Wolf History, Conservation, Ecology and Behavior
Gray Wolf Recovery Status Reports, October 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.
The Nez Perce Tribe’s field season has been completed. We thank biologists Kent Laudon, Adam Gall, Isaac Babcock, and Anthony Novack for another outstanding year of data collection. Our sincerest appreciation to the volunteers that helped out; Anastacia Kampe, Mischa Connine, Janeen Hetzler, Jennefer Donovan, Tyler Hollow, Jonathan Derbridge, and Doug Noel.
Preliminary information from this field season seems to indicate that the wolf population in ID is still growing, although our population estimate for '04 has not been completed. To date, at least 50 known packs, potential pairs, and areas of suspected wolf activity have been investigated, resulting in the documentation of 35 breeding pairs (including 2 in the MT portion of the Central Idaho Experimental Population Area [CIEPA]), a minimum of 112-124 pups, and the discovery of 9 new packs (3 other areas of high likelihood of pack activity). The number of breeding pairs and the number of pups counted are all-time highs for the CIEPA. Nez Perce Tribal crews documented 23 breeding pairs, accounting for 73-81 of the pups recorded. The remainder of breeding pairs and pups were noted by IDFG and/or WS personnel. Six of the new packs were detected by the Nez Perce Tribe wolf team, 2 by IDFG, and 1 by WS.
Documented mortalities were also a record high for the CIEPA in 2004: 25 wolves were lethally controlled, 5 were illegally killed, 3 died as a result of other human causes, and 5 died from unknown causes.
More wolves were captured and radio-collared in Idaho in 2004 than in any previous year: Twenty-seven wolves were caught during the helicopter capture operation in January (25 new and 2 recaptured), and 36 were trapped (33 new and 3 recaptured) over the spring-fall field season. Nez Perce Tribal personnel trapped/darted 21, Wildlife Services 7, IDFG 5, and FWS 3. Not all of the wolves trapped were fitted with radio-collars- some were pups too small to collar at the time of their captures.
Frame finished up the field season and headed back to Alberta to finish up his M.S. thesis. On the 1st, Frame retrieved the collar of a recently trapped Spotted Bear pup (MT, #333M) that had been on mortality. The pup was found dead and the case is under investigation. That was the only collar in that pack, so we have lost contact with it.
Idaho wolf B140, an approximately 2-year-old member of the Moyer Basin pack, was found dead on the 6th. Her remains were collected by IDFG wolf recovery project personnel. Her body will be sent to the Forensics Lab in Ashland to determine the cause of her death.
Asher and Ross collared a pup in the Freezeout pack in SW MT but within a few days the chewed off collar was retrieved. On the 6th, they collared another pack member, and hopefully its collar will stay on. Trapping for monitoring on that pack ended for this year.
Wolves from the now 12 member [3 wolves were killed last month] Big Hole pack in MT killed another calf Sept 29th. WS was authorized to remove up to 3 more pack members.
WS removed 2 members of the 7 member Mocassin pack on the 28th. The pack had killed a calf on a Forest Service allotment the week before.
WS tried to remove 2 members of the Sheep Mountain pack and all the Lone Bear pack several times but they were both in thick timber. Interestingly on the evening of the 6th, the Sheep Mountain alpha male was south of Dome Mountain just north of Gardiner, MT, and the next morning he was with the Lone Bear female and 2 other adults, nearly 40 air-miles to the north. On the 8th, they were still together in the Lone Bear territory and WS removed an uncollared wolf with them. Control is ongoing. We suspect that since they are both without mates because of multiple livestock depredations and subsequent agency control, they are probably ‘dating’. If so, the Sheep Mountain male is unlikely to return to the Sheep Mountain territory. Leaving that pack without any radioed members. He was already slated for removal because of depredations.
Rick Williamson, WS Wolf Specialist, captured a pup in Copper Basin on 9/30/04. Two wolves are now radio-collared in the area, and should be beneficial in helping to monitor this pack in an area of intensive livestock production.
Twenty weaned calves [around 150 lbs] were reportedly smothered in a corral in the Madison Valley last week. The following night the cattle broke through a fence. WS investigated and found no sign that any type of predator was directly involved. The producer had immediately buried the calves so they could not be examined for possible wounds [apparently none were evidence when they were discovered in the morning]. Another landowner in the valley reported seeing a group of wolves over a week before and local speculation is that wolves were somehow involved. However, it turns out a couple of black bears had been hanging around and actually tore a door off a shed. At this point in time no wolf pack is known to be in that area and no evidence of wolves was discovered by the WS investigation- so it is unknown what may have spooked the calves.
WS investigated a report of a dead cow near Eureka, MT. It was nearly 3 weeks old but WS was surprised when they examined it. It had evidence of bite marks and they suspect wolves were involved. However, cattle were moved from this allotment and no control action is warranted.
On the 6th, WS confirmed 1 calf was killed by wolves in the Upper Green River drainage on USFS allotment and 1 calf was killed in the Wyoming range near Daniel, Wyoming. We are attempting to remove the offending wolves.
So far during the 2004 season, approximately 40 cattle, 5 sheep, and 1 dog have been killed by wolves in Wyoming. Five more cattle and 5 additional sheep were recorded as probable wolf kills. Three horses were attacked by wolves but none were killed. In response to these confirmed depredations 19 wolves were killed in agency control actions, including 2 killed by private landowners operating on their private land under Service shoot-on-sight permits. Three other wolf mortalities are under LE investigation.
Nothing new to report.
Information and education and law enforcement
WY seasonal biologist, Jon Trapp was hired by the state of Montana to their state wolf management field person in Red Lodge, MT. Jon left the Service’s WY wolf field position on Oct 1. Idaho tribal seasonal biologist Kent Laudon accepted the MT FWP position in Kalispell. The state will fill one other position in Dillon and possibly another Helena in the near future.
Doug Smith rode into 4 outfitter camps just north of Yellowstone National Park to discuss wolves and elk research in the Park on the 4th. The back-country outfitters were concerned about the effect of wolf predation on elk and its potential effect on their businesses.
On the 1st, Bangs gave a presentation to the Western Literature Assoc. annual meeting in Big Sky, MT. About 20 people attended.
WY state field supervisor, Brian Kelly attended a meeting the MT Public Lands Council in Glasgow on the 1st. The group reacted favorably to the proposed wolf 10j regulations that would increase state management authority.
Carolyn Sime MT FWP and Bangs were interviewed for an article in Governing Magazine with publication anticipated in November.
Sime, Asher, Ross met with landowners in the Columbus MT area on the 8th.
On the 8th,. Bangs was on NRA radio discussing how hunters provide lots of food for large predators and scavengers, including wolves, during the big game rifle hunting season. There are hundreds of tons [reported hunter harvest about 14,000 ungulates annually] of ‘left-overs’ provided by hunters to predators in the Greater Yellowstone area alone and as a consequence, wolves in Montana almost stop hunting for themselves during and just after the 5-week long big-game rifle hunting season.
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.
OCTOBER  8-15, 2004
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.
OCTOBER 16-29, 2004
B5-M, from the Selway pack in Idaho, was on mortality during the Oct. 14 monitoring flight. His carcass was recovered by USFWS LE on the 19th; and an LE investigation is underway. B5 was one of the original wolves translocated from Canada in 1995. He may have been 12.5 years old at the time of his death. He was the last original wolf from the '95' and '96' releases that was still being monitored, although B7-M and B11-F, the founding alphas of the Big Hole pack, were seen this year (their radio-collars expired in early 2003). Other wolves from Canada still be present: A radio-collared white wolf was reported by U of I researchers this spring in Cold Meadows, which likely would be either B9-M or B16-F of the Chamberlain Basin pack; B18-M and B35-F, formerly alphas of the Twin Peaks pack, were relocated to Shearer airstrip in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness in March 2000, but then turned up near Mt. Haggin (Anaconda, MT) though their radio signals have not been detected since October 2000; B28-M was last known to be with the Orphan pack, but has not been detected since Jan. 2002 and is probably not with that pack any longer; B33-M of the Landmark pack; and B36-F, White Cloud alpha female, were relocated to Elk Summit off the Lochsa River in April 2000, and were later observed with 2 pups near Gibbonsville, ID. She then moved into the Big Hole valley where her radio signal was last heard in Feb. 2001.
B139-F, possibly the new alpha of the Gospel Hump pack, was retrieved by USFWS LE on the 19th. Her death is under investigation. She had not been located on the past few monitoring flights, and her radio-collar was not functioning when LE took possession of her carcass.
B179-M, a yearling from the Scott Mountain pack, was retrieved by IDFG personnel in Whitehawk Basin. His mortality is also under LE investigation.
On the 19th, a MT rancher near the Canadian border about 7 miles N. of Babb watched a group of 5 wolves [mixed colors] attack a 500 lb. calf on private property. The wolves were driven off but the calf had to be euthanized and was butchered. WS was asked to see if they could get a collar in the group but trapping was futile as there were no cattle remains, the pack was driven off before feeding, and it snowed several inches. We are monitoring the area and see if a radio can be put in the group when and if the opportunity arises but no other control is planned at this time.
On the 21st, a yearling heifer was killed on private property by the Greybull River Pack in WY. This is the 4th calf killed by the Greybull River Pack this summer/fall. Big game hunting season is ongoing and many hunters scattered through out the area, so WS may not be able to attempt any control at this time. We are monitoring the situation and will see if there are any further problems.
On the 21st, WS investigated a dead calf in the Meeteetse, WY area, but determined that the calf was not killed by wolves.
On the 22nd, one calf was confirmed killed by wolves in the Absaroka Pack west of Cody,WY near Hart Mountain. This depredation occurred on private property. For the last several years, there has been a dispute about a road accessing the property. At the present, no one is allowed on the road, so we will wait to see if the owner would like us to further investigate and perhaps attempt some form of control.
The National Park Service issued its annual accomplishment report for the "Multi-trophic level ecology of wolves, elk, and vegetation in Yellowstone National Park" this week. Yellowstone, US Geological Survey, and Univ. of Minnesota continued a 3-year PhD. graduate student study of elk calf mortality in Yellowstone’s Northern Range elk herd. During May/June 2004, 44 calves less than 6 days old were radio-tagged and monitored daily. To date 31 calves died, [29 to predation, 2 to other causes]. Preliminary causes of death were 18 by bears [grizzly and black], 3 by wolves, 4 by coyotes, 1 by a golden eagle, 1 by either bears or wolves, 2 by unknown predators, and 2 by non-depredation causes. The first year of the study in 2003 had very similar results.
Information and education and law enforcement
Bangs talked to 20 students at a Wildlife Management Issues class at UM in Missoula on the 19th. On the 28 he gave a talk to 20 law students at Stanford in CA.
On the 25th, Bangs, Niemeyer and the Service’s Regional Directors from both R-6 [Denver] and R-1 [Portland] and Service & legal staff met with Tribal, legal, and biological representatives from the Nez Perce Tribe in Boise, ID. The Tribe requested Government to Government negotiations regarding the future of wolf management in Idaho where the Tribe has ceded land and treaty rights, and to inquire about the status of the proposed 10j experimental rule. The meeting was very cordial and informative. The Tribe recently sent a draft of its plan to manage wolves in its ceded lands in central Idaho to the Service’s Director. The Tribe has done an outstanding job to help manage wolves in Idaho under its cooperative agreement with the Service for the past 9 years.
Curt Mack (NPT) and Steve Nadeau (IDFG) participated in the University of Idaho's School of Law (Environmental Law Society) panel discussion on the future of wolf management in Idaho on the 20th.
Jim Holyan (NPT) led a field trip for the Mammalogy class of New Meadows High School on the 20th, where he showed them a wolf den and discussed wolf biology and ecology with the students.
On the 26th, Bangs, Asher, Sime, Jon Trapp [new MTFWP biologist in Red Lodge], other MT FWP staff and WS attended a meeting hosted by MT Congressman Denny Rehberg in Columbus, MT. The panel also included Todd O’Hare natural resource policy adviser to MT Governor Martz and MT Carbon County Commissioner, John Prinkki The meeting was attended by about 80 local ranchers, local public, and elected officials and was very informative and well run.
Since October 2003 until the present time, LE Special Agents in Montana and Wyoming have investigated the deaths of 13 wolves. Two were killed incidental to lawful predator management programs and were not ruled as illegal kills. One was caught in a neck snare set for coyotes and the other pulled an M-44 device set for coyotes. Two other wolves were hit by vehicles, another was a natural mortality, and the cause of death for two other’s are still being investigated. Six deaths were believed to represent unlawful takings and are under active LE investigation. There is one active prosecution, involving 2 subjects who killed a wolf in 2002, but the wolf’s carcass not discovered until 2003. Charges have been filed in the District of Wyoming.
Contact: Ed Bangs (406)449-5225 x204 or ED_BANGS@FWS.GOV