Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains
|From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 10/15/04
Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 10/8-10/15, 2004
NEW WEB ADDRESS- The 2003 annual wolf report is at http://westerngraywolf.fws.gov/ . It has maps of wolf pack locations and home ranges, tables of wolf numbers and depredations, litigation and funding issues, and summaries of scientific studies.
On the 10th, Liz Bradley trapped and collared an adult male wolf in the Washakie Pack in WY. The following day she caught and released the collared alpha female. On the 12th, Liz trapped and collared a Washakie pup-of-the-year weighing approx. 85 lbs. Trapping/collaring efforts are completed, however an active control effort is still in place to remove a previously collared male wolf which has been involved in at least 9 confirmed depredations in the Dunior Valley this summer.
Trapping was conducted in the Ninemile Valley near Missoula, MT. Some fresh wolf sign was seen but no wolves were captured. Unfortunately two different large dogs were incidentally captured. The Service biologist visited with both of the owners. The dogs were not injured [thankfully and our use of rubber-jawed traps has helped] and while upset the owners appreciated a thorough Service follow-up with their situation. As the level of human activity in wild areas has increased so has the difficulties associated with trapping. The rifle hunting season in Montana starts Oct 24th, and has already started in Wyoming and Idaho so all leg-trapping for routine monitoring in 2004 has been terminated. We thank our seasonal biologists in Montana Jack Bucklin, Paul Frame, and Diane Boyd, Liz Bradley and Jon Trapp in Wyoming, and the Nez Perce Tribes field crew in Idaho for their hard work this summer. Diane is the only seasonal biologist who is still working, and she will be organizing MT, ID, and WY field data this fall as well as working on a paper on wolf dispersal in our program.
Former Washakie pack wolf Y239, who was captured and re-collared north of McCall, ID, had been missed for the past couple of flights, but was found again on the 14th. He moved approx. 33 miles east from his capture location and was located in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness about 3 miles east of Wolf Fang Peak.
An adult horse that was reportedly attacked by wolves near Bondurant, WY a week or so ago had to be euthanized by its owner. Adult horses are rarely attacked by wolves and to date the only confirmed horse depredation was on a foal, also in this general area of WY. There have been at least 3 other horses that may have been attacked by wolves, including two that died and were fed upon by wolves but could not be confirmed as wolf depredations. Horses are big strong tough animals and are among the most difficult ungulates for wolves to kill but occasionally wolves do manage to severely wound or kill them.
B5, one of the original wolves to come to the Central Idaho Recovery Area from Canada in 1995, was detected on mortality on 10/14/04. USFWS Law Enforcement and an IDFG Conservation Officer will be coordinating on the investigation of this mortality signal.
The Nez Perce Tribe (NPT) and Service wolf program has provided biologists for the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program (John Oakleaf worked for the Service in NW MT and did his graduate project in Idaho through the NPT, Service and others), the Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game (Jason Husseman did his graduate project through the NPT and also was a seasonal biologist for several years), and the newly up-and-running MTFWP Wolf management Program (Kent Laudon worked seasonally with the NPT since 1997, Jon Trapp did his graduate project through the NPT and volunteered for 1.5 years and worked for the Service this summer in WY, and Liz Bradley worked for the Service in MT and WY and did her graduate project on our wolf control activities). Our wolf recovery program is thankful to all of these young people for their hard work over the years, and want to wish them well at their new jobs.
Jason Husseman (IDFG) verified presence of a new pack of wolves in the North Fork of the Salmon River, but was unable to capture one during a brief trapping effort. Steve Nadeau located the Big Hole Pack along the Montana border east of Powell while moose hunting. He was able to keep them howling long enough to detect multiple wolves and pups, adding another breeding pair. Southeast Idaho FG staff continue to attempt to verify reported wolves and a possible new pack. Jason and Michael Lucid are both reviewing all the wolf observation reports coming in on the IDFG website, verifying, and plotting the observations. Over the last year, more than 300 people have reported observations on the website, many of which have helped us find new wolf packs, get estimates of wolves within packs, and obtain other useful information. The wolf reporting form on the website has proven so far to be a useful tool in helping keep track of Idaho wolves.
Many wolf observations being reported by hunters include wolves coming to hunters using elk or moose calls. Sometimes the wolves get within just a few feet before they detect the hunters. These encounters are numerous and provide hunters with a little more excitement than they bargained for.
Coyotes researchers in Yellowstone National Park incidentally caught 2 wolves in #3 soft catch traps set for coyotes. One wolf escaped as it was being approached and the other was radioed collared and released on site.
A landowner in the Cinnabar Basin in the Paradise Valley reported seeing a ‘sickly’ wolf with what appeared to be a severe case of mange on his private land this month. He hasn’t seen it in a week or so now and speculates it might have died. Manage has been detected in wolves at lower elevations in Montana and Wyoming and is common in coyotes in those same areas. Mange can kill the infected animals through secondary infections or hyperthermia.
Correction- the weight of the 20 calves that trampled/suffocated last week in the Madison Valley was unknown. The factors that may have contributed to their death are still under investigation.
On the 12th, a young wolf was killed by a private landowner under a ‘shoot-on-sight’ permit in the Paradise Valley. The landowner had numerous sheep killed this year on his private land, the wolf was taken from a group of 4-5 on the property. The permit will remain active and allow one more wolf to be taken.
On the 13th, WS investigated a wounded yearling heifer near Horse Prairie/Black Canyon in SW MT [north of Leadore, ID]. The cow was brought off private pasture to be doctored and was thought to have been attacked by a bear. This is the same location where an uncollared pack of 5 wolves [3 large, 2 small] was reported this summer. The cow had several bite wounds to her hindquarters. The location and spacing of the tooth marks indicated she was likely attacked by a wolf. WS may trap, radio-collar and release wolves on site, if conditions permit. No other control is planned at this time.
On the 15th, as authorized by the Service, WS shot 2 wolves [shot from fixed-winged aircraft] from the Battlefield pack [SW MT] out of 9 seen. One was the radio-collared alpha male, leaving only one other radio collar in the pack. WS will continue to trap over the next few days and any wolves captured will be radio-collared and released on site. Lethal control is done unless other depredations are confirmed.
On the 12th two uncollared adult wolves (1 male & 1 female)were removed [shooting from fixed-wing aircraft] by WS from the Upper Green River drainage after killing at least 5 calves in several depredation events. All depredations occurred on USFS grazing allotments.
On the 13th three uncollared wolves (1 adult male, 1 adult female, 1 male pup) were removed [shooting from fixed-winged aircraft] from the Daniel Pack in WY after killing at least 7 calves. Depredations occurred on both private land and USFS grazing allotments. There are no radio collars in the Daniel Pack, however repeated sightings indicate there are still at least 7-8 wolves in the Pack after this latest control action. The fact that WS was able to quickly and effectively remove wolves here and in the Upper Green River [see above] without the use of radio telemetry attests to both WS’s skill at aerial control and the high vulnerability of wolves to lethal control in open rangeland habitats.
As cattle were moving off USFS grazing allotments north of Pinedale, WY on the 12th, Wildlife Services confirmed 1 calf killed by wolves near Cora, Wyoming. The situation is being monitored closely but no control is being conducted at this time.
On the 14th, wolves killed 6 more female lambs on private land near Fishtail, MT. This ranch has had nearly 25 sheep killed by wolves during a half dozen depredation events this summer. A pack of 2 ad. and 2 pups lives within a few miles and are the likely culprits as the pup’s radio locations place the pack in the general vicinity but not at the depredation sites. WS was authorized to remove the pack by lethal control unless new evidence suggests the Phantom pack was not responsible- which is unlikely. WS will not have a helicopter available for at least a week so monitoring will be increased and the landowner’s shoot-on-site permit was extended for the next 30 days.
Liz Bradley et al. paper "Evaluating wolf translocation as a non-lethal method to reduce livestock conflicts in the northwestern United States" was accepted for publication in Conservation Biology. It should appear in print in 2005. Great job Liz!
IDFG big game research staff, wildlife bureau chief, big game manager, and Steve Nadeau met this week to discuss direction of ungulate/wolf research in Idaho. Big game researchers will be looking into what parameters can be used to predict big game population fluctuations, and how, when, and where wolves fit into the mix that cause declines.
Information and education and law enforcement
Liz Bradley, a WY seasonal field biologist accepted a job offer from MT FWP to be their wolf field specialist out of Dillon, MT. Liz just finished her MS from UM, on wolf livestock conflict and has worked with our program for several years. Congratulations to both MT FWP and Liz, it is a great match.
The administrative record for the state of Wyoming’s litigation against the Service over rejection of the state’s wolf plan was filed with the court on the 15th. There are currently 6 wolf-related litigations and the workload associated with it and Freedom of Information Act requests consumes a tremendous amount of staff time and energy. These cases will be ongoing for the next several years.
Michael Lucid (IDFG) gave a presentation about hunting safely with bird dogs in wolf country, to a dog hunting club of approximately 30 in Nampa on Tuesday.
The Service's weekly wolf report can now also be viewed at the Service's Region 6 web site at http://westerngraywolf.fws.gov/ . This report is government public property and can be used for any purpose. Please distribute as you see fit.
Contact: Ed Bangs (406)449-5225 x204 or ED_BANGS@FWS.GOV
Contact Us: WesternGrayWolf@fws.gov