Gray Wolf Recovery
Weekly Progress Report

Week of August 10 - August 16, 2002

Monitoring

See http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/wolf/annualreports.htm/ for maps of pack locations and home ranges.

Summary of the potential breeding success of known/highly suspected wolf groups in the northern Rocky Mountains as of August 15, 2002.

The wolf population in the northern Rocky Mountains of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming continues to grow. There are potentially 70 groups of two or more wolves that often travel together. Forty of those groups appear to have denned and have produced at least 172 pups. Our current estimate is as follows: In northwestern Montana there are 23 groups of two or more wolves and they produced at least 35 pups. We suspect that 12 denned, 6 may have denned, and 5 did not den. In central Idaho there are 23 groups that produced at least 42 pups. We suspect that 12 denned, 6 may have denned, and 4 did not den. In the Greater Yellowstone Area there are 24 groups that produced at least 96 pups. We suspect that 18 denned, 5 may have denned and 2 did not den. No groups of wolves have been documented in any states adjacent to Montana, Idaho or Wyoming. Caution - these are estimates only and will undoubtably change as more field work is conducted this fall and winter. But, at this time it seems almost certain that the wolf population recovery objective will be achieved in December 2002.

Northwestern Montana - 23 groups >2 wolves - 12 denned, 6 maybe, and 5 no [35 min.pups]:

Denning - Kintla [?], Murphy Lake [+2], Ninemile [+4, but 3 have died recently], Castle Rock [?], Whitefish [10], Grave Creek [5], Spotted Bear [4], Gates Park [7], Hog Heaven [3], Trout Creek [2], Great Divide [6 pups reported early in year and the male is suspected to be dead. Two adults have been observed since and on 8/13 two pups were seen], and Green Mountain [6 - new pack near Noxon, MT].

Maybe Denned - Danaher [pack status unknown], Fish Trap 2 [pups reported in Elk Creek], Fish Creek, Lupine, Lazy Creek, and Chief Mountain.

Not Denned - Apgar, Fish Trap 1, Yaak, Little Thompson, and Clearwater [the female that was illegally shot in late April had 7 new placental scars].

Central Idaho - 23 groups >2 wolves - 10 denned, 9 may have denned, and 4 did not den [42 pups min.]:

Denning - Big Hole [3], Buffalo Ridge [6], Gospel Hump [+2], Jureano [5], Kelly Creek [6], Landmark [11, double litter], Marbel Mountian [3], Moyer [2], Selway [+3], and Como Lake [3].

Maybe Denned - Chamberlain Basin [suspected denned], Gold Fork [suspected denned], Thunder Mountain [suspected non-reproductive], Twin Peaks [pack status unknown], Wolf Fang [suspected denned], B67 [suspected denned], B100 [suspected non-reproducing], B105 [suspected non-reproducing], and B133 [suspected non- reproducing].

Not Denned - Orphan, Scott Mountain, Wildhorse, and B45.

Greater Yellowstone Area - 24 groups >2 wolves -18 denned, 5 may have denned, 2 no [96 pups min.]:

Denning - Swan Lake [11, double litter], Leopold [8], Rose Creek II [3], Druid Peak [6], Geode Creek [8], Agate/Garnet [4+4 - 2 females denned separately but recently combined their pups], Mollie's [2], Nez Perce [2], Yellowstone Delta [4], Cougar Creek [5], Chief Joseph [8], Teton [11, double litter], Washakie [4], Sunlight [6], Absaroka [4], Greybull River [+2], Freezeout [3], and Taylor Peak [3].

Maybe Denned - Pinedale/Green River, Sheep Mountain, Beartooth, Gros Ventre, and Mill Creek [had pups earlier].

Not Denned - #105 and Gravelly.

On the 12th, Meier caught and collared another 35lb. pup while checking traps set by Jaffe and Hartman in an area near the Idaho/Montana border [Noxon, MT] where Stimson Lumber employees had reported seeing 2 adults last winter and 6 pups [2 gray and 4 black?] this spring. Unfortunately, the pup he collared on the 9th slipped its collar. Pups are almost too small (30-40lbs) to collar. We set collars to adult size and then pad them with foam rubber that in theory rots away and lets the pup grow into the collar - but it is not unusual for them to slip off. The new Green Mountain pack is in a great area and we very much appreciate Stimson Lumber for reporting wolf sightings and allowing us to trap on their lands.

Two 45lb pups (grey female and black male) from the Absaroka pack were trapped and radio-collared in a cooperative Service/WY Wildlife Services effort as part of our routine wolf monitoring program. Marshall Robin did an outstanding job of safely and efficiently tagging these wolves and we really appreciate his and Wildlife Services' efforts. Marshall also successfully placed collars in the Greybull River pack this summer. THANKS!

An unfortunate series of events in central Idaho occurred the weekend of the 10th. Biologists were trapping for the Landmark pack (consisting of 12 wolves) as part of the routine wolf monitoring program. One (beagle) of three dogs belonging to a couple that was camping and horseback riding, was caught in a trap set for wolves. The couple released it unharmed but they were understandably upset. The field crew immediately began pulling all the remaining traps when they came across a distraught man, woman, and young child. They had been walking on an ATV trail with their dog (Queensland Heeler) and it was accidently captured. They were unable to remove it from the trap and the man shot the dog. This all happened about 10 minutes before the biologist arrived. The dog was removed from the trap and didn't appear to have any injuries caused by the trap. The biologist helped them bury the dog nearby. The people had been camping next to the "wolf trapping in progress" sign but reportedly didn't see it. The Service has occasionally captured dogs in the past and although none have been even moderately injured, it is always a very difficult and highly emotional issue. The Service deeply regrets that this incident ended so tragically. In hindsight the biologists involved realize they shouldn't have continued any trapping when people began to come into the area. They had already removed all traps along the road because of concern over conflicts but left traps set off road because the pack was still in the immediate area.

We have contacted other state and federal government wolf trappers throughout North America to learn about their experiences and suggestions and are re-evaluating the need to trap and radio-collar wolves in certain areas and protocols for trapping. We (Bangs, Meier, Fontaine, Niemeyer, and Mack) had a interagency conference call on Thursday morning to discuss trapping issues and safety. A summary of responses to our inquiry and our discussion was prepared and sent out to all agency biologists that are involved with wolf trapping. That summary has also been attached to this weekly report. Our deepest sympathies and regrets go out to the dog's owners and we are doing what we can to improve our trapping and wolf radio-collaring procedures.

Please report wolf sightings in MONTANA, IDAHO, OR WYOMING!!

Livestock Depredations & Management (control)

On the 10th, Asher chased and harassed the Taylor Peak female #198 off a ranch in the Madison Valley. The wolf had been seen hanging around the ranch where a dog was killed last fall. The manager has a new dog and was worried it too might be attacked. No livestock depredations were suspected and there was no sign of pups but earlier reports saw her with a mate and 3 pups.

Additional electric fencing is being put up by Defenders of Wildlife around a pasture in the Ninemile Valley. A lone wolf was seen standing in a unflagged pasture where llamas had been held. After that pasture is securely fenced the llama owner will be able to secure the llamas in a wolf-proof pasture at night.

A radioed collared gray male wolf, former Tower pack member #162 was located near where 2 calves, a yearling, and [on August 8] an adult cow were killed by wolves on Forest Service allotments in the Gros Ventre Valley near Jackson, WY. A search of missing frequencies turned up that wolf, it is unknown if it is with other wolves or part of a reproducing pack, but livestock producers had reported seeing a radioed wolf with at least one other wolf. The livestock producer was notified and given that radio frequency to pull into the receiver he had already been loaned. He has a 45-day permit to shoot a wolf in the act of attacking his livestock on the allotment.

A gray wolf [probably from Sheep Mtn. pack) was seen feeding on a cow carcass on a Forest Service grazing allotment north of Gardiner, MT. The carcass was several days old when discovered and Wildlife Services determined cause of death was natural, maybe due to lightening since a thunder storm passed through the area about the same time as the 12-year-old cow died. The carcass had been extensively fed on by bears, wolves, and other scavengers.

Two separate bands of sheep near Fairfield, ID were attacked by wolves the weekend of the 10th. In a band near Fairfield, 3 sheep were attacked (2 died and 1 was severely wounded) by a group of 3 wolves. The only black wolf was radio-collared. Two gray wolves will be lethally removed. Sheep in another band near Hill City, ID were attacked and a buck and a ewe were killed by an suspected lone wolf. It will be radio-collared and released on site to determine if others may have been involved. If it appears to alone, it maybe killed.

On the 16th, a cow carcass on a neighboring property to the Diamond G Ranch near Dubois, WY was reportedly being fed on by wolves and it being investigated by Wildlife Services. Wildlife Services is also checking out a report of a suspected wolf-kill calf in the Freezeout pack territory south of Ennis, MT. If wolves are responsible, trapping at the calf's carcass and lethal removal of any captured adults, other than the breeding female has been authorized.

Wildlife Services determined that 15 lambs were killed by a likely lone wild dispersing wolf (or possibly a released "pet" wolf/dog hybrid) between July 7 and July 27 near Logan, UT. The area is about 30 miles west of WY and 30 south of ID and only 135 miles from the nearest wolf packs near Jackson, WY. The herder reported jumping the gray wolf on a lamb carcass and both he and the WS specialist heard a lone wolf howling. The animal has not been seen there since July 27 but another herder on the other side of the mountain reportedly heard a lone wolf howl on August 3. No specific control is planned but if a gray-colored wolf is captured in that area in a coyote or black bear trap or if other depredations are documented, the wolf will be killed. The livestock owner was advised to contact Defenders of Wildlife representative Suzanne Laverty in Boise, ID at 208-424-9385 since the Defenders program also pay wolf compensation in states adjacent to MT, ID, and WY.

Research

Montana State University has a great web site established where you can see what they are doing on their research about wolf and elk relationships in and adjacent to Yellowstone National Park. See www.montana.edu/ecology/staff/garrott/index.htm for access and click on wolf-ungulate dynamics.

Information, Education & Law Enforcement

The Large Carnivore Initiative for Europe has produced a position statement on hunting and lethal control of large carnivores. To view, please visit the LCIE publications page at largecarnivores.lcie.org/public.htm.

Necropsy indicated that both the 2 wolf pups (one male and one female) found dead along the Ninemile road near Missoula, MT on the 6th had injuries consistent with being struck by a vehicle. One pup had a small hole in its side that caused some to suspect it had been shot but it appears that injury was either caused by the vehicle and/or raven scavenging. Law Enforcement agents (contact at 406-329-3000) would still like to contact the person who may have hit the wolves to determine the exact circumstances involved. Another Ninemile pup (female) was apparently struck and killed by a vehicle in the same area last month. At least one other pup [radioed] is still in the pack.

The weekly wolf report can be viewed at the Service's Region 6 web site at www.r6.fws.gov/wolf.

Contact: Ed Bangs (406)449-5225 or Internet - ED_BANGS@FWS.GOV


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