Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 9/2/05

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 8/26 to 9/2, 2005

HAVE A SAFE AND ENJOYABLE LABOR DAY WEEKEND

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.

HUNTERS ARE CRITICAL TO ACCURATELY MONITORING OF WOLF POPULATIONS. FALL HUNTING SEASON IS BEGINNING SO PLEASE REMEMBER TO ASK HUNTERS TO REPORT SUSPECTED WOLF OBSERVATIONS. HUNTERS- PLEASE HELP MONITOR WOLVES BY REPORTING WOLF OBSERVATIONS TO YOUR LOCAL FISH AND GAME DEPARTMENT. YOUR PARTICIPATION AND ASSISTANCE WITH WOLF MANAGEMENT IS AS IMPORTANT NOW AS IT WILL BE IN THE FUTURE. THANKS.

Mid-year 2005 total northern Rocky Mountain wolf population estimate is around 912 wolves [2004 official estimate was 835 wolves]. This mid-year wolf population estimate is made to provide a rough idea of the wolf population size in late summer and to find out where we may need focus our monitoring efforts during the remainder of 2005. Because wolf mortality [control and illegal killing] peak in the Fall and wolf surveys are most accurate in November and December when there is snow cover and the packs are most cohesive- the Dec 31 ‘official’ estimate will more accurately reflect our best estimate of actual wolf population size and distribution. At this time it appears the wolf population up slightly, but as was also the case in 2004 only because Idaho’s wolf population continues to grow. Right now it appears that Montana will be about the same, Idaho will be up, and Wyoming down from the ‘official’ wolf population estimate made in December 2004. At this time we don’t know of any wolves in adjacent states. As always, the annual 2004 estimate of wolf breeding pairs [66] will be adjusted in our 2006 annual report to reflect packs with multiple yearlings [indicating they successfully raised >2 more pups in 2004] and met the ‘breeding pair’ definition in 2004 but were not counted in 2004.

MONTANA- Total 166 wolves- [2004 estimate was 153 wolves, which was down from the 2003 estimate of 182 wolves]. MFWP is still investigating 7-8 areas of possible wolf pack activity.

NW MT[endangered]- 18 groups, >2 pups confirmed in 9, unknown in 9, +61 adults and +32 pups. [NW MT 2004 estimate was 59 wolves]. Hog Heaven [2-3 adults & ? pups], Kintla [6&4], Whitefish [6-7&?], Murphy Lake [3&2], Lazy Creek [4&?], Wolf Prairie [4&4], Fish Trap [8-9&>2], Candy Mt. [5-6&>2], Spotted Bear [?&?], Great Bear [?&?], Kootenai [+2&+2], Ninemile [+3&5], Burdette Cr/Fish CR [+5&9], Superior [+2&?], Big Hole [MT den & +2], Halfway [3+?], Red Shale [+1&?], and Avon [7&?].

Southern MT [Experimental Population]- 18 groups, >2 pups confirmed in 6, unknown in 12, +55 adults and +18 pups. [MT Ex. Pop. 2004 estimate was 94 wolves]. Brooks Creek [+1 adults & ? pups], Sula [5&5], Black Canyon [3&>2], Sapphire [8&?], Willow [+4&?], East Fork Bitterroot [+4&?], Painted Rocks [5&?], Mission [4&0], Moccasin [4&?], Rose Creek II [+1&>2], Mill Creek [?&?], Donahue [2&?], Chief Joe [?&?], Dead Horse [2&4], Freezeout [+5&3-4], Cameron/Homestead [1&0- no longer pack], Bear Trap [3&>2], the Wedge [3&?], and Jardine [+1&?]. Six packs have mange in the MT portion of the ex. pop. Greater Yellowstone Areas and have experienced significant adult and pup mortality.

IDAHO- Total estimate 500-550 wolves [used 525 for an ‘estimate’] in +53 groups, >2 pups 35 groups, 11 other groups are suspected, and 15 other reports of possible groups have yet to be investigated, there were at least 115-125 pups, the number of adults is not estimated for most Idaho packs because of rugged terrain and heavy forest cover. [Idaho’s 2004 estimate was 422 wolves]. Documented packs- Avery [2 pups], Bear Valley [+3], Bennett Mt. [0], Biscuit Basin [2], Blue Ranch [4], Buffalo Ridge [6-7], Calder [+2], Calderwood Basin [?], Chamberlain Basin [?], Chesmia [3], Cold Springs [?], Cooper Basin [2], Coolwater Ridge [4], Eagle Mt. [?], Earthquake Basin [6], East Pass [+3], Eldorado [?], Five Lakes Butte [2-3], Florence [6-9], Galena [3], Gold Fork [2], Golden Creek [?], Gospel Hump [?], Hazard Lake [?], Hemlock Ridge [+2], Hughes Creek [5], Jungle Creek [+2], Jureano Mt. [+3], Kelly Creek [2-3], Lochsa [3], Magruder [?], Marble Mt. [2], Monumental [2], Morgan Creek [5], Moyer Basin [5], O’Hara Point [6], Orphan/Scott Valley [5 adults&4], Owl Creek [?], Packer John [3-4], Partridge Creek [?], Red River [+2], Scott Mt. [4], Selway [?], Soldier Mt. [4], Steel Mt. [4-7], Stolle Meadow [1], Timberline [3], Thunder Mt. [?], Twin Peaks [?], Warm Springs [+2], Wolf Fang [?], and Yankee Fork [+2]. Suspected Packs- Big Buck, Bimerick, Castle Peak, Indian Creek, Marble Mt. 2, Pen Basin, Pettibone, B45/B257, B147, B194, and Y239. Possible but undetermined packs- Carey/Craters, W. Side Cascade Res., Fish Creek meadows, Giant Cedar/B256, Granddad, Hansen Meadows/Pony Flats, Haystack Mt/W. Elk City, Lehmi, Lower Mores Creek, Lower N. Fork Clearwater, Nez Perce Female, Moose Creek/Lower Selway, Pikes Fork, Upper Main Weiser, and Willow Creek Summit.

WYOMING- Total- 221 wolves in 22 groups, >2 pups in 17 groups. [2004 estimate was 260].

Yellowstone National Park- Total 118 wolves, 12 groups, >2 pups confirmed in 6, unknown in 1, with 97 adults and 21 pups. [YNP 2004 estimate was 171 wolves]. Swan Lake [3 adults & 0 pups- may not longer exist as pack], Leopold [22 & 1], Geode [0&0- no longer a pack], Specimen [0&0- no longer a pack], Agate [5&2], Slough Creek [12&3], Druid [6&1], Mollies [8&0], Delta [11&5], Bechlar [3&1], Nez Perce [10&3], Cougar [9&?], Gibbon [6&3], and Hayden [2&2]. Biscuit Basin pack moved out of the Park and into ID and is counted as an ID pack. This year it appears that Yellowstone Park packs had very low pup survival, natural mortality of adults was high, and 4 packs broke-up/dissolved. In addition to a suspected parvo-virus outbreak, this is likely the continuation of an expected social adjustment of Park wolves to ‘crowding’ on the northern range and lower prey density relative to high wolf numbers.

Wyoming Outside Yellowstone National Park- Total- 102 wolves in 11 groups, >2 pups confirmed in 7 groups, unknown pups in 4 groups, +65 adults and +37 pups. [2004 estimate was 89 wolves] Washakie [5 adults & ? pups], Teton [9&5], Flat Creek [3&6], Pacific Creek [+5&?], Beartooth [6&?], Sunlight [6&8], Absaroka [4&6], South Fork Shoshone [4&5], Wood River [2&3], Greybull River [7&?], and Carter Mtn [3&4]. The Upper Green River, Daniel, and Farson packs were eliminated by agency control in 2005. There are also +11 additional suspected misc. wolves as loners or non-breeding pairs. Mange hasn’t been document in WY in 2005 but was in 2004 & 2003.

On the 29, Grand Teton National Park rangers received a report about of an old male wolf that was ‘sickly’ and dragging his hindquarters. Once a black wolf he was now all gray from age. Rangers found it and watched him an hour until Jimenez got arrived. Mike walked up to him and darted him from the ground and reported he was a very old & emaciated [but still 100lbs] with worn-down teeth. He was euthanized and sent in for examination to determine the exact cause of his injuries. He was probably a Teton pack member.

On the 31st, Jimenez’s volunteer ground crew was checking out GPS telemetry clusters [Grand Teton NP research on wolf summer predation patterns. This site had 6-8 hits- locations are taken every 6 hours indicating wolves were staying there for an extended period] from a Teton pack wolf and they discovered the carcass of a yearling moose. At another cluster of 6-8 ‘hits’ less than a mile away they eventually found a 2-day-old carcass of a 45-50lb gray female pup. It still had its milk teeth and had been scavenged on by birds possibly coyotes. There were grizzly bear tracks the same age as the wolf tracks next to the pup’s carcass. Jimenez went to the location and helped examine it. There was abundant grizzly bear sign where both the moose and pup were found. Examination of the pup’s hide showed large hemorrhaged canine marks puncturing the hide across its back, indicating it had been killed by a grizzly bear. This was excellent and thorough work by the volunteer field crew. They didn’t initially find anything at the second GPS cluster, but they did thorough ground search of the surrounding area, finally found a pup’s remains- a unique observation. Thanks for the extra effort, ‘luck’ typically involves hard work.

A flight on the 29th determined that many yearling and 2 yr-olds from the Teton pack [both VHF collars and one GS collar] traveled down to the Upper Green River Forest Service grazing allotments [about 65 miles]. GPS locations indicate that group went down there on the 26th, but the Teton alpha female and pups stayed in the Park. Local livestock producers, WY G&F, WY WS were notified.

WY WS/FWS specialist Jim Pehringer trapped and collared 3 wolves this week. On the 24th he collared and safely released a gray male yearling from the Absaroka Pack. On the 30th, 2 wolves from the South Fork Pack, west of Cody (1 gray female pup & 1 black male yrlg) were radio-collared and released. Thanks and great work Jim.

On the 20th, Ross [MFWP] found a dead mangy and very thin gray pup near where the mangy [Cameron, MT, ie. short-lived ‘Homestead’ pack] female was euthanized last week. On the 31st, Ross and Asher [MFWP] found the carcass of a mangy black pup in the same area. We suspect none of the pups survived the mange and the male, that appeared healthy, hasn’t been seen back in the area. Traps to try and collar him were pulled on the 1st.

Tyler Hollow conducted a capture operation, based on information received from various sources, north of Elk River, ID. He and volunteer Kelsey Dalton succeeded in catching and radio-collaring an adult female wolf. A minimum of 3 wolves was heard howling in the area, but the pack and reproductive status of this group remains to be determined.

Jim Holyan and volunteer Janeen Hetzler [NPT] followed up on B254, radio-collared by WS during a control action near Grassy Twin Mt. north of McCall, ID. This female appeared to be alone both days she was monitored. They also re-surveyed female wolf B147 east of White Bird, ID. On the days B147 was under surveillance she was alone, although previous information indicated that she is probably associated with at least one other wolf. They also investigated the Cold Springs pack, but due to a large wildfire were unable to closely access female B206's radio-signal, so the reproductive status of this pack remains unknown. Janeen and Jim did improve the pup count on the wolves in the Scott Mt./Valley area northeast of Cascade, ID. A minimum of 4 pups is present (3 black, 1 gray) and 5 adults could be accounted for; radio-collared black wolves B244 (female) and B246 (male), and 3 grays.

Linda Thurston (IDFG) has been attempting to locate new wolf activity in the North Fork of the Clearwater River area. She found evidence of wolf activity in the Skull creek area and has placed traps. She has been working with local FS personnel and the public and has identified additional wolf activity around a fire that is preventing her from being able to verify or trap in the vicinity.

Michael Lucid followed up on the recently collared Big Buck pack with a pup count attempt. The collared sub-adult was not localized and a rendezvous site was not found. Trapping efforts were thwarted by the presence of guard dogs and hundreds of sheep.

Control

Correction- The WY WS specialist under a WS/FWS Cooperative Agreement to assist with wolf management in Wyoming and is who stationed out of Cody, WY is Jim Pehringer. His name was misspelled in a previous weekly. Jim has been doing a great job of assisting Service WY Project Leader Mike Jimenez to locate, collar, and monitor wolves and investigate and control problem wolves in WY.

On the 27th, another ewe was confirmed killed by a wolf in the Kemmerer, WY area. WS has flown the area 4 times in fixed-winged aircraft but hasn’t been able to locate anything yet. They will keep trying and are authorized to lethally take any lone wolves.

On the 27th, a calf was killed on a Daniel, WY area grazing allotment the site of previous depredations and control this summer. On the 31st, WS confirmed other 2 calves were killed on the allotment. WS is riding the area and will set traps if possible to collar and release a wolf on site. Subsequent agency control will depend on the number of wolves involved.

On the 30th, WY WS confirmed another calf had been killed by wolves on a public land grazing allotment near Horse Creek, near Dubois, WY. On the 2nd, Jimenez was checking Tracy Fyre’s [WY WS] trap-line and caught and radio-collared a gray yearling female. All traps were pulled. Four wolves are suspected to be in the area. She will be monitored to determine if this is a new pack and if they denned. Tracy deserves special recognition because he has been working this area for the past two weeks trying to get a radio out in this group.

WS/FWS specialist Pehringer confirmed Sunlight wolves killed a calf on the 31st in Sunlight Basin. We will monitor closely for now as this is the first kill by Sunlight Pack this year.

MT WS specialist Martin investigated and identified as probable a wolf depredation of a calf, on a public grazing allotment, northwest of Nye, MT on August 27th. Trapp (MFWP) flew a telemetry flight on the 28th and found the Moccasin Lake pack two miles to the west of the depredation site. Trapp met with the livestock owners on the 29th, explained 10(j) regulations and did ground telemetry work in the area, but did not pick up any wolf signals. MFWP will continue to monitor the situation and the livestock owners have increased their vigilance in the area.

On the 30th, ID WS specialists Hansen and Kocherhans collared and released a gray, sub-adult female wolf (B-257) at the Carey Dome depredation site inside the Payette National Forest. It weighed 95-100 lbs.

On the 30th, Hansen and Kocherhans confirmed that 2 ewes and a lamb were killed by wolves at Slab Butte, in the Payette National Forest. This is the same sheep band that experienced depredations at Hartley Meadows, also on the Payette National Forest, ID. Traps have been set and WS will collar and release a wolf if possible to try and identify which wolves maybe responsible. If not, the first wolf captured will be killed. On the 1st, WS shot and killed an adult gray male wolf as it fed on a previously confirmed wolf-killed sheep carcass at the Slab Butte depredation site.

Kocherhans also confirmed that a Great Pryenees guard dog guarding a band of sheep near Josephine Lake, in the Payette National Forest, was wounded by unknown wolves on the 25th.

On the 1st, a ranch employee reported shot an adult black wolf as it reportedly chased cattle on a private timberland grazing allotment east of Cascade, ID, near Horsethief Reservoir. The shooting was reported immediately and Service LE agents investigated. They followed the wolf’s sign for ½ mile before losing it. It was injured but not recovered. The investigation is continuing. This incident was in the old Orphan pack territory but it is unknown what pack was involved.

On the 31st there was a report of an injured calf within the Fishtrap Pack homerange, in NW MT. MT WS confirmed injuries were confirmed to be consistent with wolf attack. The calf is being treated and it is believed it will survive. There are no known non-lethal tools that would be practical under these open range grazing allotment conditions. Given that last year, NW Montana had only 6 breeding pairs of wolves, and that the Fishtrap Pack has no verified depredations since 2001, lethal removal is unwarranted at this time. This pack already has 3 working collars so that should help further monitoring efforts. The cattle will start coming off the grazing allotment in this area on the 15th.

Research

Curt and Pete Zager (IDFG) met with Mike Mitchell, leader of the USFWS Cooperative Research Unit in Missoula, MT, on 9/1, and discussed potential partnerships for long-term research efforts to develop alternative wolf monitoring protocols.

Information and Education and Law Enforcement

A world-wide wolf conference is hosted by the International Wolf Center every 5 years. Frontiers of Wolf Recovery: Southwestern U.S. and the World, will be held at the Antlers Hilton Hotel, Colorado Springs, CO, Oct1-4, 2005. For more information and to register visit: www.wolf.org

Doug Smith [NPS], Carter Niemeyer [FWS], Steve Nadeau [IDFG], and Rick Williamson [ID WS] participated in a wolf symposium in Idaho Falls on August 26th. About 175 people attended to listen to presentations on wolf biology, impacts on ungulates, transition to state management, and to ask questions. The program was sponsored by IDFG, and Karol Honas from local Channel 8 News moderated.

Steve Nadeau gave a presentation to the IDFG Commission on Tuesday 30th, on statewide status of ungulates and wolves, the ungulate research efforts and results to date, and the potential impacts of wolves on ungulates. Attention was focused on the big game units 10 and 12 and their declining elk populations. A proposal to increase efforts to stop the decline in elk in Units 10 and 12 will be forthcoming.

Curt Mack [NPT] led a hike on Sat. the 27th north of McCall, ID for 14 members of the Idaho Conservation League's Summer Hike Series. Wolves and wolf management issues were discussed.

Curt and NPT Wildlife Program Director Keith Lawrence attended the Tribal Endangered Species Conference sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation in Salt Lake City, UT on the 29th-30th.

MFWP volunteer Therese Hartman gave an evening program at Big Larch campground (Forest Service) about wolf ecology on August 27th. About 35 people attended.

On the 25th Trapp (MFWP) gave a presentation on Montana wolf management to the Rotary Club in Red Lodge, MT. Approximately 30 people were in attendance.

On the 31st , Trapp attended the Boulder range rider meeting. The project is moving along and everyone seemed content with the results so far. The riders hadn't picked up a wolf signal since Aug 9th. Unfortunately, the Mission Creek pack that uses this area was been reduced to a few individuals by mange.

A subcommittee of the Montana Wolf Livestock Loss Reduction and Mitigation Program working group met in Helena on August 31st. The group's charge is to create a Montana-based program to address economic losses for wolf-caused livestock losses, find ways to decrease the risk of loss through prevention strategies, and to secure funding for the program. About 12 people attended. They will meet again on September 14th.

On the 31st, Smith traveled to Flagstaff, AZ to give presentations at N. Arizona Univ. and to biologists from Grand Teton National Park.

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