Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 8/19/05

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 8/12 to 8/19, 2005

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 [MFWP] reported that a radioed Mission Creek wolf with severe mange was again seen at close range and photographed by several people south of Big Timber, MT. It will be euthanized if it continues to act listless and observed by people at close range (60m). All 4 wolves in the Mission Creek pack’s old territory appear to have mange, three severely. On the 16th, Trapp saw a mangy uncollared wolf, with a crippled front right foot. He set a few traps near a dead domestic bison (not a wolf kill) on a local ranch that had wolf tracks around it but the wolves didn't return. On the 17th, he heard a chorus howl (at least 3). Telemetry confirmed that the two radio-collared animals (457 & 352) were there and he saw 3 wolves. One of the three he saw showed almost no sign of mange and none were limping. Although the Mission Creek wolves have mange, they seem to be operating as a pack, at least some of the time, and despite scratching a lot they seem to be displaying normal behavior and are generally fearful of humans. There is no indication of pups. MFWP will monitor these wolves and respond if necessary.

Wolf #350, a black wolf that dispersed from the Druid pack, was near the Upper Green River area of WY two weeks ago. He traveled back north and has joined wolf #253's [limping wolf that was brought back from Utah] group, near the National Elk Refuge, northeast of Jackson, WY.

Derbridge (MFWP) and Laudon (MFWP) closed both the Candy Mountain Pack and Kootenai Pack traplines on the 8th. They then surveyed areas in the Seeley/Swan valley of past wolf observations for sign but none was found.

Laudon opened another trapline in what was thought to be the Kootenai pack territory. An adult male (8/14) and adult female (8/17) were captured and radio collared. The previously collared Kootenai animal is not known to be associated with this group. The new collars will help determine whether this is the Kootenai pack or a new pack.

Derbridge surveyed the Hog Heaven pack to determine reproductive status and was unsuccessful. Hog Heaven is the only pack in NW Montana that the reproduction status is still unknown. Derbridge worked his last day on the 17th and is heading back to Berkeley, CA to attend classes. Thanks for all the hard work and long days Jonathan!

Tyler Hollow [Nez Perce Tribe] scouted the area where the Selway pack had den & rendezvous sites in the past. There are no radio-collared wolves in this pack now, so monitoring is difficult. He found fresh sign of at least one wolf in the area but due to imminent fire danger was only able to trap for a couple of days and was unsuccessful.

Babcock [NPT] set up a capture operation on the Eldorado pack while also attempting to locate the newly collared male that was captured at Bimerick Meadows. Three wolves were again heard howling in the Eldorado Ck. drainage, but none were captured. Isaac was unable to pick up the signal on the Bimerick wolf, so the pack and reproductive status of this group remains unknown. He also made a noble effort to find the Eagle Mt. pack for the purpose of determining whether they have reproduced this year. Without the guidance of an aerial location Isaac was not able to locate the sole radio-collared wolf, alpha male B136. A subsequent flight indicated that B136 was likely deep in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness when Isaac was searching for him.

Jim Holyan [NPT] attempted to improve upon the pup counts for the Stolle Meadow and Orphan/Scott Valley packs, but was unable to locate the pups for either pack. He also investigated a sighting report of five wolves in the Landmark region; fresh wolf sign was found, but not enough to warrant a trapping effort. Jim also visited the traditional den/rendezvous site of the Hazard Lake pack (which had several members lethally controlled last year, including alpha male B105) to determine if the wolves had used the home site this year. There was no evidence of wolf occupancy, so the uncollared Hazard Lake pack remains difficult to monitor. One of the livestock producers affected by this pack in 2004 reported seeing 3 wolves earlier this spring. Jim also monitored the Partridge Ck. pack, alpha female B180, to determine if this pack has pups. No evidence of pups has been found this year, so it appears this pack has not reproduced since the illegally killing of the alpha male last fall. Former Hazard Lake male wolf B183 was accompanying B180, so this may be a potential pair for next year.

Control

On the 15th, the Service issued a 45-day Shoot-On-Sight permit to an Idaho Livestock Company authorizing their employees to shoot up to 3 adult wolves on the Hershey/Lava, Brundage, Josephine, Twenty Mile, Pearl Creek, Cougar and Grassey grazing allotments on the Payette National Forest in Adams and Valley Counties, Idaho. The Company is experiencing chronic wolf depredations on sheep bands at multiple locations within these allotments and WS is also implementing several lethal control actions. Bands are protected by herders and guard dogs.

On the 17th, ID WS specialist Mann captured and killed a large (120 lb.+), gray male wolf at the Lava Ridge site on the Payette National Forest. Signals from B-180 or B-183 were not heard. The control action is ongoing and probably involves members of the Partridge Creek pack.

On the 13th, ID WS brought in a contract helicopter to conduct an aerial shooting operation on members of the Steel Mountain pack west of Big Trinity Lake in the Boise National Forest. Despite having 3 collared members to use as locators, the wolves were never spotted in the open and no wolves were removed. ID WS Specialist Gary Looney resumed his trapping operation to remove wolves that had killed 46 sheep (confirmed), 7 sheep (probable) and a guard dog (confirmed) over the last two weeks.

On the 16th, a fixed winged aerial shooting operation was conducted in Copper Basin on the Challis National Forest following the control action that took place last month where 6 wolves from the Copper Basin pack were removed. The aircrew located B-227 (the sole collared animal that was intentionally left alive), she was with 2 more adult-sized wolves. The aircraft made one pass before the wolves made it to the timber but one gray wolf was taken. Due to the terrain, it was not recovered. On the 19th, another wolf was taken.

On the 16th, ID WS Specialist Justin Mann confirmed 4 sheep killed on a grazing allotment near Josephine Lake in the Payette National Forest. The band had a herder, a camp tender, and 3 livestock guarding dogs. Unknown wolves are responsible for the depredation. Traps have been set and a control action to remove multiple wolves is underway. On the 18th, Mann captured and killed a gray, female, sub-adult wolf at the site after confirming another lamb killed from the night before.

On the 17th, ID WS received a call from a Nez Perce National Forest wildlife biologist , who reported that on the 18th, a fire crew witnessed 10-14 wolves attacking an adult cow in a creek near Slate Lake. The FS biologist and livestock owner looked thoroughly for a carcass but, as it turns out, the fire crew may have spooked the wolves from the cow before they were able to kill it. WS is inquiring to see if any of the fire crew members happened to photograph any of what they reported.

Early this year wolves from the new uncollared Pacific Creek pack, just north of Grand Teton National Park, killed 2 cows on an allotment in the Park. Cattle were moved into an open meadow complex in the Wilderness area to the north and on the 10th another adult cow was killed. On the 13th, a calf was killed and consumed. In an agreement with the permittee and Forest Service, cattle were moved about 6 miles south into another grazing area in the hopes of avoiding further losses. However, on the 15th a steer was killed. The area has numerous grizzly bears that quickly claim the kills [and even burying tarps the riders used to cover the carcass for examination by WS] so trapping is not an option. The only road in the area is heavily used by outfitters and recreationists packing into the Wilderness. The wolves are packing off a lot of the carcasses, so we suspect pups are being fed. The permittee was offered a shoot-in-the-act of biting or grasping authorization as permitted by the 1994 experimental population rules still in effect in Wyoming because the state wolf plan was not approved by the Service. Control options maybe limited to ground shooting, which in forested habitat is difficult to implement. Jimenez spent the 17th, riding with a local outfitter who runs a pack string business to investigate areas where wolves have been repeatedly seen.

On the 16th, WS confirmed a calf was killed by a wolf on an allotment near Kemmerer, WY. Local ranchers have reported seeing a black wolf in the vicinity on several occasions. WS investigated two possible wolf-killed calves several weeks ago but the carcasses were so deteriorated cause of death could not be confirmed. WS was authorized to kill a single wolf. This area is grazed by about 7,000 cattle and 10,000 ewes plus their lambs during summer. On the 18th, a ewe and a lamb were confirmed as wolf-killed in the same area. Control is ongoing.

The Carter Mountain pack [4 adults and 4 pups left] in Wyoming, killed another calf on the 16th. WS was authorized to remove another adult or two. Four pack members have already been removed for cattle depredations earlier this summer.

On the 17th, WS investigated 3 suspected wolf-killed calves near Horse Creek by Dubois, WY. WS was able to confirm one as a wolf kill but the other two carcasses were too decayed to determine cause of death. WS was authorized to trap, collar, and release a wolf on-site to determine what if any pack [Washakie is adjacent to this area] was involved.

On the 19th, WY WS received a report of a possible wolf depredation on sheep on a BLM grazing allotment near Farson, WY. They will be able to investigate it later today.

Research

The late summer wolf population in YNP appears to be down this year; eight radio collared wolves have died over the summer, a higher than normal number; pup survival for several packs is poor as well as one pack not having pups at all; and two and possibly three packs have either dissolved or left the park. The Geode Creek pack is thought not to exist anymore, the alpha male is confirmed dead and the alpha female is presumed dead, two other pack members are dead, and a fifth radio collared wolf has dispersed. There is no sign at any wolf activity at their typical summer rendezvous sites. The Swan Lake pack has lost two wolves in the last three weeks, one of which was the longtime alpha female. It is suspected that only 3 wolves, all males, are left to raise 2 pups. Seventeen pups were born to four females at Slough Creek but now only three are being counted. The Agate Creek pack had 8 pups but now has only three. Park wolves had very poor pup recruitment in 1999 and parvo-virus was suspected as the cause. Most wolves that died have been found too late to determine cause of death. Unless found and checked immediately the warm temperatures & bugs cause decay to proceed very quickly.

Information and Education and Law Enforcement

Law enforcement cases solved. Great work by our Special Agents, Forest Service LE agents and State Wardens- Wolf B203 was shot and killed in the Middle Fork back in early June 2005. The case was initially investigated by IDFG region 7 officers and turned over to Service agents for follow-up. The shooter reported the incident to IDFG officers the day it occurred, and said he had thought the wolf was a coyote. He later admitted that he had been going to that guest ranch for many years, and knew that wolves were in the area. This subject, in an out-of-Court settlement, has agreed to accept a Federal Violation Notice, and has paid a fine of $1,000.

Banner Summit Wolf - Also in June, motorists reported seeing a man shoot a wolf on Highway 21, south of Banner Summit (between Lowman and Stanley). Their report was made to a USFS ranger station, and a USFS LEO and an IDFG officer located the carcass of a wolf near where this incident had been described. The case was referred to the Service for follow-up investigation. A press release was issued giving the description of the man and vehicle seen by the motorists who reported the incident. The shooter, an Idaho resident, was identified and Service agents met with him and his attorney. He admitted that he was an experienced hunter, and that he knew wolves were in the area. This subject, in an out-of-Court settlement, agreed to receive a Federal Violation Notice, and has paid a fine of $2,500.

Vermont Court Issues Ruling on the Service’s 2003 Final Rule for Wolf Reclassification- On the 19th, United States District Judge Murtha issued a ruling on the litigation involving NWF et al. vs Norton et al., Docket No. 1:03-CV-340. His conclusions were "The Final Rule does not comply with the ESA, DPS Policy, or the notice and comment provisions of the APA. For reasons set forth herein, plaintiff’s [NWF] motion for judgement is GRANTED and defendants [DOI/FWS] motion for judgement is DENIED. The Final Rule is vacated and remanded for reconsideration." The Service is studying the Court’s opinion and its options.

On the 18th, Smith gave a presentation to about a hundred state employees at a meeting of Region 3, Montana FWP in Helena, MT.

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