Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 11/04/05

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 10/28 to 11/04, 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 in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. Please remind hunters to report wolf observations or sign of wolves.

MFWP [Sime] provided this summary of recent monitoring efforts in Montana. The total number of wolves and the number of breeding pairs is still uncertain due to limited visuals from aircraft during summer/fall months. Conditions will improve with snow cover and more field effort spent flying instead of trapping. The experimental across southern Montana currently has 19 packs confirmed, 5 of which do not include a radio-collared pack member. They are - [* indicates presence of a collar. # indicates trapping efforts during the field season unsuccessful, and a ~ indicates MFWP from sign & confirmed wolves, but no trapping efforts initiated during this field season: Battlefield*, Sula*, Sapphire*, Brooks Creek*, , Willow*, Black Canyon#, E. Fork Bitterroot area#, Painted Rocks area#, Moccasin Lake*, Mission Creek*, old Rose Creek II area#, Mill Creek*, Donohue*, Chief Joe*, The Wedge*, Freezeout* Deadhorse*, Bear Trap#, and Jardine area*. Montana hunter reports are yielding new information about the possibility of new packs southwest of Butte, southeast of Butte, and the Red Lodge area. We are grateful to those folks as their reports help our staff be more efficient with their searching time. We will continue our efforts to investigate these reports and document new packs with more persistent snow cover. In the endangered area across northern Montana, there are 19 packs confirmed (4 of which do not have radio collars; and of those 4, 2 are in the Bob Marshall Wilderness). There are: Fish Creek*, Big Hole*, Ninemile*, Halfway*, south Avon area#, Superior area~, Calder Mountain#, Candy Mountain*, Fishtrap*, Great Bear~, Hog Heaven*, Kintla*, Kootenai*, Lazy Creek*, Murphy Lake*, Red Shale~, Spotted Bear*, Whitefish*, Wolf Prairie*. We are still investigating reports north of Helena and coordinate with the Blackfeet Tribe's wildlife program about any wolf activity on the reservation.

MFWP staff have stepped up their aerial telemetry efforts since the beginning of hunting season to more intensively monitor wolf pakcs. All packs are in their normal home ranges, but traveling widely.

MFWP [Bradley] has been trapping in E. Fork Bitterroot area and MFWP-TESF Asher has been trapping in the Spanish Peaks area. No captures so far. Cooler temperatures and snow will soon put an end to this year’s efforts to trap for radio-collaring. In normal weather conditions, trapping is not possible this late in the fall but the unusually warm fall has extended the trapping season.

The Leopold pack in Yellowstone National Park appears to have split into 2 groups, one group occupying the former range of the old Geode pack which dissolved earlier this year.

Control

A reported sheep depredation on the 28th was confirmed by MT WS specialist Ted North the next day. One adult Icelandic sheep was killed on private land about 40 miles SE of Libby, MT. The owner noted that wolves had been heard in the area the 2 days prior to the attack. This is in the northern portion of the Fishtrap pack home range and a normal area for this pack to frequent. This particular landowner has about 16 Icelandic sheep (small breed) and hasn’t had any depredations in the past. He said it is fairly common to see either wolves or their sign and has for many years. A couple of years ago he lost one of his dogs (Newfoundland) that he believes the wolves killed. The Fishtrap pack has 3 radio-collars, 8-9 members, but only 1 visual on 1 pup so far. MFWP is working with the landowner to evaluate the practical feasibility of non-lethal tools (either fladry or RAG box).

Agency control for the Battlefield pack in the Big Hole Valley area of SW MT has ended. The pack of 5 wolves [2 adults and 3 pups- one collared] hasn’t been involved in any depredations within the past 45-days, have been staying on public land and in the timber & mountains away from livestock.

ID WS specialist Hansen received calls about 2 separate wolf depredation incidents over the weekend. On Oct. 29th, he confirmed wolf predation on an adult cow on private property approximately 4 miles southeast of Cascade, near where another adult cow was confirmed as a wolf kill approximately 45 days ago. ID WS specialist Parker traveled to the area on Oct. 30th and set traps. The landowner had been issued a shoot-on-site permit after the first confirmed kill and had killed 2 wolves under the authority of that permit. He was issued another 45-day permit for up to 3 wolves. This likely involves the Orphan pack again.

The other incident investigated by ID WS was a reported depredation on sheep on private property south and west of McCall, ID in the vicinity of West Mountain Road. WS confirmed wolf predation, but the sheep are being moved out of this area. This is the same area of a confirmed wolf predation last June as sheep were being trailed toward their summer grazing allotments near McCall. The producer assumes that these depredations were probably caused by the Blue Bunch pack of wolves. Because the sheep are leaving this area, along with the fact that there are hunting season in progress and that the weather is currently unsettled, our inclination would be to not initiate any control action right now.

Research

Preparation for the annual Yellowstone National Park Nov. 15-Dec 15 early winter wolf predation study is about complete. Volunteer training begins Nov. 9 and 9 volunteers have been hired.

Information and Education and Law Enforcement

Jon Trapp [MFWP] and Special Agent Goessman [FWS] picked up the carcass of radio-collared male wolf #352 from the Mission Creek pack on the 3rd. It was on private property southeast of Livingston, MT. The wolf appeared to have severe mange and was in very poor physical condition. The carcass was transported to the MFWP Wildlife Lab in Bozeman. The MFWP vet [Atkinson] did a preliminary necropsy on the 4th and confirmed chronic & severe mange [over 80% of body], starvation, and pneumonia. Local ranchers were concerned about transmission of mange to livestock but were assured that this form of mange is typically associated with canids [fox, coyotes, wolves, & dogs] and transmission to livestock is highly unlikely.

On November 1st, Holyan [NTP] spoke to the sophomore English class at Eagle Academy that is doing a research project on wolves in Idaho. About 20 students participated in the lecture and Q & A session that followed.

MFWP and Montana WS have been meeting periodically on interagency coordination issues. The most recent meeting was the 3rd.

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