Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 4/23/99

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 4/10-4/23 1999

 

Monitoring

Packs in the Yellowstone, central Idaho, and NW Montana areas appear to be in their normal home ranges and nearly all have localized near dens. Monitoring has increased in all areas in an effort to confirm denning. In Yellowstone a minimum of 11 groups could produce pups (not counting the Washakie II pack which have no radio collared individuals). Soda Butte is a maybe since no adult male is known to be in the pack but the female was near other packs during the peak of breeding, we assume trying to lure a male into helping with "genetic diversity". In Idaho there are a possible 13 groups that could produce pups. In NW Montana at least 7 groups are expected to den and possibly another unmarked pack. Under ideal circumstances that is a total of about 30 breeding pairs and another 150 wolves joining the three areas.

In Yellowstone the Druid, Rose (2 dens), Leopold, Chief Joe 1 and CJ 2 are denning. The trio and pair near Jackson, WY have also localized their movements. Flights are being conducted on other packs to determine if they denned. In Idaho several groups have localized, including a dispersing radioed wolf that is near the old Landmark pack den. He probably joined a member of the old Landmark pack, which has now apparently denned. The Bass Crk pair have also appear to have localized. The Boulder pair has localized and likely denned southeast of Helena. Other denning activity will be checked next week in NW Montana.

The most unusual incident occurred on the 21st (peak of denning) near Murphy Lake in NW Montana. A local man reported that he saw a wolf near his driveway the night of the 20th and early the next morning an uncollared wolf was standing on top of a freshly dug den 20' from where his son waits for the school bus. Biologists in the area went out to look and the den was 8 feet deep but did not have pups in it. They consulted with the Service and then filled the den in so the wolf would go elsewhere, just in case she was planning on having pups there. This horrible location was a few yards from a heavily travelled paved road and any pups, if she had given birth there, would have been run over or at a minimum been constantly disturbed.

Control

The Pleasant Valley pack is gone. On the 20th, one calf was severely wounded and another had its tail bitten off by wolves on a ranch that will soon become a Wildlife Refuge. The calf that was severly wound died later. The wolves then attacked and killed another calf the evening of the 21st. WS confirmed the depredations and, as promised to local livestock producers who have been very cooperative, the Service directed that the 3 remaining pack members be killed. The adult female (who was not pregnant) and 2 other wolves were shot on the 22nd. This was a very upsetting situation and despite one relocation, one lethal control action, and several attempts at "aversive conditioning" pack members kept attacking cattle. We suspect there are 2 main reasons for their behavior. First the producer had suspected problems in 1998 but did not contact the Service for several months, either because of lack of trust or thinking the problem might "go away". We believe this allowed the wolves to deeply ingrain the livestock hunting behavior as part of their prey selection strategy. The Service and Wildlife Services will continue to work closely with producers and stress the importance of quickly reporting suspected problems. In addition the decline of white-tailed deer in this area after the unusually severe winter of 1996/97 was particularly pronounced. The lack of wild prey relative to cattle likely contributed to this pack's focus on livestock.

This latest control action once again pointed out the need for a broader range of potential tools to deal with livestock/wolf conflict. Several other options beyond those we have used in the past are being considered. At the Annual Chico Wolf Conference several speakers talked about the use of scaring devices, aversive taste conditioning, guard animals, and even shock collars. USDA Wildlife Services is doing extensive research on these issues. In addition, the Service is considering using soft relocations, which would require some type of enclosure, in other parts on NW Montana. This would provide a relocation technique other than hard release, which has been generally unsuccessful.

Research

The Yellowstone den study started April 1 and wolves are denning. The

Information and education and law enforcement

Diane Boyd-Heger gave wolf presentations to science school groups in Ashton, Idaho on the 24th as part of a interagency assisted science fair.

The Helena office is advertising for 2 term (up to 4 years) GS-5 biological technicians. Applications for those jobs close April 30. Interested persons must have wolf field experience to be competitive. Interested persons should contact USAJOBS, (303)969-7050 or mail applications to DOI, Fish and Wildlife Service, C/O OPM, Box 25167, Denver, CO 80225 before 4/30. Email- http://www.usajobs.opm.gov Announcement No. DD0550TG.

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.

Ed Bangs and Doug Smith were in Norfolk, Virginia 4/19-22 for a Population and Habitat Assessment Workshop for the Red Wolf Recovery Program. The workshop was excellent and facilitated by the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group.

The Helena wolf staff attended an OAS safety training in Missoula on the 19th.

The Service will host a wolf handling workshop by Dr. Dave Hunter in Helena on May 27. Interested persons should contact Joe Fontaine (406) 449-5225 x 206

The 11th Annual Northern Rocky Mountains Wolf Recovery Program was held at Chico Hot Springs April 20-22. Abut 110 people registered. It was an excellent program that covered a broad range of issues, including status of wolf recovery in the northern Rocky Mountains, various research projects, wolf recovery programs in the southwest, mid-West, and Northeast. Wolf control techniques, humane capture, research, and taste aversion were covered and discussed. Wolf management issues in the Northwest Territories, Japan, and even Oregon were presented. Service biologist Tom Meier gave the banquet talk on wolves in Israel. Service biologist Joe Fontaine was presented with the annual Alpha Award for his nearly 11 years of dedication to wolf restoration in the northern Rocky Mountains. Congratulations to Joe and Well Done!! Also thanks to Joe and Susan Laverty for putting on another excellent Wolf Conference.

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