Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 1/27/06

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 1/20 to 1/27, 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 is being drafted. It will be in the same general format as previous years and should be available by March 1.

Jimenez [WY FWS] set foot-hold traps with trap transmitters on a fresh wolf-killed moose carcass Thursday [19th] morning trying to collar a member of the uncollared Pacific Creek pack near Jackson, WY. The wolves only came back on Wednesday night after they were first chased off the carcass by the ranch hands who discovered the dead moose that day. The FWS crew slept within telemetry range for 2 nights so they could quickly process any wolf captured, but the wolves never returned. This was an outstanding [but largely sleepless] effort by Mike and his volunteer crew, but unfortunately it just didn’t pan out. They tracked the wolves back amongst the elk in Grand Teton National Park and found another wolf-killed elk carcass. This pack killed 5 livestock last summer and Mike will continue to look for other collaring opportunities.

Last Friday 1/20 a coyote trapper from the Paradise Valley caught a 2 year old female wolf in a coyote trap. The trapper contacted WS who contacted MFWP and the NPS to get the wolf collared and safely released. MFWP thanks the trapper and Jim Rost [MT WS] for all their efforts to contact people, Jim Miller and Coleen O'Rourke [MFWP] for assisting in the collaring and getting the collar on site and to Dan Stahler [NPS] for handling the wolf and teaching Jim and Coleen on how it is done.

On the 26th, IDFG personnel were in the Copper Basin area to capture deer and elk for the ungulate research. Biologists were also going to capture members of the Copper Basin pack to place GPS collars on them for ongoing research on wolf livestock interactions in coordination with Dept. of Agriculture. The wolves have been close to cattle for a few days but when the capture crew located them, they had moved many miles from the cattle and were at high elevation in timber, preventing capture.

Control

A rancher near Salmon, ID reported wolves harassing his cattle on at least three nights this week. On two occasions, the ranch hands shot at the wolves. There was no evidence that a wolf was injured or killed either time. To date, no cattle have been killed at this site. ID WS Wolf Specialist Rick Williamson and several Fish and Game staff explained the 10j rules to the ranchers and offered them rubber bullets, which the rancher turned down. The rancher is having someone check his cattle every 30 minutes to try and deter any depredations, and it may be working for now as there was no wolf activity there on the 26th. This ranch is surrounded by other ranches with calving cattle.

Research

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game released its proposal to reduce the wolf population by up to 43 wolves or about 75 percent in the Lolo elk management zone of the Clearwater Region. IDFG biologists say wolf predation is a significant contributor to the decline of elk numbers in the Lolo zone and may be preventing elk population recovery. The proposal is made under the revised 10(j) rule of the Endangered Species Act, which took effect in February 2005 and allows removal of wolves having an unacceptable effect on elk and deer populations. The proposal still must be approved by the Fish and Game Commission and be submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for final approval. The proposal and an opportunity to comment can be found at: http://www.fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/wildlife/wolves/wolf_control.cfm . The public comment period will end February 17, comment at http://www.fishandgame.idaho.gov/ or at 2 public hearings, Feb. 2 at Double Tree Riverside, Garden City (Boise) and on Feb. 7 at Lewiston FG office, from 5-9pm. Everyone is invited to attend the hearings.

Cooperative winter research investigating prey selection by wolves near Jackson, Wyoming is in ongoing. The Pacific Creek Pack has spent most of the winter in GTNP and on the adjacent national forest. Field crews have located 15 carcasses of ungulates killed by wolves. Prey includes: 14 elk (10 calves, 2 cows, 2 bulls) and 1 yearling moose. Teton and Flat Creek Packs continue to hunt on the National Elk Refuge. So far this winter, wolf packs have not spent much time on the elk feed grounds in the Gros Ventre River drainage. Two wolves (#350m disperser from YNP and an uncollared wolf) continue to hunt further south in the Gros Ventre.

As part of their annual winter wolf helicopter capture and radio-collaring program Yellowstone National Park caught 10 wolves on Jan 25, and 2 Hayden wolves on Jan 26, a formerly uncollared pack. Captures were- Jan 25: Hellroaring pack (3 wolves); Leopold pack (3 wolves); Cougar Creek pack (1 wolf); Gibbon Meadows pack (3 wolves). On Jan 26: 2 wolves for the Hayden Valley pack were captured. These last 2 collared wolves will help with an issue of those wolves becoming bolder and approaching cars and snowmobiles because they are being fed by people. Park LE rangers are working the enforcement side of this issue but non-lethal harassment or possibly removal of wolves maybe warranted, if this type bold behavior continues.

Information and Education and Law Enforcement

‘Restoring the Pacific Northwest: the Art and Science of Ecological Restoration in Cascadia’, is available for order from Island Press, but the actual book won’t be available until May. It contains a short article by Bangs and Smith on ‘Ecological effects of wolves’.

On the 25th, the Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, Western Watersheds Project, Humane Society, and other groups filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue over the recent 10j MOA between the Department of Interior and state of Idaho.

On the 24th, Jimenez spoke to 3 high school biology classes [about 55 students] in Mountain View, Wyoming and donated a wolf skull to the school.

Liz Bradley [MFWP] gave a talk to the Ravalli County Fish & Wildlife Association on Monday night the 23rd in Hamilton; About 60 people attended. She spent this week in the Superior and Ninemile areas meeting with landowners and offering suggestions on how to avoid wolf/dog conflicts.

On then 24th, the Montana wolf compensation working group met in Helena. Work is ongoing.

On the 27th, Sime, Ross, Bradley, and Chris Smith [MFWP] and Handegard and Glazier [MT WS] attended a meeting of the Montana Environmental Quality Council in Helena. Sime gave an overview of the MFWP wolf program overview; Ross, Bradley, and Smith answered additional questions. The meeting went well and about 45 people attended.

Joe Fontaine’s ‘final’ words- "Since I made the announcement about changing jobs, I’ve had an outpouring of emails, ( more than 200), phone calls and visitors wishing me well, questioning my sanity about moving to central Mississippi and thanking me for all I’ve done for wolf recovery. I don’t know how to tell you how much it meant to be other than to say thank you for your kind words, your help and support over all the years, through good times and bad. I like to think all of you have made me a better person for having known you. I know you have influenced me in some way, some in really bad ways, but then that is another story. I will miss working on the project, the thrill of seeing and capturing wolves, the monitoring and the people I’ve met. What more could a wildlife biologist want, after all this was a dream job come true. Like the dinosaurs, my time has come and gone, it is time for younger more energetic people to take over as I move onto new adventures. I will miss all of you." [Joe’s going-away party will be held in Helena at the Elks Lodge [near the ice skating rink just S. of Hwy 12 between E. Helena and Helena] January 28. We wish him well.]

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