Wolf History, Conservation, Ecology and Behavior
Gray Wolf Recovery Status Reports, November 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.
Kent Laudon and Carolyn Sime [MT FWP] conducted 2 monitoring flights on 10/28 and 11/1 for packs in NW MT. Hog Heaven, Fish Trap, Wolf Prairie, Murphy Lake, Candy Mountain, Lazy Creek, Whitefish, Kintla, and Ninemile packs were located and found within their normal home ranges. Fish Creek, Kootenai, and Wigwam were not located. Red Shale and Great Bear were not searched for due to weather.
On Oct 29th, a coyote trapper in the Ninemile Valley in MT, incidentally caught a 60lb. black male pup in a #3 coyote trap. The trapper called WS and they collared and released the wolf on site. It was in good shape. The trapper and his wife assisted WS to collar and release it safely. We mailed the trapper our latest annual report and a note personally thanking him. Both the experimental population rules and 4(d) threatened rules accommodate the take of wolves during otherwise legal activities- if the take was truly accidental and reasonable precautions were taken to avoid taking wolves. We have now had over one half dozen wolves that were successfully radio-collared and released unharmed after being incidentally captured by coyote trappers, who quickly reported the captures. Radioing this pup allowed us to re-establish radio contact with the Ninemile pack. A big thanks to the trapper and WS.
On Monday the 1st, Ross and Asher set traps for Mill creek to collar and release on sight to improve monitoring. This pack has been involved in livestock depredations this year but all control have been completed unless other depredations are confirmed.
On the 4th a monitoring flight out of McCall, ID detected two more wolf frequencies (B127-M and B211-M) on mortality mode. B127-M is believed to be a lone animal, whereas B211-M is the alpha male of the Partridge Ck. pack. These are the 4th and 5th radio-collared wolves to go into mortality mode since the rifle hunting seasons began in ID; in addition an uncollared wolf was found dead recently. USFWS, in conjunction with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game when applicable, is investigating all of these mortality signals.
With the recent snowfall several visuals were obtained during the aerial monitoring of Idaho wolf packs. Fifteen gray wolves were seen in the Florence pack (ground work had indicated 11-14); 6-7 black wolves with the O'Hara Point pack (6-7 based on ground work), and 10 grays for Magruder (field investigations had indicated 8-9). These limited observations suggest that the observations obtained during the spring/summer field season appear reasonably accurate. Jason Husseman [IDFG] conducted flights in the Salmon region and observed the following: Jureano-found just above Salmon, got visual of min. of 6, and more likely 7-8 wolves. Moyer-didn't see wolves, but they were on a kill (looked like an elk). Morgan Creek-1 gray and 5 black wolves were seen but there might have been more as they were bedded in a patch of trees) Buffalo Ridge-saw 7 gray wolves bedded on ridgeline, Copper Basin--no visuals.
Wildlife Services, IDFG officers Olsen and Garwood, along with Michael Lucid visited a couple near Hailey that complained of a wolf repeatedly visiting their back yard. A wolf track was observed along with what appeared to be a wolf killed coyote a short distance away, and traps were set. However no wolf was captured. Due to the cold temperatures, traps were removed. Snares may be set in the area if the wolf reappears.
Fish and Game officers in the Salmon region located and photographed wolves from what appears to be a new pack along the Montana border. Wolf activity and reports are also becoming quite common in the southeast part of the state, though no new packs have yet been verified.
On the 30th a sheep producer near Dillon, MT reported that a lone [black?] wolf had been seen harassing a flock of buck sheep near on his private land. The herder ran it off. We notified the rancher that his herder did the right thing and to keep harassing it if possible. Under the current experimental 10j regulations the wolf could only be shot if it was actually seen biting or wounding his sheep on his private land. We authorized WS to take a wolf, if they confirmed wolf-caused depredations. On the evening of the 31st the rancher called again and said WS had just confirmed that 5 buck sheep had been killed by a wolf. The rancher, who had sheep killed by wolves earlier this summer, and his neighbor were issued shoot-on-sight permits for one wolf. WS is attempting to remove that wolf.
On the 3rd, a ranch manager reported that 2 goats were killed on private property just SW of Livingston. MT. The ranch owner and manager did not want anything to be done via wolf control and weren’t too interested in compensation, but thought it worth reporting. The goats were within a well-constructed sturdy fence [5' woven wire with hot wire on top] but the wolves jumped it. The current 10j rules define livestock as only cattle, horses, mules or horses so no control is warranted because of this depredation. The two radioed members of the Lone Bear pack- which has already been involved in multiple depredations and who WS is trying to remove- were located right above the ranch. Asker, Ross [MTFWP], and Rost [WS] confirmed the depredation, met with the manager and advised him on ways he might further improve the fencing to reduce the chances of future problems.
On the 30/31st, members of the Owl Creek [south of Meeteeste] pack killed 2 adult cows on private land in WY. The pack consists of 2 adults [1 radioed] and 5 pups. WS was requested to remove 2 wolves but leave the radio. This pack killed cattle in the same area this summer and an adult pack member was removed.
On the 2nd, wolves from the 8 member unradioed Daniel pack killed a calf on private land in WY. The calf was killed in the same area where the pack had killed cattle earlier this summer and 3 wolves were removed. WS was authorized to remove two more pack members.
WS flew most of the week to remove the Phantom and Lone Bear packs but neither group was in an accessible area. Both packs have been involved in repeated livestock depredations in 2004 and are slated for removal.
Yellowstone National Park is preparing to start its annual 30-day early-winter "Wolf predation rate" study that runs from Nov 15 to Dec 15.
Information and education and law enforcement
Please be careful out there! A man who shot his hunting guide in the Paradise Valley, MT this week, having mistaken two men and horses for wolves that were ‘attacking’ him, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and agreed to pay all the badly wounded guide's medical expenses. "I looked through the scope and it looked like a pack of wolves," the deeply remorseful man said in court, according to the Livingston Enterprise. Earlier in the hunt, people had been talking about wolves. The man was scared and fired at what he thought was wolves running toward him in the dark. His guide suffered a severe injury that likely will mean repeated surgeries and possibly a new elbow.
On the 3rd, Ross and Asher attended a range rider meeting with Predator Conservation Alliance [PCA], Madison Valley ranchlands group and MTFWP to discuss evaluation and summary of this summer’s efforts.
MT FWP welcomes Liz Bradley, Jon Trapp, and Kent Laudon to the state wolf program. Jon and Kent have already started their new jobs and Liz starts next week. Their contact information is: Liz Bradley -Dillon area, work= 683-2287, cell = 865-0017; liz_bradley@montana.net; Kent Laudon - Kalispell area, work = 751-4586, cell = 250-5047; klaudon@state.mt.us; Jon Trapp - Red Lodge area, work= 446-0106, cell= 425-1132, jtrapp@cablemt.net. They will be doing wolf monitoring, working directly w/ landowners affected by wolves, and public outreach as part of the interim Cooperative Agreements signed by MT FWP and FWS. Contact them or Carolyn Sime directly with wolf sightings in Montana.
Sime updated the MT FWP Commission on Nov. 4 with state program accomplishments. Sime also gave two presentations to students in Helena area high school biology classes on Nov. 5.
Steve Nadeau took a couple radio producers from the NPR series "Off the Trail" into Bear Valley to do a story on wolves. Steve also gave a presentation on wolf management to 60 sportsmen and women at the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council in Spokane on the 2nd.
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.
NOVEMBER 5-12, 2004
B-214, the suspected alpha male of the Bear Valley/Landmark pack, was located on mortality mode during the 11/5/04 monitoring flight. His remains were retrieved by IDFG personnel Jason Husseman and Michael Lucid. An investigation is ongoing.
On the 11th, WS conducted control on the Phantom pack, near Roscoe, MT. The black uncollared adult breeding female was killed but the 4 other pack members [one radioed] got away into the timber. Initially Bangs [opps!] mistakenly reported she was a sub-adult/pup. Some concerns were expressed from local residents and hunters about conducting control during the big game rifle season, displacement of elk, disruption of hunts, and etc. We are very sensitive to those concerns. The landowner involved had no hunters on their property at this time- but apparently there were hunters that heard or saw the operation from neighboring areas. The ranch were the wolves spend most of their time was issued a shoot-on-sight permit but were asked to avoid killing the only radioed wolf, if possible. We are monitoring the situation closely and will evaluate our control options after the hunting season ends on November 28th. Due to these same concerns we asked WS to postpone control on the Lone Bear pack until after the big game rifle season.
On the 2nd, WS investigated a 2nd cow that died on private property near Cody, Wyoming. WS concluded that wolves did not kill the cow. On the 10th, the same rancher reported a 3rd cow found dead on his property. Wolf tracks were seen in the area and it appeared that wolves had fed on the carcass. WS is investigating.
Yellowstone National Park starts its annual 30-day early-winter "Wolf prey selection and predation rates" research on November 15 through December 15.
Information and education and law enforcement
On the 9th, Jimenez spoke to a Level I meeting of BLM, USFS, USFWS, and NPS personnel in Jackson, WY. He updated folks on the status of wolf recovery in Wyoming and discussed current wolf issues and concerns with land managers.
Joe Fontaine, is on a 2-month detail to Erie National Wildlife Refuge in PA. He traveled to DC and gave a presentation on the 3rd to the Arlington Office, about 35 people in attendance including 7 others that accessed via the internet.
On the 9th Fontaine gave a presentation to the Region 5, Regional Office, in Hadley, MA. About 40 people attended including the Regional Director, head of refuges-LE, realty and others. Fontaine was followed by a presentation from a grad student from Portugal who gave an overview of wolves in Europe.
All the MT FWP wolf program personnel officially met for the first time on the 9th. They discussed some transition issues, but mainly focused on MT FWP's goals and program direction. MT FWP's focus will be wolf monitoring, working with landowners, and public outreach.
Dr. John R. Morgart, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), has been selected as the coordinator of the high-profile Mexican gray wolf recovery program. The Service began reintroducing wolves into southwestern New Mexico and eastern Arizona in 1998 under an experimental and non-essential population designation, allowed under the Endangered Species Act. There are now approximately 50 wolves in the wild.
NOVEMBER 12-19, 2004
Asher and Ross [MT FWP] caught a pup from the Mill Creek pack near a private land bone pile in the Paradise Valley, north of Gardiner, MT on the 15th. It was severely emaciated and had extensive hair loss and was euthanized. The MTFWP Bozeman wildlife lab confirmed sarcoptic manage. A wolf pup was shot under a permit in the same area a month ago and it too had some light hair loss on its lower legs and a few skin blisters but its carcass was not analyzed for mange. It was probably a litter mate to this wolf and also had mange. This indicates the mite infestation might develop very quickly. The Chief Joe alpha female who is radio-collared, and several other pack members have been reported as having extensive hair loss and ‘rope-tails’ a classic indiction of mange. We are following this situation closely.
A flight in SW MT failed to locate the Ninemile pup or the alpha female of the Battlefield pack. This time of year wolves are scattered everywhere, in some unusual locations, and often in thick timber. This happens every year during the big game rifle season, that many hunters pushing through the woods they move wolves around more than normal. Big game rifle hunting season is often the peak of illegal wolf killing, ie 100,000 plus hunters in the woods and a few bad apples. In addition wolves can usually find plenty to eat, just from gut piles.
On the WS investigated the reported of two wounded buck sheep on private land NE of Dillon, MT, where buck sheep had been previously killed by a wolf about a month ago. Lethal control of one wolf had been authorized at that time. WS confirmed the wolf attack and both sheep died/euthanized. The sheep were attacked around the 10th but were not discovered and confirmed until this week. The herder and several hunters reported seeing a black and gray wolf in the general vicinity. WS was authorized to remove both of them.
On the 20th, WS confirmed a calf killed on private property by Carter Mtn. wolves near Cody, WY. Cattle are presently being moved to different grazing areas, so we will monitor events closely to see if further depredations occur.
On the 13th, WS confirmed another calf killed by wolves near Daniel, WY. There have been at least 8 calves killed by wolves this summer by the Daniel Pack. We have an active control action ongoing, but yet unsuccessful, to remove 2 wolves.
Yellowstone National Park started its annual 30-day early-winter "Wolf prey selection and predation rates" research on November 15 through December 15. Winter study is underway, and the very early preliminary data suggest that wolves are killing on a pace that will have them at a low kill rate for the study. Interestingly few calves are being killed, only one so far out of about 10 kills. It does not seem that’s because there are no calves as it looks like calf numbers are up especially for the Madison -Firehole area, so that is odd since wolves normally go after calves more now than in late winter.
Information and education and law enforcement
Bangs, Fontaine, Jimenez, Niemeyer, and Holyan attended the Defenders of Wildlife Carnivore Conference in Santa Fe, NM, Nov. 14-17. We gave 4 ‘team’ papers, that included co-authors from our cooperating agencies- "Wolf-elk interactions on state managed feed grounds and adjacent national forests in Wyoming", "Restoration of the gray wolf in the northwestern United States", "Management of wolf/livestock conflict in the northwestern United states", and Wolf Recovery in Wyoming outside of Yellowstone National Park, 1999-2004." Nearly 800 people attended the Conf. that had three concurrent sessions.
A monitoring flight was conducted by MT FWP in NW MT on the 30th. Hog Heaven, Fish Trap, Wolf Prairie, and Lazy Creek Packs were located within their normal home ranges. Murphy Lake signals were heard, but not located due to low clouds. Monitoring was limited due to weather and further postponed due to scheduling. Attempts to aerially monitor wolves in this area will resume next week.
Jason Husseman [IDFG] collared wolf--B228- incidentally caught by a coyote trapper near Challis who reported it to IDFG. It appears to be a member of the Morgan Ck. pack. Jason and Gary Gadwa have also followed up on reports of wolves near a residence near Peach Ck around Stanley. The wolves appear to be the Buffalo Ridge pack.
On the 20th, a ewe was killed and extensively fed on by a wolf on private land in the Tom Miner Basin in MT. The ewe was one of 14 night-bedded by a barn. Reportedly, the landowner’s son saw tracks of a lone wolf just prior to the depredation, but also a small group of 4-5 wolves, possibly a split off from the Swan Lake or Chief Joe packs had been reported nearby. Asher checked the area for radios and found none. No control is warranted at this time.
On the 22nd WS confirmed a ewe was killed on a BLM allotment near La Barge, WY. Two wolves were reported observed in that area. A lone wolf was reported in the area 2 weeks ago when 2 ewes were determined to be probable wolf kills. At that time WS was authorized to remove one wolf. WS is now authorized to take 1-2 wolves in that area.
On the 1st, two calves were killed near Roscoe, MT and the Phantom pack is suspected. The pack has 3 members, 2 pups [one radioed] and the adult male. Apparently during a control action in November a wolf was shot and went down but its carcass could not be found. Since only 3 of 5 have been seen, the control action that removed the alpha female also apparently removed a sub-adult. Efforts are ongoing to removed the rest of the pack.
Yellowstone National Park’s early winter wolf predation rate study is continuing. So far overall kill rates are low, probably due to the abundant forage this summer which put elk in very good condition and low snowfall. More bulls and fewer calves than normal are being killed. Also it appears that there is a lot of wolf social interaction going on in the northern range. Nez Perce pack moved into the northen range for about 10 days and they and other packs were involved in several confrontations. It also appears some northern range packs are fragmented, splitting, and trespassing- a sign of increased social conflict. Wolf populations tend to control their own numbers and density in relation to prey availability and vulnerability by these types of social interactions. We speculate that these types of pack conflicts will result in reduced wolf density on the northen range.
On Nov. 29, Steve Nadeau and other IDFG staff met with Jim and Holly Akenson, with the DeVlieg Foundation, and Dept. Ag. researcher Pat Clark to review research potential on wolves and ungulates at the Taylor Ranch facility on the Middle Fork Salmon, including options using newly developed GPS radio collar technology. Steve, Jason Husseman, and Michael Lucid have been analyzing the year's field work and observation data for the annual report.
Information and education and law enforcement
Reportedly a 14-year-old boy in NW MT shot a wolf while he was hunting big game around the 20th. Reportedly, it was getting dark, the boy was separated from his brother, nervous, and was firing his gun to located his brother- when he thought he heard a wolf howl. He thought it was following him and then he shot at a wolf that was ‘running’ toward him. He thinks he hit it but wasn’t sure as he immediately left the area. His father reported the incident after the boy told him about it. FWS LE and MT FWP are investigating. Please just a reminder!! While wolves [mainly those habituated to people by feeding] have attacked people in North America a dozen or so times in the past 400 years, no one has ever been killed by wild wolves in North America. The ESA and in particular the special regulations for wolves in the NW US allow a person to legally kill any wolf that is directly threatening human life. So while it is fun and almost a tradition to tell tales of terror in hunting camp, please don’t frighten people into being irrational, it can lead to tragic results. Deer and horses have wounded and killed hundreds of times more people than wolves. Just last month a SW MT hunter from MS [after hearing ‘wolf’ stories around the campfire] shot his guide out of the saddle because he thought "a pack of wolves was running toward him". Enjoy your hunt and be safe. As always we encourage hunters to report any wolf observations to us so we can better keep track of the wolf population status.
Sime and Jon Trapp [MT FWP] attended the Montana Woolgrowers annual convention in Billings, MT on the 3-4th. They were giving a presentation on Montana’s increase role in wolf management.
Bangs had dinner with faculty from Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA on the 1st. He gave a talk that evening that was attended by over 120 students and local residents.
On Nov. 30, Jimenez talked to about 90 Forest Service personnel at Dubois, WY for the USFS’s Annual meeting for the Shoshone National Forest. On the 2nd he gave a talk at the Annual Wyoming Wildlife Society Meeting in Dubois, WY. On the 3rd, he talked at a Jackson Hole Wildlife Symposium. It was a sell-out crowd of 185 people. The symposium is a day-long event featuring wildlife management and research in the Jackson, WY area.
On November 12 Niemeyer spoke to the Idaho Woolgrower's at their annual convention in Sun Valley, ID. Niemeyer provided updates on the Idaho wolf population, agency challenges and future management goals to be shared by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the state of Idaho and the Nez Perce Tribe. The Woolgrowers were very cordial hosts. On December 3, he provided a wolf management update to stockmen and Wildlife Services personnel at a predator board meeting in Boise, ID.
Contact: Ed Bangs (406)449-5225 x204 or ED_BANGS@FWS.GOV