Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

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

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 9/2 to 9/9, 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.

HUNTERS PLEASE REMEMBER TO REPORT SUSPECTED WOLF OBSERVATIONS. TO YOUR LOCAL FISH AND GAME DEPARTMENT. THANKS AND HAVE A GREAT SEASON.

Correction- The mid-year wolf estimate for Wyoming was 13 groups of wolves with >2pups, not 17 as the Sept 2 weekly mis-stated. There were 7 groups with 2 or more pups [potential breeding pairs] in WY outside the Park and 6 groups with 2 or more pups [potential breeding pairs] inside Yellowstone Park for a preliminary total of 13 groups of two or more pups in Wyoming.

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 13 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 7th, Isaac Babcock {NPT] captured and collared a subadult female in the Eldorado pack and confirmed a minimum of 2 pups, making them a breeding pair for the first time since 2003. He re-captured and released the Bimerick male that Niemeyer captured earlier this summer and documented it is part of a full-fledged pack with multiple adults and at least 2 pups (based on howling).

Michael Lucid has been attempting to capture wolves east of Idaho City in an area where he is trying to determine if wolves there are part of the Timberline pack or a new pack. Jason Husseman unsuccessfully attempted to get pup counts in the newly collared Yankee Fork pack when the collared female was pushed out of the rendezvous site by an outfitter setting up camp. Linda Thurston was also unsuccessful in her attempt at placing a collar on what she believes to be a new pack in Skull ck area of the North Fork of the Clearwater.

A telemetry flight on the 6th revealed the Teton pack left the Upper Green River [far outside their ‘normal’ pack territory] and was back in Teton National Park, a trip of about 65 miles. On the 8th, Service volunteer ground crews were following up on a cluster of 6-8 GPS locations by the Teton pack when they were in the Upper Green River grazing allotment last week. A calf carcass was found at the location. It was fairly decayed/consumed but WY WS was notified and went to examine it on the 9th, to try to determine if it was scavenged or killed by wolves.

The yearling female wolf captured last week near Dubois, WY was not located with the Washakie [4 ad + 4 pup] pack this week, indicating she maybe part of a new WY outside the Park pack. Further monitoring will determine where her pack lives and if they have pups.

Control

About 3AM on Sept. 3rd, wolves, probably from the Freezeout pack, severely wounded two Akbash guard dogs that were protecting sheep on Forest Service grazing allotments east of Dillon, MT. Both dogs were taken to the veterinarian, but one is not expected to live. The previous week another guard dog disappeared from that same area but there was no evidence of what happened to it. MFWP issued the grazing permittees shoot-on-sight permits for 2 wolves, provided them with the radio frequencies for all wolves that might be in the vicinity, and WS was instructed by MFWP to try to kill 2 wolves near to where the guard dogs were attacked for the first five days. The idea was to try and kill 2 adult wolves, as wolves often quickly return to where territorial fights occur.

On the 2nd, ID WS specialist Doug Hansen confirmed one ewe killed by wolves near the Hard Creek Guard Station on the Payette National Forest. B-254 (suspected member of the Hazard Lake Pack) was near the sheep. Traps were not set due to the level of recreational activity for the Labor Day weekend.

On the 8th, ID WS specialist Justin Mann confirmed one calf killed by wolves near Adams Camp in the Nez Perce National Forest. B-201 of the Florence Pack was nearby. Traps were set with the intention of capturing and killing up to two wolves. This depredation is not far from where a fire crew witnessed wolves attacking cattle three weeks ago.

On the 8th, ID WS specialist Jeff Ashmead confirmed one Akbash guard dog injured and had 5 lambs and 7 ewes killed that he called "probable" wolf kills on Beaver Creek in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. The herders witnessed 3 black wolves and 1 gray wolf attacking the guard dog. Jeff said that sheep are scattered everywhere so it is possible that more kills may be found. This area is inside the Soldier Mountain Pack's territory.

Research

Nothing new to report.

Information and Education and Law Enforcement

On the 8th, Jimenez gave a presentation to 30-35 people at a Symposium on co-existing with carnivores held in Jackson, WY by the Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative.

C. Niemeyer, S. Duke, J. Foss (USFWS), M. Collinge, T. Grimm, R. Williamson (WS), J. Holyan (NPT), S. Huffaker, J. Unsworth, B. Compton, and S. Nadeau (IDFG) finalized the MOA between WS and IDFG regarding carnivore control following livestock depredation. Additionally, a protocol was developed and accepted that outlines how WS and IDFG under designated agent status will conduct wolf control measures for livestock depredations.

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