Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 8/12/05

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 7/29 to 8/12, 2005

Correction- Last week’s weekly report was mistakenly dated as 7/22 covering the weeks of 7/08-7/22- the 2nd paragraph under Monitoring started- Derbridge (FWP) and Connine (FWP). It was really 7/29 and covered the week of 7/22 to 7/29.

Monitoring

NEW WEB ADDRESS- The 2005 annual interagency wolf report [covering all 2004] can be viewed at http://westerngraywolf.fws.gov/annualreports.htm. 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.

Trapp and Sime [MFWP] pulled traps west of Helena on August 4th. They did not catch anything, but saw some wolf sign and believe there is a new pack in the area. Thanks to the landowners for permission to trap on their property.

Bradley [MFWP] flew on the 11th, and saw gray wolf (#457F) southeast of Ellis Basin and west of W Boulder River, south of Big Timber, MT. The wolf appeared to have severe mange.

Trapp [MFWP] received a phone call from a ranch manager in the Mission Creek pack territory, southwest of Big Timber, MT. Apparently the local Sheriff noticed a mangy wolf in a domestic buffalo pasture. Before a MFWP warden could respond the wolf ran off. The ranch manager described the wolf as alert and quick, but missing approximately 80% of its hair. Flights have not revealed more than the radio-collared wolves in view at anyone time. Mange is definitely affecting the pack, so it is possible that pups did not make it, or they didn't den. The adjacent Moccasin Lake pack is not showing any signs of mange.

During the week of the 5th, Derbridge (MFWP) surveyed the Government Mountain and Green Mountain areas in NW MT with no significant findings. Derbridge is currently surveying the Libby Ck drainage and trying to build on observed old sign to try and locate a rendezvous site.

Ross [MFWP] got an e-mail from a landowner in the Madison Valley that saw a black wolf in the Indian Creek area that appeared to be sickly. On early Saturday morning the 30th, Ross glassed the area and saw a black animal in the grass. He walked into a rendezvous sight and initially saw two black pups ~25-30 pounds that moved up the drainage and appeared to be healthy. He also spotted an adult gray lying on the hill above them that also appeared to be healthy. Then another black pup popped out of the grass near him and appeared emaciated and mangy and only weighed~15-20 pounds. It didn’t go far and was in very poor condition. It was euthanized and the carcass was taken to the MFWP Bozeman wildlife lab for complete analysis, but it appeared to have severe mange.

Laudon (MFWP) and Derbridge (MFWP) captured an adult female on the 3rd and a female pup on the 4th in the Candy Mountain Pack. The pup was too small to collar and was released unharmed. Trapping operations will continue through the weekend.

The last location of the only radio collared wolf in the Kootenai pack was 15 miles north of the border into Canada during the denning season. Since then, Laudon (MFWP) and Dave Hoerner (Red Eagle Aviation), have not been able to locate her. Despite that, Laudon found a rendezvous site within the Kootenai pack home range on the 3rd and subsequently caught 2 pups (1 female on the 4th and 1 male on the 5th). Both pups were too small to radio collar and were released unharmed. Trapping operations will continue through the weekend.

Tyler Hollow attended Dr. Mark Drew's (IDFG) Wildlife Restraint Class. He then set up a trap line on fresh wolf sign in the Thunder Mt. pack territory based on a report made to the IDFG website. The wolves moved away and did not return to the area, so there were no captures.

The capture operation in Scott Valley (outside of Cascade, ID) resulted in the radio-collaring of 1 black female (trapped by Mack [Nez Perce Tribe] on the 24th) and 1 black male (by Holyan [NPT] on the 26th). Further efforts by Holyan to identify whether this is the Orphan pack and to improve the existing pup count (1 black, 1 gray) have thus far been unsuccessful.

Holyan [NPT] investigated a report of wolf tracks, including pups, in the area previously inhabited by B45. No wolf sign was found.

Holyan, acting on information provided by Juniper Mtn. Outfitters, was able to document a new pack near Warm Lake, ID. He captured a gray male pup and radio-collared the suspected black alpha female on the 30th. More work is needed to determine if this pack (Stolle Meadow) meets breeding pair standards. Thanks to the Mehochicks and the Conants for their assistance.

Isaac Babcock conducted a capture operation in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness on the Monumental pack and radio-collared a gray yearling female. Univ. of Idaho researchers had previously verified Isaac's pup count here, 2 gray pups, and also saw 6 gray adults.

Carter Niemeyer and John Stephenson (FWS, Oregon) captured and radio-collared an adult male wolf in what is believed to be a new pack north of the Lochsa River and east of Kamiah, ID. Future work will be conducted to determine whether this pack is reproductive. Carter and John also scouted the Eldorado pack territory in hopes of capturing a wolf in this uncollared pack. They heard 3 wolves howling in the Eldorado Ck. drainage, but wolves again eluded capture. They also scouted the Pot Mt./Mush Saddle areas but found no wolf sign.

Nadeau and Lucid [IDFG] 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 seen were uncollared members of the Warm Springs pack. The rendezvous site was located 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.

Husseman [IDFG] caught and collared 3 new adults and a pup in the Moyer Basin pack in one night. He spent the previous few weeks attempting to capture a wolf in the new Hughes Creek pack unsuccessfully.

Lucid [IDFG] worked with ranchers in the Pioneerville area who had concerns about wolves running near their cattle, but did not want to kill any wolves. He discussed some different non lethal methods and plans on working with them to reduce potential conflicts. Michael worked on collaring a newly verified pack of wolves in the Atlanta area but was not successful.

Husseman [IDFG] spent 2 weeks working 2 new packs, one in the East Pass Creek area and one in the Yankee Fork area. Jason found sign of pups with the wolves in East Pass Creek but was unable to collar a wolf. He also found pup sign and heard howls in the Yankee Fork and was able to collar a new subadult female there. The new Yankee Fork pack will need further investigation to get a full pup count.

So far this year in Idaho, State, Federal, and Tribal biologists have verified 15 new packs of wolves, 34 reproductive packs, 63 verified packs, and a minimum of 115 pups. We will try to give a preliminary more-detailed wolf population estimate for Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming in the September 2nd wolf weekly.

IDFG hired a new temporary wolf biologist, Linda Thurston, who will be working out of the Clearwater Region, mostly investigating wolf activity in the Clearwater River drainage and the Idaho Panhandle region. Welcome aboard Linda!

Control

On 8/2-3 Niemeyer accompanied Wildlife Services personnel to the depredation site where the Chesimia wolf pack was implicated in depredations on cattle in July, 2005 and during the 2004 grazing season near Dworshak Reservoir on Potlatch or IDL property. During this period two wolf pups were trapped, ear tagged and released. No adult wolves have been removed thus far. A private wolf activist camped in the vicinity of the depredation and has been in contact with the livestock producer that owns the cattle. Wildlife Services will continue attempts to remove an adult wolf from this pack.

On the 28th, Idaho WS Specialist Jeff Ashmead confirmed 3 ewes killed by wolves and 1 ewe and 1 lamb as probable kills on a Sawtooth National Forest Grazing allotment east of Ketchum, ID. In response, Jeff was able to call and shoot 1 collared wolf (B-194), that dispersed from the Buffalo Ridge Pack.

On the 29th, Idaho WS Specialist Justin Mann, confirmed that wolves from the Jungle Creek Pack killed 3 lambs on a Payette National Forest grazing allotment in Twenty Mile Creek about 20 miles northeast of McCall, ID. Justin picked up the signal of B-157 while conducting his investigation. He said the herders, who had also been getting B-157's signal for several days, witnessed the attack of one gray wolf during the night of the 28th. They shot twice at the wolf but do not believe they hit it. Justin set traps with the intention of capturing and killing one wolf. For the time being, B-157 and any pups are to be released if captured. To date, no wolves have been captured and the sheep have been moved out of the area.

On the 3rd, Idaho WS Specialist Eric Simonson, confirmed that wolves killed 2 calves on public grazing allotments in Copper Basin, where WS shot 6 wolves from aircraft the previous week. From the evidence at the site, Eric thought that more wolves than B-227 (the only known wolf left in Copper Basin) may have been involved. Eric set traps with the intention of capturing and collaring a wolf to see if it is associated with B-227, or another group of wolves. Thus far, trapping efforts have failed and several fixed winged aircraft flights over the area have shown that B-227 is still alone.

At least three more domestic calves have been confirmed killed by wolves in the Copper Basin in July and early August after six members of the Copper Basin pack were removed by aerial gunning. Other wolves are suspected of being involved. On August 5th and 8th, the Service issued Shoot-On-Sight (SOS) permits to two grazing associations in the Copper Basin area that have lost cattle to wolves this grazing season. The SOS permits will allow any ranch personnel named on the permit to shoot any wolves they see at any time within the grazing association boundaries identified on the permit for a period of 45 days.

On the 5th, Idaho WS Specialist Gary Looney confirmed that wolves from the Steel Mountain pack killed 12 lambs near the Big Trinity Lake area in the Boise National Forest. These wolves hit the same band again the 7th and 8th. So far a total of 43 sheep and one guard dog have been confirmed as wolf kills and another 3 sheep are probable. WS is planning a helicopter aerial hunting operation on the 13th to remove most, if not all, of the uncollared adult and sub adult members of this pack.

On the 10th, Idaho WS Wolf Specialist Rick Williamson confirmed 22 ewes, 3 bucks and a livestock guarding dog killed by unknown wolves along the north fork of the Big Lost River in the Challis National Forest. The livestock owner preferred non-lethal (predator friendly) only options so Rick issued shell crackers, rubber bullets and fladry and the sheep will probably be moved from the area if predation continues.

On the 10th, Idaho WS Specialist Doug Hansen confirmed 3 ewes and a lamb killed by unknown wolves in Deep Creek, near Granite Lake, in the Payette National Forest. Doug set traps with the intention of collaring the first wolf caught and killing the second. So far, trapping efforts have been unsuccessful.

On the 10th, Idaho WS Specialist Justin Mann investigated a complaint made by another producer who runs sheep on the Payette National Forest. The producer indicated that wolves killed multiple sheep over the last several days and wanted WS to bring in a helicopter to remove them. Justin found lots of wolf sign, but couldn’t find any carcasses or get any radio collar signals from radio collared wolves. Justin will keep close tabs with this band of sheep to ensure that he is able to view any future depredations.

On the 10th, WS Specialist Eric Simonson confirmed 4 ewes and 2 lambs killed in Pole Creek in the Sawtooth National Forest. Eric set traps with the intention of killing an uncollared member of the Galena pack (if it turned out that the Galena pack was involved) or to collar and release a wolf if believed to be from an unknown pack. On the 12th, Eric reported that he had captured two wolves, possibly both Alpha’s. Eric tried to drug and radio collar the female first, but when he assessed that she may have been struggling and was possibly suffering from heat exposure, he released her to recuperate naturally. Eric was able to radio collar and released the male. Monitoring of this group of wolves will continue to establish if, indeed, there is yet another new wolf pack in central Idaho.

On the 12th, ID WS Specialist Mann confirmed 1 ewe killed and had another "probable" ewe kill on Lava Ridge in the Payette National Forest. There is also 1 injured lamb that he was not able to examine yet. B-180 from the Partridge Creek pack was located just below the sheep. Justin had four wolves howling at him and the herders while he was there. He set six traps and will kill up to two uncollared wolves that he catches (per FWS instructions). For the time being, B-180 will be killed.

On Saturday August 6th, an MFWP warden reported that a wolf-like animal grabbed a Jack Russell terrier from a yard in Big Sky, MT and ran off into the woods with it. He responded with a follow up-call and passed the information to Ross [MFWP] who visited with the landowner. Reportedly the dog was barking at the edge of the yard and as the landowner looked to see what it was barking at, she heard it yelp. As she got into the yard she saw a large dog-like animal running into the woods with her little dog in its mouth. She pursued the animal yelling and screaming for approximately a mile and found nothing. Her husband and son got horses and rode the area but found nothing. She mentioned the animal was a red auburn color and thought it was big but a house guest that was with her thought it was not real big. They just moved in this past June, so have not seen too many coyotes and had never seen a wolf. After visiting with her, it was determined that it was probably a coyote, but could possibly be a wolf, either way it was a sad situation. Landowners need to be aware that small pets need extra protection where there are eagles, owls, bobcats, cougars, bears, coyotes and wolves.

In 2004, the Green River Pack killed 20 cattle and two herding dogs. After several control actions and continuing depredations, the entire pack was removed fall 2004. A new pack formed in 2005, but began killing livestock in summer 2005. One adult wolf was removed after 2 cattle were killed in early July. Depredations continued and by July 31st, nine calves had been killed. Due to the history of chronic depredations since 2002 in the Green River area and the logistics of very large grazing allotments, the Service and WS concluded that nonlethal control would not prevent further depredations. On August 1st, two adult wolves and two 50-lb pups were removed. Control actions were completed on the 5th, when the last remaining adult and 2 pups were removed. The Green River Pack killed at least 9 calves this summer. The grazing association has put on more riders to better monitor their cattle. A couple of calves have been killed since control was completed and a lone uncollared wolf is suspected to still be in the area. A radio collared dispersing Druid wolf that was in the area, not involved in previous depredations, was not found on the last telemetry flight, apparently moving on. On the 10th, WS confirmed a ewe killed by a single wolf in the Green River drainage. We will monitor and determine if more wolves have moved into the Green River area.

Last winter, a new pack (Pacific Creek Pack) was established north of Teton National Park. We have not been able to determine pack size or if they have denned this spring but suspect there are between 5-10 wolves. High grizzly bears densities in this area have made trapping difficult. On the 11th, a third adult cow was killed by Pacific Creek wolves. Next week, WS and the Service will attempt to trap and collar wolves in this drainage.

Research

Nearly a dozen wolf carcasses from lethally controlled wolves in Wyoming and Idaho were picked up by staff from the University of Utah for their research on wolf skeletal structure/function. They will remove kidneys and send them to Illinois Wesleyan University for a study of chemical residue detection. We contribute wolf carcasses from wolf control operations for approved University led research programs whenever possible and when those extra costs are borne by the University.

Information and Education and Law Enforcement

Bangs participated in the IX International Mammalogical Congress in Sapporo, Japan and a tour of Shiretoko National Park, on Hokkaido Island. Bangs presented an invited paper for a symposium on August 4th [about 70 attended] and gave a public translated presentation to about 40 local people on the 7th at Shiretoko Park.

On the 4th, representatives from DOI and Service met with representatives from MN, MI, WI, and MT, ID, and WY, and Curt Mack from the Nez Pece Tribe in Minneapolis, MN in response to the states’ request for such a meeting and to listen to state suggestions about potential strategies the Service should consider to deal with the recent Oregon court ruling.

Holyan gave a presentation at Ponderosa State Park on the 23rd to a group of 15-20 campers.

On the 2nd, Jimenez gave a presentation to about 35 people at the Annual meeting of the Service’s Reality and Refuge Division in Salt Lake City, UT.

Krischke [WY WS] gave an invited talk to about 30 attendees at the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Human/Wildlife Conflicts Committee on Sunday, July 24th in Alberta. The talk described the WS program in Wyoming, history of wolf reintroduction and wolf damage, wolf damage management methods, wolf take, costs, etc.

On August 12th, oral arguments were heard by the Vermont Federal District Court where litigation over the national wide wolf reclassification is being reviewed. The issues in that Vermont case are very similar to the ones that were heard by the Oregon Court.

The Defenders of Wildlife and 11 other groups filed suit regarding the Service’s issuing of 10(a)1(a) subpermits to the states of MI and WI that allow nonlethal and lethal take of depredating gray wolves in those states.

Niemeyer will be speaking to a Defenders of Wildlife educational event at the Yellowstone Institute on Saturday, August 13th. This will be his sixth year to address the group on wolf management issues in the northwest region at this event. Doug Smith spoke to this group of about 20 people on the 12th.

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