Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 1/20/06

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 1/13 to 1/20/06, 2006

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

On the 19th, while doing helicopter coyote work WS specialist Graham McDougal cut tracks of a wolf pack [6 tracks were seen] near Sage Creek [Dillon, MT]. They followed the tracks and located an unradioed group of five wolves. They darted, radio-collared, and released an adult male. Great work. Monitoring will determine whether this group is a new pack in SW MT or remnants of the Freezeout pack.

Control

On the 15th, ID WS confirmed that wolves killed a calf on private property on the East Fork of the Salmon River. WS set equipment with the intention of lethally removing up to two wolves. It was thought that this could be the East Fork Pack, but on the 16th, the signal of B-196 of the Buffalo Ridge Pack was located there, indicating that he was near the kill site. The Buffalo Ridge pack depredated near this same location on January 9th of last year. On the 19th, WS killed 2 grey adult uncollared wolves [1 male & 1 female] from the Buffalo pack from a fixed-wing aircraft at the depredation site on the East Fork of the Salmon River. IDFG will be processing the wolf carcasses for scientific and educational purposes. The control action has been terminated unless more livestock are killed. This was the first wolf control action conducted by IDFG under the MOA that transferred management authority to the state.

ID WS is investigating an incident involving a 7 month old walker hound, valued at $1000, that was reportedly killed while bobcat hunting in the Clearwater National Forest last week. The dog owner saved what is left of the dog's carcass and took photos of the kill site. To date, WS has been unable to examine the photos or the carcass due to scheduling conflicts.

MT WS received a call from a landowner in the Ninemile Valley on the 15th who reported that her dog was killed by wolves. WS investigated on the 17th and confirmed that a black lab was killed by wolves in the Ninemile valley on Sunday the 15th. The dog was about 200 yards from the house when it was attacked. The owner saw several wolves nearby but did not find the dog until later in the day. The Ninemile pack was located in the vicinity during a monitoring flight on the 16th and are believed responsible. There are 7 wolves (4 black, 3 gray) in this pack. Conflict with dogs is common this time of year, as wolves tend to be more territorial going into the breeding season in February-March.

A 400 lb calf was killed by wolves near Phillipsburg, MT on the evening of the 13th, and confirmed by MT WS the afternoon of the 14th. The livestock producer reported hearing his calves bawling the evening of the 13th and using a spotlight, saw 5 gray wolves running off. The Willow Creek pack is believed responsible, since the pack consists of 6 gray wolves. The other neighboring pack, the Sapphire pack, has only 1 gray individual and 12 black wolves. This is the first confirmed depredation for the Willow pack although during the summer, this pack was located close to livestock on several occasions and producers in the area claimed higher than normal losses when they brought their calves back in the fall. For these reasons and because of a high potential for further conflict in this area (high density of cattle), MFWP has authorized the lethal removal of 1 wolf from this pack. WS is trapping on the ranch to try to catch one of the wolves that was involved. MFWP will reevaluate this strategy after several days of trapping if nothing is caught. The producer was issued a shoot-on-site permit for 45 days to kill 1 wolf on his private property.

Research

Yellowstone National Park finally got some decent weather and started their annual winter helicopter darting and radio-collaring operation on the 19th. Three wolves were captured in the Agate pack, the alpha male, a yearling female and a female pup that was in very poor physical condition [30kg] and had very crooked, loose, and stained teeth, a possible indication of a past very high fever. Only 3 of 8 pups born in this pack survived until winter. Blood was draw for disease screening. Three adult females, including the alpha were processed in the Slough creek pack. The alpha female of the Druid pack was also processed. All the adult and yearling wolves were in good condition.

Information and Education and Law Enforcement

On the 18th, LE Senior Resident Agent Domenici spoke to the Carbon County Predator Board in WY about ESA issues including wolves. The group of 40 people was very polite and interested. They were a little surprised over the management flexibility that Montana and Idaho now have because their state wolf plans were approved. Several reported that they are starting to see wolf sign in their area [Rawlins, WY].

MFWP Wolf team met in Helena on the 19th and 20th to work on the annual report and other coordination topics. IDFG and the Nez Prece Tribe are working on drafting the Idaho annual report. Jimenez is working with Smith on the Wyoming section.

Sime and Asher met with area livestock producers having FS grazing allotments in the Avon, MT area on the 18th. They provided an update on wolves in the area, described the NW MT control plan for the endangered area, gathered their wolf reports, and answered questions. About 40 people attended. MFWP thanks the Helena National Forest for the invitation and the meeting.

Smith [NPS] gave a presentation talk at the Houston, Texas Zoo on the 20th, about 200 people were expected to attend.

The executive summary of the proposal to control wolves to increase ungulates in portions of the Clearwater drainage in central Idaho is posted on the IDFG website at: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/wildlife/wolves/elk_impacts_exec_sum.pdf The entire draft analysis and proposal will be posted on the website later next week and will be open for public comment at that time. There will be 2 public hearings to allow for public input on the proposal that will advertised when the time and location are finalized.

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