Gray Wolf Recovery
Weekly Progress Report
Weeks Feb 19 - Mar 10, 2000
Core packs in the Yellowstone, central Idaho, and NW Montana recovery
areas are generally in their normal home ranges.
See the 1999 annual report
http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/wolf/annualrpt99/ for a map of those pack locations and home ranges.
There are potentially at least 4 new breeding pairs in the Yellowstone
area. West of Cody, WY are radioed wolf 147 with an unmarked wolf
near Pahaska Teepee. Wolf #9 and 3 others are still in the eastern
portion of Sunlight Basin. A radioed wolf and an unmarked wolf have
been using an area along the west side of Gardiner since early this
winter. Near Big Sky, wolf 115 is with an unmarked wolf in the
Madison Valley. Soda Butte has reorganized and now consists of 104
(originally from Druid), 120 (formerly Crystal), 124 and 14 from SB,
and 2 unmarked wolves. There was an observation of 5 wolves in the
Sunlight Basin pack. A tentative capture operation was set up but
weather and helicopter availability caused it to be postponed. All
radioed wolves are accounted for except #92, a male from Nez Perce
Pack that hasn't been located since 7/99.
A wolf from the Grave Creek Pack in NW MT was found dead near
Whitefish. Cause of death is being investigated. The black yearling
female was tagged last summer and was nick-named "micro wolf" because
of her small size. The carcass of a suspected Murphy Lake pup was
recovered along Highway 93 near where several pack members had been
observed feeding on road-killed deer. The wolf was confirmed by USFWS
agent Branzell as a road-kill.
Wolves are dispersing and we anticipate a sharp increase in new wolf
pack formation. We have been receiving many reports and we deeply
appreciate them. We are currently beginning to look for wolf activity
in some new areas and to schedule potential spring/summer capture
efforts. Please report wolf sightings so that we can focus our track
surveys and any aircraft searches for missing radio-collared wolves in
areas of concentrated wolf activity this winter and spring. The Avon
and Thompson River areas in NW MT, Bass Creek (MT) and the area
northwest of Salmon in the ID recovery area, and the Gravely Range and
Little Belt Mountains in the Montana portion of the Yellowstone
recovery area, have all produced some promising reports.
Livestock Depredations & Management (control)
A reported depredation by wolves near Clayton, ID was investigated by
WS. A pair of wolves did feed on a dead calf but the investigation
indicated that wolves did not kill the calf.
A report of a lone wolf killing calves in the Pryor Mountains south of
Billings, MT was investigated by WS but no wolf activity was located.
A pair of pups from the now defunct Jureano pack continue to frequent
a dairy near Salmon, ID. WS specialists Rick Williamson and Carter
Niemeyer are investigating the situation to see if the pair might be
hazed or captured and removed from the area. Williamson and Niemeyer
also visited the Broken-Wing ranch near Clayton, where wolves killed a
calf several weeks ago and 4 pack members of the Twin Peaks pack were
removed . The wolves have not depredated again but until recently
continued to frequent the area, causing some local controversy. The
rancher was provided with a telemetry receiver and cracker shells. The
radio activated guard appears to still be working well. However, as
cattle continued to calve and become more dispersed, the chances for
further depredations increases. If another depredation is confirmed,
attempts will be made to relocate the pack. If that fails, wolves may
be lethally removed.
Two hunting dogs were apparently killed west of Missoula, MT in the
Fish Creek area on the 26th of Feb. One hunter watched through
binoculars as a group of 5 wolves killed a 8-month old male pup that
had treed a lion. By the time the hunter could get to the site the
pups's carcass had been carried off by a wolf. At the same time a
female pup also disappeared and is presumed dead. Two other older
hounds were not injured.
A pet Great Pyrenees (1 of 3 large dogs) was attacked by the Ninemile
pack in NW MT about March 3. It was severely wounded but apparently
Efforts to locate and radio-collar a wolf on the Diamond G Ranch near
Dubois, WY have been suspended until further information is received.
Volunteers combed the area for months and established several draw
baits. Only tracks from a single animal were routinely detected.
Attempts to catch that animal last week, during an unusual warm spell,
were unsuccessful and trapping ended after about 5 days. The special
take permits that allowed 2 landowners in the Dunoir Valley to shoot
one wolf expired on March 1. No wolves were taken.
Yellowstone Park started its late winter 30-day study of wolf
predation rates. Low snow fall has reduced visibility of wolf kills
and also likely made ungulates less susceptible to wolf predation.
Yellowstone National Park will begin to capture and radio-collar about
40 adult female elk beginning next week. The study will increase
efforts to investigate the relationship of wolves to their primary
prey in Yellowstone's northern range.
In WY a false but widely circulated rumor indicated that wolf
predation in WY was causing elk to abort their calves (and asked for
the public and politicians to "demand that the problem be resolved").
Discussions with WY G&F managers and Service field workers indicated
the story was not true. While no aborted calves have been found, this
is the time of year that a few elk do lose calves to brucellosis. It
would be expected that wolves, as well as other scavengers, would eat
aborted calves if they found them. Whether this reduces disease
exposure to other ungulates is speculative but it seems unlikely that
any potential affect of wolves would be significant.
Earlier field work by Service volunteers on the National Elk Refuge
suggested that some elk were moving between the feeding areas because
of wolf hunting behavior. Research on human hunting of elk has shown
that elk do move after being disturbed by hunters and often end up in
areas where they are not bothered (commonly private land or other
refugia, such as thick cover). It seems likely that elk response to
wolf predation may be similar but because the wolves follow the elk,
elk may simply keep moving between normal feeding areas to avoid an
immediate threat by wolves. However, in the past few weeks elk are
staying on the middle largest feed ground on the refuge, even as
wolves continue to occasionally make kills in that area, probably
because of the large amounts of high quality forage (hay) that is
available to them. It will be interesting to see how elk and wolves
continue to adapt to each other's behavior, which evolved together
over many thousands of years.
Information, Education & Law Enforcement
February 22-26 several biologists from the Service, Yellowstone
National Park, and USDA Wildlife Services attended the International
Wolf Conference in Duluth, MN. Representatives from 27 countries
attended and the spectrum and quality of papers on wolf management and
research throughout the world were unsurpassed. Over a dozen papers
were presented on wolf management and research in Montana, Idaho, and
Wyoming. A panel discussion, by members of Minnesota state government
and various interest groups that participated on the Minnesota wolf
round-table, was particularly enlightening. The discussion over state
management is still very emotional and polarized. As a consequence,
Minnesota is still struggling to develop a state wolf plan so the
Service can proceed with the delisting process.
Diane Boyd gave a presentation at a Conference of Western
Environmental Law near Salem OR. About 700 people attended.
Heberger, Bangs, and Mack had several meetings with members of the
Idaho Governors's office, congressional delegations, ID ranchers from
the Salmon to Stanley area, and a joint state legislature committee on
March 3rd. Issues relating to wolf management and particularly a
recent wolf depredation near Clayton, ID and a wolf being repeatedly
seen near livestock were discussed. The Service agreed to try to
resolve the latest controversy by issuing a telemetry receiver and
antenna to the producer, giving him some cracker shells to scare any
wolves seen on private property, and ask WS wolf specialist Niemeyer
to visit the area on the 6th and offer recommendations. The Service
also committed to investigate whether some type of additional
flexibility to harass wolves in a non-lethal manner (such as allowing
permitted individuals to shoot wolves with 12 gauge "cracker" shells,
rubber bullets, bean bag shells, or small bird shot) might be
available within the provisions of the experimental rules.
WS special Niemeyer gave a presentation to about 15 students at the
advanced high school biology class at Skyview in Billings, MT on the
28th of Feb.
On Feb 29th-March 1, Niemeyer and Yellowstone National Park biologists
accompanied a delegation of about 16 Norwegian representatives of the
Ministries of the Environment and Agriculture, journalists and sheep
ranchers to look at wolf management issues in and around Yellowstone
National Park. They also visited and interviewed local ranchers as
part of that tour.
The Annual Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Conference is scheduled for
Chico Hot Springs, April 11-13. Juan Carlos Blanco will talk on Wolf
Recolonization in Spain for the banquet.
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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