Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 10/15/99

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 10/09-10/15, 1999

 

Monitoring

Packs in the Yellowstone, central Idaho, and NW Montana are in their normal home ranges.

Wolf #14, the alpha from the Soda Butte pack, is traveling with former Druid/Crystal male #104 and one other Soda Butte member in what could possibly be the new (hopefully breeding) Soda Butte pack near Heart Lake. Other pack members were not located with the new group and may have dispersed. Three wolves are believed to have dispersed from other packs. They are the famous but now old #9, the alpha female that started the Rose Creek pack, former Chief Joseph wolf #115 which has been located near Taylor’s Fork near Big Sky Resort, and #92 a male from the Nez Perce pack. This time of year marks the increase in dispersal and pair formation and is probably just the beginning of what we expect will be a high level of dispersal throughout Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming.

Tom Meier and Kent Laudan, a volunteer who had been working for the Nez Perce Tribe, searched for wolf activity and began trapping to radio-collar a wolf in the area around Lincoln, MT. A pair of wolves and possibly a pup was filmed in that area about a month ago about the time a sheep herding dog was killed.

A young wolf was reportedly seen being struck by a train near Murphy Lake. Boyd picked up the carcass for examination.

Research

The Diamond Moose Grazing Allotment calf (cattle) mortality study is winding down this year. Thirteen calves were documented lost from both radio transmitters and those found during routine livestock management activities. Six were probable or confirmed wolf depredations. Numbers of missing livestock will be determined when producers can complete the fall roundup. It has been a very mild fall so far and livestock have not been pushed down by snow yet. Since there were fewer losses than expected and only 3 wolves remain in the area, 2 pups and 1 yearling, because of agency control, the study doesn’t appear that it will produce enough data for a Master’s thesis. Student John Oakleaf will use other data sets from wolf monitoring in Idaho and Montana to supplement the calf study information for his thesis project. The field monitoring project will continue as planned next year and about 230 calves will be radio-tagged. Two university technicians, and hopefully some volunteers, will conduct most of the field work. This year volunteers from the Salmon area made the study a success and their help and hard work is deeply appreciated. A special thanks to Jim Wiley, Jack Ellis, Sally Foss, Jim Morehead, Jim Smith, and Bill Rector.

Control

The probable alpha male of the Sheep Mountain pack (#165) was killed at the direction of the Service on Oct 10th. The decision was made after it appeared that he had been nearby or involved in previous depredations and cattle chasing behavior on a regular basis while other adults in the pack were often elsewhere. He was in good shape and weighed 120 pounds and had just eaten over 10 pounds of fresh deer meat. That morning he was located near Daily Lake where horses had been chased and about 1 mile north of at least 3 other pack members. He was traveling alone when killed a few hours later. The alpha female and another adult radio-collared male, and, we assume, other pack members, were about 15 miles away when the control action was conducted. The pack remains intact with about a dozen members, including the alpha female and an adult male. Hopefully this latest control action will end livestock hunting behavior by this pack. USDA Wildlife Services did a professional and humane job removing this wolf and closely coordinated the control action with the other involved agencies. We thank them for their efforts.

A producer who just pulled his cattle out of the Gravelly Range near Alder, MT reported a 600lb calf died and was consumed within a day or so. The hide was completely gone and the ribs chewed off. No sign of a predator was evident and the cause of death is unknown. The carcass was just bones so Wildlife Services was simply notified rather than asked to respond. This area has been frequented by several dispersing wolves in the past and agency biologists will keep an eye on the situation.

Information and education and law enforcement

Harvard University announced eight "High Honors" Awards during the "Honoring Contributions in the Governance of American Indian Nations," awards ceremony held in Palm Springs, CA on October 6. This meeting was with the 56th Annual Session of the National Congress of American Indians. Congratulations!! to the Nez Perce Tribe for winning an award for their Idaho Gray Wolf Recovery Program. The tribe received a monetary award so they could share their success story with other tribes, a framed print by late Crow Indian painter Earl Bliss, and a certificate from Harvard University.

Fontaine traveled to the Service's National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia to give a presentation at their monthly lecture series. About 70 people were there. While there he did an interview with NPR and recorded an oral summation of the wolf recovery program for the historian.

On 10/12 a conference call was held with R-1 and R-6 about classification of "occupied" wolf range outside the experimental population areas. The issue of how to use and confirm reports of wolf activity remains complex.

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 besides the regular distribution.

Contact: Ed Bangs (406)449-5225 x204 or Internet-ED_BANGS@FWS.GOV