Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 11/18/05

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 11/11 to 11/18, 2005

Monitoring

NEW WEB ADDRESS- The 2005 annual interagency wolf report [covering all 2004] can be viewed at http://westerngraywolf.fws.gov/annualreports . 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.

The Ada County Sheriff's Office left a message on the 12th, regarding a radio-collared wolf that was picked up by Idaho Department of Transportation personnel on the 13th. They saw a dead wolf laying in the northbound lane of highway 95 just north of New Meadows, near mile post 167. NPT picked the wolf up at the IDT shop on the 14th and identified it as B254, a young gray female wolf collared by WS this past summer near Grassy Mountain, north of McCall. The left side of her skull and left shoulder appeared crushed, indicating a possible vehicle strike.

Mack [NPT] observed a total of 58 wolves during a monitoring flight out of McCall, ID on the 16th. Snow cover made it easier to observe wolves and counts were obtained on the following packs: Florence- 15 grays (9-12+ estimated from ground efforts incl. 6-9 pups; an aerial observation in winter 04/05 also was 15 individuals); Carey Dome- 9 grays (3 from ground efforts; B257 was observed with 2 others on 2 occasions); Jungle Ck.- 4 grays (prob. incomplete count; 8-12+ from ground efforts); Golden Ck.- 1 gray (7 from last flight and visual by Univ. of ID researchers at Taylor Ranch); Monumental- 14 grays (7-8 based on ground work; this pack was in the Golden Ck. pack territory); Gold Fork- 4 grays (4 [B130 alpha female, uncollared mate, and 2 gray pups] from field work); Orphan- none seen, but B246 was in Gold Fork territory (2nd instance of that); 3 gray + 4 black (min. 4 from ground work; Y239 [disperser from Washakie pack] founded this pack); B147- 1 gray (2 confirmed from summer, but reports of as many as 4); and B148- 3 gray (believed lone animal based only on prior flight information).

An FWS employee [Greg Neudecker] was traveling home on the night of the 16th and came upon the carcass of a male wolf in the middle of Highway 200, just east of Lincoln, MT. He investigated the scene and collected the carcass. On the 17th, he met MFWP [Sime] in Helena and transferred the carcass and FWS LE was also notified. Thanks Greg for the extra effort! Recently, hunters and landowners have been reporting up to 8 wolves in the Flescher Pass area which is not very far away from where the wolf was hit.

On the 8th, MFWP [Reynolds] staff visited the homeowner outside of Missoula who'd reported a large wolf-like canid harassing his dogs. The individual had done a good job preserving tracks. They measured around 2" and were too small to be a wolf. The homeowners now have MFWP contact information and will call if there are further problems or larger tracks are found.

Jon Trapp (MFWP) initiated trapping efforts on the 18th near Red Lodge for uncollared wolves in the area. Trapping will continue unless nighttime temperatures become too cold.

On the 16th, a flight found the Teton pack still in the Upper Green River country which is now full of elk but also cattle. Hopefully they will return ‘home’ soon. A hunter reported seeing 5 wolves, one radioed, in Wyoming near the Idaho border, north of Jackson. A flight found a previously lone radioed wolf in that exact location. Once hunting season ends volunteers will hike into the area to confirm if a new group has been established. Unfortunately this area has almost no game in winter, so it seems unlikely they can form a stable territory.

Yellowstone Park recently reported they couldn’t locate the Delta pack, so any help regarding wolf reports in the Greater Yellowstone Area could be very helpful. The Nez Perce and Mollie’s packs are also showing movements into new areas. Wolf numbers look like they will be down this year in the Park and there are fewer pups than normal.

Control

MFWP biologist Laudon followed up on the NW MT Fishtrap Pack sheep depredation. The owners moved their Icelandic sheep into a small pen near the house to better protect them. The presence of barking dogs is also a deterrent that would also wake the owner. MFWP determined that the sheep were protected in a similar manner to a RAG Box and therefore will not use one at this ranch but the situation is being monitored closely.

On the 15th, acting on a report from a local landowner, WY WS found and killed all 4 members of a group of wolves that attacked sheep, near Farson, WY. The 2 black adult [1 male & 1 female], and one black pup and one gray pup were located and shot from fixed wing aircraft on the morning of the 16th. One of the adults was a radioed collared female wolf from the Greybull pack. We didn’t even know she had left the Meeteetse, WY area, so she must have just dispersed. Pelt color indicates that the uncollared adult male that was killed could not have been the alpha male that disappeared from a different 'Farson' pack. Six pups and the breeding female were killed [4 pups were shot and the carcasses of the 2 remaining orphaned pups were found later] in that same area earlier this summer. Control is completed unless further depredations are confirmed.

On the 16th, the FWS/WS specialist from Cody, WY, using fixed-wing aircraft shot an adult female and a female sub-adult from the Carter Mountain pack as part of that ongoing agency control effort. That pack has been involved in chronic cattle depredations on private land throughout this summer/fall. Control is completed unless there are further confirmed depredations.

Research

The annual Yellowstone National Park early winter wolf predation study began on Nov. 15th. Nine volunteers have been hired. Initial kill rates appear normal (every third day/pack) and bulls are being taken again like last year, but it is too early to see if these patterns will persist.

Coordination to finalize the contract with the Cooperative Research Unit at Missoula, MT continues. The NPT is searching for a Principal Investigator. The project funding comes from a Tribal Wildlife Grant that was awarded to the NPT to study alternative methods for censussing wolves.

Information and Education and Law Enforcement

RCMP in Saskatchewan reported the possible first human death attributed to wolves in North America in more than a century. The Mounties say wolves likely killed an Ontario man in northern Saskatchewan earlier this week. The body of the 22-year-old man was found Tuesday at Points North Landing near Wollaston Lake, about 450 kilometers northeast of La Ronge. This incident is being investigated further but at this point it appears several wolves were involved. This is the same area where a lone wolf attacked a man this past winter. He managed to grab and hold that wolf until help arrived from the mining camp. A few wolves were shot after that incident. At that time the wolves were fairly habituated to people because they were feeding at a mining camp’s garbage site. After last year’s incident, the company was working with Canadian wildlife officials to secure the garbage dump and reduce the potential for conflicts. However, the wolves are still in regular close contact to the camp and were still highly habituated to people.

On the 18th, the Idaho Statesman reported that ‘Idaho Department of Fish and Game is not likely to begin killing wolves [for excessive predation on wild ungulate herds] anytime soon under new endangered species act rules, staff biologists and director Steve Huffaker told commissioners at their regular meeting Thursday.’ IDFG reported that initial data from a large statewide radio-collared ungulate survival study indicted adult cow elk survival was high and wolf-caused mortality low. Previous studies indicated that neonate elk mortality was mainly caused by bears and lions, not wolves. The IDFG Fish and Wildlife Bureau Chief said "We're not going to make a political decision, we're going to make a good, science-based decision," "I don't want anyone to think we're not going to be objective, but I'm not naive enough to think there won't be different interpretations."

On the 11th, MFWP Warden Matt Heaton received a report from hunters that there was a dead black male wolf in the Middle Fork Flathead River. The carcass was confirmed to be a wolf and was collected for lab analysis. The matter is under LE investigation. There have been a couple of very recent reports in this general area. One of which is an observation of 5 wolves, including one with a radio collar, harassing/attacking a grizzly bear. This area is also immediately adjacent to the old Apgar Pack whose status has been unknown since losing the only radio collar in the pack in September of 2001.

On the 16th, Stacey Courville, Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribe, and Ted North, MT WS, collected the carcass of wolf # 327 of the Hog Heaven Pack. The matter is under LE investigation. Her radio collar was detected on mortality mode on the 14th during a mid-hunting season monitoring flight.

Jon Trapp (MFWP) gave a presentation to about 25 people for the Lion's Club in Red Lodge on the 14th. He also gave a presentation to about 50 people at MSU in Billings on the 15th.

Liz Bradley [MFWP] gave a talk to 25 third-graders at Frenchtown Elementary on the 18th.

Carter Niemeyer (USFWS), Rick Williamson (ID WS) and Jason Husseman (IDFG) met with approximately 20 local ranchers and citizens of Leadore, Idaho, on the 16th to listen to their concerns about wolf sightings in that region of Idaho and missing cattle during the fall roundup of livestock. The agency representatives presented information on the 10(j) wolf management rules, wolf reporting contacts and procedures, protocol to report wolf depredations and methods of compensation for livestock killed by wolves. Following the meeting ranchers pointed out on a map where wolves have been sighted throughout the year. The meeting was very productive and reduced tensions in the community about wolves.

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