Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 4/9/99

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 3/27-4/9 1999

 

Monitoring

Packs in the Yellowstone, central Idaho, and NW Montana areas appear to be in their normal home ranges but continue to move widely. Some have checked out their old den sites but none appear to have denned at this point in time. Soda Butte continues to bounce back and forth between Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and during the last location was along the Yellowstone River in Yellowstone Park. Chief Joseph has travelled to the Taylor Fork west of Highway 191 several times (a new location for them) but they continue to go back to the old den site. Wolves normally moved widely right up until they den.

The radio-collared yearling female wolf from the Jureano Mountain pack that dispersed to Oregon was capture via helicopter net-gunning and released in central Idaho on March 26. She is fine.

The Whitefish pack in northwest Montana traveled out of their normal home range and ventured into Glacier National Park, the south Camas home range. At one time the pack was about a mile from the alpha female of the south Camas pack. They have since returned to the Big Creek area west of the North Fork road.

On March 31 several residents of the Ninemile Valley in northwest Montana reported a wolf with a trap on it's foot, dragging a chain. Meier and Boyd-Heger went to the Ninemile and were able to get within 40 yards of the wolf but were unable to dart it. A Valley resident called on April 8 stating that he had heard about the situation and indicated that it was probably his trap. He was trapping coyote in the Valley on his own land when he unknowingly caught the wolf on March 17th. There was no indication that a wolf had been caught only that the trap and stake were missing. It was suggested that the chain be shortened and cross staking used when trapping in the future to prevent this from happening again. If a trapper will call us if they catch a wolf we will be more than willing to sedate the wolf, remove it from the trap, fit it with a radio collar and release it back on site. This has been successfully done on 2 other occasions. Fur trapping is legal in Montana and the potential to accidently capture wolves will increase as the wolf population continues to expand and wolves disperse.

Control

A small group of wolves killed at least 2 calves (one on the 10th and another on the 15th ) and possibly another earlier in the Big Hole Valley in southwestern Montana. The wolves couldn't be located. However, local residents were contacted and asked to report any wolves they saw. On 3/31 a pair of wolves was seen near where the depredations occurred. Niemeyer and the WS helicopter from Montana where on the scene in a few hours. They found the wolves by their tracks and shot both, as per earlier discussions with the Service. They were both Idaho wolves with functioning radio collars. No idea why earlier searches failed to locate them. B-54 was a pregnant female and with 6 pups. She had been relocated from the Moyer pack after cattle depredations near Salmon, Idaho last year. The male B-34 was reintroduced from Canada in 1996.

Wolf #132, (a former Washakie wolf), last located east of Dillon, MT a month or so a go and then his signal picked up near Monida Pass, killed 5 lambs near Leadore, Idaho. He was captured by Wildlife Services and the Nez Perce Tribe relocated him into central Idaho. He is the first wolf that made a "successful" dispersal between the recovery areas, although not entirely on his own. He would have been killed if darting hadn't been an option. Rick Williams WS Idaho handled this depredation and captured this wolf. Congratulations an excellent job Rick!! Thanks.

The Jureano pack (who have killed several other dogs) killed a sheep guard dog southeast of Salmon, Idaho on the 29th or 30th. It was found by the rancher and a biologist for the Salmon wolf/ungulate study. Apparently evidence suggested the dog was with the sheep near the barn and travelled up a road to encounter the "strangers". The dog was reportedly very effective at preventing coyote losses and the rancher is now worried about coyote depredation in addition to possible wolf-caused losses. The dog was owned by a family friend and she is understandably upset. Defenders of Wildlife intends to replace it with another experienced guard dog.

The trio of wolves north of Jackson, WY were moving through private land nearing calving livestock last week. Local landowners harassed the wolves out of the area with a snowmobile. No losses were reported but an inaccurate story came out that a calf had been trampled by other cattle because of the wolves. This story was not true and a retraction was printed.

Research

The Yellowstone den study started April 1 and as of today no wolves are known to have denned.

Female #16 and 2 females from the Druid pack are near their dens so pup could begin to be born any time.

Grand Teton National Park is cooperating with Dr. Joel Berger, University of Nevada, Reno to initiate a graduate study of wolves in the Jackson area. Mike Jimenez is helping coordinate that study.

 

Information and education and law enforcement

Dr. Diane Boyd-Heger was a guest lecturer at the Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, CO April 7 and 8.

Dr. Doug Smith gave a presentation to about 25 members of the Gallatin Outfitter Association in Bozeman on the 31st. There was a lot of concern expressed about the potential impact of wolves on their elk hunting opportunities and industry. The 1999 Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks elk survey north of Yellowstone indicated no change in elk numbers from last year but calf composition was low. The EIS predicted that a recovered wolf population could decrease elk numbers between 5% to 30%, reducing hunts for female elk in some herds but not substantially reducing hunting for bulls. It will likely take years to see if these predictions were accurate.

Doug also travelled to Fort Collins and toured the National Wildlife Research Center. It is the headquarters for al Wildlife Services Research in the United States. He gave a presentation to about 40 WS and Colorado Department of Wildlife biologists. One evening he gave a lecture to about 350 students at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

National Geographic did some wrap-up filming in Yellowstone for their wolf special which should air Feb-March 2000. They filmed the Crystal pack killing a yearling bison. To date 12 bison have been killed by wolves and the Crystal pack seems to be getting the hang of it. Graduate student Dan McNulty saw them kill an adult cow bison earlier this spring.

The Helena office plans to hire 2 term (up to 4 years) GS-5 biological technicians this spring. Interested persons must have wolf or at a minimum large carnivore field experience to be competitive. Interested persons should send their name and address to (Wolf Jobs, USFWS, 100 N. Park, #320, Helena, MT 59601) Those people will be notified (by the end of April). Please no phone calls. In addition the Service in Helena will hire at least two seasonal GS-5 biologists for 6 month appointments.

The Nez Perce Tribe is hiring a wolf trapper and several wolf field volunteers, in addition to other support staff. Applications will be accepted until April 19. If you are interested call for further information or mail your application to Curt Mack, Nez Perce Tribe, Dept. Natural Resources, Box 365, Lapwai, ID 83540-0365 (208)843-7335 ASAP.

Both Bangs and Smith will be in Norfolk, Virginia next week for a formal Habitat and Viability review of the Red Wolf Recovery Program.

The Turner Endangered Species Foundation hired former wolf graduate student Dr. Kyran Kunkle to be one of their biologists. Mike Phillips, the program's director, made an excellent choice. Congratulations to Kyran, working with Mike and Dr. Dave Hunter is an exciting opportunity.

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