Idaho Wolf Update
March 27, 2002

Monitoring

Monitoring priorities during this time of year focus on tracking the movements and activities of collared wolves by maintaining regular monitoring flights, collaring additional wolves by conducting helicopter capture and collaring efforts, and documenting new packs by working with local residence and conducting wolf surveys. This information is important for the Recovery Program to work effectively with local communities and affected livestock producers to address wolf management concerns (See OUTREACH, INFORMATION and EDUCATION, and COORDINATION, and MANAGEMENT AND CONTROL sections).

Due to budget limitations, the Recovery Program will be reducing the frequency of monitoring flights. For the remainder of the year, monitoring flights will be conducted on a monthly basis.

Winter wolf helicopter capture and darting efforts were conducted in mid January. A total of 16 captures were made across four wolf packs. Wolf packs receiving new collars included Gold Fork, Whitehawk, Wild Horse, and Wolf Fang. Front-county packs that overlap livestock areas were prioritized to help address management concerns. Additional collars on wolves in these areas will help the Recovery Project work with local affected livestock producers and land management agencies to reduce wolf-livestock conflicts including proactive approaches to minimize wolf depredations.

During March, several credible wolf sightings have been reported in the Fairfield area indicating possible recolonization after most of the Big Smokey pack was illegally killed in the previous two years. We appreciate the assistance from all those who have helped focus our efforts in documenting wolf activity in this area. During the end of March, Recovery Program personnel attempted to locate and radio-collar wolves reported in this area using a helicopter. Although recent sign of wolf presence was observed from the helicopter, no wolves were captured during this effort. We are still very much interested in documenting the status of wolf activity in this area and will continue capture and collaring efforts through the spring and summer. All reports we receive of recent wolf activity in this area will greatly help our efforts.

As the wolf population continues to expand, an increased number of wolves will be uncollared compounding the difficult task of documenting formation of new packs. The Wolf Recovery Program relies on wolf sighting reports from the public to identify potential areas to survey for new wolf pack activity. Past reports of wolf activity that we have received have led to the documentation of the Wildhorse and Gold Fork packs. We are currently working with residents in areas around Riggins, Fairfield, and Salmon, Idaho and Alta, Montana to document the status of reported wolf activity. We are also planning to initiate similar efforts in the Horseshoe Bend area of Idaho in April. We would like to thank all those who have taken the time to report observed wolf activity and are hopeful that continued help from the public will result in confirmation of additional wolf packs. The Recovery Program encourages the public to report all sightings of wolves or their sign. Sightings can be reported to the Recovery Program by mail at Gray Wolf Recovery Program, Nez Perce Tribe, P.O. Box 1922, McCall, ID 83638, or by phone at (208) 634-1061, or by email at cmack@nezperce.org or Carter Niemeyer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1387 S. Vinnell Way, Rm 368, Boise, ID 83709, (208) 378-5347.

All monitored wolf packs across the state continue to frequent ungulate wintering areas in their usual home ranges.

Wolves B66, alpha female of the Wildhorse pack and male B71, a Thunder Mountain disperser have died. Their deaths are under investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Law Enforcement. Male wolf B63, originally relocated from the White Cloud pack in 2000 and more recently potentially paired with B100, was found dead with one other companion wolf in the Big Hole country of Montana. His death is under investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Law Enforcement.

Research

The Diamond Moose calf mortality study is wrapping up. Dr. Dennis Murray and John Oakleaf with the University of Idaho are putting the finishing touches on the final report in preparation for publication.

The Panther Creek winter predation study is also wrapping up. University of Idaho graduate student Jason Husseman has successfully defended his thesis work, which will be finalized before summer recess.

Outreach, Information, Education, & Coordination

Outreach priorities during this time of year focus on keeping local governments informed on wolf and wolf recovery activities through meetings with county commissioners in areas of existing wolf presence; informing rural communities, agencies, and potentially affected landowner of known wolf activity in new area across the state; soliciting the public s assistance to document new un-collared packs across the state; and providing information to the public about wolves and the Wolf Recovery Program through updates and progress reports. All of these efforts are prioritized according to availability of time, staff, and funding.

Through the months of March and April, the Recovery Program will continue to meet with County Commissioners across the state. During March and April, the Recovery Program intends to be working with rural communities in five areas with recent documented and/or reported wolf activity - Bovill/Deary, Riggins, Horseshoe Bend/ Garden Valley, and Fairfield in Idaho, and Alta in Montana. In these areas, the program has been working with the U.S. Forest Service, county commissioners, livestock producers, and interested community residence to foster cooperative working relationships and coordinate wolf management activities.

The Idaho Wolf Recovery Program s 1999-2001 progress report has been finalized. Copies are available by contacting Cheri Ramos, Nez Perce Tribe, Gray Wolf Recovery Project, P.O. Box 1922, McCall, ID 83638, or by phone at 208-634-1061, or by email at cramos@nezperce.org. Electronic copies will be available at selected web sites soon. Stay tuned.

One of the federal criteria established for recovery and delisting of wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains is that the states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming must develop and adopt post-delisting wolf management plans. The Idaho Legislature passed the Idaho Wolf Conservation and Management Plan this past legislative session. Idaho is now the first northern Rocky Mountain State to have a state-adopted post-delisting wolf management plan in place. Wolf Recovery Program personnel participated in legislative hearings on the state plan.

Recovery Program personnel from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Tribe, and Wildlife Services, are participating in an ABC News Special about the wolf recovery program to be aired sometime this Fall.

Recovery Program personnel participated in a meeting with Dr. James Tate, Science advisor to the Secretary of the Interior, to discuss needs for a science-based wolf recovery effort in Idaho.

Recovery Program personnel participated in a day-long Regional Directors Briefing on wolf recovery issues in Idaho sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Senator Larry Craig. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Director Anne Badgely invited staff for Senator Mike Crapo, Congressman Mike Simpson, and Congressman C.L. Butch Otter; and representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wildlife Services, the Nez Perce Tribe, and the Office of Species Conservation to participate in an information gathering briefing from public interest groups in Idaho. Senator Larry Craig staff Nate Helm, Natural Resources Field Coordinator, facilitated the meeting. Public interest groups including the Department of Fish and Game, The Idaho Cattle Association, The Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association, and citizens groups. This was a very worthwhile effort and a great opportunity for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, The Idaho Congressional delegation, and wolf managers to solicit input and listen to the variety of perspectives on wolf recovery in Idaho. We would like to thank both Senator Larry Craig and Director Anne Badgely for anticipating the need for and orchestrating this event.

Tribal personnel met with Senator Larry Craig s and Senator Mike Crapo s staff to provide updates on wolf recovery issues across the state.

Tribal, Office of Species Conservation, and Idaho Cattle Association personnel held coordination meetings to discuss future wolf management issues and priorities.

Tribal and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel met on multiple occasions to discuss wolf recovery priorities and funding issues.

Tribal personnel held a full day field trip for the University of Idaho s Upward Bound Science program.

Tribal and Office of Species Conservation personnel meet to discuss future cooperative wolf management efforts in Idaho.

Tribal personnel met with the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Board to discuss a cooperative mapping effort.

Tribal personnel met with Alta, Montana area residents to discuss cooperative efforts to document and manage wolves in the West Fork of the Bitterroot.

Recovery Program personnel met with Boise, Idaho, and Valley County Commissioners to provide an update on wolf and Wolf Recovery Program activities across the state.

Recovery Program personnel met with Riggings area livestock producers to coordinate potential future wolf management activities in this area.

Tribal personnel held a community meeting in Riggins, ID, sponsored by the Slate Creek District of the Nez Perce National Forest.

Tribal personnel met with U.S. Forest Service Slate Creek, Emmett, and Idaho City district staff to update and coordinate wolf management activities.

Tribal Wildlife Program Director, Keith Lawrence, presented a Tribal perspective on wolf recovery and other ESA issues to the Clearwater RC&D Private Forest Landowner Conference in Moscow, ID.

Wildlilfe Services personnel Rick Williamson gave a presentation to approximately 200 people attending a Rotary Club agriculture appreciation night banquet in Twin Falls, Idaho. Rick gave a slide show and overview of the wolf program in Idaho.

Management & Control

Recovery Program personnel continue to work with area livestock producers to minimize wolf depredations on livestock. Cooperative efforts and dedication through this winter have so far resulted in no confirmed losses to wolves.

The Whitehawk pack has localized within the East Fork of the Salmon River for much of the winter. Rick Williamson with Wildlife Services and Stuart Breck (Wildlife Services - Fort Collins, CO), and producers operating cattle in the area, have worked together to keep wolves out of winter calving areas. Wildlife Services has placed and maintains several radio activated guard (RAG) boxes (electronic scare devices) up and down the valley. Nine RAG boxes have been deployed in this area for over a month and have repelled members of the Whitehawk pack on at least 3 occasions. The RAG boxes are being tested through experimental design to determine their effectiveness in preventing depredations by wolves on domestic calves. Producers along the East Fork have been cooperating with the Service, Wildlife Services and the Tribe in conducting the tests. Producers maintain constant vigilance tracking wolf activities and whereabouts with the use of radiotelemetry equipment. Most recently, Rick and Stuart reported that RAG boxes were triggered by radio-collared members of the Whitehawk pack on private property the evening of March 27. The RAG boxes and associated monitors indicated that at least 5 pack members (a majority of pack members are collared) were frightened away from calving pastures in at least 3 locations. Although wolves have passed through cattle operations on numerous occasions this winter, so far, this diligent team effort seems to have successfully deterred wolves from depredating. RAG boxes are just one more tool to discourage wolves from frequenting small, confined private and public livestock production areas.

The Jureano Mountain pack has moved into a new location this winter along the North Fork of the Salmon River. Although there are numerous wintering elk and deer in the area, there are also livestock. Several local area residents have observed members of the Jureano Mountain pack in close proximity to their homes and operations. Recovery Program personnel are working with area producers to minimize the opportunities for wolf depredation.

The Thunder Mountain pack attacked and killed a hunting dog east of McCall this winter. The owner of the dog was using dogs to hunt mountain lions. This incident is a reminder of the importance for lion hunters to be aware of wolf activity in their areas.




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