Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

 

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 7/10/98

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 6/27-7/10, 1998

 

Monitoring

Packs in the Yellowstone, central Idaho, and NW Montana areas appear to be in their normal home ranges.

In the Yellowstone area the total wolf population of over 113 wolves is composed of about 30 adults, 50 yearlings, and at least 33 new pups. The Crystal Creek Pack has 2 adults, 6 yearlings and at least 1 new pup. The Leopold Pack has 4 adults, 5 yearlings and at least 5 new pups. The Rose Creek Pack has 5 adults, 9 yearlings, and at least 10 new pups. The Druid Peak Pack has 3 adults, 5 yearlings and 2 suspected litters of new pups although the last 3 observations indicate a total of 2 pups. The Chief Joseph Pack has 2 adults, 4 yearlings and 7 new pups. The Chief Joseph lone female has 6 new pups and she moved them to a moose calf she had killed last week. The Soda Butte Pack has 4 adults, 4 yearlings and does not appear to have pups this year. The Thorofare pack is just 5 black yearlings that were last located near the Soda Butte Pack. The Washakie pack has just 4 yearlings left and although they have not killed anymore livestock contain to use an area in the Dunoir Valley with abundant livestock. The Nez Perce Pack joined with the Nez Perce pair and the entire group consists of 5 adults, 1 yearling and 2 litters of pups, as was hoped they have stayed in the Park after being released from the pen in June. The Sunlight Basin pair does not have pups and was back in the Park last week. There is one missing gray 2 year-old radio-collared wolf. There are 4 adults (1 bk and 3 gray) and 3 yearlings (1 bk and 2 gray) that are uncollared and are not associated with radio-collared packs. Their fates are unknown.

In central Idaho, pups have been seen with 8 packs and the Chamberlain Basin den had pup tracks and scat in it, so they also have produced pups. It is possible that another pack or 2 may have produced pups but that has not been confirmed yet. A 65 Lb. yearling female was collared in the Chamberlain Basin pack and a pup was accidentally captured in a foot snare and released unharmed. The Landmark den was examined and no sign of pup tracks or scat was seen. The cause of death of the alpha pair is still unknown but under investigation.

 

Wolves in at least 6 packs in northwestern Montana are using their traditional areas and rasing pups. Field crews have been trapping and have captured 3 wolves, the latest a member of the Murphy Lake pack, which did not den this year. Indications from tracks and sign indicate that there are at least 2-3 packs that are raising pups but don't have radio-collared pack members yet. Hopefully, efforts this summer will allow us to more accurately estimate the number of wolf breeding pairs in northwestern Montana.

 

The South Camas pack produced pups this spring but the number is unknown at this time. A yearling male was radio collared this spring. The North Camas pack is still near the north end of the park and it appears that they have produced pups but the number is unknown. There are no radio collared wolves in the pack. An attempt will be made in early fall to trap and radio collar several members of the North and South Camas pack. This will allow us to determine the number of pups going into the fall. The Whitefish pack has 3-4 adults and 6 pups. A yearling male was radio collared this spring. There are at least 3 wolves in the Murphy Lake pack but it appears that no pups were produced. A yearling male was recently radio collared. The trapping crews are trying to determine if there is a Graves Creek pack northwest of the Murphy Lake pack. A possible den site was investigated but it is not known whether it was used. A dispersing radio collared female from the Whitefish pack was in the area this winter and spring with possibly 4 other wolves but they cannot be found. The collared female has left the area and is traveling widely on the east side of the Whitefish Divide. We will contiue to monitor her movements. The crews are searching for the Thompson River pack. There are no radio collared animals in this pack but some wolf sign is being found. The Pleasant Valley pack appears to have produced pups but the number is unknown. The crews are also searching for wolves in the Teepee Mtn area where some recent wolf sign was found along with some possible howling. The Ninemile pack produced pups this spring but the number is unknown. There have been no additional livestock depredations by this pack. There was no reproduction in the Boulder pack this year and no livestock depredations.

 

Control

Nothing new to report. Everything seems to have settled down for the time being, including the Boulder area in NW Montana which had chronic problems since 1994. It is too early to tell for sure but, as hoped, removing the adult female may have resolved that problem. The 3 remaining pack members are using their traditional home range without attacking livestock. The Washakie pack (4 yearlings)are near livestock on an almost daily basis but apparently have not attacked any since the adult female and 1 yearling were killed in mid-June. the situation continues to be closely monitored by the rancher and a volunteer pilot out of Jackson.

The ranch manager played a tape of helicopter noises (provided by the Service) on several occasions to observe the Washakie pack's response and hopefully scare them from areas with cattle. On one occasion the wolves appeared curious and actually approached the noise and the other three times no effect was noticed. Apparently the tape must not sound enough like a helicopter because during control actions the wolves head for timber at the first hint of helicopter activity. The ranch manager certainly deserves some credit for spending his time to give it a good try. Oh well, back to the drawing board.

 

Research

Fontaine helped review and comment on a proposal by the Wolf Recovery Foundation of Boise, ID to investigate the use of asses, to guard livestock. Apparently they are very aggressive towards canids, and can be very effective in deterring coyotes.

 

I&E

The Service announcement that it will begin the process to evaluate whether the gray wolf should be delisted throughout much of the eastern U.S. and downlisted to threatened in the Western and far Northeastern U.S. has been criticized by several environmental organizations. In addition, the Montana Chapter of Sierra Club pointed out that in northwestern Montana the "official" number of radio-collared wolf packs has not increased since 1995. This is true but it is likely the reason is reduced monitoring rather reduced numbers of wolves. Efforts to increase monitoring of wolves in the West have been increased and all the Service's available funding for Montana is being focused into that effort. 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 will not occur if the wolf population in NW Montana is stalled at only 6 breeding pairs or is declining. Bangs met with several groups in Bozeman on the 10th to discuss the issue.

A great deal of time was been spent working with Justice Department attorneys preparing for the litigation with the Diamond G Ranch. The court date is set for July 20 in Casper, WY. Litigation consumes a tremendous amount of the wolf program's effort and funding.

The field crew gave a talk to about 15 guests at a ranch west of Kalispell, MT on June 9.

 

!!JOBS!! The Service is hiring 2 permanent field wolf (GS 11/9) biologists and will station them in Lander, Wyoming. They will likely be advertised beginning in July 20 to August 7. If you already sent in your name you will be mailed information shortly after the 20th. If you haven't received any mail about the WY jobs by July 27 but left your name and address earlier- try again. If you or someone you know may be interested in these positions, simply send your name and address- FWS. 100 N. Park, #320, Helena, MT 59601. Montana jobs (GS 9 and 7) should be advertised in August.

The 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