Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 10/28/05

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 10/21 to 10/28, 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.

IDFG is planning and preparing for winter helicopter wolf capture work that will begin in early December. IDFG wolf biologists are done with summer field work and are summarizing field data and mapping public wolf observation reports from the website. Wolf telemetry flights are being conducted every 2 weeks through the hunting season to improve location information on wolf activity during hunting season, as well as to locate any radio collared wolf mortalities. Wolf pack size and wolf numbers will be further verified through the winter when observations of wolves on snow during telemetry flights allow for improved wolf counts.

On the 21st, Craig Tabor (USFWS Law Enforcement) and Jim Holyan and Tyler Hollow (NPT) examined the site of female B206's mortality location from the flight the day before. Her carcass was recovered and B206 will be necropsied at the Forensics Lab in Ashland, OR. Law Enforcement will continue with their investigation.

On October 23rd, IDFG officers euthanized a wolf found by a hunter in the Copper Basin area that was partially paralyzed from previous injuries.

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

Dan Curtin (MFWP warden) took a call Sunday morning the 23rd from someone, [1st day of MT’s big game rifle season], who reported seeing a wolf in a trap in the Ninemile Valley, MT. The wolf was caught in a coyote trap (a Montana #3 Coyote Special, 4 coil springs) up Rennic Creek. The warden was able to reach Ted North (WS) and the two of them collared the wolf, a black female 60 lb pup. The trapper was the same one who incidently caught a wolf in the Ninemile last fall. That wolf, 499M just died about a month ago, ending radio-contact with the Ninemile pack. A big thanks to Ted and Dan for arriving quickly, (especially since it was opening day of rifle season), and re-collaring this pack. The trapper was contacted. The wolf's foot was in good shape and the trap was securely staked.

-- A FEW HELPFUL TRAPPING HINTS-- Coyote trappers can still make effective coyote sets while reducing their chance of holding a wolf by: not making sets near areas with obvious wolf sign; using smaller traps like #2s; and using fewer trap springs [2 instead of 4 coil springs]. Trappers can reduce the chances of losing gear if a wolf is accidently caught by: attaching chains and drags in addition to staking their traps; making sure all trap and chain links and swivels are doubled, welded, securely ‘locked’, and/or very strong; using very deep stout stakes, and by double and/or more deeply staking traps. Also please remember to check all your gear after each use, just in case you damaged/cracked chains or swivels while pounding in stakes and removing them. ID F&G has these similar recommendations to avoid accidental capture of wolves: When setting coyote traps or other large furbearer traps, please be aware of any wolf sign in the area. Wolves travel great distances daily, but recent and common sign in an area may mean the wolves are there for a reason. Avoid catching wolves by avoiding recent wolf activity. Coyote traps can be improved to reduce the chance of losing traps or injuring wolves unnecessarily. Using heavy drag chains, with a swivel and heavy drag capable of holding a 100+ lb. animal may prevent the wolf from walking away with the trap. Avoid staking traps with a weak swivel and chain. Make sure all links are welded. A 7- foot or longer chain is recommended. A wolf may pull out of a trap if the stake and chain are solid. Double staking or cross pinning may be effective with stakes a minimum of 18-24 inches long. When using neck snares, trappers should purchase a brand name snare with break- away features. This will prevent not only accidental wolf capture but other big game animals or domestic livestock from being captured as well. Also, neck snares should well and solidly anchored. What to do if a wolf is accidentally captured:Contact IDFG, MFWP, USDA Wildlife Services, US Fish and Wildlife Service, or the Nez Perce Tribe- AS SOON AS POSSIBLE- their local phone numbers are in the telephone directory.

Trapp [MFWP] pulled traps near Carbonate Mountain in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness on the 22nd, before big game rifle season opened. When he started trapping on the 16th, there was fresh wolf sign in the area. Snow/mud tracking confirmed the presence of at least 5 wolves. This is consistent with reports from hunters, who saw 3 grays and 2 blacks. While the traps were out, no fresh sign was detected.

Trapp [MFWP] picked up a mortality signal on the Mission Creek male on the 26th (#352) and LE was contacted. This wolf had severe mange last time he was seen alive. FWS LE will pick up the carcass next week and the cause of its death investigated.

Asher [MFWP] was given a very reliable report from a hunting guide of 8 wolves [6 black and 2 grey] being sighted southwest of Bozeman, MT on a large private ranch/abutting Forest Service land. None are believed to be radio-collared. It is probably the Bear Trap pack & pups.

Control

On the 20th, Range riders 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 carcasses on private land. MT WS investigated and confirmed that the calf was killed by wolves. The Mocassin Lake pack has 4 gray adults but apparently no pups. Two of those wolves are radio-collared. If conditions permit, WS may set traps to collar a wolf to determine is this is a new pack.

On the 22nd, ID WS confirmed that wolves killed 3 ewes on State land on Boulder Creek, NE of Donnelly, ID. The kills were about 36-48 hours old. No traps were set but a control action to remove up to two wolves may begin on the 24th. ID WS followed up on the 24th but the sheep had already left the area, and it didn't look like the wolves had returned to the kills. WS didn't think that situation warranted setting any traps but is going to return next week to search for any sign of wolves returning to the area. If a good trapping opportunity presents itself, a wolf might be trapped, collared and released.

Research

Nothing new to report.

Information and Education and Law Enforcement

About a half dozen wolf carcasses have been recovered in Montana and Idaho in the past few weeks and are being investigated as possible illegal mortalities by state and FWS LE personal. In addition to finding wolf carcasses, hunters have been reporting valuable wolf observations and other information.

On the 27th, Carter Niemeyer (USFWS) and Mark Collinge (WS) attended a District #1 Animal Damage Control (ADC) meeting held in Moscow, Idaho. This ADC committee, that represents several northwest Idaho counties, wanted to discuss some USDA Wildlife Services personnel issues, wolf control policy, and get an update on wolf recovery and management issues in Idaho and the Northern Rockies. After the regular meeting other ranching representatives attended a question and answer session where Niemeyer and Collinge discussed wolf management rules and the transition toward state management of wolves in Idaho. As a result of the meeting, Niemeyer and Collinge were requested by the Executive Vice President of the Washington Cattlemen's Association to attend an evening meeting on the 27th in Asotin, Washington at the courthouse. Niemeyer gave a short presentation on the wolf management program in Idaho followed by a question and answer session. Several Washington state cattlemen are using grazing allotments in Idaho and wanted to understand more about wolf management rules for wolves in the non-essential experimental area in Idaho and expectations for wolf management in the state of Washington.

On the 28th, Jimenez talked about wolves, wolf control and management with the Wyoming Animal Damage Board in Powell, WY. WY G&F also gave presentations on large predator management in Wyoming. About 20 people attended and the supposed ½ hour session went on for nearly 2 hours. A lot of good information was exchanged.

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