Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 3/19/99

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Weeks of 3/6-3/19 1999

 

Monitoring

Packs in the Yellowstone, central Idaho, and NW Montana areas appear to be in their normal home ranges. The Chief Joseph pack did travel to Hebgen Lake and Druid pack moved to the eastern edge of Yellowstone Park. Soda Butte returned to the National Elk Refuge and apparently displaced the trio off the Refuge although they are staying in the Jackson area. Female #16 has actually been in her 1998 den for the past 2 days but we would be surprised if she was having pups this early. Searches on and near the Diamond G Ranch near Dubois indicate a couple of wolves are using that area, none of which are currently radio-collared. Service biologists set live-snares on a draw bait in an attempt to collar one of the wolves.

The four relocated radio-collared wolves are still moving around Spotted Bear and Swan Valleys. A wide ranging search was conducted on 3/17 and several missing wolves may have been found. A black wolf from one of the GYA pack's in the northern range was picked up in Little Sage Creek east of Dillon, Montana. The signal from another Yellowstone wolf was picked up by Lemhi Pass. Future flights will attempt to confirm this information. On March 18 the Whitefish pack was located out of their home range in Glacier National Park. This is the first time they have been there. They were approximately a mile from the alpha female of the South Camas pack.

The radio-collared yearling female wolf from the Jureano Mountain pack is still in eastern Oregon. She continues to move widely and has been staying in remote and heavily wooded terrain where capture is not likely.

Control

A group of wolves of unknown size (suspect 2-4) 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. Control was initiated immediately but has been some trouble in locating them because known of them are radio-collared. When found all will be killed. After several days of unsuccessful searching, control efforts have been put on hold until there is some of where the wolves are or if fresh snowfall can allow for tracking.

A 2-day old calf was killed and partially consumed in the Sunlight Basin. The radio wolf pair was nearby and wolf and coyote tracks were at the sight. However, WS and Service investigation concluded that coyote(s) were most likely responsible. The calf had small bite marks to the trachea and there was minimal trauma elsewhere on the carcass. The situation will continue to be closely watched.

The remaining 2-3 wolves in the Pleasant Valley pack (4 were moved and then 3 killed because of repeated depredations earlier this year) pushed some cattle through a fence on the night of the 17th. The rancher ran the wolves off and is gathering his cattle back up. There were no kills or wounded livestock. All the remaining wolves will be killed if they kill or wound livestock this summer.

Research

Yellowstone National Park continues its 30-day intensive winter wolf predation study.

The Nez Perce tribe continues to organize and try to find funding for its study of the detection and rate of cattle losses on U.S. Forest Service grazing allotments west of Salmon, Idaho in and near active wolf pack territories. The study is scheduled to begin this summer. Funding and/or assistance has been committed by the Nez Perce Tribe, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Defenders of Wildlife, and Diamond Moose Grazing Association, University of Idaho, Lemhi Cattle and Horse Growers Association, and Lemhi County Cooperative Extension Office but other funding is needed. The study addresses a key question that biologists and livestock producers have wondered about for several years. A few livestock producers have reported, what they believe, were higher than normal levels of missing livestock in areas with resident wolf packs. In fact the Service is in court over this very issue in Wyoming. A similar concern about grizzly bear depredation a few years ago resulted in similar study in Wyoming. That study led to Wyoming paying up to 1 and 1/2 times the value of livestock confirmed killed by bears because research indicated for every 2 bear kills found another calf was lost to bears but not found. This study could provide information that will help identify ways livestock losses can be prevented, better detected, and what causes result in missing cattle on remote and heavily vegetated grazing allotments. If wolves do depredate on livestock in that area this spring the study could also shed light on the effectiveness of wolf control efforts on reducing livestock losses and hopefully improve management techniques to resolve wolf/livestock conflicts.

A prototype of a radio collar activated light and siren device was placed near a calving operation in the Bitterroot Valley on March 5. The device came from an idea by a livestock producer that lost a calf to the Bass Creek pack. John Shivik with Wildlife Research Center in Fort Collins developed the device and installed it near a calving operation near the area where the calf was killed. The device was a cooperative effort between Wildlife Service, Defenders of Wildlife and the Service. Fontaine, Niemeyer and Hank Fisher, Defenders of Wildlife, were on hand to assist with the installation. The device will be further tested in a controlled environment to determine the effect on canine behavior. If successful, the cost of the device reduced and a manufacturer encouraged to produce it, this could be a very useful tool especially in small areas such as calving operations.

Information and education and law enforcement

Bangs and Boyd-Heger gave presentations at the Northwest Section of The Wildlife Society meeting on 3/11 in Bozeman.

Fontaine and Niemeyer gave a presentation to bout 40 local residents near Wisdom, MT on the 18th. Fontaine gave a program to about 20 members of the Libby Rod and Gun Club on the 16th.

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 (in about 2 weeks). Please no phone calls. In addition the Service in Helena will hire at least two seasonal GS-5 biologists for a 6 month appointment.

Doug Smith gave presentations to about 25 people enrolled in a Park wolf watching course and another 25 people in one of Dr. Halfpenny's animal tracking courses.

Nez Perce biologists provided various programs including for the Clearwater Flycasters monthly meeting, Defenders of Wildlife, National Wildlife Federation, joint Idaho Legislature House and Senate Natural Resources Committee, and Idaho Wolf Oversight Committee.

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