelly Ck. pack home site, and found no sign of wolves. The Lupine and Fish Ck. packs of Montana have used these areas since the Kelly Ck. pack has shifted to the west. He then reinvestigated the Hemlock Ridge pack to improve upon the pup count there. He did not find the pups, but did see one gray adult, heard another adult howling, and could account for the 2 radio-collared adults.

Control

A colt was attacked, but will survive, by the Black Canyon pack on the 11th on a ranch near Horse Prairie in Montana. Efforts are ongoing to trap and radio collar a member of this pack.

ID WS Specialist Dave Thomas investigated a reported wolf kill on private land near Swamp Creek, in Clearwater County, ID. This same livestock owner had 2 cattle confirmed killed by wolves last year in the same area, presumably by the Chesimia Pack. WS reported that an adult cow had been fed on by wolves. There was extensive hemorrhaging in a lower rear leg and portions of a front leg, with some feeding on the front leg portion. There was extensive wolf sign in the area near the cow carcass, but no actual teeth marks on the hide or the carcass were found. There were no broken bones, so it's conceivable the cow's injuries may have been sustained by running into something while being chased by wolves. WS classified this as a highly probable wolf kill. The livestock producer has routinely been picking up telemetry signals from one or both of the radio-collared Chesimia wolves in this area, but the cattle are too widely scattered across the grazing allotment to consider use of any electronic frightening devices. The producer will continue to monitor things and let us know of any further wolf activity in the area.

ID WS received a call over the weekend regarding a reported wolf depredation in Copper Basin. On Sunday, July 17th, Rick Williamson confirmed wolf predation on a calf estimated to weigh about 300 lbs, and set six traps Sunday afternoon but no luck with the traps yet. WS estimates there are about 6000 cattle in Copper Basin at this time, and given the history of confirmed and suspected wolf depredations in this area last year, removal of this pack is appropriate. We're trying to arrange for an aerial control flight this week. There are 2 radio-collared animals in Copper Basin, and 5 wolves were located out in a broad open area of Copper Basin that morning. On the 20th, WS shot 6 wolves, B224 the collared alpha male, the alpha female (2 placental scars and fresh calf meat in her belly), 1 sub-adult male and 3 sub-adult females, from the Cooper Basin pack from fixed wing aircraft. All 6 carcasses were recovered and will be used for various research projects with Univ. of Utah and Illinois Wesleyan Univ. A collared sub-adult female, B227, was left to tend to the pack’s only 2 pups. Traps were pulled and the control action has been completed. If there are other depredations, the remaining pack members will be killed.

ID WS received a report on July 19th from a cattle producer in the Stanley Basin area. The producer witnessed a wolf running away from an adult cow that was down on the ground with it's rear end consumed. This occurred on the producer's privately-owned pasture. ID WS specialist Eric Simonson investigated the complaint and determined that the cow had apparently died of natural causes and had been scavenged by a wolf. The livestock owner had experienced wolf predation on his calves in the past, and he'd seen enough confirmed wolf predation that after the WS investigation he agreed that this cow was not killed by a wolf. Another fresh cow carcass was reported as being fed on by wolves in the same area but the producer reported he knew it had died and was just being scavenged on by wolves. Producers were reminded that livestock carcasses attract wolves, but the problem is how to clean up something as large as a cow carcass in a remote location.

WS confirmed that an unmarked group of wolves near Daniel, WY killed an 800 lb. steer on the 18th on private land. This is the same area where the Daniel pack was removed for depredations last year. The ranch manager reported seeing a female and 8 pups in the area. Jimenez, (FWS), flew the area for missing radio collared wolves, but none were found. We requested access to radio-collar and release wolves on site so we can locate the pack, but the landowner didn’t want to be involved with any release of wolves on his property. No further control will be conducted unless there are other depredations. We will continue to monitor the situation and look for other opportunities to trap and collar wolves in this area.

WY WS confirmed a calf killed by wolves near Dubois, WY on the 21st, on private land. Cattle are being moved from this area to higher elevation public grazing allotments, so no active control will be taken at this time.

WY WS confirmed a calf was killed by the Wood River Pack west of Meeteetse, WY on private land on the 20th. This is the 2nd calf killed this summer. The pack consists of an adult collared male and uncollared female with 4 pups. We are attempting to collar the female and the male will be removed if any more depredations occur.

WY WS confirmed a 2nd calf killed by the South Fork Pack west of Cody on private land on the 19th. Collaring efforts are ongoing for this newly formed pack.

On the 18th, WY WS investigated and confirmed a report of dead calves in the Upper Green River Grazing association USDA Forest Service grazing allotments near an active wolf den/rendezvous site. On the 19th, they returned to investigate and confirm a second dead calf at that same location. The new pack consists of 4 adult and 3-4 pups. On the 22nd, WS used fixed-wing aircraft to shoot a 2-yr-old non-breeding female. Control has ended unless there are other depredations. A dispersing Druid pack wolf, re-collared by Jimenez in Grand Teton National Park a couple of weeks ago, has moved south and was within a mile or so of the wolf shot on the 22nd. He has not been involved in any of these depredations.

In another area of public land used by the Upper Green River Cattlemen Grazing Association, about 15 miles away from these other two depredations, WS confirmed a wolf calf depredation on the allotment on the 19th. It was likely killed by a lone uncollared wolf that has been reported in the area. On the 20th, they investigated another dead calf in the same vicinity that had been scavenged by a wolf but was not killed by predators. The situation is being closely monitored.

On the 18th, another calf was confirmed killed by the Carter Mountain pack in Wyoming. This is the fourth calf killed this year and on the 6th, 2 packs members were removed for previous depredations, leaving 6 adults and 4 pups. As a result of this latest depredation 2 more pack members will be removed. One adult was shot near the rendezvous site on the 20th and another will be removed.

Research

Steve Nadeau, Curt Mack, Carter Niemeyer, Carolyn Sime, Dave Moody and Pete Zager (IDFG) met on Monday July 18th to review wolf monitoring research options and the Tribes monitoring research project. Discussions revolved around needs and options for long-term monitoring without telemetry.

Information and Education and Law Enforcement

GRAY WOLF COLLAR FOUND IN THE FALLS RIVER NEAR ASHTON, IDAHO -U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) law enforcement agents have confirmed that a gray wolf radio telemetry collar was found submerged in the Falls River beneath a bridge on Highway 294 east of Ashton, Idaho. The radio collar belonged to a yearling female wolf, F-476, originally collared by Yellowstone National Park personnel in the Little Firehole Meadows, west of Old Faithful on January 21, 2005. The wolf was a member of the newly-formed Biscuit Basin Pack. F-476 dispersed from the Biscuit Basin Pack in March and was last known to be inside Yellowstone National Park on April 6, 2005. Investigators believe the wolf was killed in late April or May of this year. Scott Bragonier, 208-523-0855, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent, said, "We strongly urge citizens with knowledge about this activity to come forward with information. Callers may remain anonymous."

WYOMING PETITIONS TO DELIST WOLVES- On July 13th, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission unanimously approved a petition to establish and then delist wolves in a Distinct Population Segment [DPS] comprised of all Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. Wyoming’s Governor also signed the petition which was reportedly submitted to the Secretary of the Interior and Service Director. It is posted on the Wyoming Game and Fish website.

Michael Lucid [IDFG] gave a wolf presentation to a group of 15 Admin Assistants at the IDFG Administrative Assistants Annual State Meeting on the 12th.

Steve Nadeau [IDFG] gave a wolf presentation to a group of 12 librarians at the International Conference of USFWS Librarians on the 15th.

Niemeyer [FWS] and Mack [NTP] gave talks at the Idaho Rangeland Resource Council’s annual ‘Sheep Walk’ on the 19th. The group of 30 educators also toured a federal grazing allotment and saw sheep herders at work just outside of McCall, ID.

On the 14th, Bangs [FWS] talked with about 50 attendees at the Association for Conservation Information at their annual meeting in Salt Lake City, UT. The organization is primarily the information and outreach specialists from all the state Fish and Wildlife agencies in the United States.

Sime [MFWP] gave a presentation at Headwaters State Park near Three Forks, MT on July 16th. She talked about the evolution of wolf-human relationships to about 50 people.

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