Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 2/10/06

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 2/03 to 2/10, 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.

Control

ID WS received a phone call on the 9th from a rancher in the vicinity of Mackay Reservoir in south central Idaho. The rancher had just fired cracker shells at 4 wolves that were in his cattle pasture, and the wolves had exited the pasture in response. This is the 2nd time in the last 10 days this same rancher has hazed wolves away from his cattle with cracker shells, and this is the same area where a rancher legally shot a wolf in his pasture around this time last year under the new 10j rule. ID WS believes these are probably wolves from the Copper Basin area. The rancher understands that he can legally shoot these wolves if he sees them attacking his cattle.

On the 9th, ID WS investigated a report that wolves had killed 3 ewes near the Salmon River just a few miles East of Riggins. The WS Wildlife Specialist found 2 dead ewes and determined that they were probably killed by wolves from the Florence Pack. Since there was not enough evidence to "confirm" depredation, no control action has been initiated. The third ewe carcass could not be located.

On the 9th, ID WS pulled all traps that had been set in an attempt to collar and release one of the wolves that had been hanging around livestock [and consumed a 500lb. calf carcass] in the Idaho Panhandle near the Canadian border. Once the traps went into the ground, the wolves never returned. The livestock owner has been provided cracker shells and if the wolves return, trapping efforts may resume.

A county predator control specialist in central northeast Montana found large canid tracks in fresh snow on Feb. 6th. He followed them out and reportedly saw a lone gray wolf east of Circle, MT. He phoned MT WS and asked to kill it. There had been some sheep depredations- in three separate areas across a 20 mile vicinity from late December to mid-January; losses around 59 injured [some have since died and others expected to die] and 28 dead sheep. MT WS investigated each incident, measured two different sets of canid tracks and believed dogs were responsible. Some people apparently shot their dogs and no more problems were documented. MT WS immediately contacted MFWP when they were contacted by the county control specialist. Since the county employee is not covered under any state or federal authority to kill listed species, the county specialist was not given permission to shoot the wolf. However, MFWP determined that since multiple sheep were killed in 3 separate depredations in this same vicinity within a 3 week period by canids, they concluded that a heretofore unknown wolf or wolf-like canid was likely responsible and authorized MT WS and not the county specialist to take a wolf if one was seen in that immediate area during other routine work. MFWP explained the 10j regulations to the producers and others in the county. This became controversial as some claimed the pilot was a "ranch" employee since private funds are used to pay for his work and that he should have been able to shoot the wolf. Even if he was considered a ranch employee, he could not have shot the wolf on the 6th anyway as it was not attacking or molesting livestock as required by federal regulations. The Service concurred with the MFWP determination that a ranch ‘employee’ had to be directly employed by the ranch and that written documentation has to show a direct standard employee/employer relationship (e.g. pay checks, contract, W-2) and that county agents were not employees of individual ranches. Furthermore county ‘agents’ are not trained damage investigators or control agents with legal authority to take listed species under the 10j regulations or the FWP-USFWS coop agreement. No livestock depredations have been reported and the ‘wolf’ hasn’t been reported since.

On Monday the 6th, MT WS Specialist Martin examined a dead ewe southeast of Roscoe, MT. Physical evidence pointed to a probable wolf depredation. There has also been recent coyote depredations in this area. Trapp (MFWP) met with the rancher and discussed options including temporary electric fencing, guard dogs, and other deterrents. The rancher is now bringing in the sheep at night and considering getting livestock guarding dogs. Subsequent snow tracking by Trapp on the 10th, revealed no wolf sign, but the newly formed Rosebud pack is in the general vicinity.

Research

Yellowstone National Park wrapped up their winter capture operation. They collared a total of 26 wolves this winter including 7 this week; 2 in Mollies [alpha male [ARGOS] and female], 1 in Delta [recollared AD female with ARGOS], 3 in Bechler [2 male [1 ARGOS], 1 female pup] and 1 yrl. male in Cougar Creek with assistance from Ross [MFWP]. As part of that effort they placed three ARGOS satellite collars that were purchased by Wyoming Game and Fish Department in wolf packs [Delta, Bechler, Mollies] that are suspected of leaving the Park in winter. The cooperative monitoring project will assist in determining Park wolf pack movements into other areas of Wyoming. Collaring is completed except for Delta pack if the opportunity presents itself.

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 proposed rulemaking for the Northern Rocky Mountain population of gray wolves was signed by the Director on January 31, 2006, and was published in the Federal Register on Wednesday, February 8, 2006. It can be viewed at http://westerngraywolf.fws.gov/ANPR_Feb_8_2006.pdf. Written comments will be accepted until COB April 10, 2006 to USFWS, Ed Bangs, 585 Shepard Way, Helena, MT 59601.

IDFG held a public hearing in Lewiston, ID on February 7 to get testimony on their proposal to remove up to 43 wolves in the Lolo Elk Zone. IDFG had an open house attached where people could review the proposal and ask questions of biologists before testifying. 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 .

Nez Perce Tribal biologists coordinated with IDFG on the state and NRM annual reports. NPT coordinated with MTFWP on transfer of data for maps and tables of NRM annual report.

Curt Mack [NPT] investigated a reported dead wolf north of McCall, Idaho; it turned out to be the carcass of a poached elk. Last week he gave a presentation about wolves to the McCall-Donnelly High School biology class.

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.

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.

Smith [YNP] gave a presentation to about 35 members of a National Geographic tour in Yellowstone National Park on the 6th.

Bangs [FWS] participated in a ½ hour radio program for Peterson’s Bowhunting Magazine Radio with a Montana Outfitter J.B. Kline on the 6th. The program is available on the magazine’s website.

On the 10th, Bangs and Sime [MFWP] gave presentations to about 10 Russian biologists, hunting managers, and officials hosted by the Siberian Tiger Project. The group is touring the United States to see how natural resources are managed here and were particularly interested in public participation processes. Their unanimous response to "Would you rather have wolves or tigers?" was "Tigers!" There are very few wolves when there are tigers.

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