Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 8/21/98

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 8/3-21 1998

 

Monitoring

Packs in the Yellowstone, central Idaho, and NW Montana areas appear to be in their normal home ranges, although there has been some slight shifts. The Nez Perce group moved to the Fishing Bridge area, Leopold moved in the vicinity of Gibbins Meadows, Chief Joseph moved from the NW corner of the Park, to near Lava Creek, west of the Blacktail Plateau. Right now there are 10 groups of wolves (although not all are "packs" because of no pups or lack of a breeding pair). Seven groups had 8 litters of pups, a total of at least 42 pups. There are 121 wolves, of which 40 are radioed. Surprisingly, most of these wolves are still in Yellowstone National Park.

The Washakie pack is assumed to still in the SE corner of Yellowstone National Park. One (assumed to be alone) of the Washakie wolves was located about 5 miles west of West Yellowstone, so at least some members of the pack continue to move around. That wolf was not found on a subsequent flight and was assumed to have gone back inside the Park, since the area to the west was searched. A report of a black wolf chasing a calf west of the Park, was immediately investigated. It turned out it was #67, the missing Nez Perce female. She has two strikes against her and had depredated on cattle in the area before. She will be killed ASAP. As before the Thorofare and Soda Butte packs also remain near the SE corner of the Park. Some interesting combinations are bound to come out of all this by this winter.

In Idaho, the wolf packs are staying in their normal territories. Great field work by the tribe discovered that wolves B-20F and B-31M had pups this year. The new group named the Snow Peak pack uses an area in the St. Joe area along the Montana/Idaho border. This makes 10 pairs of wolves from the Idaho Experimental area that have produced pups this year. Two pups from the Jureano pack died but other pups are believed to be alive. The cause of their death is under investigation. Two yearlings from the Jureano pack were radio-collared and relocated to Fish Lake because of recent depredations on cattle. A Jureano pup was radio-collared and released on site.

The Service monitoring program in Montana also did great work following up on a report of wolf activity north of Marion, MT. Howling located a pack of several adults and pups. Trapping will be conducted soon to attempt to radio-pack members. This means that at least 6 packs reproduced this year in NW Montana. Trapping in Pleasant Valley has gone well and after a couple of nights 2 pups, a male and a female, were collared and released on site.

 

Control

A Forest Service grazing permittee on the Salmon National Forest reported finding 3 dead calves east of the Salmon/Challis area. Wildlife Services investigated on 8/13 and it was confirmed that wolves killed at least one of the calves, probably all three. The Jureano Mountain pack was in the area. Trapping relocated 2 yearlings and control has ended.

On 8/10 2 wolves in the Ninemile were shot by Wildlife Services. The alpha male and a yearling female were removed, leaving the alpha female, 2 other adults, and 5 pups. No further control will be conducted unless further depredations are documented.

Two calves were believed killed by wolves on the Blackfeet Reservation on the 30th and around the 10th a colt in the same area was suspected of being bitten. Service and Wildlife Services biologists are assisting the Blackfeet tribal biologists to radio-collar and release wolves in that area, so more can be learned about any pack that may be present. Any subsequent control would be at the direction of the Tribe.

Five ewes were killed by a pair of wolves with pups south of Stanley Idaho. If the adult male is captured he may be held in captivity until the sheep are moved. He is apparently an uncollared animal.

A report of possible wolf/livestock conflict in the Island Lake area turned out to be a false alarm. WS investigated and the calf was limping because of hoof-rot. A flight found no wolves in the area and no wolf sign was located.

On 8/19 a black wolf reportedly had a calf cornered before a rancher drove her off near Red Rocks Lake Refuge. A flight was done next morning and female black wolf number #67 from the Nez Perce area was found north of Red Rocks Lake Refuge in Montana. She was surrounded by cattle and the pilot reported several birds in the area. Because she already had two strikes against her for killing livestock, she will be killed ASAP and the area checked for possible depredations.

 

Research

Nothing new to report.

 

I&E

Please help with wolf monitoring efforts by reporting suspected wolf observations. Reclassification, and the resulting increased management flexibility that would result from a threatened status depends upon the number of documented breeding pairs. PLEASE REPORT WOLF SIGHTINGS ASAP. THANKS!!

Nez Perce Project biologists made presentations at the Challis Stewardship meeting in Challis, and the Sawtooth Wildlife Council at the Red Fish Lodge in Stanley.

Bangs gave a presentation to about 50 biologists with the Wildlife Division of Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks in Kalispell on the 11th.

 

The Service's two wolf biologists positions in Lander, WY are now being advertised. Applications will be accepted from August 10 until August 28. Over two hundred applications have been mailed to interested people so competition will be intense. The two Helena, Montana positions, GS-9 biologists and GS-7 technician will be advertised shortly. Separate applications must be submitted for each job in WY and eventually those in MT.

Bangs, Fontaine (USFWS), and (USDA, WS) Niemeyer, R. Phillips, and M. Nelson and countless attorneys will again be in Casper, WY for court on August 25. The Diamond G Ranch case will hopefully finish being heard.

Bangs will be giving presentations at the Seattle Zoo on the 21st and the National Assoc. of Zoo Docents on the 22nd. Niemeyer and Bangs will give presentations in Yellowstone on the 28th.

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

Contact: Ed Bangs (406)449-5225 x204 or Internet-ED_BANGS@FWS.GOV