Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 3/24/06

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 3/17 to 3/24, 2006

Monitoring

NEW WEB ADDRESS- The 2006 annual interagency wolf report [covering all 2005] 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. More information can also be viewed at http://fwp.mt.gov/wildthings/wolf/default.html . The link to the IDFG 2005 Wolf Conservation and Management Report was just finalized, coauthored by IDFG and the Nez Perce Tribe. The report is broken down into sections and regions for ease in downloading see- http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/wildlife/wolves/05_conservation_progress_report.cfm .

Jimenez [FWS] picked up a chewed-off radio-collar near Victor, ID on the 23rd. It was the only radio in the now uncollared 5 member Driggs/Teton pack.

Efforts to collar and release a wolf in the Spotted Dog pack south of Avon, MT [confirmed depredation on Feb. 23] are ongoing, but mild early spring temperatures caused MT WS to temporarily pull their traps.

Control

ID WS received a call from a cattle producer southeast of Leadore, Idaho late on the 22rd, who reported that he'd shot 2 wolves on his private property. The rancher reported that he saw a wolf dragging a calf through the snow in his pasture. The rancher shot the wolf that was dragging the calf, and another one. Photos were reportedly taken of the drag marks and wolf tracks in the snow. FWS LE and IDFG are investigating.

On the 20th, during an aerial hunting flight for coyotes, an ID WS spotted a single, gray wolf standing in the middle of a group of cows and calves at a private ranch near Council, ID. The pilot made several passes at the wolf to harass it from the cattle. The WS trapper on the ground was notified and contacted the livestock owner to make sure he understood what he was allowed to do under the 10(j) rules.

Also on 20th, WS was looked into 3 separate reports of wolf depredations on cattle. The first was at a ranch near Ellis, ID, where two calves were confirmed killed by wolves. No telemetry signals from any collared wolves could be found. Two aerial hunts with a WS fixed-winged aircraft on 22nd & 23rd were unsuccessful at finding any wolves near the depredation site. Traps have been set, but wolves have not returned.

The second depredation was a calf that was confirmed killed by wolves along the east fork of the Salmon River near Clayton, ID. Two aerial hunts with a WS fixed winged aircraft on 22nd & 23rd were unsuccessful at finding any wolves near that depredation site. Traps have been set, but wolves have not returned.

The third reported depredation was NW of Mountain Home, ID. A yearling calf had been fed upon by wolves, but WS could not confirm that wolves had killed it. The livestock owner was briefed on the 10(j) rules. He called back on 22nd to report that wolves were just sighted in his cattle asked if WS could come over and kill them. WS re-stated that unless a depredation could be confirmed, WS could not conduct lethal wolf control. On March 22, Steve Nadeau, Michael Lucid, and Bob Sellers [IDFG] worked with him after he observed 3 wolves harassing his cattle. They discussed the 10j rules and spent time on the ground with the producer looking for sign. Additionally, Lucid circled the area during a telemetry flight on 2 separate days and was unable to locate any wolves or dead cattle in the vicinity. Lucid also provided less-than-lethal munitions and training to a livestock producer near Mayfield, ID who also had wolves near his cattle.

MFWP heard about an attack on a dog up the West Fork of the Bitterroot River from last weekend. Liz Bradley [MFWP] followed up and spoke to the owner this week. He said his dog (blue heeler) was staked out about 20 yds behind his house and was severely injured on the night of the 17th. He said he had to put the dog down the next day and that he had seen wolf tracks behind his house. Liz talked about wolf/dog incidents and why they occur. He was advised of the 10j rule and to keep his other dog close by and in the house and to harass any wolves that come near the house. There was no official investigation on this incident, but the Painted Rocks pack has been known to use this area and other recent wolf reports have been received nearby suggesting is was likely those wolves.

On the 21st, MT WS confirmed a wolf-killed calf north of Avon, MT in the Halfway pack territory. Tracks seemed to indicate that two [possibly more] wolves were involved. The collared wolf’s signal was heard in the area. This pack of 10-12 animals occupies an area that is predominantly private land used for livestock production. MFWP and WS investigated non-lethal options. They were not practical given the very large pasture sizes and dispersed livestock owned by the affected producer and other producers in the area. MFWP has increased monitoring efforts in the area and has asked WS to lethally remove two wolves.

On the 21st, MT WS investigated a dead calf south of Avon, MT. WS concluded "unconfirmed" as many coyote tracks were documented.

On the 20th, MT WS confirmed 1 dead and 2 injured sheep west of the town of Musselshell, MT. There is some uncertainty about whether this could be the same wolf or wolf-dog hybrid that was responsible for losses in Garfield and McCone counties in NE MT since this incident occurred approximately 70 miles from there. Tracks of a single large canid were documented. MFWP asked WS to collar and release anything they catch.

Lethal control work by WS and McCone County-MFWP volunteers in NE MT for a lone wolf or wolf-like canid has been hampered by high winds, but efforts are ongoing.

On the 22nd, a rancher in the Horse Prairie area of SW MT reported a cow that he believed was attacked and injured by wolves. MT WS investigated and searched the pasture with the rancher, but the injured cow could not be found. WS found the collared Black Canyon pack male 5-6 miles northwest of this pasture but no evidence could be found that they had visited the pasture. The landowner is aware of 10j rules and the situation will continue to be monitored.

Research

Smith reported that the Yellowstone late winter predation study is ongoing and that crews are seeing the most elk winter kill [starvation] since March 1997. The elk being killed by wolves are in poor condition. Also, the Park’s Pelican valley observation of wolves-grizzly-bison interactions is occurring at present.

Information and Education and Law Enforcement

VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks GRAY WOLF CONSERVATION AND MANAGEMENT PROGRAM is seeking good volunteers to assist with the Montana Gray Wolf Conservation and Management Program for the 2006 field season. For more information on the Montana Wolf Program visit: www.fwp.mt.gov/wildthings/wolf. This is a great opportunity to gain valuable field experience and references, while working in the rugged and beautiful backcountry of Montana. Montana is home to a wide diversity of large vertebrates including elk, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, mule deer, white-tailed deer, black bear, grizzly bear, and mountain lions. Work Environment: Work is conducted throughout western Montana. This is a physically challenging position, and extreme climate and terrain will be encountered. Volunteers may be required to carry up to 80 lbs. for varying distances over trail and cross-country conditions. Topography can be steep and all weather conditions can be encountered. Accommodations vary from trailers to bunkhouses to tent camping throughout Western Montana. Volunteers must have their own backpacking and camping equipment. Travel is mostly by 4-wheel drive, mountain bike, and foot. Volunteers should possess the ability and desire to hike long miles and work long days.: Typically 10 days on/4 days off, though work may extend beyond 10 days depending upon conditions, program needs, and logistics.

Duration: Expected to run from May through September, but may be vary depending upon conditions, volunteer availability, and project funding. A minimum commitment of 2 consecutive 10-day hitches is required and a preference will be given to qualified applicants able to commit for longer periods. Compensation: Groceries and related supplies are provided. Housing (travel trailers and/or USFS bunkhouse) may be available for off days. Volunteers are covered under Worker's Compensation. Primary Duties: The primary responsibility is to conduct wolf surveys to locate new or otherwise uncollared wolf packs. Surveys include driving, biking, and hiking, on roads and trails, and howling in suspected wolf areas to document sign. Generally surveys will be conducted for days at a time, either alone or with another volunteer. Volunteers communicate daily with program biologists, either in person or by phone. Survey information will be used to document and capture/collar new wolf packs. Secondary Duties: May be to assist with the capture and radio collaring of wolves, conduct reproductive surveys, locate and collect data from wolf home sites, and assist with wolf livestock conflict management. Qualifications: These qualifications are ABSOLUTELY necessary, because of the remote and independent nature of the field work in potentially difficult climate and topography:

-Backpacking and camping for extended periods of time in remote settings.

-Orienteering (use of map and compass for navigating) proficiency.

-Excellent physical condition.

-Must hold valid driver's license.

-Possess the ability to get along with others in backcountry settings for 10-day + time periods.

-Possess the ability to communicate in a helpful friendly manner with interested publics.

-Completion of, or enrollment in college/university wildlife, or closely related curriculum.

The following skills and abilities are additionally helpful:

-Experience in radio telemetry in mountainous terrain. Capture, immobilizing, and handling/processing of wildlife to assist in capture, Experience flying in fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. Application Period: Apply Now! Application deadline is April 24. Selections will begin that week. Additional volunteers will be selected throughout the field season as needed.

How to Apply: A cover letter highlighting your professional interests and experience as they pertain to these positions and detailing your period of availability. A resume detailing education, employment, and experience. A list of names and contact information of 5 qualification related references. Send application materials to:Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Attn: Wolf Volunteer Program, 490 N. Meridian Rd., Kalispell, MT 59901, Telephone: (406) 751-4586, Fax: (406) 257-0349 See: http://fwp.mt.gov/news/article_4364

VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY- NEZ PERCE TRIBE-GRAY WOLF PROJECT

The Nez Perce Tribe is seeking volunteers to assist on the Idaho Gray Wolf Recovery Project for the 2006 field season. Applications received after March 31st will not be considered- no exceptions. How to Apply: Submit a cover letter expressing interest in the Project, and resume detailing educational and employment backgrounds, along with the name and contact information of 3 work-related references. Send application materials to: Nez Perce Tribe Gray Wolf Recovery Project, Attn: Volunteer Program, P.O. Box 1922, McCall, ID 83638, Telephone: (208) 634-1061, Fax: (208) 634-3231.

18th Annual North American Wolf Conf. - The 2006 North American Wolf Conference, April 4-6, 2006 at Chico Hot Springs Resort, in Pray, Montana, in the foothills of the beautiful Absaroka Beartooth Mountain range beneath Emigrant Peak, north of Yellowstone National Park. This events brings together leading wolf experts, forensics and law enforcement specialists, livestock conflict managers, educators, conservationists and field researchers. Former presenters include Robert Wayne, Lu Carbyn, William Lynn, L. David Mech, Marco Musiani, Paul Paquet, Steve Fritts, Doug Smith, and others. The 2006 conference begins Tuesday, April 4, at 6:00 PM with a welcome reception and social followed by two full days of diverse presentations on Wednesday and Thursday. The Alpha Award Banquet and Auction will be held Wednesday evening. Immediately following the conference, on Friday, April 7, attendees have the opportunity to journey into the park for a special field trip led by Dr. Doug Smith. The 2006 conference is sponsored by Defenders of Wildlife, Wolf Recovery Foundation, Madison Valley Ranchlands Group, Nez Perce Tribe and Yellowstone National Park. You can register at: http://www.defenders.org/wolf/conference/

Delisting Proposed for Mid-Western Wolves- The Summary of the Proposal document of the 2006 Proposal is available at http://www.fws.gov/midwest/wolf/ .

Asher [MFWP] recieved a call from Livingston FS biologist (Rachael Feigley) on the 21st, who heard that a woman reported to the FS, a hurt/shot wolf up a nearby drainage. FWS special agent Goessman investigated and found out it was a mixed up story and really involved a coyote.

Bradley [MFWP] gave a talk to Bitterroot Audubon in Hamilton, MT on the 20th. About 80 people attended.

On the 17th, Sime [MFWP] gave a briefing to the Montana Environmental Quality Council about wolf monitoring efforts, the livestock losses in NE MT, and delisting efforts. Approximately 50 people attended.

On the 21st, Jimenez spoke to USFWS Level 1 meeting in Lander, WY. Approximately 50 biologists from various regions in WY attended.

Doug Smith [NPS] gave a Yellowstone Park wolf talk on March 21 to about 20 visitors from the Yellowstone Association. On March 22 he gave a similar presentation to about 25 students from Antioch College.

Jason Husseman [IDFG] gave a presentation to over 30 Salmon, ID Rotarians about wolves and wolf management in Idaho.

On the 23rd, Holyan [NTP] guest lectured at Washington State University. He spoke to an upper level Natural Resources class, Environmental Policy and Law, about the Nez Perce Tribe's role in wolf recovery with emphasis on the Endangered Species Act.

The Spring 2006 issue of Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian Vol 7(1):22-27 had an article by Richard Littell with many photos by Isaac Babcock about ‘Our Brothers Keeper’ about the Nez Perce Tribal Wolf Recovery program and perspective about wolf restoration.

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