Gray Wolf Recovery
Weekly Progress Report
Week Feb 12 - Feb 18, 2000
Most of the Wolf Recovery Biologists from the Service, Nez Perce Tribe and Yellowstone
National Park will be attending an International Wolf Management Conference in Duluth,
MN from February 22-27th. Everyone will check their office phone messages at least once
daily. Emergency messages can also be left at the Conf. "Beyond 2000: Realities of Global
Wolf Restoration" 218-726-7637 or for Ed Bangs at the Radisson Hotel, Duluth, MN 1-800-
333-3333 or 218-727-8981. As usual, all suspected livestock depredations should be
reported to the appropriate state office or local WS specialist for USDA Wildlife Services
and all dead wolves should be reported to USDI FWS Special Agents. Roy Heberger in
Boise Idaho, 208-378-5243 will be the Service lead on wolf recovery issues while we are at
Core packs in the Yellowstone, central Idaho, and NW Montana are generally in their normal
home ranges but many packs have members missing, in all likelihood due to dispersal.
Famous but old wolf female #9 (former alpha female of the Rose Creek pack) was located on the
east side of the Sunlight Basin, northwest of Cody, WY with 4 other wolves, including #153 and
#164. Great work!- Special Agent Eicher. Another observer the next day reported that one of
the males briefly mounted her- she it looks like this "super"-wolf could be trying to start a new
There are a minimum of 117 wolves in the Yellowstone area and 55 are radio-collared.
Depending upon funding and pack location, attempts will be made this year to collar wolves in
the Teton, Gros Ventre, and Sunlight Basin packs. Some funding has been made available by
Grand Teton National Park and private donations.
The number of breeding pairs in the 1999 annual report was mistakenly 1 short in the central
Idaho area (actually a minimum of 10 in 1999). The total number of breeding pairs on December
31, 1999 (total of 23) has been corrected in the electronic version of the annual report. The 3
year countdown toward meeting the recovery target starts once we hit 30 breeding pairs in MT,
ID, and WY for the first time. Hopefully 2000 will be the first year of that countdown.
Wolves are dispersing and we anticipate a sharp increase in new wolf pack formation. Please
report wolf sightings so that we can focus any aircraft searches for missing wolves or our
track surveys in areas of concentrated wolf activity this winter and spring.
The elk/wolf winter feed ground interaction study in Wyoming that Jimenez and 4 volunteers are
conducting is getting some interesting (but very preliminary) early results. There are 3 feed
grounds in the Gros Ventre valley operated by Wyoming Game and Fish. Normally about 2,500
elk winter on these areas. Both the Gros Ventre and Teton packs hunt this area. Today there
were about 2500 elk on the middle fed area and virtually none on the lower or upper feed
grounds. When wolves hunt elk in and around the feed grounds the elk apparently move to
another one. To date elk do not seem to have moved to private ground but the relatively stable
elk distribution that WY Game and Fish strives for between the feed areas looks like it is being
impacted by wolf hunting behavior. Wolves still appear to take elk primarily calves and older
cows on the edge or between the 3 feed grounds that are about 5 miles apart. To date of 18 elk
carcasses located, only 3 have been on feed grounds, including this week when wolves killed a
calf right on the middle feed ground and all the elk were still there. It appears that the wolves
hunt the feed ground just like normal winter ranges, not staying long at any one spot. The Gros
Ventre pack hunts the feed grounds one then another, then moves onto the National Elk Refuge
for a few days. The Teton pack hunts the Gros Ventre grounds and then moves onto Grand
Teton National Park. This strategy of hunting an area temporarily, then moving on is consistent
with other studies that indicate wolves do not "camp" on feed grounds or wintering areas because
wild ungulates either move out of the areas they are most vulnerable (into the trees or other
nearby escape terrain) and/or become too wary to be easily hunted. Snow depths appear near
normal levels and it will be interesting to see what additional information can be learned as
winter progresses. The National Elk Refuge should start their feeding program soon which may
also affect elk distribution and wolf hunting patterns.
Bangs, Niemeyer, and Dr. Pletscher UM, met with Hank Fischer, Defenders of Wildlife, at the
University of Montana GIS lab to review a draft of a mapping project the lab is doing for the
Defenders. The MT Dept. Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and Montana Stockgrowers were also
involved in reviewing this project. The mapping attempts to use GIS technology to identify and
evaluate potential wolf habitat in NW MT. The GIS layers include white-tailed deer, elk, and
livestock density and distribution, private or public land, slope and elevation. Several
suggestions were made on ways to refine the data and perhaps add a layer with human density.
The known wolf pack territories were shown on the map and it reinforced the radio-location data
which suggests wolves preferred slope 20% below 1500m, and with concentrations of W-T
deer. These maps could be very useful and helping search for new wolf packs or for identifying
areas where wolf packs could establish with minimal conflict with people.
Livestock Depredations & Management (control)
A 4-year-old cow was reportedly killed by a pair of wolves on the Blackfeet Reservation on the
14th and large canid tracks were located at the carcass. No radio-collars were known to be active
in this area but WS was checking for missing radio-collared NT MT wolves. WS and Tribal
biologists kept an eye on the carcasses and found that 2 large German Shepard-type dogs were
responsible for the depredation not wolves. One of the dogs was shot. A Well Done!! to the WS
specialist and tribal biologists for closely monitoring this situation and doing thorough follow-up
A calf was reported killed near Dome Mountain north of Gardiner, MT (Sheep Mountain pack
territory) in the Yellowstone area. WS investigated and found that wolves were not involved.
The calf had been fed upon by a coyote and may not have even stood. Another thorough
investigation and job Well Done!
The wolf/livestock situation east of Salmon, ID continues to be inordinately controversial. Four
members of the Twin Peaks pack were removed last week because a calf had been killed on
private property. The rancher reported that wolves also chased some of his horses but this could
not be confirmed. A radio-activated siren scaring device was installed and its counter indicated
that wolves returned to the area (which is within their normal home range) but no further
depredations have occurred. Tracks indicated that the device may have caused the wolves to
move away from it. A couple of days ago the involved rancher caught his dog chasing cattle and
he shot it. The wolves found the dog's carcass and mauled it. The rancher became very upset
that wolves were back on his property. This single depredation event was professionally and
effectively handled by the Tribe and Wildlife Services and the continued high level of
controversy is difficult to rationally understand. No further removal of wolves is planned,
despite the intense political pressure, unless further attacks on livestock can be documented
Information, Education & Law Enforcement
The 1999 ANNUAL INTERAGENCY WOLF REPORT is available at
http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/wolf/annualrpt99/. We especially thank Jim Renne for making the report
available in that format, it looks great. The report contains summary tables of all known wolf
packs and numbers of wolves since 1986, all confirmed livestock depredations, and color maps
of all known pack territories.
Diane Boyd was featured on- NBC National Evening New's spot "Women to Watch"- on the
Fontaine assisted the Arid Lands National Wildlife Service Refuge Complex in central
Washington to move about 30 elk. Joe will be on a detail to the Refuge until mid-March to assist
them with plans to move about 300 elk from the area in March. Joe regularly checks messages at
his Helena office and can still be contacted at 406-449-5225 x206. Joe is still coordinating the
April 11-13 Annual Wolf Working Group Conference at Chico Hot Springs and ideas for
presentations should be routed to him. An agenda should be available by early April.
Bangs gave a presentation to about 300 people the Oregon Chapter of The Wildlife Society on
the 9th in Bend, OR and to about 45 people at a discussion on the potential for an Oregon Wolf
Working Group on the 10th.
Meier gave a talk on wolves to about 20 students in an Aspen youth program in Boulder, MT on
The purpose of the weekly report is to get out timely factual information about the general
status of wolves and the overall Wolf Recovery Program in MT, ID and WY. The
downside of this type of work-in-progress, informal, non-peer reviewed, but very current
type of report, is that sometimes the information in it is not completely accurate. If you see
something that is not factually accurate please let us know. Tell us how it should read and
we will correct it in the next weekly. Also, if you did some wolf work and want to be
recognized- let us know. Thanks!
The weekly wolf report can now be viewed at the Service's Region 6 web site at
Contact: Ed Bangs (406)449-5225 or Internet- ED_BANGS@FWS.GOV
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