Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 5/26/06

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 5/19 to 5/26, 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.

Den survey flights and ground observations are ongoing in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. It was be late summer before most the data have been collected and analyzed.

Last week Holyan and Babcock [NTP] each captured a yearling female in the previously uncollared Earthquake Basin pack southeast of Grangeville, ID.

On the 23rd, Carter Niemeyer, officer Brian Reeves, and volunteer Jenny Niemeyer [IDFG] collared 2 subadult male wolves near Stanley, Idaho believed to be from the Galena pack. There have been several wolf sightings and many wolf observers in the Stanley basin over the last few weeks.

On the 24th, Lucid, Nadeau, and a camera/film crew Nass and Nokkentved [IDFG] collared 2 gray sub-adult males from the Timberline pack. This pack has been off the air since last fall when pack members chewed off the sole radio collar. While working on the first wolf, Nadeau and Lucid had to step back as 2 elk ran by while being pursued by another wolf. The wolf evidently broke off his pursuit when he sensed all the commotion and human presence.

The Soldier Mt. alpha female was recently killed, but Lucid [IDFG] found evidence of reproduction and the pups were moved to a new location by the remaining pack members after the female died. The pups should survive.

Isaac Babcock [NTP], coordinating with MFWP biologist Liz Bradley, conducted a capture operation, albeit unsuccessful, on the Big Hole pack. He was able to document a minimum of 4 pups (2 black and 2 gray).

Tyler Hollow [NTP] observed 2 gray adults in the Giant Cedar group, including radio-collared ID female B256. Due to the large number of people expected in the area over the holiday weekend, he did not attempt a capture operation. Tyler is currently trapping in the Eldorado pack area and will also be investigating the suspected Hemlock Ridge pack den site.

Jim Holyan [NTP], along with Dave Ausband [UM], investigated the Gold Fork and Orphan pack home ranges. It is undetermined whether Gold Fork has denned. Little evidence of wolf activity was located in the Orphan pack area. Male B246, the sole radio-collared wolf in the Orphan pack, has not been located during the last 3 flights, so monitoring is currently stymied.

Ross [MFWP] recaptured SW08 male on the 24th. He replaced the VHS collar with a new collar, got blood, and processed as normal. This was the wolf that had the abnormal teeth when fist captured in Feb 2005 [likely distemper]. Ross took pictures of his current teeth and there was a dramatic difference. On the 25th, Ross [MFWP] trapped and collared a yearling male wolf on the Sun Ranch. His number is SW79M and he is also part of the Madison Valley, Wedge Pack. Traps were pulled.

A series of ‘wolf’ reports and a sheep depredation near Cortez in SW CO were investigated by CO DOW and CO WS. It appears likely that escaped/released privately-held wolf-dog hybrids were involved. The situation is being monitored.

Control

A steer was killed by wolves on the 16th and a dog was killed on the 17th on a private ranch in the East Fork of the Bitterroot in SW MT. On the 19th, the ranch manager reported that he shot one of four wolves that were chasing his horses. MFWP responded immediately and it is being investigated by LE. On the 22nd, Bart Smith (MT WS) caught the lactating female, a very old wolf, and a 2 year-old male and pulled his traps. MT WS suspected a den was close because the 725 lbs steer was reduced to nothing but hide and a rib cage after one night with 6 or 7 wolves estimated in the pack. Several additional steers died apparently of natural causes a few days later. A local vet had been treating the animals and suspected pneumonia. Bradley [MFWP] hauled the carcasses out of the area so they would not attract wolves.

A wolf was reportedly shot on private land by a landowner under the 10j regulation near Phillipsburg, MT on the 26th. It is under investigation.

On the 19th, a private landowner used firearms to harass a wolf from a pasture on private property in the Horse Prairie area of southwest Montana. No livestock or wolves were injured. The 45-control window to remove the rest of the wolves in the Black Canyon pack in southwest Montana closed on May 11. The collared male and another wolf were not killed and are still in the area but maybe removed if further depredations occur.

On the 22nd, ID WS confirmed that a calf was killed by wolves on private land in Iron Ck. between Challis and Salmon. Traps were set in an attempt to collar and release the first animal and were pulled on the 26th due to no wolf activity in the area.

On the 22nd, ID WS received a complaint that wolves had killed 15-20 sheep N. of Hammett, ID. WS investigated and determined that the damage was caused by a mountain lion. A large, male lion was subsequently removed on the 24th.

On the 23rd, ID WS re-collared and released a black, sub-adult male at the same ranch where a rancher shot two wolves within the last two weeks near Victor, ID. The wolf was originally collared just across the border by Jimenez [FWS] in Wyoming.

On the 24th, ID WS received a report that two houndsmen had lost several dogs to wolves on land managed by the Idaho Department of Lands, near Grangeville, ID. WS investigated on the 25th and confirmed that wolves had killed a female Walker and a male black and tan/bluetick mix and had seriously injured a female Plott. The houndsmen were chasing black bear during the pursuit only season, so they did not have any firearms with them. They released 8 hounds and the dogs split after being released. Five of the dogs treed one bear while the other three treed a different bear a significant distance away. The houndsmen reported that they heard the three dogs that were baying at a treed bear, then heard distressed barking and whining. They rushed toward the sounds and came upon four wolves that were attacking the Plott. One of the houndsmen grabbed a large stick and approached to within 8 feet of one of the wolves and hit a tree with the stick. The wolf reportedly growled at him and the houndsman retreated. The wolves left and the two men took the injured dog in for veterinary care. The dog may not survive. All three dogs had telemetry collars with bells attached. WS provided the NPT biologists with the location of the attack to see whether these wolves are collared and may have a den nearby.

On the 24th, ID WS received a report that wolves had killed a dachshund in a backyard of a residence near Troy. WS investigated but could only confirm that wolf tracks and scat were within 150 yards of the house. The dog's carcass had reportedly been packed away. The homeowners reported that the dog was in the backyard with some children and when the kids were told to come inside, the dog ran into a brushy area at the edge of the yard. The homeowners said that's where they and the children saw two wolves attack the dog.

On the 25th, Jimenez [FWS] confirmed a calf was killed by wolves on private land near Dubois, WY. The Washakie pack is denning in the general vicinity. WY WS was authorized to remove 2 wolves and the ranch manger was given a shoot-on-site permit for 2 wolves. After 2 wolves are taken by either, control will end unless there are further depredations.

Research

Curt Mack and Dave Ausband (UM research assistant on the alternative methods of censusing/surveying wolves study) aerially toured a portion of the state to provide Dave an overview for possible methods/techniques to incorporate for field applications. They also had preliminary discussions on study design and logistical matters.

On the 22nd, Sime (MFWP) met with Dave Ausband (UM) to discuss MT wolf monitoring and data analysis techniques.

Information and Education and Law Enforcement

Holyan and Babcock recovered the carcass of adult female B147, a suspected lone wolf, during the week of the 19th. Its death is under investigation by the USFWS Law Enforcement.

Steve Nadeau & Carter Niemeyer [IDFG], and Curt Mack [NPT] led field trips for Boulder White Cloud Coalition and Idaho Conservation League on Friday and Saturday May 19-20. About 35 people attended the Boulder White Cloud field trip on Friday and about 14 attended the ICL field trip on Saturday. Wolf biology/ecology and management were the topics of the day.

Bangs and Regional Director Mitch King [FWS] were on a panel for a May 25-26 WY Farm Bureau meeting in Riverton, WY. Jimenez and Brian Kelly [WY FWS] attended. The meeting "Wolves: Wyoming’s Reality- Messages from the front lines" was attended by 80 people. Speakers included a keynote talk by Dr. Charles Kay- "Wolves: lies, myths, and scientific fraud", WY Governor Freudenthal, and panels representing- landowners, outfitters, local government, professionals, federal & state agencies, legal views, and WY Representatives and Senators.

Nadeau and Lucid gave a presentation at Hailey, ID to about 50 people on May 17. The presentations covered wolf biology and management in Idaho. There had been several reports of wolves in the vicinity around homes and pets. The objective was to inform the locals of how to live with wolves and other large carnivores.

Curt Mack spoke to approx. 60 students at the McCall Elementary School on the 25th about wolf biology/ecology.

Sime and Bradley (MFWP) met with Missoula County (western MT) Commissioners on May 22. They shared information about the state wolf program, wolf packs in the local area, and the federal regulations in particular. Missoula County overlaps the boundary of the experimental area and the endangered areas. Four people attended.

Craig Tabor, USFWS "agent-in-charge" stationed at the Boise Field office, is moving to Ann Arbor, MI. Craig has been instrumental in law enforcement oversight and investigations of illegal wolf kills for the last 5 years in Idaho. He has been a great partner in wolf management and will be sorely missed. Thanks and good luck Craig!

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