Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 1/13/06

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 12/31 to 1/13/06, 2006

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. The 2006 annual report that will cover all calendar year 2005 will be in the same format as previous years and should be available by March 1.

MFWP and FWS LE reported a possible wolf mortality in the remote backcountry of the Madison Range in SW MT. It involved the possible death of a wolf from the Wedge Pack. However, due to difficult snow conditions and human safety concerns, the scene was not immediately investigated.

Wolves dispersing from Yellowstone Park have been documented outside the Park: 1) Wolf #453m from the Slough Creek Pack was located in the Sunlight Basin area on 1/13/05. 2) Wolves #341f and 485f (both from the Nez Perce Pack) have been located in different areas near Jackson, WY 3) Wolf #350m (disperser from the Druid Pack) was trapped and re-collared this summer near Jackson, WY and is spending the winter in the Gros Ventre drainage with another wolf.

Control

On the 30th, Trapp [MFWP] got a call from Pat Gunderson (MFWP R6 Supervisor). A rancher East of Fort Peck Lake had 10 injured and 5 dead sheep, and thought it might be wolves. WS specialists checked out the dead and injured sheep and determined that dogs were responsible. MFWP appreciates WS working on New Year's eve and in a county they don't generally work in ( McCone County).

On the 3rd, Jim Stevens [MT WS] confirmed one ewe was killed by wolves north of Avon, MT. It was in the Three Mile Creek area where the rancher and others have been reportedly seeing seven grays recently. The Halfway pack female’s radio signal was heard by WS in that area that morning. The rancher has the sheep near the barn and WS visited with him about using fladry. WS set traps in the area to collar and release and will run them for several days depending on if the night time temperatures remain warm. Nothing was captured nor have any other livestock been attacked.

On Jan 4th a Paradise Valley, MT landowner called in to report one black and 3 grays in but not chasing his cattle. Sime [MFWP] informed him of the regulations. The landowner reported shooting over/around them and chased them out of his pasture as the experimental regulations allow. One gray wolf had a radio-collar and appeared to be mangy. It is possible this is a Chief Joe wolf #394M.

On the 11th, ID WS examined a calf that was reportedly attacked in Slate Creek in the Nez Perce National Forest, north of Riggins, ID. The calf was still alive when WS arrived but soon expired due to complications from being medicated. WS skinned the calf and found bite marks and hemorrhage on the rear of the animal consistent with wolf bites, but could not confirm since there was no other evidence (tracks, hair, scat, telemetry signals) available. WS concluded that wolf involvement was "Probable". This calf and two other head had been lost during the summer grazing season and were found by a recreationist who contacted the livestock owner, who then brought the cattle back to his ranch.

On the 9th, IDFG wolf biologists Jason Husseman and Michael Lucid met in Stanley, ID for less-than-lethal munitions training.

On the 8th, a lion hunting hound [redbone hound] was killed in the Sunlight Basin area. Several hounds were apparently following lion tracks when they ran into an adult wolf and several pups-of-the-year feeding on an elk kill. The adult wolf killed one of the hounds while the rest of the dogs ran off.

On the 3rd, a resident south of Pinedale, WY reported a lone wolf repeatedly walking very close to his house. Reportedly, his wife walked outside at night, surprised the wolf, and it growled at her and did not run off. Jimenez visited with them but couldn’t find tracks or sign due to snow conditions. He issued them rubber bullets to shoot at the wolf if it returns. The owner appreciated the response and will remain in contact to let us know if the wolf returns. It hasn’t returned so far.

Research

Nothing new to report other than Dr. Doug Smith and his wife Christine and son Sawyer, have a new boy in the family as of Jan 7th. Congratulations Doug and Christine.

Information and Education and Law Enforcement

WOLF SHOOTING IN GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK- Federal wildlife officials are investigating the shooting of a wolf near Half Moon Lake in Teton National Park. Investigators have determined that the wolf was killed in the early morning hours of Monday, October 17, 2005. Investigators have also determined the exact location of the killing and are working to identify the person responsible. LE are investigating all available leads. The investigators believe that several people have knowledge of the killing of this wolf. Anyone having information regarding the killing of this wolf is encouraged to contact Special Agent Roy Brown who heads the Office of law Enforcement for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in Lander, Wyoming. Special Agent Brown can be reached at (307) 332-7607. Persons calling with information can remain anonymous and will be eligible for rewards.

On the 11th, Jimenez [WY FWS] spoke to 30 people at the National Wildlife Museum in Jackson, WY.

On Dec 30th a landowner shot and killed a wolf southwest of Big Timber under the 10(j) rule.

The landowner reported the wolf was chasing his livestock on private property. Goessman (FWS LE) and Trapp (MFWP) met with the landowner and investigated the scene on the 31st. The case is currently under investigation. The 10(j) rule specifies that on private land, landowners, their immediate family members, or their employees can kill a wolf that is biting, wounding or killing or a wolf that is actively chasing, molesting or harassing livestock, livestock herding or guarding animals, or domestic dogs. This must be reported to MFWP within 24 hours. Lease holders on private land (for livestock grazing or hunting purposes) could also kill a wolf that is biting, wounding or killing livestock or a wolf that is actively chasing, molesting or harassing livestock, livestock herding or guarding animals, or domestic dogs. Anyone can non-injuriously harass wolves that are too close to livestock, herding or guarding animals, or domestic dogs. No permit is required. Report the incident to MFWP within 7 days.

On the 6th, Trapp (MFWP) met with area producers south of Big Timber (MT) and Janelle Holden of Predator Conservation Alliance to discuss continuation of a range rider project through the winter months.

Bradley [MFWP] gave a talk to ~25 4-H kids in the Big Hole Valley, MT on the 12th. On the 13th, Liz gave a talk for the UM Western's Ag Conference in Dillon, MT.

On Dec. 10, Sime (MFWP) gave a presentation and discussed the Montana wolf plan, transition to state management, and the status of the Montana wolf population with the Montana Wildlife Federation Executive Board. About 40 people attended.

On Dec. 15, Sime (MFWP) gave an overview of Montana's wolf program to the Society of American Foresters members in Helena. About 15 people attended.

On Dec. 29 Niemeyer [USFWS] met with ID WS (Todd Grimm) and returned all WS items that were transferred to Idaho when he accepted employment with the FWS in 2000.

On Dec. 30 Niemeyer completed the transfer of remaining field equipment to IDFG, Michael Lucid being the recipient. The FWS did a similar transfer of all field equipment to MFWP when they assumed wolf management authority in Montana. The FWS wolf program now only consists of Wolf Recovery Coordinator Bangs in Helena, MT and Mike Jimenez, Project leader for Wolf Recovery in Wyoming.

On the 5th, Carter Niemeyer’s retirement party was held in Boise, ID and was attended by the people representing the full spectrum of attitudes about wolves and wolf management. That’s a testimony to Carter and the level of trust and respect he earned as the Service’s Wolf Recovery Coordinator for Idaho. We wish him our best and sure he’ll be involved with wildlife in a different capacity in the future, and looking forward to him completing his book.

On the 5th, the Secretary of the Interior Gail Norton and Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne signed an MOA in Boise, ID that transferred nearly all responsibility for wolf management in the experimental population area of Idaho [90%] to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. Short of delisting, that agreement is the best thing that could happen for wolves and the people they now live near in Idaho. The event was widely covered by the media including a national NPR Jan 5 radio program [see NPR archives to listen to the story].

 

Wolf/Ungulate Plan- Under the authorities outlined under the 2005 10j rule, the IDFG commission directed IDFG to study the potential impacts of wolves on ungulates in Idaho. Analysis was conducted and a proposal was developed through the summer and fall to address the declining elk population in the Lolo Elk Zone east of Lewiston, ID. The Department and Commission developed, discussed and analyzed the proposal over the next several months. The Commission voted January 13 to accept the Lolo ungulate/wolf control proposal and proceed to inclusion of peer review and public comment. IDFG has posted the executive summary at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/wildlife/wolves/elk_impacts_exec_sum.pdf . IDFG still has not received all peer reviews. IDFG will begin making peer recommended changes to the document. After the changes are made to the document, IDFG will post it for public comment on their website, likely in a week or 2. IDFG plans to hold 2 open houses, 1 in Lewiston and 1 in Boise (dates and locations to be determined). After compiling comments and making changes to the document, the Commission will review the comments, and will decide whether to forward the proposal to the FWS, along with the peer reviews and summary of public comment probably after mid-February. From there it will be up to the FWS.

The US Forest Service delayed the decision to allow IDFG to land helicopters in ID wilderness to incidentally capture and radio collar wolves while conducting ungulate surveys. USFS and IDFG staff will continue to review plans to determine what further analysis and public comment would be needed to allow the wilderness landings to occur.

IDFG staff gave presentations to the Idaho Legislature on Wednesday regarding the wolf/ungulate proposal, and landing in wilderness proposal, as well as answered other questions.

On the 12th, Lucid [IDFG] gave a presentation on Idaho wolves to 80 students from several Boise high schools at the IDFG Nature Center.

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