Make your own free website on Tripod.com
Wolves
Wolf History, Conservation, Ecology and Behavior
[www.wolfology.com]
Gray Wolf Recovery Status Reports, May 2003
From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT

APRIL 26-MAY 2, 2003
Monitoring
NEW WEB ADDRESS- See the 2002 annual wolf report at http://westerngraywolf.fws.gov/ for maps of wolf pack locations and home ranges, tables of wolf numbers and depredations, litigation and funding issues, and summaries of scientific studies.....Seasonal biologist Paul Frame is in the Noxon area, where he is trapping for the Green Mountain Pack. He is also looking for sign in the Bull River and Clark Fork drainage. Seasonal biologist Paul Hansen came on board the 25th and is trapping around the Clearwater Game Range near Ovando, Montana. On the 27th, a trap was missing and it was assumed a dog had been caught. On Tuesday a person called about her friends dog being caught in a trap. The area had been properly signed and the animal was caught in a rubber-jawed trap. All the proper trapping protocols were followed and in this instance, it wasn’t a big issue. Apparently they were walking their dog and came into the area through the brush and not down the road.....On Sun. the 27th, Mack thought he detected wolf R241, and possibly R242 (both Sheep Mtn. dispersers from north of YNP), near Idaho City, ID. A later flight confirmed that R241 was by itself near Idaho City but close to 4 other wolves that were verified by Niemeyer. Volunteer Jon Tapp had investigated reports to the north and northeast of this same area and observed tracks of at least 3 wolves. This appears to be a newly establishing pack.....USFS, NPR and NPR biologists began coordinating efforts to search for missing radio collars in the three (or more) state area. About 40 wolves, collared in the last 5 years, are currently missing. Searches will concentrate on likely wolf habitat where no wolves are known to be radio-collared.....Williamson and Niemeyer searched for the pack of 10 wolves sighted along the Morgan Creek Road this winter on 4/29-4/30 northeast of Challis, Idaho. According to local residents the wolves moved out of their winter haunts about a month ago. Further attempts will be made to locate the pack and instrument a pack member with a radio collar.....Nez Perce Tribal program staff held outreach meetings in Mala. City this week in response to recent reports and documented presence of wolves in the area. The purpose for this outreach effort was to coordinate information sharing to better document status of wolf activity in the area and increase pro-active and responsive wold management in the event of future conflicts with livestock..... Coordination meetings were held with County Commissioners, federal land management agencies including U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, livestock producers, and the local community.....Aerial monitoring information in Idaho indicates that as many as seven documented packs may be denning at this time. Summer field activities to document breeding status of wolves will be initiated next week. Efforts to document and radio collar new wolf packs and radio-collar additional members of existing packs was initiated this week. Current efforts are focused in the Salmon and Lochsa River corridors.

Control
On the 29th, WS investigated a possible calf depredation near Skalkaho pass west of Phillipsburg, Montana and near the Sapphire pack area. The calf had been dead about a week and was nearly consumed. Marks on the hide and hemorrhaging signs on the underside of the hide indicated a probable depredation. No control will be taken at this time.....Wildlife Services investigated another single calf depredation incident that was probably killed by members of the Buffalo Ridge pack near Clayton, Idaho. This is the third probable calf loss, but little evidence remained to confirm the depredation. Any further confirmed losses will result in incremental removal of wolves responsible for the depredation. An electronic monitor was placed in the vicinity of the first probable depredations and radio-collared members of the Buffalo Ridge pack have triggered the monitors on several occasions.

Research
Congratulations to Doug Smith, Rolf Peterson, and Doug Houston who co-author an article "Yellowstone after Wolves". It was the cover story and was just published in Bio-Science [April 2003, Vol 53 No. 4: 330-340. Great piece of work- Doug, Rolf and Doug!

Information and education and law enforcement
Gray wolves throughout the eastern and western United States were downlisted from endangered to threatened status effective April 1, 2003. The new regulations can be viewed at the Federal Register April 1, 2003 or at http://midwest.fws.gov/wolf/fnl-rule/.
In the western DPS [outside the experimental areas which remained just as they were] the 4d rules allow: 1. Anyone to harass any wolf at any time as long as the wolf is not injured; 2. Landowners may shoot any wolf that is physically attacking [biting, grasping] livestock [defined as- cattle, sheep, horses, or mules, and guarding and herding animals- such as llamas and certain breeds of dogs] and domestic dogs on private property [it must be reported within 24hrs]: 3. Federal grazing permittees that have a confirmed wolf depredation may receive a permit from the Service to shoot wolves seen attacking livestock on their federal grazing allotments. 4. The Service may issue permits to injuriously harass [rubber bullets, etc.] wolves; 5. The Service may issue permits to private landowners to shoot wolves on-sight after 2 or more livestock depredations; 6. People who accidentally kill a wolf will not be prosecuted if they were involved in otherwise legal activities and they took reasonable steps to not kill a wolf [Note- hunters are always responsible for identifying their target and "accidentally" shooting a wolf may be prosecuted]; 7. The States and Tribes, or-if 10 or more breeding pairs are established- the Service, may relocate wolves that are causing excessive predation on native ungulate herds; 8. No land-use restrictions are envisioned unless the federal activity may kill wolves. There are no land-use restrictions on private land. 9. The Service and other Service-authorized agencies may take wolves under permit for a variety of other reasons, including research or wolves that look or behave strangely. 10. Of course, as already allowed by the ESA, anyone may kill any wolf that is posing a direct and immediate threat to human life.
MAY 2-15, 2003
Monitoring
Seasonal biologist Frame was trapping in the McGinnis Meadows, NW MT area. He had just set a couple of traps near some fresh wolf sign and had driven around the corner of the road set a couple of more traps before returning to sign the area. Before he returned, a man and woman had gotten out of their car with their collie dog by the first traps and the dog was captured. During the confusion the lady stepped on a nearby trap setting it off. The rubber-jawed trap was removed from the dog and it was uninjured. But understandably, the couple were very upset by that time. When Paul returned a few minutes later he was severely "chewed-out." The couple was contacted again to apologize for the capture of their dog. Always remember to sign areas before the first trap is set.....Seasonal biologist Paul Hansen finished trapping in May 9, and will start work on a swift fox reintroduction study in Badlands National Park in early June. Paul had a wolf pull out of a steel-jawed McBride trap on the Blackfoot-Clearwater Game Range in NW MT on May 9. Thanks for the help Paul and good luck in the future.....Frame and Meier caught a 78 lb. yearling male wolf from the Whitefish Pack, in Glacier National Park on May 15. Frame will be returning to graduate studies in Canada next week but will assist Meier to trap in Glacier National Park until then.....The radio from female wolf #230 that was using the Yaak, MT area was located in a pool just below the Yaak Falls and it is probably an illegal mortality. An investigation of the site by the local MT FW&P biologist in early May indicted that until water levels go down it can not be safely recovered.....Yellowstone flew on Sunday 5/11 and all wolves are on dens. Elk were abundant and commonly seen grazing very close to most active dens. Dens are at lower elevations and that’s where the green grass and elk are right now. The preliminary estimate is14 packs on dens, including what appear to be a couple of double litters. Pups were sighted at 3 separate dens. Two packs have already moved pups to second den/rendezvous sites.....Babcock radio-collared a member of the Big Hole pack, near Hwy 12 earlier this month. He hid and then called near a well-used wolf trail. When a yearling wolf investigated, he darted it with a radio-dart fired from a Cap-Chur rifle. He then located it [new #148] with telemetry after it became immobilized. Great job! Issac. Nez Perce biologists Holyan and Husseman trapped and radioed a yearling wolf in the Big Smokey area earlier in the week and on the 16th they caught and radioed a lactating female. Wolf pack activity has been reported in this area for the past two years but none of them were radioed. Now a breeding "Big Smokey" [maybe renamed] wolf pack is back on the air. Great work Jim and Jason!.....A group of 3-4 wolves has been located near the Boise River for the past 2 years. A dispersing NW Montana wolf #R-241 was located there this spring and a telemetry flight on the 15th, observed 6-7 pups and another adult. The new pack is called the Steel Mountain pack. Areas with reported wolf activity but unradioed packs will continue to be surveyed and searched for missing radio-collared wolves. If dens are located trapping will be attempted. ....Recent telemetry flights in Idaho indicate that 13 packs have probably denned. They are Big Hole, "Big Smokey", Buffalo Ridge, Gospel Hump, Hourglass [B107], Orphan, Scott Mountain, Selway, Steel Mountain [R241], B2, B110, B111, and B131. Further monitoring will determine the success of those packs and locate other denning packs in Idaho.....On April 30, 2003 Teton wolf #200, a 6 year-old breeding female’s radio was heard on mortality mode. Her body was recovered and she was killed by other wolves--almost certainly from her pack. The other breeding female and the rest of the Teton pack continue to use the den site and appear to be raising #200's pups.....There were several reports from concerned livestock producers in MT and ID that elk were causing forage/hay/fence damage and appeared concentrated at lower elevations than normal, possibly because of wolves. Wolf field staff visited with several landowners. MT FW&P indicated that many elk were lower than normal this time of year because of green-up patterns but should be headed to higher elevations soon. Wolves did not appear to be involved in these elk distributions since they were occurring in areas both with and without wolves. In SW MT [GYA]; Freezeout, Taylor Peak, Mill Creek, Chief Joe packs appear to have denned. Lone Bear and Sentinel packs are presumed to be denning. WS was trapping in the Lone Bear territory to get another radio in the group. The pack was involved in depredations on a ranch earlier this spring but the wolves have stopped using that area and traps were pulled on the 16th.

Control
The week of the 5th, a 100 lb. uncollared non-breeding female wolf was trapped and killed by WS on a private ranch near Grand Teton National Park. The ranch had a pregnant cow killed by a wolf earlier this winter but control was suspended because of deep snow. The ranch wasn’t interested in receiving a shoot-on-site permit. Recently a wolf was repeatedly chasing cattle at the ranch and harassment was unsuccessful so the Service requested WS to remove it, ending control.....A black bear hunter using 2 hounds in Idaho had his 9-year-old hound/pet killed and half eaten by an uncollared group of at least 4 wolves along the main Salmon River near Northfork, ID on the 7th. His other dog was injured but survived by backing up under a tree. The hunter walked into the area a few hours later and jumped the wolves at about 20 yds [and likely saved his other dog’s life]. Niemeyer and Williamson [WS] investigated on the 8th and confirmed the depredation and visited with the hunter. Anyone who has ever lost a dog can understand the emotions involved. Our sympathies go out to the dog’s owner but neither control nor compensation is available for hunting dog depredations on public land. Loss of big game hunting dogs and hounds to wolves is one of the biggest conservation issues facing local tolerance of wolves in much of Scandinavia, central Europe, Russian, and parts of the Midwestern U.S. Niemeyer and Williamson howled in that area that night, thinking a new pack might be denned nearby, but no responses were heard.....There was a third probable calf depredation near the East Fork of the Salmon River/Squaw Creek just outside the SNRA. These are likely being caused by the Buffalo Ridge pack that has denned in that area. The Service, WS, and Defenders of Wildlife met with the livestock producers to discuss ways to help reduce the potential for future losses, including alternative summer grazing pastures. Those wolves are denned very near to federal grazing allotments and private grazing pastures that will be filled with cattle and calves next week.....On the 15th, a ranch near Dubois, WY had a confirmed calf kill. This ranch has had repeated wolf and grizzly bear depredations in past years. The ranch manager was re-issued a shoot-on-sight permit for 2 wolves. WS is trapping on the ranch and will radio-collar and release the first wolf captured. Radio-collared members of the Washakie pack have not been located in this area and we suspect another unradioed pack is involved. WS was also authorized to ground-shoot up to 2 wolves near where the depredations occurred.....Around the 10th a third calf was killed near Meeteetse, WY. Three ranches were involved, all in the same vicinity. Radio-collared members of the Greybull River pack have been elsewhere [the den is about 25 miles away] when these depredations occurred but we speculate the kills were made by non-radioed pack members. However, Wildlife Services is trapping in the area and will radio and release the first wolf trapped just in case a separate pack is involved. WS is authorized to ground or aerially shoot wolves seen near the depredation sites or kill 2 trapped wolves after one is radioed and released.....A livestock herding dog was killed by wolves near Riggins, ID in mid/late April. No control was attempted. However on May 14th, 4 sheep were killed, 8 injured and another 2 missing by wolf B105 in the Little Salmon River area near Riggins. He had been traveling with another wolf and it could be he has a mate that has denned. Control options are being evaluated.....Asher provided less-than-lethal munitions training for new ranch manager at Sun Ranch, south of Ennis, MT.

Research
Former Univ. Idaho graduate student Jason Husseman [now working for the Nez Perce Tribe] just published his M.S. work on mountain lion and wolf predation on wild ungulates in Idaho. Jason S. Husseman, Dennis L. Murray, Gary Power, Curt Mack, C.R. Wenger, and Howard Quigley. 2002. "Assessing differential prey selection patterns between two sympatric large carnivores." OIKOS101:591-601. Great job Jason!....Another former Univ. Idaho graduate student [and current the Service’s Mexican Wolf field biologist] just published part of his M.S. thesis. John K. Oakleaf, Curt Mack, and Dennis Murray. 2003. Effects of wolves on livestock calf survival and movements in central Idaho. Journal of Wildlife Management 67(2):299-306. Congratulations John! it was a great study and paper.....Elk calf captures in Yellowstone National Park are scheduled to begin around the 20th. Yellowstone has expanded its research on elk/wolf relationships. In addition to the radio-collared adult elk that have been monitored the past several years, elk calves will be collared and monitored beginning this summer. The research will determine their survival rates and the specific causes of mortality. Several cooperating Universities and graduate students are involved. This is one of several multi-year comprehensive research projects in and around Yellowstone National Park that are attempting to scientifically determine the effect of wolf predation on various elk herds in the Greater Yellowstone Area. There is certainly enough rhetoric, rumor, and speculation about those types of predator/prey relationships. Good information will be useful to state wolf managers as they wrestle to balance ungulate populations with human, lion, bear, wolf, and coyote predation, habitat condition and carrying capacity [including winter feeding issues in WY], property damage [fences, grass & hay], and winter and summer weather cycles.

Information and education and law enforcement
Montana Wolf Management Draft EIS was released and public meetings are over. Public meetings on the future of state wolf management in Montana are completed mail-in and on-line comments were accepted through May 12. Visit www.fwp.state.mt.us to review the plan.....The Summer 2003 issue of "International Wolf" magazine [Vol 13 No. 2] had articles about- "Wolves have reached recovery levels in the Northern Rocky Mountains: How does delisting happen?" [pg 21-22] by Ed Bangs; and under Personal Encounters "Howling with the Faunce Pack, 1976" [pg 24- 25] by Tom Meier.....On May 8th Niemeyer and Williamson [WS] attended an informational meeting in Salmon, Idaho, where Dr. John Sullivan from Tuscon, Arizona presented his Wolf HMO concept to citizens of Lemhi County. Others in attendance included Defenders of Wildlife, Idaho Cattle, the Mayor, Lemhi County Commissioners, and several local ranchers. Lemhi county attendees gave it a mixed review, but a second meeting is planned to discuss the concept further. Dr. Sullivan suggests that Lemhi county be the test site to develop and apply a compensation program that would be implemented by outside contributions to a fund that promotes rural/wildlife values. Theoretically the fund would provide compensation for livestock losses to wolves and also create a community foundation grant source for city and county businesses, schools, and other public entities.

MAY 15-23, 2003
Monitoring
Meier and Frame caught a second yearling male wolf from the Whitefish Pack in Glacier National Park, on May 18. They discontinued trapping in the park, and Frame returned to Canada to resume his research on barren-lands wolf dens. Thanks to the Nature Conservancy of Montana and the Polebridge Ranger Station for providing housing and help for the trapping effort.....Most collared wolf packs in Northwest Montana appear to be denning, with the exception of the Murphy Lake Pack, which was found south of Pleasant Valley on May 22, some 40 miles south of their usual range. The Red Shale Pack also appears to be traveling widely, moving back and forth between the North Fork of the Sun River and the South Fork of the Flathead River. The Continental Divide in that area is marked by the cliffs of the Chinese Wall, which they must find their way around.....Two traps, which were taken away by a couple whose dog had been caught in one of them, were returned to USFWS with the help of Libby wolf researcher Jay Mallonee. Our thanks to the couple and to Mr. Mallonee for the return of the traps, which cost about $150 each.....Idaho wolf denning and parturition appears to be early this year. Of the four litters documented so far, pups in three of these litters are already out of the den - in one instance, 6-7 pups were observed, from the air, traveling up a steep ridge with an adult wolf. Jim Holyan and Jason Husseman ground tracked the two new collared wolves in the Big Smokey area and confirmed reproduction. This new pack is now called the Soldier Mountain pack. Isaac Babcock and volunteer Anastacia Kampe documented at least one pup with the Moyer Basin pack. Tribal field crews are now on board and are conducting summer field activities. As usual, it will be a busy summer as field crews will be investigating the status of 34 known and suspected wolf groups across the state.....Subadult male wolf B143 of the Buffalo Ridge pack died. His carcass was recovered by the USFWS and his death is under investigation.....Trapping efforts in northwest Montana will resume after the Memorial Day weekend. Spring bear season is open until May 30 east of Highway 93. Traffic on forest roads should be considerably lighter after the weekend and the close of bear season, making trapping efforts easier.

Control
Wildlife Services and the Tribe continue to work on an ongoing control action involving a sheep producer in the Riggins area. B105 has been implicated. A rag box and fladry were set up around the sheep pasture. Tribal efforts continue to verify denning and pup production in the area. No further depredations have occured.....The potential for wolf-livestock conflict involving the Buffalo Ridge pack has greatly reduced through a cooperative efforts between the wolf program, two permittees, Defenders of Wildlife, and federal land management agencies. The Buffalo Ridge pack has denned within an active BLM grazing allotment. Through collaborative efforts agreeable alternatives were found to delay turnout of cattle in this area until wolf pups are old enough to move out of the area. The efforts of all are greatly appreciated. We would like to particularly thank the patience and willingness of the permittees to work towards creative solutions to minimize conflicts.....Idaho recovery program personnel are coordinating with permittees and the Forest Service to reduce the potential for wolf-livestock conflicts during this summer grazing season in several area across the state including the Sawtooth Valley, Big Smoky, and Boise River areas.....Trapping and control efforts on ongoing near Dubois and Meeteetse, WY. No wolves have been removed and there have been no further wolf depredations.

Research
Yellowstone National Park is also moving on to the next phase of their pilot study to examine summer wolf predation in more detail besides just tagging elk calves. They have been monitoring members of the Druid pack using GPS locations [multiple locations are taken each day] were that are downloaded weekly. Starting June 1 the Park will step-up those efforts by having volunteers watching the pack as much as possible and by walking the course of GPS locations and cluster to look for kills.

Information and education and law enforcement
Niemeyer and Mack participated in the annual Wild Idaho Wolf walk in central Idaho on the 17th. Nearly 100 people attended and there was considerable interest and rumor regarding the Service’s legal interpretation of the Court’s order in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. The Service’s legal advisors say the order means that no agency wolf control, including non-lethal, is allowed if a depredation occurs.

MAY 23-30, 2003
Monitoring
Early counts indicate that there are 14 groups of wolves may be denning in Yellowstone National Park. Seven groups of wolves maybe denned in Wyoming outside the Park. It appears that 7 packs may be denning in the GYA in Montana, outside of Yellowstone National Park. While disease, pup loss, control, and illegal killing will reduce the number of breeding pairs, at this time it appears that numbers of breeding pairs and wolves will be as high as last year, when there were 23 breeding pairs in the GYA. Nez Perce biologists estimate that at least 14 wolf packs maybe denned in central Idaho. Denning wolves in NW MT appear to be at about last year’s level. a dozen or so.....We received a reliable report of a gray uncollared wolf-like canid about 7 miles north of Baggs, WY indicating that a wolf [or tame wolf hybrid] may have dispersed within spitting distance of Colorado.....Researchers from Montana State University located a new wolf den on a private ranch along the western Border of Yellowstone National Park. At least one pup was seen. It could be a split off of the Chief Joe pack. A collar will be placed in the pack when conditions permit.....Yellowstone wolves are tending dens, with most packs being split between individuals or small groups tending dens and small groups hunting or feeding at kills away from the den. Seven pups were seen at the Druid den (possibly 3 litters), 7 pups with the Leopold pack (possibly 2 litters), 2 pups with Cougar Creek pack, and 8 pups with Agate (possibly 2 litters). Members of the Agate Creek Pack had a black bear treed 50 feet up in a lodgepole a couple miles from the den, and were sitting at the base of the tree. Three packs had bull elk kills, so despite the arrival of elk calves on the Yellowstone landscape, wolves are getting bulls, possibly still recovering from winter. Elk have moved back into the park throughout all wolf territories, and many cows are isolated, likely with calves nearby or about to give birth. The Yellowstone Delta pack, along with recent immigrant 276M of the Washakie Pack, are up in the Delta at the end of the Southeast arm of Yellowstone Lake at one of their traditional den areas. There has been a lot of movement from first dens to second and third den/rendezvous sites (8 packs).
WE NEED HELP FROM COOPERATORS AND PUBLIC- We are currently into the trapping season, when we try to radio-collar wolves from previously unknown packs and beef up our collar coverage in known packs. This is the time of the year when pups begin to be seen and heard, and reports of pups are the most valuable information we can get, to help target our trapping efforts. Please pass on any reports of wolves being seen or heard, particularly sightings of pups, reports of groups of wolves howling, or wolves barking (usually a sign of pups nearby). With the size and terrain of western Montana and other areas, our searching blindly about for wolf sign is almost futile, and reports from agency people and citizens on the ground are invaluable.

Control
Trapping control efforts ended near Dubois, WY. The only road access to the ranch where the depredations occurred is through another ranch. That landowner requested that Service personal no longer drive across his land. Of course we respected his will and all traps were immediately pulled on the 28th. The ranch manager where the depredations occurred still has an active shoot on sight permit for 2 wolves. Trapping was being conducted to radio a member of what is apparently a new pack and then lethally control 2 or more members of the pack that killed a calf. The radioed members of the Washakie pack are at the den many miles to the northeast. No wolves were removed and there has been no further confirmed depredations. The neighbors will have to work this one out themselves.....An apparent lone black wolf killed one sheep on the 22nd, two more on the 23rd, and 15 on the 24th near Fishtail, Montana. The ranch has had sheep killed several years ago but hasn’t had any problems until now. A herder saw a large black ‘skinny’ canid in the sheep. WS was authorized to remove the animal. They are trapping and the landowner and his employees were given a shoot-on-sight permit for one black wolf on his private property.....Therese Hartman and Red Eagle Aviation flew on May 27 and found the two collared Hog Heaven wolves just leaving the scene of a calf kill on private land on the north edge of the Salish-Kootenay reservation. Service biologists checked the site later in the day with Wildlife Services trapper Ted North and CSKT warden Darwin Parker, and confirmed it as wolf depredation. Since this is the first depredation by the pack, and the producer is moving his cattle to a different area within a few days, we will just intensify monitoring and wait and see if there are more problems.....On the 29th, Wildlife Services confirmed a calf was killed by wolves near Pinedale, WY. There are no known radioed wolves in the area but this is the same area that was visited by several Teton wolves last winter. If it appears to be a lone dispersing wolf it will be removed.

Research
The first of a series of newborn elk calf captures in Yellowstone National Park began late last week. Out of 14 early calves radioed, 6 were killed by predators within days. Three by grizzly bears, 2 by wolves, one by coyotes. Elk calving peaks June 1, and a swamping strategy is one whereby calving peaks to flood predators with calves so they can’t eat them all. The early results reenforce everyone’s prediction [typical everywhere there are large predators, especially bears, there will be high initial losses of new-born calves] that there is intensive predation on ungulate neonates. The next round of elk calf collaring will begin on the 30th. In theory calf loss will be highest among those calves born first and last- with higher survival of calves born during the peak of calving. The study will examine causes and rates of elk calf mortality.

Information and education and law enforcement
A paper on "Attitudes toward wolves and wolf payment programs by farmers, bear hunters, and other people in northern Wisconsin" can be found at http://www.geography.wisc.edu/wolfproject/.

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