Wolf History, Conservation, Ecology and Behavior
Gray Wolf Recovery Status Reports, December 2004
DECEMBER 3-10, 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 4th, WS confirmed 4 ewes and probably an Anetolian Shepard guard dog were killed by wolves on Kelly Mountain, on a Nez Perce Forest Service allotment, northeast of Riggins, ID. Apparently, on Monday night November 29th, the guard dog came up missing. On the 30th, 1 ewe was killed. Two more ewes were killed on the 2nd, and another on the 3rd. The reason for the delay to report the depredations is that the herder stayed with the sheep and the camp tender did not see the herder until yesterday. Lethal control for 1-4 wolves has been authorized and the permittee was issued a 45-day written authorization to take wolves physically attacking his sheep.
On the 8th, WS confirmed that a 600-700lb replacement heifer was killed by wolves on private property in the Paradise Valley, MT. This ranch has had other wolf depredations in the past and either the Sheep Mountain [no radioed members] or Mill Creek [1 radioed female] packs might have been involved. We were already trapping on a neighboring ranch to radio collar a wolf to figure out which packs were using this area, but a pup that was caught last month had severe mange and was euthanized. Tracks from one wolf are occasionally seen in the same area. The landowner initially denied WS permission to trap on his land and requested a shoot-on-sight permit. We will continue to trap on nearby properties where we have permission and our field crew has been authorized to shoot a wolf if they see it during their field work in this area. However, we are not issuing a shoot-on-sight permit to any landowners at this time to give trapping a chance to work.
A replacement heifer that was wounded by wolves near Roscoe Montana last week [2 others were killed during the same attack] died this week. So a total of three yearlings were confirmed lost. Traps were set but nothing was captured and they have been pulled. The landowner and his neighbor were given shoot-on-sight permits to take up to 3 wolves. Control to remove the Phantom pack will continue after the late season cow elk hunt ends Dec 15th.
On the 9th, two 95 lb male pups of the year were removed from the Owl Creek Pack. The Pack had previously killed cattle on private property last summer and during the WY big game hunting season. One adult wolf was removed last summer. When wolves continued to kill livestock this fall, we attempted (unsuccessfully) to remove more wolves, but later decided to postpone further control actions until after the hunting season ended. Since that time, the wolves continued to chase cattle on private property.
A black and a gray wolf were seen harassing cattle about 15 miles to the north of where WS confirmed buck sheep had been killed last month near Dillon, MT on the 10th. WS had been previously authorized to take both of those wolves and the effected landowners had been issued shoot-on-sight permits. We requested WS take both of the wolves just observed, if possible, since they are almost certainly the same two that were involved in the other depredations.
Nothing new to report.
Information and education and law enforcement
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is seeking information about four gray wolves that were found dead, apparently shot, between October and November in Idaho. Rewards of $5,000 per wolf are being offered for information leading to an arrest or conviction in any case. The first wolf was recovered in mid-October near the Gold Fork Park-n-Ski Area on the Boise National Forest near Idaho City. Another wolf was found dead in the Partridge Creek area on the Payette National Forest near Riggins, and it is estimated that animal had been killed sometime between late October and early November. Two other wolves were shot between late October and early November. Law enforcement agents recovered one of these animals in the Council area, near Weasel Gulch on the Payette National Forest, and the other at Mountain Meadows on the Boise National Forest near Stanley. The killing of an animal protected under the Endangered Species Act is punishable by a fine of up to $100,000 and one year in jail. Service law enforcement officials ask that anyone with information about any of these illegal killings or others, please contact the Office of Law Enforcement at 208-378-5333. Callers may remain anonymous.
On the 7th, Sime and Trapp attended a meeting held by the US Forest Service Big Timber District with their grazing permittees. The meeting was held to discuss concerns about wolves on allotments south of Big Timber. MT and reports of cattle distribution being different than it has been in the past.
Sime and Trapp [MTFWP] attended and gave a presentation at the annual meeting of the Montana Stockgrowers in Billings on the 10th and 11th.
On the 8th and 9th, Ross, Bradley, and Asher interviewed permittees in the Dillon, MT area for the Range Rider Program's final report. That pilot program hired extra help to ride cattle on public land grazing allotments in the Madison Valley, MT to see if increased human activity would better manage cattle, prevent wolf depredations, death from poison weeds or other predators, and if they could detect and harass wolves near the livestock. They have hopes of having a summary completed by January/February 2005.
On the 6th, Jimenez gave a presentation to about 20 people at the Park County Predator Board in Cody, WY. On the 10th he gave a presentation to the Green River Cattleman’s Association in Pinedale, WY. They discussed last year's cattle/wolf issues, proper procedures for reporting depredations, and protocols for the next grazing 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.
DECEMBER 10-17, 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.
Laudon [MTFWP] located wolf B-81 in NW MT on mortality mode. It hadn’t been located since early summer. Its death is under LE investigation.
IDFG flights on the 14th and 16th, reported locations and observations of the following packs: Copper Basin located east of Hailey, 9 gray wolves were seen; Buffalo Ridge was located between the E. Fork Salmon and Hwy 93 (second consecutive sighting of 7 grays); Morgan Creek pack located within usual home range area, w/minimum of 9 wolves (observed 7 blacks, plus two collared pack members were located a couple miles away); Moyer Basin was located in Panther Ck. drainage ; Galena Pack was located in the Redfish Ck drainage ; Jureano Mtn. pack was located in South of the Salmon river within their typical home range (5 black wolves, two gray wolves seen—might be more, but a pretty good min. estimate).
Two wolves [a male and female- both yearlings] from the Daniel pack near Pinedale, WY were shot from fixed-wing aircraft by WS on the 13th. The pack had been involved in chronic cattle depredations in that area since this fall with at least 8 calves confirmed killed. Like the Owl Creek control action [see last week’s weekly where two 95lb. sub-adults were removed] control was suspended during the WY big game rifle hunting season. Hunting season ended and the control action was completed as planned. Seven wolves remain in the Daniel pack.
A pet cat was apparently killed by the Daniel pack on 20 acre piece of private land near Pinedale, WY on the 12th. The landowner reported wolf tracks in fresh snow that indicted the cat was hiding under a car and was flushed by the wolves, who killed it and let lay. This was not confirmed by WS but the landowner had confirmed wolf tracks on his place several times, had previously made casts of them, and the Daniel pack was located nearby the next day. Control is not conducted for pet depredations.
Yellowstone National Park ended their early winter wolf predation study on the 15th.
Information and education and law enforcement
The annual interagency wolf meeting was held in Missoula, MT on the 14th and 15th. About 30 wolf managers and agency representatives from a host of federal, state and tribal cooperators attended. The year end meeting is held as a yearly wrap-up and to begin preparation of the 2004 annual interagency wolf report. Overall, the wolf population barely grew, livestock depredations and lethal removal where higher than past years but still below predicted levels, and everyone is excited about the increased participation of the state Fish and Game agencies in Montana and Idaho.
Sime and Trapp [MT FWP] visited with landowners in the Red Lodge/Roscoe, MT area on the 11th. Trapp, Laudon, and Sime gave presentations and had discussions with MT FWP staff in
the Billings and Great Falls regions on the 9th and 10th.
Nadeau, Niemeyer, Husseman, Curt Mack and Jim Holyan met in Boise, ID on December 6 to review and analyze the Idaho wolf population data for 2004. Telemetry flights in December will be used to finalize the counts for the year, and final numbers will be provided when they are available.
Nadeau gave a wolf presentation to Idaho Outfitters and Guides on the 8th in Boise, ID to approximately 30 outfitters.
Jimenez gave a talk to about 25 biology students at NW College in Powell, WY on the 13th.
DECEMBER 17-23, 2004
NEW WEB ADDRESS- <NBSP;THE href="http://westerngraywolf.fws.gov" 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.
Trapping for the Mission Creek wolves has ended as cold weather finally came to Montana. This pack is believed to be involved in several cattle and sheep depredations in the Paradise Valley. The two landowners that had livestock killed lately were issued shoot-on-sight permits for 2 wolves.
A dispersed collared wolf from Yellowstone’s Leopold pack has been occupying the Sun Ranch for the last four days. She is wolf #290. A graduate student with MSU is staying at the Sun Ranch studying elk and will be tracking her. We cut tracks of two individuals in that area this morning and if the weather ever cooperates, a telemetry flight will tell us more.
A rancher from the Madison Valley reported that two grey wolves were seen in his cattle on the night of the 22nd. Using his Service-loaned receiver he reported that female wolf #48, formerly a Nez Perce wolf was nearby. A neighbor reported that an apparently younger wolf was on his porch about the same date. No problems or depredations were reported in either case.
Four ewe sheep were killed on private land near Roscoe, MT presumably by the Phantom pack on the 18th. That landowner’s and another ranch where sheep had been repeatedly killed this summer, shoot-on-sight permits were renewed. Agency lethal control is ongoing.
One to 4 wolves, apparently from the Battlefield pack have been harassing 600lb. weaner calves in the Big Hole, MT area. On the 20th, the rancher reported that 1-4 wolves harassed his calves and pushed them through fences the last 3 nights. No calves were believed injured by wolves but a couple of calves had wire/fence cuts. The rancher continues to harass the wolves when they see them. WS was asked to monitor the situation closely and since the Battlefield pack was involved in several cattle depredations this summer [and 5 pack members have been killed, leaving 10 wolves in the pack], lethal control will be authorized if cattle continue to be attacked.
Lethal control for the Phantom and Lone Bear packs continues in SW Montana. Agency control was postponed for the big game rifle hunting season and has been further delayed by constant high winds along the mountains.
On the 21st, Wildlife Services confirmed an adult cow killed by wolves from the Owl Creek Pack, west of Meeteetse, Wyoming. This summer/fall, Owl Creek wolves killed several cattle in this area. One adult wolf was removed from this pack in efforts to reduce further depredations. Depredations continued and 2 more wolves were removed last week. It is believed that this latest cow was killed prior to this most recent control action so we will just monitor this situation closely for now but will respond if there are any further depredations.
There is still one active control action pending in southwest Wyoming near Hamsfork/Kemmerer. One or two uncollared wolves have killed several sheep/cattle and we have unsuccessfully tried to remove these wolves. WS has all our frequencies of dispersing wolves and they have flown the area several times without locating any collared wolves. We will continue for another for another week and then stop. If further depredations occur, we will attempt removal again.
All other control actions in Wyoming have been completed. During Nov./Dec. we removed 5 wolves from the Daniel Pack and 2 wolves from the Owl Creek Pack to reduce further depredations in these packs that have chronically killed livestock. Lethal control was used because nonlethal control methods have not been effective in this type of habitat. Both these wolf packs have large home ranges in areas that cross public and private land. Much of the habit is a mixture of vast, wide open sage brush combined with densely forested areas.
Winter study ended on December 15 in Yellowstone National Park. The winter had the least amount of snow for any winter study conducted. Wolf population across the park is slightly down at approximately 166 compared to 174 for last year. This population estimate is for packs that den in the park and two of these packs spend significant time outside Yellowstone (Chief Jo and Delta). Buffalo Fork the status is unknown (no collars) but they do not come into the park anymore. Rose creek also no longer uses the park so are not part of this estimate. 15 packs (counting Delta and Chief Jo) reside in YNP, 12 of these are considered breeding pairs. 85 wolves (7 packs) live on the northern range and 81 (8 packs) wolves live in the interior. Preliminary estimates from the northern range indicate that kill rates were slightly below average, possibly due to the mild winter conditions. Kills on calf elk were noticeably down. Of 23 kills made by the three packs monitored by ground crews (Leopold (23 wolves), Geode (11 wolves) , Druid (9 wolves)) 5 (21%) were calves, 7 (30%) were bulls, and 11 were cows (48%). Calf kills are typically much higher, often >50% of the early winter kills so this is a significant decline in calf kills. Data on elk ground counts are not tabulated yet to know if this is related to availability. Kills on bulls appear to be up, and aerial data indicate more bull kills as well (almost every kill made by the Slough Creek pack was a bull). Cow kills were slightly up and most were older cows. A complete analysis will not be complete for several weeks. The Geode pack also killed a cougar and a coyote. The Druid Peak pack likely killed a coyote. Each of these packs had several territorial encounters with other packs indicating continued social tension on the northern range.
Jimenez et al. began their sixth season of winter study examining wolf/elk interactions on state managed feed grounds and on adjacent winter range on National Forest near Jackson, Wyoming. This research has been a cooperative effort between the Service, USFWS, Bridger-Teton National Forest, Grand Teton Nat'l Park, Nat'l Elk Refuge, and the WYG&F Department.
Information and education and law enforcement
MT FWP announced that it will cut the number of late winter cow elk permits in the northern range Yellowstone elk herd from about 1,400 to 100 next winter. The elk population is now about 8,000 elk and down to the state management objectives for that herd, so the elk herd reduction hunts are no longer needed. With the full compliment of large predators preying on them- bears, lions, wolves & humans- this herd may not rebound from the deliberate high hunter harvest of cows, as quickly as it has in the past.
DECEMBER 23-30, 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. We are hoping that the 2005 annual report [covering all 2004] will be completed and distributed by March 1, 2005.
CORRECTION- last week we reported that a rancher from the Madison Valley reported that the radio signal from female wolf #48, formerly a Nez Perce wolf was nearby. That was apparently a mistake since wolf #48 was located as usual in the Park on the 27th.
On the 23rd, WS investigated a complaint by a rancher near Meeteetse, WY. He reported that several wolves were chasing his cows in the same area where wolves had killed one of his cows last week. WS located the Owl Creek Pack further up in the mountains and concluded that other wolves were involved. The rancher described 2 black wolves seen amongst his cattle. WS routinely checks for any missing collared wolves or other collared wolves from nearby packs. The wolves chasing livestock turned out to be a young collared female black wolf that had dispersed from the Sunlight Pack, traveling with another uncollared black wolf. WS chased the wolves two times out of the cattle with cracker shells. We will monitor the situation.
On the 26th, three wolves were confirmed to have killed another +600lb. calf in the Paradise Valley. It was the same rancher that lost a replacement heifer earlier in the month and has had chronic problems in past years. WS was authorized to conduct lethal control for two wolves if they had the chance while they were conducting the nearby Lone Bear control action. The rancher’s active shoot-on-sight permit for two wolves was increased to take three wolves. This is likely the Mill Creek pack which has one radioed female, or possible the Sheep Mountain pack which has no radioed members. These wolves have killed both cattle and sheep on several occasions and our earlier attempts at trap and collar on a site and have agency personal take one wolves by shoot-on-site were not successful. On the 29th, the rancher took a female sub-adult in poor condition on his private property. She apparently had mange and is being examined by the MT FWP wildlife lab. She was one of 5 gray wolves he saw on his private property, and he reported the others looked worse for hair loss, meaning they could all die this winter from the infestation. These are probably Mill Creek wolves, and the same group where a captured pup was euthanized last month because of severe mange.
Jimenez and WY WS specialist John Perringer examined a horse near the Owl Creek area, SW of Meeteetse, WY. The 10 year-old horse was killed by wolves on private property in a corral and was fed on. The Owl Creek pack [4 wolves are left after this year’s control actions] routinely uses this area and has been involved in several other depredations this year. WS was authorized to remove 2 more pack members. If the pack depredate again it will be removed.
Information and education and law enforcement
A fur-trapper near the main Boulder River in SW MT [SE of Livingston, MT] accidentally snared a young female wolf that could be a member of the Moccasin Lake pack. He found it dead in what he said was a snare a set for a bobcat. He was using a 1/16" small snare with breakaway lock and immediately reported the dead wolf. The carcass was retrieved by MT FWP and LE is investigating.
On the 28th, Asher and Ross received a call about an injured wolf just east of Livingston, MT. It had damage to its back and hind legs and also had some indications of mange. It was euthanized and taken to the MT FWP Wildlife Lab in Bozeman, MT to be thoroughly examined. It is under LE investigation.
Jimenez and WY WS met with about a dozen ranchers at a ranch in the Wood River/Meeteetse, WY area. They discussed wolves, wolf control and management options. The meeting was cordial and a lot of good information was exchanged. We thank the ranchers for their hospitality.
The Defenders of Wildlife announced they had paid a record $138,000 in privately funded compensation payments to ranchers in 2004. In the past 17 years they have paid a total of $440,000 for confirmed and probable wolf-caused damage in the northern Rocky Mountains. They also announced they are establishing a Livestock Advisory Council, composed of ranchers in Montana, Idaho, and Arizona to help evaluate and improve the program.
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.