Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, Mt 12/4/98

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 11/7-12/4, 1998

Monitoring

Packs in the Yellowstone, central Idaho, and NW Montana areas appear to be in their normal home ranges. During the week of the 23rd, 2 new pairs were located together just north of Jackson, WY. Female #24 (which was one of the yearlings that was removed from the Soda Butte area north of Yellowstone National Park in 1996 to enhance wolf survival) and male 133 (from the now defunct Washakie pack) have been located together near Towgetee Pass near Buffalo Valley. Female 129 from the Thorofare pack was located south of Jackson Lake and has been travelling with 2 other wolves, one believed to be male #29 (which shed his collar several weeks ago) from the old Nez Perce group. Time will tell if these wolves breed and/or stay south of the Park. Interest in the Jackson area is high and Grand Teton Park and several volunteers are watching the wolves closely.

Fontaine recovered the radiocollar from the male Boulder yearling on the 23rd. The collar was in a clearcut, and looked as if it just slipped off. We will locate the Boulder male as soon as weather permits to see if other wolves are still travelling with him.

Poor weather conditions have hindered flying and relocation efforts.

Control

This summer confirmed livestock depredations appeared to return to their normal low levels. In 1998 wolves killed 6 cattle in NW Montana, 8 cattle and 5 sheep in central Idaho and in the Yellowstone area, 3 cattle 5 sheep, and 3 dogs. A major concern of both ranchers and wolf managers remains the issue of how many wolf-caused losses are detected. Much higher level of losses were suspected to occur in a couple of remote allotments because of higher than normal levels of missing livestock were reported in some of the areas with confirmed wolf depredations. A radio telemetry study may be the only way to document the proportion of wolf depredations that are actually discovered.

Research

The 30-day Yellowstone wolf predation rate winter study began on November 15 but weather has greatly limited aerial locations. Fortunately ground crews have been able to keep up with several packs.

Information and education and law enforcement

Audubon magazine (Nov-Dec issue) selected Kurt Mack as one of the top 100 conservationists of this century because of his efforts to restore river otters, wolves, and grizzly bears to central Idaho. Congratulations Curt it is a rare honor to be named alside, Theodore Roosevelt, Edward O Wilson,Jacques CousteauJohn Muir, etc. Audubon also named wolves as one of the top ten creatures "we saved" this century.

Bangs, Smith, and Jimenez gave presentations at the Defenders of Wildlife "Restore the Wolf" Conf. in Seattle Nov 12-14. About 250 people attended.

Bangs gave a presentation to about 50 students at an Issues in Wildlife class at the University of Montana on the 1st. Bangs and Murphy gave presentations at the Wyoming Chapter of The Wildlife Society in Casper on the 2nd and 3rd. About 50 biologists from around the state attended. Mike Jimenez, the Service's new wolf project leader for Wyoming, attended. He and Bangs also visited the Wyoming Woolgrower and Stockgrower Annual meeting between the 2 meetings, met many of the agency and private group representatives involved with wolf issues in Wyoming.

A manuscript entitled "Status of gray wolf restoration in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming" by Bangs, Fritts, Fontaine, Smith, Murphy, Mack and Niemeyer was completed and accepted for publication in The Wildlife Society Bulletin. It should be printed this winter (February).

The selections for the Wyoming and Montana wolf biologists jobs were finalized. Soon to be Dr.Mike Jimenez (Mike's MS involved studying wolves in SE B.C. His dissertation studied wolf/whitetailed deer/livestock interactions near Missoula, Montana) was selected for the Wyoming Project leader. Mike has about 15 years experience with wolf issues in the western U.S. The Wyoming biologist position was filled by Brian Cox. Brian has a wildlife BS, an MS in Agriculture. After serving as an officer in the military, Brian managed the wildlife/livestock program for a ranch in Texas, and spent several years at the Starkey Wildlife Research Center in Oregon. He was working as the lead wildlife biologist for large private timber company in Oregon. Mike and Brian should be in their new office (along side the USFWS office run by Dave Skates) in Lander the first week of January.

Dr. Diane Boyd-Heger (Diane's MS involved studying the first wolf in Glacier National Park and coyote interactions, her Ph.D involved the genetics, dispersal, and landscape use of wolves in NW Montana) and Dr. Tom Meier (Tom's Ph.D involved a wolf ecology study in Denali National Park in Alaska) were selected for the 2 wildlife biologist positions in Helena, Montana. They both have at least 15 years experience working on wolf conservation in various parts of North America and Europe. Both have worked as wolf depredations control experts for USDA Wildlife Services.

Thank you to all those that applied for those position. Competition was extreme. Over 150 applications were received for each one of these jobs. many very highly qualified applicants did not make the final cut simply because of the highly competitive field of applicants.

Please help with wolf monitoring efforts by reporting suspected wolf observations. If you are out hunting and see wolf sign please us know! 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!!

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