Parvo-virus might have taken most of the wolf pups
on the northern range this year.
It's old news now on this web page that most of the pups on Yellowstone's northern range were lost this year. The loss may also extend to wolves just north of the Park, although in recent years near total losses to mange there may have made Parvo almost superfluous.
Pup survival, however the southern portion of Yellowstone was good -- in the remote Yellowstone Delta Pack and the Bechler Pack in the Park's "Cascade (SW) Corner." It was also good in the rest of Wyoming and apparently Idaho and NW Montana.
It hasn't been proven yet that Parvo-virus was the cause. Examination of pup tissues last summer found no Parvo, but the pups were too decomposed to accurately measure. In the next couple weeks the annual wolf collaring begins and a special effort will be made to capture some of the surviving pups to test their Parvo titer level, which should be high if they are survivors of the virus.
It is suspected, but was not proven (never tested?) that Parvo also took many of the pups in 1998, a year the Yellowstone wolf population hardly grew.
Dan Stahler of the Yellowstone wolf team told me that Parvo is a relatively new virus in the United States and the Park, and it is still evolving, making its effects on the future in Yellowstone uncertain, but he believed it would not hit the pups hard two years in a row.
It isn't clear what sets off Parvo mortality in some years, but the recent increase in disease, including mange, in the wolves may be related to the end of cold winters. Note that manage has not been detected in Park wolves but has taken a heavy toll north and northwest of the Park, and it has also infested wolves northeast of the Park, although these packs survived.
In what might seem to be an unrelated matter, county commissions in a number of counties north of the Park are trying to drum up support to pass a resolution which, according to the Bozeman Chronicle, states that "Gray wolves are a predator species in need of management and the federal government should move quickly to remove them from the endangered species list . . ."
Gallatin County (Bozeman and surrounding area may be a holdout).
This presence of this resolution shows how unrelated political concern about wolves is to reality.
1. Wolf population in these counties is down.
2. The wolves are, and have been heavily managed.
3. Montana currently has nearly full management authored over wolves, much as if they had been delisted.
Folks in these areas might want to contact their commissioners and question them why they are doing this?
The resolution will probably be backed by Beaverhead, Carbon, Madison, Park, Stillwater and Sweet Grass counties. The fact that their efforts receive no credit from rural county commissioners must be discouraging to those who manage wolves. It ought to discourage efforts to vigorously pursue packs for minor "offenses." For example, last year Wildlife Services probably spent over a hundred thousand dollars trying to pick off the Phantom Pack* near Nye and Red Lodge after some minor cattle depredations. The effort was pointless from a livestock and political standpoint, but it wasn't costless.
*Note this is a different Phantom Pack than the one that sometimes appears in Yellowstone Park.
Copyright © 2006 Ralph Maughan
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