Gray Wolf Recovery
Weekly Progress Report
Weeks May 13 - May 29, 2000
Denning packs in the Yellowstone, central Idaho, and NW
Montana are beginning to move pups and some pups are being
seen above ground and at new dens/rendezvous sites. See the
1999 annual report http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/wolf/annualrpt99/
for a map of those pack locations and home ranges.
Famous wolf #9 was located in a new area, and a couple of miles
away from her initial den. Recent observations indicate a new
pack has formed on the Wall Creek Game Range in the Madison Valley.
Our pilot flew over an old den site in the North Fork of the
Flathead and saw 7 adults and 3 pups at the old Spruce Creek den
about 7 miles north of the Canadian border. It is unknown if any
members of this group are radio-collared. An observation was made
in the Bob Marshal Wilderness of a female coming out of a den
(Danaher area) and then circling the people and barking. A few
days later our pilot saw a gray wolf lying in an opening near
that area. Boyd collared another wolf near Kentla Lake in Glacier
National Park. Unfortunately while trying to place a radio-collar
on a wolf in the Boulder pack of five, a wolf snapped a trap but
field crews were unable to locate it or the trap despite extensive
searches. The Boulder pack den was located during that search
and 4 wolves were resting nearby. Scats and tracks indicate pups
are in the den. The trapping crew in NW Mt captured and collared
a wolf in the Whitefish pack. A hunter from New Jersey hunting in
Canada recently reported that he killed wolf #88 while hunting in
British Columbia. The wolf was from the Whitefish pack and had
dispersed about March, 1998.
Surprise - Surprise! A flight to locate the Soda Butte pack saw
a pup scurry into a den that was being manned by several adults.
These latest observations add up to 4 new dens to the potential
number of breeding pairs in the northern Rocky Mountains.
Please report wolf sightings but especially reports in localized
areas or reports of wolves "barking" when people are near to help
us locate any new wolf dens.
Livestock Depredations & Management (control)
The Sheep Mountain pack killed a yearling and wounded another
the night of the 15/16th. WS confirmed it as a wolf kill and
a flight that morning located the Sheep Mountain pack nearby.
In an effort to try something new, this pack will be removed
from the wild and "trained' to avoid livestock as prey. In a
cooperative effort between USDA Wildlife Services (Montana State
Office and WS Research Division), Turner Endangered Species Fund,
Yellowstone National Park and the Service, the pack will be
captured and placed in an enclosure on the Flying D Ranch near
Bozeman where the Wildlife Services Research Division will attempt
to condition the wolves to avoid attacking livestock. Capture
efforts could begin next week, but conditioning would not begin
late June. Similar work has been done with some success with
coyotes (recently published in the Wildl. Soc. Bull.), and wolves
in Romania and Wisconsin. In Romania it was reported (this has
not been published in a peer review journal to my knowledge) that
the "taught" behavior to avoid livestock was naturally passed on
to their pups. An alpha female wolf that was treated in Wisconsin
went from killing $10,000 worth of livestock prior to treatment to
none the following year after treatment. The female's pack apparently
learned from her and even though she was the only one treated her
avoidance of the farm and livestock were learned by other pack members.
It cannot be overemphasized, however, that this technique is not a
cure-all and may not be successful in the field. It is definitely
worth trying but the only thing we are really counting on is that
we will learn something. If the conditioning appears to have worked,
then the pack will be released back in their territory this fall.
On the 25th, WS darted 5 members of the 7 member Sheep Mountain pack.
Unfortunately 1 sub-adult female died when the dart punctured her chest.
The dart hit in a good spot on her upper back but her overall small
size and thin condition apparently contributed to the tragic accident.
The other 4 wolves, including the alpha female, were placed in a pen.
They and the remaining 2 pack members, if they can be captured, will
be "treated" as part of the Wildlife Services research on aversive
The Chief Joseph pack (all three radios including the alpha female)
chased horses a couple of different times on the 16th/17th but the
rancher who had a receiver, drove them away. One horse was slightly
cut by fencing but nothing was injured. That weekend a nearby rancher
reported seeing his cattle boil out a ravine with a grey wolf nearby.
None were wounded. On the morning of the 21st remains of a calf was
examined by Wildlife Services, who confirmed it was killed by wolves.
Gray wolf hair was found on a nearby fence and in rose bushes at the
kill site. Plans are to capture and move the alpha female and pups
to their old den in Yellowstone National Park. The Chief Joseph pack
denned there in 1997, 1998, and 1999. Hopefully that will shift the
center of the pack's activities to an area without livestock.
An attempt to dart the Chief Joe alpha female on the 25th failed after
she ran into heavy timber. However, the alpha male and a subadult
female were trapped by WS that day. They were released in the southern
portion of Yellowstone National Park that night, about 50 miles south.
Subsequent observations indicated the female had already moved the pups
so all capture operations were suspended. Capture efforts for the
female and pups will begin when the pups can be located. While we
expected the older male to eventually find home, surprisingly he was
back in his home territory on the 27th. At the same time, the young
female had only moved about 15 miles north and was by Old Faithful
Den study is being conducted in Yellowstone National Park.
Research and humane animal protocols are being finalized for the
aversive conditioning study for the Sheep Mountain pack. The first
pen is being constructed on the Flying D Ranch near Bozeman and
should be completed by June 5th.
Information, Education & Law Enforcement
Dr. Smith gave an interview for Discovery Online. He also did an
interview for a Denmark media publication.
Fontaine gave a presentation to about 22 members of the Great Falls
Bangs met with Turner Endangered Species Fund and Wildlife Services
representatives on the 16th to discuss aversive conditioning research
and pen construction on the Flying D Ranch. This meeting was part
of an ongoing effort and the Sheep Mountain depredation that day was
purely coincidence. The aversive conditioning concept has attracted
widespread local, national and even international media attention
(and quite a few snickers and smirks from a doubting public). The
only thing that we expect from this study is that we will learn
something and knowledge is always useful for making informed decisions.
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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