Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains
Mountain-Prairie Region

Gray Wolf Recovery Status Report

From:               Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 03/14/2008

Subject:            Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 3/07/08 to 3/14/08

WEB ADDRESS- The 2008 annual interagency wolf report [covering all 2007] is posted 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

There was a report of four wolf-like tracks seen by an experienced small aircraft pilot from Alaska along the Platte River on the border of Colorado and Wyoming in late February.  Nothing more has been reported or documented but local agencies will continue to monitor the situation.  In early March a pilot in Utah reported he saw 5 wolf-like canids [2 black and 3 gray] just east of Flaming Gorge reservoir a couple of miles south of the Wyoming/Utah border.  A single wolf-like track was located by Utah DNR and UT WY specialists who investigated the report.  The area was searched from both the air and ground for missing wolf radioed-collars and any wolf sign for nearly a week to determine what, if any, wolf activity might have occurred in that area.  Nothing else was ever confirmed but the situation will continued to monitored but less intensively.  On the 10th a man from NE Illinois [Mcheny County] called to report seeing 3 wolves [don’t laugh- as a wild wolf was shot there a few years ago...].  These types of reports and observations of suspected wolf activity are routine throughout the NRM and adjacent States and even other States far outside of wolf range.  These sightings can involve wild wolves but captive wolves or wolf-dog hybrids, other canids [dogs, coyotes and fox] or even other animals deer, etc. have all been reported as possible wolves.  Many observations could never be identified so we simply note person reported a possible wolf sighting.  We strongly encourage the public to report observations of possible wolves or wolf sign because they can help us find and confirm new wolves or wolf packs.  We and our cooperators thank the public for these types of reports and will continue to utilize them as part of our standard proven interagency wolf monitoring protocols that have proved to be effective at locating wild wolf activity over the past 20 years.

Jason Husseman followed up on report of wolf activity near a livestock calving operation Wildlife Services; tracks of 2 wolves were located on Monday, and today we observed tracks of several wolves in the same location (probably the Doublespring pack).  Possible collaring efforts will proceed if the animals remain in the area.

On 3/11/08, WY USFWS crew darted and radio collared 6 wolves in 3 packs near Jackson, WY. Collaring efforts will continue when weather improves.

A collared gray wolf was reportedly hit by a train north of Superior, MT on March 8th.  It is difficult to access this particular stretch of tracks so the MRL has agreed to retrieve the carcass for MFWP on the 10th.  Based on proximity, this wolf is likely a member of the Mineral Mtn pack.

MFWP welcomes back Ty Smucker, who recently returned from Ecuador.  Ty worked for the wolf program for the last 2 summers and has offered to volunteer this month to help with some of the increased workload during calving season.  Kari Holder also will continue to work for the MFWP program through March and is based in the Bitterroot whereas Ty will be concentrating his efforts in the Butte/Big Hole area for the next several weeks.

On Friday the 7th, Holder and Smucker scouted for the Elevation Mtn pack near Helmville.  The pack could not be found but a rancher reported hearing howling in the area the week before.  This pack is not collared so if they can be found and if temperatures/conditions are good we may explore trapping options.  On the 6th, Holder visited the Hall and Philipsburg area.  She listened and scouted around for the Willow Creek pack but they also could not be found.  We are stepping up monitoring in this area because of increased concerns due to the size of this pack (10 wolves) and a high density of livestock and calving operations in the area.

Smucker is following up on several reports of 4 wolves just south of Butte.  He did confirm wolf sign in the area and may set traps if temperatures/conditions are good.  This may be a new pack.  Smucker also followed up with a rancher who had a single wolf hanging around his ranch near Divide.  There have been other reports of 2 wolves in this area and on Fleecer Mtn.  Ty will continue to scout these areas as well.

Control

Correction/Addition - On March 5th, MT WS investigated and confirmed that a wolf attacked sheep in the Twodot, MT area. One 1 ram was killed and the remaining 4 killed and 5 wounded were ewes.

MT WS investigated a dead newborn calf in the Grasshopper Valley, west of Dillon, MT on Friday, March 7th.  Wolf tracks were present at the site and had obviously fed on the calf but there was not enough left of the calf to confirm if the wolves had killed or scavenged it.  These are likely members of the Grasshopper pack, which is believed to consist of at least 3 wolves.  As there are no collars in this pack, WS set traps in the area to try to get a collar out.

A landowner south of I-90 near Jens, MT shot at a single black wolf that was harassing his cattle late last week.  He missed the wolf, which is likely a member of the Flint Creek pack.  They were reported on this same ranch last summer.  This pack killed 2 sheep and 1 calf earlier this year and 2 wolves were removed at that time.

A landowner in the Big Hole valley reported 2 sets of wolf tracks near his ranch last week.  On the 7th he reported that 2 wolves came through his cattle during the night.  He heard a commotion and fired several rounds in the air in the dark.  The wolves did not kill anything directly but a calf was trampled and killed.  This occurred on a different ranch but close to where the Mussigbrod pack depredations occurred early this year.  The Mussigbrod pack killed 5 calves at the end of 2007/early 2008 and 5 of the estimated 6 wolves in this pack were killed at that time.  This new pair of wolves may or may not have been associated with this pack, since it's fairly common for new pairs of wolves to establish around the breeding season.  MT WS is flying to survey the area Monday morning the 8th  and MFWP will be following up as need be on the ground.  Due to heavy snow and low temperatures due to the high elevation of the Big Hole, trapping to collar is likely not an option.

ID WS investigated two reported wolf depredations (on the 11th and 14th) on cattle on two different ranches near Leadore, ID.  In both cases, coyotes were responsible for killing the calves and wolves were not involved at all.

Research

Nothing new to report.

Information and Education and Law Enforcement

Bradley (MFWP) gave a talk in Superior, MT on the evening of the 8th at a community potluck.  About 30 people attended.

Bradley (MFWP) gave a talk at the University of Montana Wildlife Society meeting on Tuesday, March 11th.  About 30 people attended.

On the 13th, MFWP Sime gave a presentation during the wildlife biology graduate seminar at the University of Montana. 

On the 12th, Sime and Bradley [MFWP] and Bangs [USFWS] met with Univ MT researchers in Missoula to discuss data analysis for an 'in prep' manuscript on "Livestock depredation and wolf control in the NRM 1987-2007.  Later that day they joined Nadeau [IDFG], Wildlife Services specialists, other Montana biologists, and grizzly bear researchers to discuss possible protocols to improve safety in occupied grizzly bear habitat.

Steve Nadeau gave a presentation to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission reviewing the Wolf Population Management Plan on March 6.  The Commission adopted the plan and it is available at: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/wildlife/wolves/state/PopManagePlan.pdf .  Wolf hunting rules under guidelines of the Plan will be developed over the next 2 months and adopted at the May 22 Commission meeting.  The wolf hunting brochure will be available in July assuming wolf delisting occurs as planned. 

Michael Lucid presented a program on wolf biology to about 30 members of a project WILD class in Boise on 3-7-08.
 
Michael Lucid and Laura Robinson presented their paper, “Comparing two modeling approaches to predict areas of high wolf use in an Idaho wilderness area” to about 50 people at the Idaho Chapter of the Wildlife Society meeting in Boise on 3-6-08.
 
Steve Nadeau gave a presentation on wolf management and delisting to about 75 members of the Idaho Chapter of the Wildlife Society on March 6.  On that date he also attended a meeting with Lisette Waits (UI), Pete Zager (IDFG), Curt Mack (NPT), and Dave Ausband (Univ. of MT) regarding Jennifer Stenglein’s graduate study looking at DNA analysis of wolf scats for population estimation.
 
Steve Nadeau gave a presentation to the Idaho Wildlife Services Conference attendees on 3/11.
 
Husseman attended the WS state Conference and a meeting in Missoula between wolf and grizzly managers to discuss ways to increase safety and reduce the likelihood of catching grizzlies when trapping for wolves in bear country.

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

Last updated: March 11, 2010