Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 6/10/05

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 6/03 to 6/10, 2005

Monitoring

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

Asher [TESF] and Ross [MFWP] picked up the carcass of Casey Lake male wolf # 219M in the Paradise Valley on ranch near Dome Mountain. Its collar had been going on and off mortality for several months and after the last 3 locations were in the same spot they walked in on him. He was lying dead in a patch of willows. He had severe mange most of the winter and its death from mange was not unexpected.

Aerial monitoring of the radio collared female in Halfway pack north of Avon indicates that the pack denned. No pups have been seen yet, however. The pack’s alpha male was likely a dispersing wolf from Canada that was killed in an agency control action this spring.

Jason Husseman and Michael Lucid (IDFG) verified pups in Soldier Mt., Warm springs, Packer John, Buffalo Ridge, Jureano, and Moyer Basin packs this week. Rick Williamson (WS) verified reproduction in the Copper Basin pack on June 9th and saw 4 gray pups. He is trying to place a collar on the alpha female. Carter Niemeyer is working on information from IDFG field personnel and is attempting to trap and collar wolves in the Mex Mountain area of the Clearwater National Forest. IDFG officers Josh Stanley and Craig Walker verified a pup and 2 adults in a new pack north of Avery, ID. An attempt to trap and collar the pack will be made in the next week or so.

NPT biologist Isaac Babcock and intern Sean Babcock got pup counts on the Florence pack (min. 6, but poss. as many as 8-9) and the collarless O'Hara Point pack (6 black pups). They also attempted to investigate the Cold Springs and Coolwater Ridge packs, but were unable to locate them.

NPT biologist Tyler Hollow and volunteer Barry Braden saw 1 pup with the Chesimia pack, but based on howling determined there are 2+ pups. They provided telemetry training to the livestock operators that use the Chesimia pack's territory. They also documented a new pack, Jungle Ck. (with B157-M included), which has multiple adult members and multiple pups.

NPT biologist Jim Holyan and Braden saw a min. of 2 pups with the Gold Fork pack. Holyan also investigated B147-F, who has been settled SE of White Bird, ID for the past year; there is at least one other wolf with her, but no evidence of pups was located at this time.

Important Safety Message- On the 10th, a general conf. call was held for the core agency wolf team, including WS from Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming to discuss this summer’s wolf trapping & field season. We discussed snare and trap use in grizzly bear habitat, transition to state mgt. in MT and ID, status of various litigation, recent FOIA requests, and state wolf planning in UT & OR. We also passed along the usual friendly reminder for our wolf field crews about human and wildlife safety issues. It is very common to unknowingly damage trap chains when pounding in or pulling out stakes/drags with metal hammers & hatchets, so before traps are ever set, be sure to closely visually inspect your trap chains, links, swivels, and drags for damage/cracks, chips that might result in a chain breaking and an animal pulling loose with the trap still attached. We also need to remind all field crews to think safety when checking traps in grizzly bear or mountain lion habitat [which for g. bears is all the GYA and much of NW MT and mtn. lions are everywhere] and always carry bear pepper spray in bear country. Also never, let your desire to catch a wolf- over-rule common sense. We trap and radio-collar wolves to assist in their conservation- not to prove we can catch a wolf. So be very cautious where you make sets- especially from a public [pet] safety perspective, minimizing incidental catches, and catching, radio-collaring and releasing healthy uninjured adult-sized wolves. If in doubt, traps should not be set. Warning signs must be placed before the first trap is ever set and the local land managers must be contracted- so they can help you decide whether to trap by providing local land-use information, know what is going on in their area of responsibility, and can better assist you, if need be. Of course there is absolutely no access to private property without clear permission for the private landowner. Given the large distances and amount of time we all spend behind the wheel, we must constantly remind ourselves and our field crews to drive defensively and be very careful on the road. If anyone gets too tired always be willing to admit it, and to pull off the road if need be to catch a few minutes of rest- better to arrive a few minutes late, than not at all. The bottom line is to use common sense and be professional. We have an outstanding safety record for yourselves and wildlife and we all want to do all we can to keep it that way.

Control

Correction- On MAY 31 [not March 31], two newborn calves were killed [one confirmed and one probable] on private land near Roscoe, MT where previous wolf depredations by the Phantom pack had occurred. Lethal control for one wolf has been authorized and the landowner was issued a shoot on sight authorization.

On the 3rd, a ranch in Tom Miner Basin, MT reported they saw two gray wolves, one collared, feeding off a heifer calf thought to be killed last night. WS investigated. It looked like the carcass was several days old but it died from calving complications. Both the calf and cow had been partially scavenged by wolves. The reported horse’s injuries were not serious. They appeared to have happened before the cow died but their actual cause is unknown, but wire-cut was possible.

A ‘fearless’ wolf with a non-functioning radio-collar was being repeatedly seen in the Murphy Lake since late May. It has been seen feeding on a road-killed deer carcass has been near and observed by people on several occasions. MFWP will try to ground dart it and replace the radio or harass it- to make it more wary of humans. Wolves that become too comfortable around people usually end up being killed. If it ever becomes a threat to people or appears to have some severe disease or abnormality it will be euthanized.

On the 5th and 6th Kent Laudon (MWFP) and Linda Thurston (Defenders of Wildlife) met with cattle producers within the Wolf Prairie pack’s home range in NW MT to share information, begin trouble shooting proactive measures, and establish working relationships.

Sunday morning the 5th MFWP got a call from the Park County Sheriff that wolves had killed a 4H lamb at a private residence south of Livingston, MT. WS investigated that morning and determined the lamb was killed by domestic dogs and not wolves.

On June 6, an adult cow was confirmed killed by wolves on a grazing allotment in Grand Teton National Park. The area is sometimes used by the Teton pack but it is also suspect that a new group of wolves maybe in the area. Service, WS and NPS are trying to sort that all out. The area is intensively used by grizzly bears, and the rancher reported that on the 8th his cows crossed a highway were back ‘home’, possibly spooked by bears or wolves. Right now we are all just in a wait and see mode and if more problems develop we’ll consider other options.

On the 9th, WS confirmed that 7 ewes were killed by wolves and 2 lambs trampled during the attack on a BLM grazing allotment near the Prospect Mtns. north of Farson, WY on the 8th. WS thought there were tracks of 2 wolves. WS began trapping to radio-collar and release a wolf on site so we could determine if they might have a den and how many wolves there may be. On the 10th WS confirmed 5 more ewes were killed in a nearby band. WS was still requested to collar and release any trapped wolf on site, but in addition they should lethally remove 2 wolves by shooting, if possible.

Research

Between May 23 and June 8 Yellowstone National Park [with some assistance from MFWP] captured a total of 56 new-born elk calves within Yellowstone National Park between the Gardiner basin and upper Lamar valley. Each calf was fitted with an ear-tag transmitter and various biological samples were obtained. There were no deaths or obvious injuries to any of the calves handled. Helicopter capture operations for elk calves were completed for this third and final year of the research project. The calves are being monitored daily to determine cause of death and the overall rate of survival.

MFWP is also collaring and monitoring elk calves [20 last week and maybe more soon] in the Madison Valley as part of a cooperative MFWP and Montana State University research project looking at wolf/elk relationships in that area.

Information and Education and Law Enforcement

ILLEGALLY POISONED WOLF found in Frank Church Wilderness in central Idaho. The collared wolf known as B-204 was killed by ingesting meat laced with a poison known as Temik. Temik is a restricted-use and very toxic pesticide that can only applied to crops such as potatoes. Use of Temik for uses other than crops, such as poisoning predators, is strictly illegal. The manufacturer of Temik, Bayer Crop Science, and the Service are cooperating in the investigation and are both offering a reward for information leading to the arrest or conviction of the person or persons responsible. Anyone with information about this case or any other killing of a wolf is urged to call Service LE at 208-523-0855, or the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at the Idaho Citizens Against Poaching Hotline at 1-800-632-5999.

Smith [NPS] gave a talk at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center/Museum in Cody, WY on the 7th as part of their summer lecture series. The standing-room only crowd of 150 heard him discuss wolf research in Yellowstone National Park. On the 9th, he gave a talk to about 10 people on a National Wildlife Federation tour and later that day to about 100 outfitters and guides that operate in Yellowstone National Park. On the 10th, Doug gave a talk to over 100 people that attended the Greater Yellowstone Coalition annual meeting in West Yellowstone.

On the 8th, Sime and Trapp [MFWP] met with the Boulder, MT Range Rider group. The group discussed methods for collecting information, hazing wolves, communication, the roles of the different parties. Rost and Hoover (WS) spoke about identifying predator kills on livestock and the procedures for contacting them to investigate potential depredations. Trapp provided less-than-lethal munitions training for the riders and gave a presentation on wolf ecology and management. The riders will start patrolling the allotments and private land in July.

Trapp provided a wolf ecology and management presentation to approximately 30 Outward Bound instructors in Red Lodge on the 9th. He was interviewed by a reporter from the Carbon County News on the 10th. The article will focus on state management of wolves and the job duties of the MFWP wolf specialist positions.

Glaizer [MT WS] gave a presentation, including wolf information, to the annual meeting of the Montana Stockgrowers in Helena on the 9th.

Sime [MFWP] spent an evening discussing wolves, elk, the state plan, and transition issues with the Bitterroot Elk Working Group on June 7 in Hamilton, MT.

On the evening of the 8th Laudon (MFWP) gave a talk about the status of wolves in NW Montana and the Montana Wolf Management Plan to the Spotted Bear Ranger District Employees.

Niemeyer [FWS] spoke to over 30 people representing 24 states, at the 2005 Annual Meeting of the Livestock Marketing Information Center in Post Falls, ID on the 7th.

Michael Lucid and other IDFG personnel gave a presentation to 35 attendees of the National Project Wild conference on Friday June 10. The attendees from around the country traveled from Boise to Bear Valley at 3 AM to try and hear wolves howl and watch elk in the meadows, along with hearing a wolf talk and watch a trapping exhibition.

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