Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, Mt 3/6/98

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 2/21-3/6/98

Monitoring

There were as many as 9 breeding pairs (estimate 85 wolves) in the Yellowstone area going into the winter breeding season, which in the typical romantic wolf fashion peaked just after Valentine's Day. Most Yellowstone wolf packs remain localized within their normal home ranges but the mild winter has resulted in more dispersed prey and a couple of packs have moved more than usual. The Thorofare pack is now just 5 pups. The adult female was apparently killed in an avalanche, the adult male was killed by the Soda Butte pack, and 1 pup is missing. Soda Butte now occupies the Thorofare area and the five surviving Thorofare pups moved to the east. For the first time the Washakie pack moved south of Highway 26. Four adults and 1 pup are still in the Nez Perce pen. But, the male that escaped joined with a female and now they both are staying in the vicinity of the pen. Attempts will be made to collar additional wolves this month but at the current time only the Washakie pack is outside of Wilderness and accessible.

There are 8 packs and 5 pairs that were together during the pair bonding and breeding season in central Idaho. Three lone males continue to wander through central Idaho but apparently still haven't found mates. Most wolves are staying in their traditional home ranges on Forest Service lands in central Idaho. A male wolf released in 1995 that was missing for the past year (B-14) but had wandered throughout central Idaho was located and finally found a mate(see NW Montana). Attempts will be made this month to dart wolves in 3 packs west of Salmon, Idaho.

We continue to BEG, PLEAD, WHINE, and request wolf sightings in NW Montana. Please help us locate and confirm wolf breeding pairs this coming summer. It appears that there are at least 7 packs going into this breeding season and may be up to 5 others. Very good observations indicate a pack on the Blackfeet Reservation, just east of Glacier Park. We plan to hire a 6- person field crew (GS-5) this summer and applications will be accepted until March 13. If you know of anyone who might be interested, they need to call us or send their SF 171, or OF-612 or complete resume to USFWS, Personnel Div., P.O. Box 25486, DFC, Denver, Co 80225. Minimum qual. is a B.S. in wildlife or similar field. Please let potential applicants now ASAP, they are fun jobs. There will be a very intensive effort to document wolf numbers in NW Montana this year. Please help if you can, we need to focus our efforts in areas where we suspect new packs have formed.

Control

The correct confirmed total wolf-caused livestock loss figures are: NW Montana (1987 thru 1997) 51 cattle and 42 sheep, 5 dogs and $30,820 in private compensation paid: Idaho (1995-1997)- 5 cattle and 53 sheep, 4 dogs and $8,946 paid: Yellowstone area (1995-1997)-5 cattle and 80 sheep, 1 dog, and $17,719 paid. This information as well as the success of wolf control efforts, relocation and removal) will be written up and hopefully published this year.

A wrap-up control action was conducted in the Boulder, MT area (SW of Helena). The Boulder pack had killed cattle 4 years in a row and last year the alpha female was captured. Turns out she had a history of problems with cattle and is was suspected that she was the reason the pack seemed to return to cattle despite several control actions. The decision was made last fall to remove her once her 2 pups were adult size. About 2 weeks ago the rancher began calving and saw 2 wolves in his pasture. Since the pups were grown and were apparently with another wolf, the Service decided to radio-collar 2 wolves and remove her from the pack. On Saturday 2/28, an adult male (B-14 from the 1995 Idaho reintroduction) and a male pup were radio-collared and released on site. Another wolf, suspected to be a female pup, was travelling with them. The adult female was killed. She had bred and since being captured last summer had lost several teeth including her upper right canine (probably kicked by prey). She was first captured in Canada as a 1-2 year-old in 1992. She and others in the Canadian pack had attacked cattle. Hopefully her removal will end the chronic pattern of livestock killing by that pack.

 

Research

Dr. Kerry Murphy, mountain lion expert and all around good guy was selected as the wolf field biologist for Yellowstone National Park. He began work on the 2nd and a joyful Dr. Smith was overheard saying "thank goodness, now I can sit at my desk doing the important administrative work:) Kerry is an excellent biologist and a welcome addition to the Yellowstone team.

The Hornocker Institute is beginning a second mountain lion study to compliment the one that was conducted in Yellowstone Park several years ago. Toni Ruth will be the lead biologist in the Park. The study will provide information on the relationships between wolves and lions.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game has provided funding to help look at wolf food habits and prey selection west of Salmon, Idaho. Other funding is being sought but some work will proceed this winter.

 

I&E

On March 4, representatives from the NW Montana, central Idaho, and Yellowstone recovery efforts and USDA Wildlife Services met in Helena to discuss where everyone's program was at and where they might go during the next 4 years. Updates on monitoring, control, education and information, and research were provided. Al Armistead, Wildlife Services Mexican wolf specialist, was able to attend both the Boulder control action and interagency meeting.

Fontaine will travel to Seattle to talk to the National Wildlife Rehabilitator Conf. on March 11. On March 10 he will give a presentation to the Service's Olympia Field Office.

The Annual Wolf Working Group Meeting is scheduled for April 28-30th at Chico Hot Springs, Emigrant, MT. Looks like a great agenda. For information, call Suzanne Laverty (208)321-0751 at the Wolf Recovery Foundation, who is helping to coordinate the meeting.

The weekly wolf report can now be viewed at the Service's Region 6 web site at http://www.r6.fws.gov/wolf

 

Contact: Ed Bangs (406)449-5225 or Internet-ED_BANGS@FWS.GOV