Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 6/30/06

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 6/23 to 6/30, 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.

Trapp [MFWP] reported that his sightings and photographs of the Mission Creek pack in SW Montana show that several members have severe infestations of mange.

Asher [MFWP] collared a breeding female in the Spotted Dog pack, W. of Helena, MT, on the 24th. Val also found the den a week or so before and got a count of 10 pups. Size difference in pups was significant with several runts being seen. Both the nearby Rock Creek and Spotted Dog ranches were notified. Further monitoring will determine the overall pack size.

On the 28th, Smucker and Holder [MFWP] caught and collared an 80 lb breeding female in the Tyler Creek drainage SW of Bearmouth. This is a new documented pack and will be called the Bearmouth pack. Traps were pulled on the 29th.

On the 30th, Trapp [MFWP] scouted the Big Hole Valley W. of Wisdom, MT and located the collared Battlefield wolf (SW47F) who has been missing since December. He found lots of fresh wolf sign in the area and may begin trapping efforts to get a 2nd collar in this pack after the 4th of July weekend. Trapping is normally suspended for holidays to reduce conflicts with recreationists and their dogs.

On May 1, 2006, MFWP euthanized a very young unknown canid pup found along a road near Whitefish, MT. DNA tests just confirmed that it was a coyote pup.

Volunteers Janine Payne and Alan Whitehead have begun work for MFWP in NW Montana. Welcome aboard! Currently they are surveying the Kootenai South home range to locate the pack which lost it's collars this spring. NW034M is missing and NW036F appears to have dispersed. Derbridge, Nowack, and Laudon [MFWP] followed up on reports of wolf pups in the Pinkham Creek drainage SW of Eureka. Wolf sign has been verified in the area and a trapline was started but traps were pulled the 30th. It will be resumed around July 12th. Nowack's last day will be the 30th. Nowack worked hard long hours and gathered important information in the Superior, DeBorgia, and Pinkham Creek areas. Thanks for the Effort!

Confederated Kootenai and Salish Tribal biologist Stacey Courville and Ted North [MT WS] located an uncollared pack near Dixon, MT on the 30th. This pack is believed to range from the Dixon area south to the Mill Creek drainage north of Frenchtown, MT. Bradley [MFWP] and Courville are meeting on the 1st to begin trapping efforts.

Cooper, Holder, and Trapp [MFWP] scouted the West Fork of the Bitterroot for the uncollared Painted Rocks pack but did not find any fresh wolf sign. This area will be scouted again later in the summer or sooner if any wolf sightings are reported.

Babcock [NPT] counted a minimum of 4 black pups with the Coolwater Ridge pack, although the thick vegetation could easily have precluded sightings of additional young. He also captured and radio-collared the suspected alpha male of this pack. Based on information received from the Akensons (Univ. of ID Taylor Ranch Field Station), Isaac then flew in to investigate a potential new pack in the vicinity of Cabin Ck.

Hollow and Rennie [NPT] scouted the home range of the Red River pack for a potential capture operation, but not enough sign was located to warrant trapping. They then were called to the Grangeville, ID area where they, along with Carter Niemeyer (IDFG), conducted a capture effort for the suspected pack that killed 2 hunting hounds a couple of weeks ago. They captured and collared a lactating female and a male wolf. To date they have been unable to verify if pups are present, though they are suspected based on previous howling elicited by NTP biologists.

Holyan and Muller [NPT] were able to document the presence of 2+ pups with the Hemlock Ridge pack in ID. They also spent several days trying to determine if there is more than a single pup in the Giant Cedar pack, but were unable to do so. They investigated 2 areas of suspected wolf activity, but hundreds of miles of road surveys turned up only a single wolf scat, despite reports of howling and a recent sighting of a single wolf.

Doug Smith [NPS] reported that telemetry flights indicate that many YNP wolves are moving their pups to rendevous sites. Pup production and survival in Yellowstone’s northern range appears to be normal, at least until this point in time. Last year pup mortality was very high from a suspected early summer disease outbreak.

Control

On the 24th, ID WS responded to a depredation site near Grangeville, ID where a calf was reported killed by four wolves. When WS arrived, the only thing left of the carcass was the spine and head. There was wolf sign, but not enough to confirm that wolves were responsible for killing the animal. It is being documented as a "probable" wolf depredation. This is the same basic area where two hounds were killed a few weeks ago.

On the 26th, ID WS lethally removed B-188, the alpha female, from the Big Water Pack in reaction to depredations on sheep. Efforts are ongoing to lethally remove other pack members.

On the 26th, ID WS confirmed that a 400 lb. calf was killed on a private ranch near Stanley, ID. B-171 and another wolf were determined to be involved. A telemetry flight was conducted on the 27th and B-171 was sighted on an open hillside with five pups. IDFG instructed ID WS to attempt to protect the remaining cattle by employing non-lethal methods. A radio activated guard was deployed and the rancher has moved his cattle from the immediate area.

On the 27th, ID WS confirmed that members of the Steel Mountain Pack killed 4 ewes on Boise National Forest land near Big Trinity. IDFG authorized ID WS to set traps with the intention of lethally removing 2 wolves.

McDougal (MT WS) pulled traps NW of Wisdom, MT [near where depredations occurred earlier in the month] for the 4th of July weekend. Control efforts will continue after the weekend to try to remove 1 wolf and collar another, if a 2nd one is caught.

On the 26th, WY WS confirmed a calf had been killed on private property but near Wyoming elk winter feedgrounds in the Pinedale/Cora area. Reports from local ranchers indicate there might be as many as 4-5 wolves involved. Service volunteers will try to trap, radio-collar, and release a wolf on-site to figure that situation out. The type of any subsequent control would be determined as more information is obtained or if more depredations occur.

Research

On the 27th, Bangs, Jimenez, Miller and Dickerson [FWS], Curt Mack [NPT], Steve Nadeau [IDFG], and Doug Smith [NPS] met with Mike Mitchell, and Dave Ausband [Univ. of Montana] to discuss their analysis of wolf survey data to transition into an improved less-intensive method to estimate breeding pairs and wolf population status. A publication will be developed by UM on those data and that analysis. The group also discussed progress on wolf monitoring protocol research, a collaborative effort by NPT, FWS, NPS, IDFG, MTFW&P, and WF&G.

On the 28th, they met with other federal and state biologists and Dr. Matt Kauffman (Univ. MT) in Missoula, MT to discuss "The influence of wolves and multiple factors on elk trends in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming: a one-day workshop."

The Northern Yellowstone Cooperative Wildlife Working Group conducted its annual late winter classification of northern Yellowstone elk on March 23, 2006. A total of 3,649 elk were classified as bulls, cows, or calves. Estimated sex and age ratios were 24 calves and 20 bulls per 100 cows. The overall ratio of 24 calves/100 cows is higher than the 12-14 calves/100 cows during 2002-2005 and within the range observed the previous 6 years. The working groups’ annual winter population trend count for elk was unable to be conducted this past winter because of lack of snow and unusually windy conditions. the late winter bison herd was estimated at 3,500, down from the late summer 2005 estimate of 4,900 (Yellowstone Science 14:2).

Information and Education and Law Enforcement

Doug Smith [NPS] gave a presentation on wolf management and habituation to about 50 YNP employees at Canyon in YNP on the 26th. On the 29th, he led a hike with about ten 8-10 year-old school kids from Gardiner, MT.

On Thursday, the 29th, Mack [NTP] attended a leadership meeting on the Nez Perce National Forest in Grangeville, ID. Wolf population and management status, coordination needs, and human safety issues were discussed.

Mike Cooper finished up his month volunteering for MFWP and returned to Texas on the 29th. Thanks to Mike for a great job!

On the 25th, Williamson (ID WS) gave a presentation on WS' role in wolf management at the Idaho Wool Growers Association (IWGA) as part of a "speakers panel" in conjunction with the IWGA Range Tour.

On the 28th, Todd Grimm (ID WS) and Rick Williamson spoke to 20 educators at the Idaho Rangeland Ecology Teachers Workshop sponsored by the University of Idaho at their Field Campus in McCall, ID. While all predators that depredate on livestock were discussed, wolves were the focus of the presentation.

On the 30th, Jimenez [FWS] was on a wildlife panel at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, WY. About 30 people attended the discussions of general wildlife ecology.

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