Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

 

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 9/03/99

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 8/28-9/03, 1999

Monitoring

Packs in the Yellowstone, central Idaho, and NW Montana areas are in their normal home ranges but are moving more with their pups. Soda Butte pack was near the south arm of Yellowstone Lake. Wolf 104 M, who originated with the Druid Peak Pack in 1997 has been located near the Soda Butte Pack. Crystal pack that was just east of the Park moved back and was in Pelican Valley. A wolf from the Crystal pack shed its collar and LE retrieved it early in the week. It had been chewed off.

Twelve wolf pups were captured in August from the Little Wolf, Murphy Lake, and Wigwam packs. All but one (Wigwam) were considered too small to radio-collar. That pup shed its collar within a few days, its collar was found with no tape or foam left on it. It was hoped that trapping wolves from the Little Wolf and Murphy Lake packs would help move those wolves away from livestock and roads were they had been commonly seen. While the wolves did move a little they are still being seen in those areas. Trapping has been suspended until mid-September to allow pups to reach collarable size. Paul Frame, from the Mexican and Minnesota wolf projects volunteered for most of August to help trap with Meier and Boyd. His help was effective and welcome. A crew from German television accompanied Meier and Frame for several days, and had the opportunity to witness 2 wolf captures, film wolves in the wild, and talk to local ranchers.

The Nez Perce Tribe continues to count pups. The minimum total so far is 10 reproducing packs and over 60 pups originally produced, in the wild, plus the Bass Creek group with a female and 5 pups in captivity. Pups still haven't been confirmed in the Kelly Creek or Snow Peak packs. Yellowstone relocated wolf #132 (former Washakie pack member) has hooked up with the Snow Peak pack. One wolf from the Thunder Mountain pack and another from the Selway pack was captured and radio collared. Trapping is still ongoing.

Control

Trapping and placing draw baits for wolves on the Diamond G Ranch began August 26. Several coyotes have been captured and released but so far no wolves. A calf was killed on the Ranch on the 30th. The state biologist looked at it and said it could have been bear but wasn't a classic bear kill. A culvert was set, using part of the carcass for bait, near where the carcass had been. A bear was caught that night by it didn't appear to be involved in the depredation and was released. The calf carcass was removed to a barn, per discussions with WS in Wyoming, because many bears were in the area. Jimenez and WS Niemeyer examined its remains but the examination suggested some wounds were like those caused by wolves and some like wounds caused by bears. Some wounds were not typical for either species it's a puzzle, but given the history on the ranch and the nature of some wounds it is being classified as a confirmed wolf kill. Investigations and control efforts are continuing. The calf carcass was placed back in the field and traps set near it.

Research

The cattle mortality study east of Salmon is continuing. The recent control action and some other suspected mortalities in the Jureano pack may have helped reduce losses. Apparently since the control action no new cattle losses to wolves have been found. John Oakleaf provided the following summary: 30 transmitters have pulled out of the calves ears, probably because the transmitter was mounted on the back rather than front of the ear, and calves apparently "scratched" some off. Among the nearly 200 active radio-tagged calves- 5 died of natural causes (primarily respiratory problems), 3 were killed by wolves and 1 was killed by coyotes. Among those untagged losses discovered there were 1 confirmed and 2 probable wolf-caused and 1 natural mortality documented. This study will continue until cattle are brought off the range and is scheduled to go on through next summer.

A new pilot study of carnivore spatial organization before and during elk harvest on the Buffalo Plateau, just north of Yellowstone National Park, was just initiated. The study will investigate the interaction of wolves, grizzly bears and mountain lions, their use of the landscape and the response to hunting season. All 3 species will be monitored daily from the air for 2 weeks prior to the hunting season and 2 weeks again during the hunting season. Involved in the research are; Yellowstone National Park, Hornocker Wildlife Institute, Interagecny Grizzly Bear Study Team, U.S. Forest Service and Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The advantage to this study is pooling resources from projects that are currently operating independently.

Information and education and law enforcement

Bangs gave a presentation at the annual Montana USDA Wildlife Services Conference on the Boulder River south of Big Timber, MT on the 24th. That evening Bangs and Smith met with about 8 Forest Service grazing permittees that have allotment north of Yellowstone Park in Montana. Representatives for Senator Burns and Baucus and Congressman Hill attended. That meeting was hosted by the USDA Forest Service in Gardiner. The permittees' major concern was what they expressed as the lack of fairness in the decision to reintroduce wolves which directly affected their lifestyle and livelihood from livestock and guided hunting. They expressed great concern over the potential for a situation where they could have above normal numbers of historic missing livestock but few if any unconfirmed wolf-caused losses- and how control and compensation would address such situations.

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