Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains
Mountain-Prairie Region

Wyoming Gray Wolf Recovery Status Report

From:               USFWS Wyoming Wolf Recovery Project Leader, Jackson, WY

Subject:            Status of Gray Wolf Management in Wyoming and the NRM

WYOMING WOLF WEEKLY- Nov. 10, through Nov. 21, 2008

           
Web Address – USFWS reports (past weekly and annual reports) can be viewed at http://westerngraywolf.fws.gov . Weekly reports for Montana and Idaho are produced by those States and can be viewed on the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and Idaho Department of Fish and Game websites. All weekly and annual reports are government property and can be used for any purpose.  Please distribute as you see fit.

Wolf Litigation and Management:Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains (NRM) were delisted on March 28, 2008.  On July 18, 2008, the U.S. Federal District Court in Missoula, Montana, issued a preliminary injunction that immediately reinstated temporary Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for gray wolves in the NRM. As a result, all wolves in Wyoming are protected under the ESA as an experimental population and managed by the USFWS.

On September 22, 2008 the U.S. Department of Justice filed a motion to the Federal District Court in Missoula, Montana requesting that the February 27, 2008 NRM wolf delisting final rule be vacated and remanded back to the USFWS for further consideration and action. 

On October 14, 2008, the court vacated the final delisting rule and remanded it back to the FWS. The court dismissed the case without considering its merits, thereby ending the lawsuit and re-establishing full Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for gray wolves in the NRM.

On October 24, 2008, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it was reopening the public comment period on its proposal to delist the gray wolf in the northern Rocky Mountains. The public will have until November 28, 2008, to submit their comments to the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov or via U.S. mail or hand delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: RIN 1018-Au53; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Dive, Suite 222; Arlington. VA 22203. 

Monitoring
Routine aerial telemetry flights are being flown throughout Wyoming to identify wolf packs, determine pack composition, and estimate the total number of wolves. Once snow is on the ground, we normally increase the frequencies of flights to confirm new packs as well as determine if some suspected packs do not actually exist. We predict that the total number of wolves in Wyoming in 2008 will slightly decrease compared to the number of wolves in 2007. Preliminary counts in Yellowstone National Park indicate fewer wolves in 2008, while the number of wolves in Wyoming (outside YNP) in 2008 will be very similar compared 2007 (approx. 180-190 wolves). The USFWS will provide final minimal wolf population estimates in the 2008 Annual Report which will be completed by the end of February 2009. 

Table 1. Number of wolves in Wyoming (outside YNP) and Yellowstone National Park, from 2003 through 2007.

            Area                                    2003          2004       2005      2006       2007
            Wyoming (outside YNP)       88            101         134        175         188
            Yellowstone Park                 174            171         118        136         171
            Total:                                   252            272         252        311         359

 

Control
Nothing to report at this time.

 

Research
Yellowstone Park began its annual winter study on November 15. Research objectives include: 1) documenting kill rates of wolves; 2) determining prey selection; and 3) estimating annual wolf population numbers. Park biologists suspect that the number of wolves in YNP in 2008 has decreased due to adult wolf mortality from conflicts between packs, increased pup mortality, and mange. Mange has been documented in >8 wolves from four different packs (Oxbow Creek, Mollies, Leopold, and one unnamed group of 4 wolves).

University of Wyoming students Abigail Nelson and Arthur Middleton presented updates on their graduate research in the Absaroka/Sunlight Basin areas. Both projects are cooperative efforts between the University of Wyoming, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Abby’s project is titled: Wolf habitat selection and predation patterns in the Absaroka Mountains of Wyoming: Identifying the landscape drivers of wolf-livestock conflicts. Arthur gave an update on his research and discussed his research objectives: 1) Determine the status of migratory and non-migratory elk in the Clark’s Fork Herd Unit; 2) Determine the timing of migrations and routes used by migratory elk; 3) Increase the understanding of elk use of private lands; 4) Determine adult female survival rates; and 5) Evaluate the influence of wolves on elk habitat use and movements.

Scott Becker, recently graduated from the University of Wyoming, presented the results of his masters research. His abstract states: “Since the establishment of a self-sustaining population of Shiras moose (Alces alces shiri) in the Jackson Valley around 1912, moose populations have fluctuated over time. These fluctuations were thought to be driven primarily by density dependent factors during the 1950s and 1960s. More recently, however, population trend data has suggested that the north Jackson moose herd has been in decline although wildlife managers have attempted to halt the downward trend by reducing harvest. Also during this period, large predators have increased in number and expanded their range which has led to questions regarding the relative influence of potential limiting factors. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relative influence of habitat and predation on the north Jackson moose herd using a combination of physiological health indices and population demographics. We used the animal indicator concept to infer habitat quality from physiological parameters and estimated population vital rates from 2005-2007. Evidence suggested that the study population appeared to be declining. The preponderance of evidence indicated that habitat quality and its effect on the physical condition and reproductive output of adult females was the most likely limiting factor. We suggest that the influence of bear and wolf predation, although present, had minimal impact at the population level. While we were not able to fully explore the specific elements of habitat quality that may be affecting this population, a better understanding of the relative influence of winter and summer habitat and the availability of thermal refugia will be vital in determining relative what management actions, if any, will be effective in altering the dynamics of this herd unit.”

Law Enforcement and Related Activities
Nothing to report at this time.

Outreach and Education
On November 21, Jimenez gave a presentation about wolf management in at the Wyoming Chapter of the Wildlife Society in Sheridan, Wyoming.

Further Information
To request an investigation of livestock injured or killed by wolves, please contact the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Wildlife Services at (307)261-5336.

For additional information, please contact:
Ed Bangs (406)449-5225 x204 or Ed_Bangs@FWS.GOV

Mike Jimenez (307)733-7096 or (307)330-5631 or  Mike_Jimenez@FWS.GOV
Last updated: November 8, 2012