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 Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 12/15/06

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 12/08 to 12/15 2006

MERRY CHRISTMAS

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. The interagency 2006 annual wolf report should be completed by March 1, 2007. It will follow the same format as last year which was the state reports by Montana and Idaho, the FWS/NPS report for Wyoming and a summary of other multi-state issues by the FWS, concluding with tables and maps by both state and recovery area.

Monitoring

Jason Husseman [IDFG] continued to get aerial counts of wolves and possibly capture wolves while darting elk and deer. Paul Frame [IDFG] got aerial counts of wolves in the Clearwater by using a different pilot and a slower plane. Still, it is difficult and partial counts were the norm. Paul also worked with outfitters at their annual meeting in Boise to define likely wolf rendezvous sites in the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness to begin trapping next summer. Michael Lucid is working with GIS staff on developing a model for predicting rendezvous sites. Jason, Paul, and Michael are working on end of year data summaries for the annual report.

Control

As authorized by MFWP, MT WS shot 4 wolves [another was believed hit but subsequent snow tracking indicated it was likely not severely injured] from fixed-wing aircraft from the Battlefield pack out of 8 that were seen chasing a horse on the 11th on private property west of Wisdom. Control is now finished and shoot-on-sight permits were cancelled. The horse chasing incident occurred on the same ranch that experienced the previous depredations last week. At least 4 uncollared wolves now remain in this pack and possibly a 5th collared wolf (SW47F). However, SW47F was not found in the Big Hole valley this morning and based on her last location in Idaho, may possibly be dispersing.

The CS&K Tribe & MT WS reported that a wolf was removed from the Hewolf pack on the reservation in NW MT last week. It was neck-snared, immobilized, and then euthanized. Trapping was continued to try and place a radio-collar on another wolf in the pack and to disrupt them from returning to an area near livestock, but the effort was unsuccessful and traps were pulled this week. The Tribe is continuing to closely monitor the situation.

Research

Yellowstone Park’s the early winter wolf predation study ended Dec 14. Overall elk calves and bulls were the primary prey, but a smaller proportion of bulls was killed than in the past two years of early winter predation study. Kill rates seemed below average except for the 18 member Leopold pack. At least thru mid-study mostly calves were being taken but lately bulls started to be taken more frequently. Bull elk appeared to be in poor shape going into winter. Theory being that with poorer summer forage due to the ongoing drought, bulls can not rebound from their weight loss during rut and enter winter in poorer condition than normal- making them more vulnerable to wolf predation. So the Park expects wolf predation to be more focused on bulls in the near future. There was also lots of social conflict between packs on the northern range. Park biologists witnessed several wolf-on-wolf attacks. It caused one pack, Hellroaring to flee the park at least 2 times. Likewise, Swan Lake pack has moved north out of the Park and into been in Cinnabar Basin. This is continuing evidence that the Park wolf population has likely peaked.

FYI- Literature- Evans, S.B., L.D. Mech, P.J. White, G.A. Sargent. 2006. Survival of adult female elk in Yellowstone following wolf restoration. Journal of Wildlife Management 70:1372-1378. and Mech, L.D. 2006. Estimated age structure of wolves in northeastern Minnesota. Journal of Wildlife Management 70:11481-1483.

Information and Education and Law Enforcement

On the 12th, Bangs talked with a group of about 25 people for The Collaborative Natural Resource Managers Workshop on Silver Falls, OR. On the 13th, he gave a brown bag lunch presentation for about 40 FWS employees at the Region 1 Regional Office in Portland, OR.

Dec 1-3 Trapp [MFWP] attended a teacher's workshop in Yellowstone on wolf education in the classroom. Trapp provided information to the educators on wolf ecology and management outside of the Park and gathered information for development of Montana's wolf educator's guide. On the 5th, Trapp spoke to students at the Billings Career fair.

On the 13th, MFWP attended the annual Montana Stockgrowers convention in Billings, MT and gave a presentation on state wolf management to the Endangered Species Committee. About 60 people attended.

Steve Nadeau gave a presentation on wolf management to about 50 members of the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association on December 14 in Boise.

WY newspapers [Wyoming Livestock Roundup, Casper Start Tribune, Jackson Hole News] reported that the FWS & WY are beginning to discuss a possible option that would allow approve of Wyoming’s wolf management framework and could allow delisting to be proposed for the northern Rocky Mountains. The concept included a permanent trophy game area in NW WY that is smaller than the larger one adopted in Wyoming’s 2003 wolf management plan. That area would be enough to assure that recovery would be maintained while also allowing predatory animal status for the rest of Wyoming. WYGF would manage for 7 wolf packs in that trophy area. If adopted in Wyoming’s regulatory framework it would allow Wyoming to immediately take advantage of the new more flexible 2005 experimental population rule and for the FWS to propose delisting. At this point these discussion are informal and are simply part of the FWS’s continuing search for resolution of a very complex and emotional issue. Meanwhile the FWS administrative record was filed with the Wyoming District Court on the 11th, regarding the Wyoming vs DOI lawsuit which is ongoing.

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


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