Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 9/29/06

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 9/29 to 10/6 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

MFWP seasonal Derbridge closed a trapline west of Kalispell, MT. He did not catch any wolves, but documented wolf activity by at least 2 adults. Additional field work will determine if this is indeed a new pack and whether pups are present. Derbridge will be working in Little Thompson drainage based on new wolf reports in the area.

Laudon and volunteer Janine Payne [MFWP] had been surveying other areas west of Kalispell. Older wolf sign was documented. It is unknown whether this is a new pack or the Fishtrap pack.

Isaac Babcock and volunteer Bjornen duPont [NPT] conducted a capture operation for the Lochsa pack, but wolves did not frequent the area once sets were made. They also investigated a mortality signal from the recently radio-collared Chamberlain Basin pup; it was determined that the pup slipped the collar, dashing our hopes of re-monitoring this wilderness pack. We thank Bjornen for her donation of time and effort.

Jim Holyan [NTP] conducted investigations in the Selway, Magruder, O'Hara Point, and Carey Dome pack territories. No wolf sign was observed in the Magruder or O'Hara Point areas, although hunters/backpackers reported wolf tracks in the Magruder home range. Selway: Jim was able to verify reproduction for this pack based upon location of a rendezvous site; no estimate of # of pups could be made. Four sets of tracks were found in Meadow Ck., and hunters reported hearing multiple wolves howling during the night of 9/26 at a campground above the Meadow Ck. drainage. Carey Dome: following a sighting, from the WS helicopter of 3 pups with female B309 (suspected alpha of Carey Dome pack) during a control action, Jim attempted to verify this count. He was able to hear 1 adult, presumably B309, and poss. 1-2 pups howling.

On the 6th, Jimenez and WYG&F picked up a dead wolf pup. It had been captured Sept. 1 in a rubber-jawed trap and looked in excellent condition (50lbs) with no apparent injuries when released. Location data indicated it had been having trouble keeping up with the pack on its last few locations. It had a broken toe and apparently starved to death. This is just another remainder of that young pups are very susceptible to injury. If pups are too small to collar the effect of trap damage to them can be overlooked. This is the reason why we should seriously consider not trapping for routine monitoring purposes from June-August. While it is easier to catch a wolf in the summer- it is often unproductive because pups are caught, they are too small to collar, and are easily injured.

Control

On the 23rd, MT WS investigated a dead calf on the north end of the Tobacco Root Mountains in SW MT and confirmed it as a wolf kill. They set traps on the carcass to collar and release. MFWP has gotten several reports of single wolves in this area since spring. To date nothing has returned to the site.

MT WS confirmed a wolf killed calf on private land on the north end of the Centennial valley on the 28th. Mike Ross [MFWP] had a telemetry flight that morning and found the Freezeout pack collared female in the same area. MFWP authorized up to three wolves to be removed and MT WS could opportunistically remove the collared animal as long as another collar is put out in the same pack. WS removed an adult non-breeding female from the Freezeout pack on the 29th. A SOS permit to the landowner has been issued for up to two wolves for the Teepee creek area. MT WS also looked at three more calves in the same pasture as they were moving the herd to another pasture and considered the deaths "probable" wolf-caused. On the 3rd, MT WS shot a wolf in the Freezeout control action, a uncollared gray one and the control action was concluded. MT WS notified the landowner with the SOS permit to tell them it is no longer active. There are 3 adults left in the Freezeout pack, which did not have pups this year. On the 7th another calf was examined by MT WS but its death was not caused by predation.

On the 4th, ID WS confirmed that wolves killed 3 ewes and probably injured another one in Hartley Meadows in the Payette National Forest (PNF). Another 13 ewes are missing. Telemetry equipment showed no collared animals in the area. This area is kind of a gateway to/from the PNF where several more bands of sheep will be trailing through as they leave the Forest. With that in mind, traps have been set with the intention of lethally removing 2 un-collared wolves.

On the 4th, ID WS investigated a report of wolf predation on 1 cow and 1 calf on a PNF livestock grazing allotment located about 4 miles north-northeast of New Meadows, Idaho. Both carcasses were mostly consumed, but there was still enough preserved evidence to call the predation "probable." WS will not be taking any action at this time since the cattle will be moved off this allotment onto private property in the few days.

On the 4th, ID WS confirmed that wolves killed 5 ewes on Vance Creek, near Hazard Lake, on the PNF. Another 19 ewes are still missing. Traps were set with the intention of lethally removing one un-collared wolf.

On the 4th, Justin Mann [ID WS] investigated a report of wolf predation on 1 cow and 1 calf on a Payette National Forest grazing allotment located about 4 miles north-northeast of New Meadows, ID. Both carcasses were mostly consumed, but still enough preserved evidence to call the predation "probable." ID WS will not be taking any action at this time since the cattle will be moved off this allotment onto private property in the few days.

On the 3rd , WY WS confirmed 5 lambs killed by wolves near Farson, WY. A local rancher called USFWS to give the location of wolves that were seen in the area. W.S. made an attempt to remove wolves at the depredation site, however the wolves were gone and didn't return.There are many big game hunters in the vicinity so WY WS will wait until hunting season ends to resume control.

On the 3rd, WY WS confirmed one calf killed by wolves in the Upper Green River drainage. We will attempt to determine which wolves were involved in the depredation and monitor the situation closely. Cattle are currently moving out of the allotment.

Research

FYI- S.M. Alexander, T.B. Logan, P.C. Paquet. 2006. Spatio-temporal co-occurrence of cougars and wolves and their prey during winter: a comparison of two techniques. J. Biogeography 33:2001-2012.

Information and Education and Law Enforcement

A dead radio-collared female wolf was recovered on Skalkaho Pass in SW MT on September 28th. The cause of death appears to be human-caused and is under LE investigation.

Keith Lawrence, Wildlife Director for NPT, participated in the Outdoor Education Day for Camelot Elementary School of Lewiston, ID. He presented information about wolf biology/ecology to several 6th grade classes.

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