Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 12/10/99

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 12/4-12/10, 1999

Monitoring

Core packs in the Yellowstone, central Idaho, and NW Montana are generally in their normal home ranges. However, many packs are split or have members missing. The Nez Perce pack which had been south of Henry's lake was back at Canyon in the middle of Yellowstone National Park this week. A radio-collared dispersing wolf from Yellowstone was seen with an unmarked wolf in the Taylor's Fork near Big Sky perhaps the beginning of a new pair.

A local coyote trapper reported seeing 3 wolves in the Bass Creek area which confirms earlier reports that a new group was settling in that area. We also received a report from Forest Service biologists that 3 wolves were seen in the Thompson River area, hopefully this beginning of a new pack in that area. These reports will greatly aid in our ground searches for new wolf packs this winter. THANKS!!

Wolves are dispersing and we anticipate a sharp increase in new wolf pack formation. Please report wolf sightings so that we can focus aircraft searches or our track surveys this winter.

Research

Nothing new to report.

Control

The Chief Joseph pack which had killed 6 sheep were back in the Tom Miner Basin on the 7th. In an attempt to prevent further losses, the Service directed Wildlife Services to remove 2 uncollared adult-sized members of the pack. On the 8th, two 90lb. male young-of-the-year were killed. At this time of year all wolves are very similar in size. The pack was still in the Tom Miner Basin on the 9th but no conflicts with livestock or guard animals has been reported. The Chief Joseph pack now consists of about 6 members including the alpha pair. No further control is planned unless other livestock are attacked.

The pack of wolves that came into a yard in the Emigrant Valley and interacted with 2 dogs, who were not injured, was identified by telemetry locations as the Sheep Mountain pack. No further interactions have been reported.

The Bass Creek Pack (adult female #57 and five pups) has been successfully returned to the wild after six months in captivity in Idaho. The wolves were captured in the Bitterroot Valley in June, after a series of livestock depredations. The adult male and three pups died in captivity, and the sruvivors have been held near McCall, Idaho until Monday of this week. At that time, Nez Perce Tribal biologists Curt Mack and Isaac Babcock captured the wolves and transported them to Montana. Fontaine and Boyd drove the wolves to Kalispell, then flew them to Spotted Bear wilth pilot Dave Hoerner. Meier and NPT biologist Kent Lauden had been at Spotted Bear preparing for their arrival. The wolves were released into the pen on Tuesday afternoon. The electric fence (12 feet high, 400 feet around) successfully held the wolves. They calmed down and consumed two dead deer that had been left for them.

On Wednesday morning, wolf tracks were found around the Spotted Bear Ranger Station complex, along with raised-leg urination marks and scats. Radio signals showed that male wolf #117, translocated from Pleasant Valley to Spotted Bear and hard-released in January 1999, was back in the area. His last known location, two weeks ago, was near Seeley Lake, 50 miles south and across the Swan Range. He approached the pen holding the Bass Creek female and her pups. The pen was opened and the wolves released on Wednesday afternoon, after they had been held for 24 hours. The presence of the lone male made it possible that an intact pack might be formed much more quickly than anyone had imagined. After a night of almost constant howling, all 7 wolves had moved off, apparently together, to the south by Thursday.

This release showed that a modified soft release may be successfully done under winter conditions in Montana. A big thanks to the Nez Perce Tribe and the Snowden facility for caring for the wolves and to the USDA Forest Service, Hungry Horse and Spotted Bear Ranger Districts, who helped with logistics.

Information and education and law enforcement

Wolf #78, formerly of the Rose Creek pack, was found dead last week. She was one of three breeding females in the Rose pack and recent locations indicated she actually had formed a new pack with an unknown male. Unfortunately her death means there are now no radio-collars in this new pack of up to 7 wolves. Her death is under investigation by Service special agents.

Bangs gave a presentation at the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee in Jackson, WY on the 8th. About 50 people attended the afternoon informational session, which focused on management issues involving large to mid-sized carnivores.

Larry Handegard (WS-MT State Director) gave presentations on wolf control efforts at annual meetings of both the Montana Stockgrowers and Woolgrowers (last week). On the 9th, Niemeyer (WS) gave a presentation on wolf/wild ungulate issues to about 50 people at the Montana Stockgrowers meeting.

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