Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 2/03/06

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 1/27 to 2/03, 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. Everyone is currently working very hard on completing their sections. It should be available by March 1.

Jason Husseman and Mark Hurley (IDFG) darted and radio collared the very large alpha male of the Hughes Creek pack incidental to conducting big game counts in Idaho. This is the 4th wolf collared this winter by IDFG & helicopter darting. This pack evaded collaring last summer, and this is the first collar in the pack. They saw a total of 7 wolves, 4 black and 3 gray.

IDFG and WS personnel independently identified a new pack just south of the Canadian border near Bonners Ferry last week. Bear biologist Wayne Wakkinen investigated a report and found tracks, day beds, and scats of 4-5 animals. The pack has not yet been named. On Feb. 2, a livestock producer near the newly identified pack found a dead calf. Shane Robinson (WS) and IDFG personnel investigated and found the calf to be too consumed to confirm the kill as wolf, however wolf tracks and scats were abundant at the site, and they had obviously fed on it. Traps are being set to capture and collar a wolf. Non lethal techniques such as animal husbandry, cracker shells, and fladry are being attempted to reduce the likelihood of a problem. This is in the endangered management area of Idaho, so nonlethal efforts are the initial response if applicable, and hopefully will prevent future problems. Currently, the FWS will need to make any calls on lethal control north of I-90, and IDFG is working closely with them.

On Jan. 31, Jim Pehringer [WY WS/FWS] trapped and radio collared a 90lb female pup from the Absaroka Pack. Temperatures near Cody have remained in the 40's during the day and above freezing at night. Trapping will continue along as temperatures stay above freezing at night.

MFWP volunteer Tyler Hollow has been on board since December. He has been investigating wolf reports between Helena, Lincoln, and Avon. We appreciate all his hard work.

Control

MT WS trapped and killed a subadult male wolf from the Willow pack on the 2nd in the upper Willow Creek drainage NW of Philipsburg. A calf was confirmed killed by this pack on 1/13 and at that time MFWP issued a control order to remove 1 wolf from this pack. It was caught at a different ranch in the Upper Willow drainage where a producer had claimed that wolves were hanging around and bothering his cattle earlier in the winter. Control is now finished. MFWP called the rancher who had the depredation and told him that his SOS permit is now voided but to call MFWP or WS if he sees wolves on his property again. Five wolves are believed left in the Willow pack now (2 adults and 3 pups).

Research

Nothing new to report.

Information and Education and Law Enforcement

On the 2nd, the USFWS Director Dale Hall announced the FWS would be publishing an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the FR. The Advanced Notice lays out the Service’s current thinking regarding establishing a Northern Rocky Mountain [NRM] Distinct Population Segment [DPS] of gray wolves that would include all of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming and parts on eastern Washington and Oregon and north central Utah and threats to that wolf population. After an adequate state regulatory framework for wolf management in Wyoming is approved, a proposal to delist wolves in the NRM DPS would be prepared and published for public review and comment. The Advanced Notice of Intent can be viewed at http://westerngraywolf.fws.gov/ early next week. Written public comment on the Advanced Notice is being solicited. The advanced notice of proposed rulemaking for the Northern Rocky Mountain population of gray wolves was signed by the Director on January 31, 2006, and will be published in the Federal Register on Wednesday, February 8, 2006. It will be on file February 7, 2006.

IDFG held a public hearing in Boise on February 2 to get testimony on their proposal to remove up to 43 wolves in the Lolo Elk Zone. Approximately 75 people attended and 25 testified. The crowd was diverse but respectful. IDFG had an open house attached where people could review the proposal and ask questions of biologists before testifying. Two IDFG commissioners and Director were present to hear the testimony and interact with the public. Among those testifying were legislators, Governor's Office, Farm Bureau, wolf enthusiasts, hunters, and sporting groups, and representatives from various environmental groups. Public comment will be collected on the proposal until February 17. The proposal, Q&A, comment opportunity, and other information can be found at: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/wildlife/wolves/wolf_control.cfm . The next public hearing will be held from 5-9 pm, on February 7, at the Lewiston Fish and Game office.

After over 17 years of helping to restore wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains, Joe Fontaine has moved on. He starts a Service Refuge Manager job at Theodore Roosevelt National Wildlife Refuge near Holladale, Mississippi on February 6. His going away party was the 28th in Helena and a memorable time was had by all. Good luck Joe and many thanks.

Carter Niemeyer retired on January 2nd and he left these ‘last words’- "It has been and honor and a privilege to work for the U.S. government for nearly 32 years as a wildlife biologist. I have had the opportunity to meet and work with a lot of people on wildlife management issues, both nationally and internationally. The adventures, challenges and rewards have been many, but being a part of the wolf recovery team in the Northern Rockies has been the highlight of my career. The time has come for this "Alpha" to disperse to parts unknown and let other Alphas and "pups" take over my territory. I want to thank everyone for the e-mails, letters and phone calls about my retirement. I would also like to "rub it in" to all those who failed to attend the fabulous retirement party in Boise and missed out on the camaraderie, merriment and the Bitterbrush Blues Band. The party was a truly unusual mix of family, friends, co-workers and people representing all facets of the wolf issue. I deeply appreciate the gifts and thoughtful words. They will always remind me of a rewarding and fruitful career. By really odd coincidence, Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne and Secretary of Interior Gale Norton signed the MOA transferring wolf management to the state of Idaho on the same day (January 5) as my retirement party. My wife, Jenny, and I plan to do some traveling and relax for a while before I try some writing. I will most likely remain involved in wolf-related issues as an advisor and mentor." Thanks Carter.

NEW USFWS Helena, MT ADDRESS- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office in Helena, Montana has moved. We are in a new building 1/3 mi east of Wal-Mart between East Helena and Helena. We are on the south side of Highway 12 & 1/4 mile west of the Ice Skating Rink. Our phone [406-449-5225 x204] and fax [406-449-5339] numbers and email address have remained the same but our new [and slightly ironic] mailing address is USFWS, 585 Shepard Way, Helena, MT 59601.

Laudon (MFWP) attended the Rocky Mountain Front Land Manager's Forum annual meeting on 1/27. He shared information on the Montana Wolf Management Plan, current status of wolves on the Rocky Mountain front, and day to day program activities and to learn, and to meet managers and learn of their program activities. This is a multi agency and NGO meeting consisting of USFWS, Forest Service, BLM, Glacier National Park, MFWP, Blackfeet Tribe, weed districts, Montana DNRC, USGS, Nature Conservancy, and the Boone and Crockett Club. About 45 people were in a attendance.

On the 30th, Trapp (MFWP) gave a presentation to the Carbon County Commissioners in Red Lodge, MT. Sime also attended. They talked about the MT wolf management plan, wolf activity in the area, livestock and big game issues, delisting, and funding.

On the 3rd, Sime (MFWP) did 2 programs for 5th graders in a local Helena, MT public school. About 60 participated.

MFWP announces the availability of wolf monitoring information on its website. See www.fwp.mt.gov/wildthings/wolf and click on the photo of a plane.

Bradley [MFWP] talked to about 15 people at the Headwaters Resource Conservation and

Development meeting in Butte Thursday night Feb. 2.

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