Gray Wolf Recovery
Weekly Progress Report
Weeks Nov 20 - Dec 3, 1999
Core packs in the Yellowstone, central Idaho, and NW Montana
are generally in their normal home ranges. However, many packs
are split or have members missing. There are potentially 3 new
pairs forming near the Sunlight Basin in WY. Famous wolf #9 is
also in that general area. Male wolf 123 was found dead and a
territorial dispute with the Crystal Creek pack is suspected.
The alpha female from the Sheep Mountain pack was seen with 8
other pack members. The radioed male was by himself on the east
side of the pack's territory. Nez Perce pack traveled south of
Henry's Lake and west of Yellowstone Park. Chief Joseph pack
traveled back into the Gallatin drainage after killing sheep in
Tom Miner Basin and has remained there.
The Teton female and her pups were located back in Grand Teton.
The Gros Ventre pack remains in the Gros Ventre drainage, near the
state elk feeding ground. Mike Jimenez is working with other state
and federal biologists to closely monitor that pack and wintering
elk, to investigate if wolves are changing the distribution of elk
(and potential private property damage [hay] by them) on state
winter feed grounds.
Recent wolf sightings in Bass Creek indicate that a new pair may
be trying to set up shop there. A search for missing radio-collared
wolves will be conducted and the situation will be monitored
throughout this winter. Fontaine visited the area and met with
landowners on 12/2.
While hunting W-T deer west of Lincoln, in NW MT, Bangs came
across the track on a lone wolf. Surely others of you have
seen some sign this fall? If so- let us know. Wolves are
beginning to disperse and we anticipate a sharp increase in
new wolf pack formation. Please report wolf sightings so
that we can focus aircraft searches or our track surveys
The Chief Joseph pack killed 6 sheep at a private ranch in the
Tom Miner Basin, just north of Yellowstone National Park on the
20th. Four guard dogs at the ranch were barking and highly upset
by the presence of the wolves but did not prevent some loss. This
ranch has had 2 guard dogs and several sheep killed by wolves since
the reintroduction. WS investigated and confirmed that about 5
wolves were involved. Radio telemetry signals located four
radio-collared members of the pack right at the ranch and the
wolves were driven from the area by a biologist that night.
The landowner was given receiver to detect if the wolves returned,
which they did the following night. The landowner was contacted
about the possible use of a radio-activated light siren device as
well as other control measures. After discussions with the
landowner the siren device did not appear to be the appropriate
control tool in this instance. The Chief Joseph pack moved out
of the area on the 22st. Depending upon pack size, it may be
reduced this winter by darting or shooting to reduce the potential
for future conflicts and to allow the guard dogs to be more
effective at protecting themselves and the sheep. Currently
the situation is being closely monitored.
A German Shepard dog was killed by wolves beside a private
cabin near the Sunlight Basin (west of Cody, WY) (11/27)
over the Thanksgiving weekend. The family pet was old and
on medication but was otherwise healthy. A newly formed pair
(one was radio-collared) was located in that vicinity on 11/28.
They rather than the Sunlight Basin pack were likely responsible
but the actual wolves involved will likely never be known. No
control is planned.
A family near Emigrant, MT reported that on 12/2 about 7:15am,
4 wolves came into their yard toward their 2 dogs, who were
barking at the wolves. No dogs were injured and by the time
a person got outside, the wolves (estimated 12 total) were
running away. At this time the pack that could have been
involved is unknown but Chief Joseph is a possibility.
Naturally, any time wolves interact or attack dogs near a
human residence the people involved are interested if they
should be concerned about human safety. The, answer of course,
is that while wolves could certainly easily attack and kill
people, for some reason they almost never do and that a
deliberate attack on humans by wolves seems to be a very
unlikely event. However, wolves are wild animals and despite
the fact that wolf attacks on humans are an almost unheard
of event in North America, caution should be taken (to not
approach a wolf, physically try to break up an encounter
with a dog, or try to touch a wolf) especially if wolves
are engaging domestic dogs.
Plans to move the Bass Creek female and her 5 pups into the
release site in NW Montana are about completed. The female
is originally from the Murphy Lake pack and is being moved
back into NW Montana since that recovery area had the fewest
breeding pairs (6) in 1999. The relocation is scheduled to
begin Monday morning, depending on the weather.
Graduate student Oakleaf reported tentative results on the
first year of the Salmon livestock mortality study. Transmitters
located 3 wolf kills, 1 coyote kill, 2 pneumonia, 2 probable
pneumonia, and 1 unknown disease. One wolf kill, 1 probable
wolf kill and 1 unknown disease were located without use of
transmitters. This information suggests that 1/3 of all
mortalities were caused by wolves and half were disease/pneumonia
caused. One rancher who had a very high level of missing
livestock last year (30's) reported he was 15 short this year
compared to normal losses of 5-7. Another rancher with livestock
nearest the wolf rendezvous site reported being 5 short while he
normally lost about 2. Other allotment permittees reported that
they had levels of missing livestock similar to past years.
This information indicated that wolf-caused losses went undetected
at a rate as high as six to one, but there was such large variation
depending upon the allotment's terrain and among producers, that
data were inconclusive. A similar type study of grizzly bear
predation on cattle in Wyoming indicated that for every confirmed
mortality there was nearly another calf that was not found, which
seems to compare to the level of extra missing (suspected wolves)
over historic losses of producers with wolf dens near their cattle.
The first year of the wolf/cattle study also suggested that wolf
depredations only impacted a couple of the producers on the allotment,
and that control (which ended up being removal of all but 3 pack
members) ended depredations. Three wolves remain in the area.
Next year's efforts (radio-tagging and monitoring cattle and wolves)
are critical to determine if these initial patterns are repeated so
wolf management can be improved.
The Yellowstone winter study is continuing but is somewhat hampered
by the mild winter conditions and lack of snow. At this point in
time wolf kill rates on elk seem a little lower than in past year's
but that may change as elk begin to concentrate and snow depth increases.
I & E
The Service's wolf biologist in Wyoming, Brian Cox, resigned
from the position for personal reasons effective December 3rd.
Brian will return to Oregon where he still has a house. Brian
worked hard and his efforts on behalf on the wolf recovery program
during the past year have been appreciated. Good luck and thanks
for your efforts, Brian!
Jimenez attended the Wyoming Chapter of The Wildlife Society
annual meeting in Casper on the 1st and gave a presentation at
the "Beast Feast" for the Wyoming student chapter of The Wildlife
Society in Laramie on the 3rd.
The Congressional Quarterly Researcher published an edition
(Oct 1, 1999, vol 9, no. 37, pages 849-864) on the Endangered
Species Act. It included several references and discussions
about wolf restoration efforts.
With assistance from a Montana hunter, Service law enforcement
agents recovered the remains and radio-collar from the alpha
female of the now defunct Thompson River wolf pack. The case
remains under investigation. She went off the air in spring
1997 and her remains were found within the pack's territory.
Contact with the pack was lost shortly after her death. Other
than an occasional lone wolf, no pack activity has been documented
in that area since 1997, despite extensive searches.
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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