Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 12/16/05

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 12/09 to 12/16, 2005

MERRY CHRISTMAS

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.

The Park finally found the Delta Pack in Wyoming on the 13th. The pack of 17 has one radio-collar and has been missing from their usual territory south of Yellowstone Lake for several weeks.

Bradley [MFWP] was ground tracking in the West Fork Bitterroot on Dec. 14th and found sign of the Painted Rocks pack. The tracks were snowed in, but she thinks there are at least two wolves and probably more. She also flew and located some of the other packs in western Montana. These packs were located at lower elevations near ungulate winter ranges compared to the previous flight when they were much higher. The Sapphire pack, only collared since October, was found south of Georgetown Lake.

On Dec. 14th, a coyote trapper in the Ninemile Valley, MT caught a gray male pup in a bobcat trap. MT WS specialist Ted North responded and it was collared and released safely. Thanks Ted. We also appreciate the trapper's extra effort and promptness in calling and reporting the incidental capture.

Control

On the 13th, WY WS used fixed-wing aircraft to kill 4 gray wolves out of a group of 6 in the Daniel pack. Control was attempted on the 16th for the remaining 2 but was unsuccessful so control has ended for now. The uncollared Daniel pack, west of Pinedale, WY had killed numerous livestock throughout this spring and summer as well as last year.

Research

The Yellowstone early winter [Nov 15- Dec 15] wolf predation study wrapped up on the 15th. Kill rates seem typical of past years and are: (1) Leopold 14 wolves,15 kills in 30 days, 12 elk, 2 mule deer, 1 unknown; elk: 5 calves, 3 bulls, 4 cows; (2) Hellroaring pack 7 wolves, 6 kills, all elk, 2 cows, 2 bulls, 2 unknown elk, suspect feeding on hunter gut piles near park boundary, possibly affected kill rate; (3) Slough Creek pack 15 wolves, 14 kills, 9 bull elk, 3 bison kills, 2 unknown.

Information and Education and Law Enforcement

Laudon (MFWP), spoke about the status of wolves in Montana and the state management plan at the Flathead Wildlife Sportsmen Club, in Kalispell on the 8th.

A 100-pound gray male wolf was killed by a vehicle on Dec12th on Highway 2 on the west side of Marias Pass, about 70 miles east of Kalispell. According to MFWP Wolf Management Specialist Kent Laudon, the animal was 2 to 3 years old. Laudon suspects that this wolf was not associated with a pack, noting that this is one of the peak time periods for individual wolves to disperse. There is no known wolf pack in the immediate area where the wolf was killed and the wolf was of prime dispersal age. FWP plans to have the wolf mounted for educational use.

On the 12th and 13th, the interagency wolf working group met for their annual meeting in Missoula, MT. About 40 federal, state, and tribal agency’s representatives met to discuss monitoring, control, research, information and outreach, and overall program administration. This year’s annual report will consist of each state doing its own annual report and the Service compiling them into a single 2005 Annual Interagency Wolf Report by March 1, 2006.

Jimenez [WY FWS] met with WYGF employees in Cody, WY to discuss wolves, wolf management, wolf impacts on elk & feedgrounds, and general coordination on the 16th.

On Dec. 12-14, IDFG personnel trained for helicopter darting and handling of wolves. During the training, 2 wolves in the Packer John pack and 1 wolf in the Scott Mt. pack were captured and collared. Fish and Game plans on incidentally capturing and collaring wolves during deer and elk aerial surveys. Several packs of wolves have been seen during the winter in previous years by big game surveyors and the training will provide personnel with equipment and skills necessary to place collars in new packs.

Idaho Fish and Game, FWS, WS, and the Nez Perce tribe have summarized this year's wolf population data and presented the preliminary results at the interagency wolf meeting in Missoula. This year's population estimate is 513-621 wolves, 36 breeding pairs, and 61 verified packs of wolves within the Idaho borders. Although the estimates will not be finalized until December 31st, these numbers will be very close. Final estimates will be presented in the annual report.

Steve Nadeau gave a presentation on Dec. 14th to the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association annual meeting in Boise. Approximately 70 outfitters and agency representatives were present.

On the 16th, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it will not appeal the U.S. District Court decision earlier this year striking down the Service’s reclassification of gray wolf populations from endangered to threatened for much of the species’ current range in the United States, although we continue to believe the reclassification was both biologically and legally sound. We are exploring options for managing wolf populations that comply with the Court's ruling, while recognizing, as the court did, that the Yellowstone and Great Lakes wolf populations have reached the recovery goals necessary for delisting. The Department of Interior plans to issue separate, proposed rules to delist a distinct population segment of gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains and the Great Lakes as early as possible in 2006. Both proposed rules will have public comment periods lasting 90 days.

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