Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 9/22/06

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 9/15 to 9/22 2006

 

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.

Monitoring

Each year we attempt to provide mid-year wolf population estimates that will give some indication on the relative status of the northern Rocky Mountain wolf population. It is important to note this estimate is very rough and a lot can change because of wolf mortality during the fall, better counting conditions after winter snowfall, and through more thorough analysis of data as the ‘official’ Dec 31 estimate is being prepared for the 2006 interagency annual wolf report.

Disclaimer- These wolf population data are preliminary and are rough estimated based upon observations so far this year. They often represent a minimum estimate since many packs have not been fully surveyed. A pack is two or more wolves with an established territory and a breeding pair is a pack of wolves that has at least one adult male and one adult female and 2 pups that survive until Dec 31st. These estimates indicate the northern Rocky Mountain wolf population continues to grow in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming and all known wolf packs reside in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. Preliminary mid-year estimates indicate a total of about 1,229 wolves, in 158 packs, with at least 87 potential breeding pairs. This represents an overall wolf population growth rate of over 20% since last year’s interagency official December 31, 2005 mid-winter wolf population estimate of 1, 020 wolves in 132 packs and 71 breeding pairs qualifying as breeding pairs.

Montana- Total 270 wolves; 53 packs (at least 28 packs produced pups and at least 22 maybe breeding pairs). Pack- #AD, #Pups, Total#; NW MT = 140 wolves in 26 packs (at least 14 packs producing at least 56 pups). 1) Candy Mt.- 7, 4, 11; 2) Fish Trap-3, 4, 7; 3) Great Bear- 3, ?, 3; 4) #505 MF Flathead- 1, ?, 1; 5) Hog Heaven- 1, ?, 1; 6) Kintla- 3, 5, 8; 7) Kintla Disperer- 2, 3, 5; 8) Kootenai S.- 5, ?, 5; 9) NW036F Big Creek-2, ?, 2; 10) Lazy Creek- 12, ?,12; 11) Livermore- 1, 4, 5; 12) Marias- ?, ?, ?; 13) Murphy Lake- 1, ?, 1; 14) Pulpit Mt.- 3, 5, 8; 15) Pinkham- 2, 3, 5; 16) Red Shale- ?, ?, ?; 17) Spotted Bear- 4, ?, 4; 18) Whitefish- 3, 4, 7; 19) Wolf prairie- 3, ?, 3; 20) Lone Pine- 6, 4, 10; 21) Ninemile- 5, 1, 6; 22) Superior- 2, ?, 2; 23) Deborgia- 2, 4, 6; 24) Bighole- 5, 4, 9; 25) Hewolf Mt.- 5, 2, 7; 26) Spotted Dog 3, 9, 12. SW MT CID= 63 wolves in 12 packs (6 packs producing 23 pups). 27) Painted Rocks- 2, ?, 2; 28) Sula- 2, ?, 2; Lake Como- 2, ?, 2; 30) UI. E. Fork Bitterroot- 3, 3, 6; 31) Skalkaho- 7, 3, 10; B191F- 32) Miner Lakes- 2, ?, 2; 33) Battlefield- 4, 7, 11; 34) Musigod- 2, 4, 6; 35) Black Canyon- 2, 0, 2; 36) Sapphire- 10, 4, 14; 37) Willow Creek- 2, 2, 4; 36) Bearmouth- 2, ?, 2. SW MT GYE- 67 wolves in 15 packs (7 producing 20 pups). 39) Moccasin Lake- 2, 1, 3; 40) Mission Creek- 3, 0, 3; 41) Baker Mty.- 2, 5, 7; 42) Carbonate Mt.- ?, ?, ?; 43) Buffalo Fork- ?, ?, ?; 44) Rosebud- 2, ?, 2; 45) Wedge 5, 3, 8; 46) Beartrap- 8, ?, 8; 47) Deadhorse- ?, ?, ?; 48) Cougar II- 7, 3, 10; 49) Freezeout- 6, ?, 6; 50) Chief Joe- 5, 3, 8; 51) Donahue- 2, ?, 2; 52) Mill Creek- 1, 3, 4; 53) Eagle Creek- 2, 2, 4.

Idaho = Total is a rough estimate of 650 wolves; 74 packs; 176 pups; at least 31 potential breeding pairs. Growth rate = 20%. 1) Aparejo- 2, 1, 3; 2) Avery- 2, 2, 4; 3) Basin Butte-3, 5, 8; 4) Bear Valley- ?, ?, 8; 5) Big Buck- 3, 2, 5; 6) Big Hole- ?, 4, 4; 7) Big Water- 2, 5, 7; 8) Bimerick Meadow- 3, 6, 9; 9) Biscuit Basin- 7, 3, 9; 10) Blue Bunch- 4, 7, 11; 11) Brooks Creek- ?, 6, 6; 12)Buffalo Ridge- 6, 5, 11; 13) Caulder mt. 2, 4, 6; 14) Calderwood- 4, 4, 8; 15) Carey Dome- 9, ?, 9; 16) Castle Peak- 2, 3, 5; 17) Chamberlain Basin- 2, 4, 6; 18) Chesima- 2, 0, 0; 19) Cold Springs- ?, ?, ?; 20) Coolwater Ridge- 3, 4, 7; 21) Copper Basin- 2, 5, 7; 22) Danskin- 1, 3, 4; 23) DeBorgia 2, 4, 6 (shared with NW MT); 24) Driggs/Teton- 5, 0, 5 (shared with WY); 25) Eagle Mt.- 4, 3, 7; 26) Earthquake Basin- 8, 9, 17; 27) Eldorado Creek- 2, 3, 5; 28) Fish Creek- 9, 7, 16; 29) Fishhook- 2, 2, 4; 30) Five Lakes Butte- 3, ?, 3; 31) Florence- 15, 4, 19; 32) Galena- 8, 5, 13; 33) Giant Cedar- 3, 3, 6; 34) Gold Fork- 3, 0, 3; 35) Golden Creek- 7, 4, 11; 36) Grandad- 4, ?, 4; 37) Gospel Hump- ?, ?, ?; 38) Hazard Lake- ?, ?, ?; 39) Hemlock ridge- 6, 2, 8; 40) Hoodoo- 7, 2, 9; 41) Hughes Creek- 8, 8, 16; 42) Hyndman- 3, ?, 3; 43) Indian Creek- ?, ?, ?; 44) Jungle Creek- 2, 2, 4; 45) Jureano Mt.- ?, 5, 14; 46) Kelly Creek- 7, 3, 10; 47) Landmark- ?, ?, ?; 48) Lemhi- 3, 1, 4; 49) Lick Creek- 3, 3, 6; 50) Lochsa- 5, 1, 6; 51) Magruder- ?, ?, ?; 52) Marble Mt.- 1, ?, ?; 53) Monumental Creek- 3, 3, 6; 54) Morgan Creek- 13, 4, 17; 55) Moyer Basin- 9, 2, 11; 56) O’Hara Point- ?, ?, ?; 57) Orphan- ?, ?, ?; 58) Owl Creek- ?, ?, ?; 59) Packer John- 5, 1, 6; 60) Partridge Creek- ?, ?, ?; 61) Pettibone- ?, ?, ?; 62) Pot Mt.- ?, ?, ?; 63) Red River- ?, 1, ?; 64) Scott mt.- 6, 1, 7; 65) Selway- ?, ?, ?; 66) Sleepy Hollow- 4, 3, 7; 67) Soldier Mt.- 10, 2, 12; 68) Steel Mt. 9, 4, 12; 69) Stolle meadow- 2, ?, 2; 70) Superior- ?, ?, ? (shared with MT); 71) Tangle Creek- ?, 3, ?; 72) Thunder Mt.- ?, ?, ?; 73) Timberline- 12, 3, 15; 74) Twin Peaks- ?, ?, ?; 75) Warm Springs- 7, 6, 13; 76) Wolf Fang- 2, 5, 7; 77) Yankee Fork- ?, ?, 8.

Wyoming- Total- 309 wolves; 31 packs (30 packs producing 127 pups and at least 24 potential breeding pairs). Yellowstone National Park = 143 wolves; 14 packs (13 packs producing 76 pups) [at least 12 potential breeding pairs). Northern Range 1) Swan Lake- 2, 6, 8; 2) Leopold- 8, 11, 19; 3) 536F Group- 4, 8,12; Hellroaring- 4, 4, 4; 5) Agate- 7, 6, 13; 6) Slough- 8, 0, 8; 7) Druid- 4,11,15; Non- Northern Range 8) Mollie’s- 5, 6, 11; 9) Yellowstone Delta- 6, 5,11; 10) Bechler- 3, 5, 8; 11) Snake River Group- 2, 7, 9; 12) Gibbon Meadows- 7, 5,12; 13) Hayden Valley- 4, 2, 6; 14) Cougar Creek- 3, 0, 3; Total: 67, 76, 143. Wyoming (outside YNP) = 166 wolves; 17 packs producing 51 pups; 4 more suspected packs. Growth rate = 23%. Confirmed Packs- 1) Beartooth- 5, ?, 5; 2) Sunlight Basin-11, 5,16; 3) Absaroka- 6, 3, 9; 4) Greybull River- 2, 6, 8; 5) Rock Creek- 3, 2, 5; 6) South Fork- 7, 3, 4; 7) New South Fork- 3, 2, 5; 8) Gooseberry- 2, 5, 7; 9) Teton- 5, 0, 5; 10) Buffalo- 8, 9,17; 11) Pacific Creek- 9, 4,13; 12) Washakie- 6, 5, 11; 13) East Fork- 8, ?, 8; 14) Black Butte- 3, ?, 3; 15) Gros Ventre- 2, 4, 6; 16) Bliss Creek- 4, 2, 6; 17) Prospect- 3, 1, 4; Suspected packs 18) Cub Creek- 3, ?, 3; 19) Flat Creek- 6, ?, 6; 20) Sage- 2, ?, 2; 21) Togwottee- 4, ?, 4; Misc. Wolves Carter Mtn.- 2, 0, 2; Big Piney- 4, ?, 4; Daniel- 4, ?, 4; Kemmerer/Hamsfork- 2-4, ?, 2- 4; Big Horn Mtns.- 1-2, 0,1-2.

On the 16th, Asher [MFWP] collared a breeding female #SW117F in the old Casey Lake territory. This new pack will be called Eagle Creek pack. On the 18th she had a large male in the same area pull the drag loose and then pull out in the next spot he got hung-up just as she approached to immobilize him- oh well that happens now and then.

Ty Smucker, Kari Holder and Stephanie Bergh [MFWP] trapped and collared an 80 lb breeding female wolf between Rye and Sleeping Child Creeks on the 17th. This wolf, SW118, is black and was seen by bow hunters in the area several times along with a one gray wolf and another wolf of unknown color. This might be a new documented pack but that will be determined by subsequent monitoring, if so it will be called the Divide Creek pack. Without the reports by hunters these wolves would never have been found- we thank them. Also thanks to John Vore [MFWP] for bringing up a road-killed deer that helped draw in the wolves. Traps were pulled.

Derbridge and Whitehead (MFWP) have finished working in the Little Thompson drainage to verify wolf reports. A total of 6 adults and 4 pups where verified and 1 pup was captured but it was too small to collar and was just released.

Payne (MFWP) finished unsuccessfully surveying the Pinkham Creek area to try to re-find the pack in that area after they have moved.

Laudon (MFWP) conducted regular monitoring flights on the 8th, 9th, and 15th. Missing wolf #505 from the Halfway pack was located in the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. There was a report of a radio collared wolf in this area last year. Subsequent signal searches were unsuccessful until now. Missing wolf NW034M from the Kootenai South pack was found in the North Fork, ~ 5 miles north of the US/Canada border. This wolf had been missing since May.

Isaac Babcock [NPT] captured and radio-collared a male and a female pup from the Giant Cedar pack on the 14th. He also scouted in the Lochsa pack territory for a potential capture operation (and pup count) beginning the 19th; he found the wolves were still using a trail near their last known rendezvous site.

On September 6, IDFG CO Rob Brazie accidently hit an elk calf with his truck near Placerville, ID. He turned around to examine the elk calf and a wolf was standing over its carcass. Next day he called Michael Lucid, who set traps near the carcass in an attempt to put an additional collar in the Calderwood Pack. The wolves did not visit the carcass again, but on September 11 Michael was able to capture an 81 pound gray sub-adult female on a trap line several miles away.

This week Michael Lucid [IDFG] followed up on former Buffalo Ridge alpha male B93 who was located for the first time in several months far away from the pack near Galena, ID. B93 appears to be localized in this area but Michael was unable to determine if he is associated with other wolves. Michael also spent time searching for wolf sign and doing howling surveys in the Hailey area. He was unable to turn up any wolves.

On the 21st, Jason Husseman [IDFG] captured and collared two pups from the Basin Butte pack, north of Stanley. While in the area, Jason also did some searching for the missing Yankee Fork pack, but was only able to find an old track in the vicinity of last year’s rendezvous site.

Paul Frame [IDFG] attempted to add collars to the new Tangle Creek pack that he documented the previous week when he captured a pup. Unfortunately, the pup he caught slipped its collar, but Paul managed to capture two more pups.

Jim Holyan [NTP] worked the Five Lakes Butte pack from 9/13-15, but found no evidence of reproduction. He spent one day surveying for wolf sign in the Pot Mt./Mush Point area, but located none. Jim also worked on the Stolle Meadows pack for 3 days, but was unable to document the presence of pups.

Control

On the 18th, MT WS confirmed a 500lb dead calf on private property east of Hamilton in the Skalkaho pack's territory (7 adults and 3 pups). It was probably killed on the 17th, as a ranch employee harassed a group of wolves off the carcass that day. Traps were set in the local area to collar and release an adult wolf and to lethally remove one adult wolf. Thanks to MT WS and local FWP staff in the Bitterroot for the close coordination and communication. One pup was captured and collared/released on the 19th. WS also did some calling after dark last night and shot one adult gray wolf the night of the 19th. Two wolves were caught, processed, and released on the 20th- a male pup was released without a collar and a yearling female was radio-collared. Control is completed. MT WS did a very good job. MFWP field staff were at the site to visit with the landowner and helped WS with processing. The landowner reportedly is missing 6 calves and is moving cattle to lower elevation pastures early and in response to wolf activity.

A ranch near Avon, MT reported finding a injured 500lb calf on the 17th. WS confirmed it was injured by wolves and it had to be euthanized. Ranch riders saw 15 wolves eating something and upon investigation found a dead coyote. After searching the area the carcass of a second calf was found (head and spine still wet) and a third calf head was found. The second calf was considered probable and the third was unknown cause of death. Due to this pack having up to 14 pups and as few as 3-4 adults (second documented double litter in Montana outside of Park) MFWP authorized lethal control of 6 wolves, preferably pups, to reduce demands on the adults to hunt for that many pups. MFWP also asked MT WS to collar an adult if possible. On the afternoon of the18th, 5 pups and 1 adult were removed. Traps are still in the ground and if a wolf is caught it will be collared and released. Otherwise, traps will be pulled and control considered over. Thanks to MT WS for a quick response and good coordination.

A ranch in the Madison Valley, MT found 2 yearling heifers that were severely injured on the 18th, and brought them to a corral. MT WS investigated them on the 19th confirming that they were injured by wolves [Wedge pack], the heifers were then euthanized. MFWP authorized lethal control of 2 wolves until October 15 when the cattle leave the ranch. SOS permits for up to 2 wolves were issued to ranch personnel. Weather will inhibit aerial work for the next week and WS set traps. If a wolf is caught it will be collared and monitored to see what pack maybe involved before proceeding with control. WS investigated a third injured heifer on the 22nd on the same landowner and confirmed it as wolf damage- so total confirmed is 3 injured/euthanized. The heifer was euthanized. No wolves have been caught and control work is ongoing.

On the 21st, MT WS investigated and confirmed a dead calf in the HeWolf pack territory on the Flathead Indian Reservation, northwest of Missoula. A hunter had noticed ravens and seen 6 wolves leaving the area. The signal of one of the collared yearlings was also heard in the area. WS was asked to collar and release a wolf since both collars are on yearlings which are expected to disperse this winter. One or two wolves will be removed from the pack due to its size and the potential for additional losses since there are still lots of cattle in the area. Biologists with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe's wildlife program are working closely with MT WS and the affected producer.

A Salmon, ID rancher reported that wolves attacked and injured one of his calves. The calf was transported to a veterinarian on Sept. 22 for treatment. ID WS inspected the injuries on the calf and confirmed that it was attacked and bitten by a wolf(ves). Its unknown if the calf will survive. The calf had been grazing on a Salmon-Challis National Forest livestock allotment. An outfitter witnessed 5 to 6 wolves chasing and harassing a group of about 15 cows and calves, 2 days prior, in the vicinity of where the calf was found. The outfitter shot over the heads of the wolves several times before they dispersed. ID WS will be monitoring this incident, but no action will be taken at this time, with the exception of instructing the range-rider to keep close watch on the livestock and to contact WS if anything else develops.

On the 18th, WY WS investigated a dead calf found on private land west of Big Piney, Wyoming. The calf had been dead for some time, but WS was able to confirm it as a wolf kill. WY FWS & WS will monitor the situation closely to see if any wolf returns to the area or if any additional depredations occur.

On the 16th, WY WS confirmed another calf killed by wolves near Farson, WY. This summer, wolves have killed at least 19 calves in the area. Control has been ongoing most of the summer to remove all the remaining pack members.

Research

The most recent Journal of Wildlife Management Vol 70(4) August 2006 had 2 interesting articles dealing with wolves. G. Wright, R. Peterson, D. Smith, and T. Lemke. Selection of northern Yellowstone elk by gray wolves and hunters. pp. 1070-1078, and A. Chavez [who worked for FWS in Montana several summers ago] and E. Gese. Landscape use and movements of wolves in relation to livestock in a wildland-agriculature matrix. pp. 1079-1086.

Information and Education and Law Enforcement

On the 19th, Mitchell [UM Wildlife Coop. Unit], Sime [MFWP] and Bangs [FWS] met to discuss ongoing analysis and preparation of a multi-author/agency paper looking at the relationships between the various recovery areas among wolf pack size in winter, its probability of being a breeding pair, % human-caused mortality, and population growth rates.

On the 20th, Jimenez [FWS] spoke at a 2-day symposium sponsored by Grand Teton National Park for park staff.

On the 23rd, Jimenez spoke to a Sierra Club group at the Lake Lodge in Yellowstone National Park.

On the 24th, Jimenez spoke to a group of Swedish biologists, government officials, and university professors traveling through the U.S. to visit with grizzly bear and wolf managers.

The Service's weekly wolf report can be viewed at 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