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 Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 12/01/06

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 11/18 to 12/01 2006

NEW WEB ADDRESS- The 2006 annual interagency wolf report [covering all 2005] can be viewed at 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

Data presented at our 2006 interagency annual meeting on Nov. 28/29 suggested that the wolf population, livestock loss, and lethal wolf control statistics were higher in 2006 than in 2005. We estimate the 2006 MT, ID, WY wolf population will be around 1,264 wolves in +163 groups of 2 or more animals, and +86 of those will probably be classified as breeding pairs [adult male and female raising at least 2 pups until Dec 31]. Livestock losses until late Nov. 2006 were 170 cattle, 344 sheep, 8 dogs, 1 horse, 1 mule, and 2 llamas. Lethal control removed 152 wolves. No wolves were confirmed living in other NW US states. Estimates for MT were 300 wolves in 59 packs, and 25 breeding pairs- 35 cattle, 133 sheep, 4 dogs [2 guard 2 pet], 2 llamas confirmed killed by wolves and 47 wolves removed. In ID there are about 650 wolves in +70 packs, and + 36 breeding pairs- 24 cattle, 173 sheep, and 4 dogs [3 hounds, 1 guard] were confirmed killed and 61 wolves were removed. In WY [including YNP at 140 wolves,14p, and 12bp] there are around 314 wolves in 34 packs and 25 of those will probably be breeding pairs- 111 cattle, 38 sheep, 1 horse and 1 mule were confirmed killed by wolves and as a result 44 wolves were killed in control actions. More intensive radio-tracking flights, additional investigations and incidents, and analysis of data in December will improve the final estimates that will appear in the 2006 annual report.

On Sept. 11, Laudon (MFWP) conducted a wolf monitoring flight and located missing wolf NW034M. NW034M was missing since this spring from the Kootenai South pack (west of Koocanusa Reservoir) and was located during this flight in the North Fork Flathead drainage ~ 5 miles north of the US/Canada border and is within the old Spruce Creek pack area. This is about 45 miles from his last location.

On Oct. 20, Laudon (MFWP) conducted a wolf monitoring flight and located missing wolf 272. 272 has been missing since 1/24/05 from the Lazy Creek pack (north of Whitefish Lake) and was located during this flight in the North Fork of the Flathead drainage ~ 10 miles north of the US/Canada border. 4 gray wolves were observed. It is unknown if 272 is associated with NW034M or how much each travel on the US side of the border.

On Nov. 20, Laudon (MFWP) surveyed Spar Creek (~ 13 miles south of Troy), Bull River, and that area of the Clark Fork. Sign of 5 wolves was discovered in Spar Creek area. It is not known if this is a new group or the Calder Mountain pack which is uncollared.

Kari Holder (FWP volunteer) found missing Idaho wolf B186F on Nov 18 east of Hamilton, MT in the Sleeping Child drainage area near Black Bear point. This wolf was collared as a pup in 2004 in the Steel Mtn pack, NE of Boise and has been missing since April of 2005. B186 was not found with any other collared wolves in the area but further monitoring will determine whether she's part of an existing pack. The collared Divide Creek female is usually found in the same general area. Great job Kari! It's especially hard to find missing wolves from the ground.

Control

MT Wildlife Services confirmed on the 30th that the Hewolf pack killed a llama on Sunday the 26th. MT WS and the CS&K Tribe discussed the depredation and plan to remove a minimum of 2 members of this pack, which has been involved in several other cattle depredations/attacks this year.

Cattle were run through fence by wolves on Upper Rock Creek S. of Philipsburg, MT. MT WS set traps.

On the 29th, ID WS conducted two aerial wolf control operations. The first occurred from a helicopter on private land east of Cascade, ID, where two, gray, un-collared members of the Gold Fork Pack were lethally removed following earlier depredations on cattle. The second occurred on Salmon-Challis National Forest Land East of Leadore, ID where one un-collared, adult, gray, female wolf was lethally removed following a depredation on cattle that occurred in October.

On the 24th, WY WS confirmed 2 calves were killed by wolves near Big Piney, WY. USFWS authorized WY WS to remove up to 3 wolves from an uncollared pack in the area because of the repeated pattern of livestock depredations.

Research

The annual Yellowstone National Park winter study is ongoing, but had a very slow start because of poor weather for tracking flights. Also two packs appear to be ranging out of the Park and are hard to locate. One pack last year did the same wandering out of the park after gut-piles left over from the rifle big game hunting season so we wonder if a second pack has learned the same thing. Several territorial interactions have been documented as well and competition for space on Yellowstone’s northern range is still keen. Kill rates are at the usual low rate for early winter.

Jimenez [USFWS], volunteers, and cooperators began their annual winter multi-agency research project on winter wolf use of Wyoming elk feedgrounds and wolf predation near Jackson, WY on Dec 1.

Literature FYI- Hurford, A., M. Hebblewhite, and M. Lewis. 2006. A spatially explicit model for an Allee effect: Why wolves recolonize so slowly in Greater Yellowstone. Theoretical Population Biology 70:244-254. and; S.Creel, D. Christianson, S. Liley, and J. Winnie. In Press. Effects of predation risk on reproductive physiology and demography of elk. Science.

Information and Education and Law Enforcement
The interagency NRM wolf working group held its annual meeting in Missoula, MT Nov. 27/28/29. Nearly 40 people from numerous federal, state, and tribal agencies in the NW US attended to discuss wolf monitoring, control, research, publications, law enforcement, outreach, and other issues.

On the 20/21st, Jimenez [FWS] accompanied a film crew from the United Kingdom who are producing a show on wolf recovery and management in the northern Rocky Mountains, U.S. On the 30th, Jimenez spoke at the annual Jackson Hole Wildlife Symposium that about 120 people attended. On Saturday the 2nd, Jimenez will speak at the North American Moose Conference in Jackson, WY.

On the 30th, Bangs talked with about 15 people at a Montana Natural History Center meeting in Missoula, MT.

On the 1st, Sime [MFWP] traveled to Billings to attend the annual meeting of the MT Woolgrowers. On the 2nd, MFWP, MT WS, and several producers will be on a panel discussing wolf mgt. in MT.

MFWP just issued this helpful announcement for hounds hunters-
MOUNTAIN LION HUNTERS NEED TO BE AWARE OF WOLVES ON THE LANDSCAPE
With the winter season for mountain lion hunting with hounds opening Dec. 1, lion hunters need to be wolf-aware to avoid conflicts between hounds and wolves. "Wolves look at all domestic dogs as competitors," said Carolyn Sime, MFWP wolf coordinator. "Competition for territory, food, or a mate drives wolves to be aggressive toward dogs. Sime said that in Montana only a few cases of wolves killing domestic dogs are reported each year, though some incidents may go unreported. Mountain lion hunting hounds could risk a wolf attack if houndsmen release them to track lions for long distances in wolf territory. The risk is compounded by the fact that the Montana lion harvest and chase season is open during the wolf-breeding season, which generally begins in February. At this time, wolves are especially territorial and aggressive toward any canid—wolf, dog or coyote. While one can't always protect lion hunting dogs from wolves, lion hunters in states where wolves are well established have developed the following precautions that can reduce the hunting dog's exposure to wolves.

Mountain lion hunters need to keep in mind that federal regulations determine what a lion hunter can do to protect hounds during a wolf encounter. Regulations differ depending on whether the incident takes place in the endangered area (north half of Montana) or the experimental area (south half of Montana) and whether the encounter takes place on public land or private land. For details on regulations that apply on lands you plan to hunt and for a wolf-location map, see the MFWP web site at fwp.mt.gov under Wild Things. On the Threatened and Endangered page click on Wolf Management And Conservation.

The Bureau of Endangered Resources in Wisconsin is proposing to eliminate compensation payments for dogs killed by wolves as part of the budget reductions required of Wisconsin DNR. If passed it would mean no more compensation for some dogs after July 1, 2007, including both hunting dogs in the wild, and dogs & other pets at people's homes. DNR would continue to pay for guard animals along with livestock and poultry killed or injured by wolves. Some other aspects of this action are:
-DNR will plan to continue to have USDA-WS investigate dog depredations and will prepare news releases or post on our web warning area to alert hunters of packs that have killed dogs.
- DNR will continue to carefully monitor depredation packs.
-With delisting, USDA-WS would be available to trap and euthanize wolves that attack and killed dogs on private land near people's homes and residential areas.
-With delisting, which is likely to occur early in 2007, DNR will allow pet owners on their land or land they lease, to shoot wolves in the act of attacking pets.
-Depredations on dogs would be one of the factors we would consider in future control actions on pro-active controls or possible hunting/trapping seasons.

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


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