Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 10/21/05

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 10/14 to 10/21, 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.

Big Game rifle hunting seasons are open, or soon will be, in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. Please remind hunters to report wolf observations or sign of wolves.

Trapp (MFWP) initiated trapping efforts for an uncollared pack in the Absorka Beartooth Wilderness near Carbonate Mountain on the 16th. Asher [MFWP] scouted for sign and attempted to trap in the Spotted Bear wolf pack territory, south of Avon, MT this week but found no fresh sign. Six traps and their tote box were stolen from a local creek where they were being de-scented. The local sheriff was notified and a theft report was filed.

During a telemetry flight on the 13th, female wolf B244's (Orphan pack) signal was detected on mortality near Horsethief Reservoir. Scott Kabasa (USFWS Law Enforcement) and Jim Holyan (NPT) went to investigated on the 14th and retrieved her carcass. It is being investigated by LE.

Last week, Isaac Babcock and Tyler Hollow [NPT], in a final effort to gather information, re-surveyed parts of the Selway and Magruder pack territories but did not located enough wolf sign to warrant capture operations. They also re-examined the Stolle Meadow pack to improve upon the pup count; they caught a brief glimpse of what may have been a black pup, but officially the pup count will remain at 1 for this pack. A trap line was set up for the Red River pack near Elk City, ID, but was run for only 3 days due to the onset of hunting season. No wolves were captured there.

USFWS Law Enforcement agent Scott Kabasa, IDFG Conservation Officer John Hunter, and NPT biologist Jim Holyan re-examined the site where Golden Creek wolf B230 was found dead on the 5th. The carcass was collected by IDFG on the 7th, transferred to USFWS, and shipped to the Forensics Lab at Ashland, OR.

On the 20th a monitoring flight out of McCall, ID detected Cold Springs pack female B206 (suspected alpha) on mortality mode. The site will be investigated on the 21st by USFWS Law Enforcement Senior Agent Craig Tabor and personnel from the NPT.

Control

A wolf was reportedly caught by a private coyote trapper in the Big Hole Valley, MT on the 11th. The wolf apparently pulled the stake out of the ground and was gone by the time the trapper arrived. The trapper was using disposable stakes [disposable ground anchors that are driven in and then a flange flares out to secure them underground] that he believed should have held a wolf, but thought the ground had maybe gotten too wet, allowing the stakes to pull out. On the 18th, WS got a call from the same coyote trapper, who reported catching 2 more wolves in the same area. Because MFWP is in a control action to remove three members of the Battlefield pack because of recent livestock depredations, WS went out to euthanize them. An adult male was killed but, the other wolf broke the chain and escaped. On the 19th, 3 more wolves were captured by the same trapper, one pulled out of the trap but two were held. WS euthanized an adult female and a 60lb male pup and is continuing to trap to collar and release on-site. MFWP also voided the private landowner shoot-on-sight authorization. The trapper was using #3 Victor coil-spring traps. We thank the trapper for quickly reporting these incidental catches. Deliberate or negligent wolf trapping could result in prosecution. The trapper was reminded that while incidental catches are addressed by the 2005 10j regulations, after having caught wolves 6 times, with two escaping with his traps, he was responsible for taking steps to reduce the chances of that continuing to happen, such as by using bigger/deeper stakes, or by attaching traps much closer to stakes, or by also attaching longer stout chains and drags, or by using even weaker/smaller traps that would still hold coyotes but probably not wolves. He was very interested in finding ways to reduce his chances of incidental wolf captures. A monitoring flight by MFWP on the 20th found that the Battlefield pack [2 ad and 3 pups [one female pup is radioed] was at the other end of the Valley and not involved in these latest depredations, meaning a new multi-generational uncollared pack was involved with the depredations and had 3 members removed- possibly the uncollared Black Canyon. MFWP flew the area but did not detect any radio collars from missing wolves or adjacent packs. Plans are to radio and release any wolf captured. MT WS Traps will be pulled by Oct 22 as rifle hunting season opens in Montana the 23rd.

On the 15th, MT WS specialist Bart Smith confirmed 2 heifers were attacked by wolves in the Big Hole Valley on a private ranch. The heifers were attacked on the 13th and died on the 15th. Efforts are already underway to remove the remaining members of the Battlefield pack. At least 2 wolves are left in this pack: the alpha female and the collared female pup. A state shoot-on-sight permit was issued to the ranch manager for up to 2 wolves while agency control continues. [Please See monitoring section above]- an uncollared adult male that was accidently captured by a coyote trapper in the Big Hole was euthanized by MT WS on the 18th and two others were euthanized on the 19th. It turns out an uncollared pack, probably Black Canyon, were likely responsible for the depredations and had 3 pack members killed by agency control.

On the 12th, MT WS confirmed that a calf was killed by the Freezeout pack, on private land NE of Dillon, MT. MFWP authorized removal by WS and issued written authorization to the landowner to shoot wolves on sight- until a total of 4 wolves were removed by either agency action or the landowner. On the 14th, WS removed the radioed alpha female #115 and an uncollared female pup. On the 15th, GPS collared male SW37 [the GPS collar was being used as part of a MSU and MFWP elk/wolf study] and a young adult male were killed. A 2-yr-old female was darted and the GPS collar placed on her. She is now the only collared animal in that pack that now consists of her and 2 pups. Agency control is over unless there are further problems, and the private landowner shoot-on-sight permit was cancelled.

On the 16th, 2 buck sheep were reportedly killed on the same private land north of Dillon, MT were sheep were killed this past spring. On the 17th MT WS confirmed that 5 buck sheep were actually killed. The same uncollared pair [one with a bob-tail] that killed a dog and calf in that area earlier this year is believed responsible. MFWP authorized MT WS to remove 2 wolves, focusing on the bob-tail pair. If other or more wolves are involved MT WS was authorized to collar and release a wolf so it could be sorted out. The effected landowners were issued shoot-on-sight authorization for two wolves by MFWP.

On the 16th, ID WS captured and killed a large, gray female wolf in the hills above Dworshak Reservoir. This animal was the suspected alpha female of the Chesimia Pack. On the 17th, WS suspended the control action on the Chesimia Pack.

On the 17th, ID WS re-started the control action near Challis, ID when wolves from the Moyer Basin Pack came back to the area where a calf was killed a few weeks ago. No traps have been set, but several attempts to call and shoot a wolf have been made. No additional wolves have been taken.

On the 19th, ID WS confirmed that wolves attacked and injured a mixed breed pet dog on private land near Red Elephant Creek west of Ketchum, ID.

On the 20th, a ‘range rider’ in the Mocassin Lake pack territory south of Big Timber, MT reportedly chased three wolves [2 gray and a black] off of a fresh calf carcass on private land. MT WS immediately investigated and confirmed it was a wolf kill. The Mocassin Lake pack has 4 grey members but apparently no pups. Two of those wolves are radio-collared. This appears to be an unknown group [or a black wolf has just joined Moccasin Lake pack] so the decision was to trap, radio, and released on site to try to figure it out. With calves being shipped and the big game rifle hunting season beginning [wolves reduce their hunting and just scavenge on gut plies and wounded or unretrieved big game carcasses] the chances for continued depredations are greatly reduced.

Research

Nothing new to report.

Information and Education and Law Enforcement

Trapp (MFWP) gave a presentation to the Student Wildlife Society at Montana State University on the 13th.

On the 17th, Sime [MFWP] gave talks to two local high school biology classes. About 40 students attended.

MT FW& P has an electronic form for hunters and other recreationists to report wolves and wolf activity at http://fwp.mt.gov/wildthings/wolf. Wolf reports by hunters helps monitor existing packs and document wolf activity. Montana’s general deer and elk rifle hunting season opens Oct 23 and closes Nov 27.

A two-count criminal information was filed last week charging an Idaho resident with attempting to kill wolves by the use of poison baits, and the unlawful distribution of a poison substance on USFS land. The initial court appearance is scheduled for late October.

There was an interesting news story out of Jackson, WY about Wyoming Game and Fish, the National Elk Refuge, and Teton National Park debating additional ways to shoot more elk in the Jackson Hole elk herd because it still remains above state and federal management objectives- despite very liberal cow hunting regulations. See the Jackson Hole News & Guide, Oct 20 at http://www.jhnews.com .

On Oct. 14, the federal government filed a Notice of Appeal with the Vermont District Court in the wolf reclassification National Wildlife Federation v. Norton. As was the case with the Oregon Notice of Appeal, this does not necessarily mean that the FWS is going to actively pursue an appeal; rather, it retains our option to appeal, which otherwise would have terminated about now. The federal government has not yet made a decision on whether to follow-through on the appeal either of these cases.

On the 17th, the Service announced its 90-day finding that the Wyoming petition to establish a three-state [MT, ID, WY] Distinct Population Segment and to delist wolves in that area contained enough substantial information that the Service would take up to another 9 months to examine and decide whether wolf delisting is warranted and publish a delisting proposal, or if delisting still not warranted. That finding of substantial information in the petition does not mean the Service has approved the Wyoming state law and the Wyoming state wolf management plan.

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