Gray Wolf Recovery
Weekly Progress Report
Weeks of January 6 - January 17, 2003
NEW WEB ADDRESS - See westerngraywolf.fws.gov/ for maps of wolf pack locations and home ranges, tables of wolf numbers and depredations, and summaries of scientific studies.
Winter wolf helicopter capture efforts to radio-collar wolves were conducted in the Yellowstone area on the 7th-9th. Thirteen wolves from 7 packs [Leopold-4, Swan lake-3, Agate-2, Canyon Creek-1, Druid-1, Geode-1, and 261's group-1] were collared. Three wolves were fitted with GPS collars. Further capture will be conducted this winter. High winds and the lack of snow that moved wolves into the higher mountains and forest prevented capture attempts in the Paradise Valley.
The 20-some member Nez Perce pack, with 6 radioed members, hasn't been found since mid-December despite extensive aerial and ground searches. Anyone seeing new wolf pack activity within a hundred miles of Yellowstone Park is asked to call us as-soon-as possible. We are continuing to search for them. Last year they traveled into SE Idaho.
On Jan. 7-10, Niemeyer, Williamson (WS), Holyan (NPT), John Aldous (rancher) and Mike Richey (outfitter) snowmobiled to several locations in Lemhi and Custer Counties to check out wolf activity and reports of packs. They checked out an elk kill site about 30 miles north of Salmon that turned out to be made by remnants of the Jureano pack (radio signal). They located a new Moyer Basin pack on the back of Morgan Creek summit. Ten to eleven wolves crossed the Morgan Creek Road and left clear tracks in the snow. No radio-collars were in this area. From Jan 18-24, Idaho is planning a winter helicopter darting capture effort. Conditions look poor due to lack of snow and pack sizes seem to be small but they'll give it their best effort.
Nine breeding pairs and 47 pups were documented in Idaho in 2002 compared to 14 breeding pairs and 82 pups in 2001. While part of this decline is due to the difficulty of radio-collaring and counting wolves in Idaho's rugged terrain, it also appears some of the wolf packs are in a state of flux. In Yellowstone pack trespasses have resulted in increased conflicts and wolf mortality. As in Yellowstone it is possible that with possible prey declines, wolves have exceeded their own social tolerance and will be limiting themselves in the core recovery areas by inter-pack strife and increasing dispersal.
A group of 4 gray wolves, thought to include 2 pups, with a dispersing radioed male was seen in the Taylor Fork drainage. We will attempt to put another radio in the group if conditions permit. A small group(s?) of wolves continues to be reported on the Fly D ranch SW of Bozeman. Around Thanksgiving Asher confirmed sightings of at least 4 including one pup along the Spanish Peaks Rd. No radioed wolves are known to be in that area.
Please report any sightings of wolf activity to the nearest U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state Fish and Game Agency, Forest Service, BLM, Tribal, or USDA Wildlife Services office. We thank everyone for their cooperation.
Livestock Depredations & Management (control)
A calf was killed by wolves near Pinedale, WY on private land on the 2nd. WS confirmed several wolves were involved and local residents have reported seeing up to 6 wolves. Radio tracking confirmed that a sub-group from the Teton pack was responsible. Teton wolves have been involved in 4 previous cattle depredations. Two uncollared wolves from the group were shot on the 9th. The other wolves are still moving around and we are attempting to monitor them.
Fontaine and Asher met with landowners in the Paradise Valley where sheep had been killed by members of the Mill Creek pack. The landowner whose sheep were killed still has a shoot on sight permit. Asher removed fladry from the fence on the 11th, and the sheep are being night-pastured in smaller enclosure. Defenders is considering helping with more secure fencing. Wildlife Services is still trapping in the area in an attempt to radio-collar a wolf from the subgroup. The alpha female is the only radioed pack member and it appears that she was not involved in the sheep depredations and is consistently located high the in mountains.
Nineteen sheep were killed NW of Harloton last week and 3 days later 15 more were killed a few miles away. Wildlife Services investigation concluded that they may have been attacked by a wolf because of multiple bites along the back and neck. No wolves are known to be in that area but WS is looking for sign. As a precaution WS pulled M-44 devices in the immediate area where the sheep were killed but may reset them if no confirmation of wolf activity can be located. The Service recommended they not pull further M-44's in the surrounding area unless some confirmed wolf activity was detected. WS will notify the Service if wolf is thought to be a residing in that area. WS authorized to remove a wolf if one was found among the 7,500 sheep in that general area.
An adult cow was half consumed near where a wolf was mistaken for a coyote and killed this fall on the Flathead Reservation. The local rancher believes 3 wolves are still in that area. WS investigated and couldn't find tracks or other wolf sign because of the terrain and lack of snow but the feeding pattern indicates it is a probable/possible wolf kill. WS may attempt to dart, radio-collar a pack member if wolves continue to feed on the carcass. The tribe set up a remote camera on the carcass but hasn't gotten anything but cow photos so far. On the 17th, WS was controlling coyotes on a neighboring ranch and found another 2-3 day-old dead cow, this one a confirmed wolf kill, which makes the first one a confirmed loss also. Control options are being discussed.
Tom Meier et al. are working on compiling and summarizing data for the 2002 annual interagency wolf report.
Northern Range elk population counts were conducted in December by the National Park Service and Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The recently complied count data indicate that 9,215 elk were present. Biologists believed the count could have been an under estimate because of spotty snow cover. But, this is first time the elk population was estimated to be below 10,000 elk since 1994, when 9,456 elk were counted. Drought, wolf and other predation, and winter antlerless hunts all are believed to have contributed to reducing herd size. As a result hunting permits have been reduce from 3,000 annually to 2,200 this year. At the end of February the annual calf/calf count will be conducted. Last year's 14 calves/100 cows was the lowest on record.
Information, Education & Law Enforcement
Fontaine traveled to the Charlottesville, VA area the 14-17th. He is participating in the kick-off ceremonies for the Lewis and Clark Centennial. He and other Service biologists will be giving talks to schools in the area, as well as assisting with other media events.
Service LE is currently investigating 6 wolf mortalities that have occurred since November. Wolf B134 is a suspected illegal mortality and a reward is being offered. B67 was recovered in the Bitterroot Valley and under investigation. Collars of the suspected alpha male of the Wolf Fang pack, male B133, female B100 [Big hole area], are on mortality and being investigated. The carcass of an uncollared wolf was recovered along the Lochsa River.
Smith did a CNN interview on the 17th and public domain video footage was taken [thanks Bill Campbell!] during helicopter darting/handling in Yellowstone the 7-9th. Bangs was interviewed for Paris radio on the 16th, and did several interviews for NW U.S. newspapers on meeting the wolf recovery goals and state wolf planning efforts.
The Dec. 19-20, annual interagency wolf meeting minutes were completed and are attached.
The CENTRAL ROCKIES WOLF PROJECT is pleased to announce that registration has begun for the WORLD WOLF CONGRESS 2003 - BRIDGING SCIENCE AND COMMUNITY, to be held at the Banff Centre (Banff, Canada) from September 25-28, 2003. Please visit www.worldwolfcongress.ca for complete information.
Call for papers: Papers are now being accepted for the 2003 North American Interagency Wolf Conference, April 8 - 10, 2003 at Chico Hot Springs, Pray, MT. The theme this year is wolf/ungulate relationships. Please submit a one page single spaced abstract which includes your full contact information, affiliations, and authors, by email to Joseph Fontaine at . Please submit a digital picture related to your research or topic to include in the agenda and on the website. We can also scan images sent by mail. Registration for the conference will begin November 1, 2002 and you may contact Suzanne Laverty at for details. The registration secure website is http://keysecure.com/forwolves.org/confer2003.html.
The weekly wolf report can now be viewed at the Service's Region 6 web site at westerngraywolf.fws.gov. This report is government public property and can be used for any purpose. Please distribute as you see fit.
Contact: Ed Bangs (406)449-5225 or Internet -
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