Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 1/22/98

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 12/18-1/22, 1998

 

Monitoring

Packs in the Yellowstone, central Idaho, and NW Montana areas appear to be in their normal home ranges. During January, 2 new pairs were still using the area just north of Jackson, WY. Volunteers and agency personal are doing a great job of monitoring these wolves. It is likely that these potential breeding groups of wolves will stay in the Jackson area. The Soda Butte pack continues to use the National Elk Refuge. These wolves are routinely seen by th public. The Crystal Creek pack temporarily moved into the North Fork of the Shoshone River. Soda Butte wolf #123 was located on the edge of the Rose Creek pack territory travelling with an unmarked wolf, likely a female. It appears likely that 10 breeding pairs could be raising young in both the Yellowstone and central Idaho experimental areas in 1999. Northwestern Montana hopefully will climb back up to or over the 6 breeding pair mark in 1999.

The December 31, 1998 count of breeding pairs (an adult male and an adult female that successfully raised at least 2 pups to December 31) indicates that Northwestern Montana had only 5 breeding pairs in 1998. The Wolf Creek pair produced young this past spring but they apparently did not survive. This represents the lowest number of breeding pairs in northwestern Montana since 1992. In 1993 the number of wolves in that area peaked at 88 wolves in 7 packs, but since 1995 has fluctuated between 6-8 breeding pairs. The large decline in white-tailed deer (estimated to be 70%) during the winter of 1996/97 continues to negatively impact wolf recovery in Northwestern Montana. In central Idaho 10 breeding pairs produced pups in 1998 and about 120 wolves are present. In the Yellowstone area 10 litters were produced by 7 breeding pairs and about 115 wolves now inhibit the Greater Yellowstone Area. There are more than 6 breeding pairs in each of the experimental areas. The special rules allow livestock producers with federal grazing leases in those areas to obtain permits from the Service in 1999, to take wolves in the act of attacking livestock after WS has confirmed previous livestock losses caused by wolves.

 

Control

The Pleasant Valley Pack in Northwestern Montana reportedly killed 3 smaller calves (250 lb.) and one large calf (400 lb.) over the past several weeks. At least two losses were confirmed by Wildlife Services. On January 20, Wildlife Services darted 4 wolves from the pack of 10. The wolves had just killed a calf that morning. The 4 wolves (3 males and a female) were relocated by Fontaine and Forest Service personnel to Forest Service land near Spotted Bear, south of Glacier National Park. The remaining 6 wolves in that pack will be closely watched, particularly when calving starts on local ranches in mid-February.

 

Research

Twelve wolves from 5 different packs were captured and radio-collared to aid in wolf monitoring and research in Yellowstone National Park. Unfortunately, in a fluke accident a pup in the Rose Creek pack was struck by a dart that broke its rear leg and had to be euthanized. Both veterinarians who examined the animal determined it was too injured to survive in the wild. This was the first of the 57 wolves captured over the past 4 years in Yellowstone National Park that sustained severe injuries. Capture related losses to free-ranging wolves typically range between 1-5%. The Park conducted a thorough review of its capture procedures to determine if anything could be improved. Capture operations will resume in February.

On the 20th, WS and Park biologists met with a landowner, just north of Yellowstone National Park to determine the feasibility of a study on the effectiveness of guard dogs in reduce wolf depredations on domestic sheep. The Defenders of Wildlife provided dogs to the ranch after their 2 guard dogs were suspected to have been killed by the Chief Joseph pack in the last year.

 

Information and education and law enforcement

A Predator-Prey Symposium was held in Boise, Idaho on January 5th in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Idaho Guides and Outfitters. Bangs, Curt Mack (NPT), Kerry Murphy (YNP), and other wolf biologists and managers from throughout North America gave presentations. Some outfitters expressed concern that wolf predation on wild ungulates was already noticeable and if it continued would drive some of them out of business.

On the 6th, the Nez Perce Tribe, Service, Service LE, and Wildlife Services conducted a review of wolf recovery efforts in Idaho. Overall the program has been an outstanding success.

On December 9, Fontaine gave a presentation to sled drivers for the National Elk Refuge in Jackson. He also delivered a full body mount of a gray wolf and a coyote for display in the National Wildlife Art Museum in Jackson, WY. On January14, Fontaine gave a presentation to about 50 children and teachers at the Elliston School.

Bangs, Dominici (LE) and other individuals involved with gray wolf and red wolf restoration efforts in North America attended a review of the Mexican Wolf Program in Albuquerque on January 11. Experiences and ideas were discussed to aid in the wolf restoration program in the southwestern U.S.

Bangs, Jimenez, and Phillips and Nelson (WS) met with representatives form Grand Teton National Park and the Park's Livestock Grazing Advisory Board and other agency personal in Jackson, WY on the 14th. A host of issues were discussed including wolf control and livestock, monitoring. and public outreach. On the 15th, they met with National Elk Refuge and Forest Service representatives to discuss helicopter capture operations, wolf control issues and overall coordination on wolf related issues. Public interest in the wolves near Jackson is extremely high in part because the wolves are so visible from the road and parking lot of the National Wildlife Art Museum. "Anyone for a skinny decaf latte' while we watch the wolves take down that limping old cow elk?"

Representatives of the Nez Perce Tribe travelled to Washington D.C. and gave a presentation about their involvement in wolf recovery in Idaho to Service managers. The briefing was very well done and well received.

On the 20th, Wyoming Project Leader Mike Jimenez gave 3 presentations about wolves in Jackson, WY.

Dr. (soon to be) Mike Jimenez and Brian Cox (MS) are the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wyoming Wolf Recovery Office. They are stationed in Lander, WY and are still getting their phones and computers set up. Hopefully they will be fully operational in February. Currently they can be reached at (307)332-7789.

The newest Service employees, Dr. Diane Boyd-Heger and Dr. (to be) Tom Meier will arrive in the Helena, Montana wolf recovery office on February 1, 1999. They will initially focus their considerable talents on wolf restoration efforts in Northwestern Montana. They will need your help to locate potential wolf packs so PLEASE!! record and report wolf observations.

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