Idaho Wolf Update
February 1, 2000
Gray wolves identified in these updates are referenced as B-XX-Y. The B identifies the wolf as a central Idaho animal, numbers identify individuals, and the Y indicates male (M) or female (F).
Monitoring Of 13 potential breeding pairs, 10 were confirmed for Idaho during 1999. Idaho wolf packs having breeding pair status in 1999 include Big Hole, Chamberlain Basin, Kelly Creek, Landmark, Moyer Basin, Selway, Stanley Basin, Thunder Mountain, Twin Peaks, and White Cloud. The Bass Creek pack was relocated to NW Montana, through a variety of mortality factors and dispersal the Jureano Mountain pack is now only composed of two pups of the year, and evidence indicates the Snow Peak pack did not produce pups this year.
As of 1 January 2000, there were an estimated minimum of 154 wolves and 11 packs in Idaho, an estimated minimum of 54 pups were recruited into the population, and 22 mortalities were documented or suspected.
All wolf packs have moved onto big game winter ranges. Many packs are using different wintering areas than in previous years.
North of the Salmon River
Panhandle, Clearwater, and Lolo National Forests
Inclement weather continued to hamper monitoring efforts north of the Salmon River.
The Snow Peak pack including alpha pair B-20-F and B-31-M was last located on 3 December along the upper North Fork Clearwater River. The status of B31, who's radio collar is suspected of failing, is unknown. Dispersing Wyoming wolf, R132, continues to travel with the Snow Peak pack.
The Kelly Creek pack including alpha wolves B-15-F and 9013-M was last located on 18 January in the North Fork Clearwater River, within the Snow Peak pack's territory. Subadult wolf B48 has not been located since last summer and we suspect this wolf has dispersed. Alpha female B15 has not been located during the last several flights and her status at this point is unknown.
The Big Hole pack including alpha wolves B-11-F and B-07-M were last located in the upper Fish Creek drainage in Montana.
Lone wolf B-64-M has not been monitored since last October.
Lone wolf B-65-F, has not been located since shortly after her relocation from the White Cloud pack last summer.
Lone wolf B-52-M has not been located since fall of 1998.
Nez Perce National Forest
The Selway pack, including alpha wolves B-05-M and B10-F, has spent most of their time this past fall and winter west of Bargamin Creek. They were last located on the ridge between Bargamin and Meadow Creeks.
South of the Salmon River
Payette National Forest
Members of the Bass Creek pack (alpha female and 5 pups) were relocated to the Bob Marshall Wilderness in NW Montana in early December. The Bass Creek pack depredated on livestock in Montana's Bitterroot Valley early last summer. In an attempt to conserve the pack and stop further livestock depredations, all members of the pack were captured and placed in captivity. Unfortunately, the alpha male died during a handling accident, and three pups died of canine parvovirus in captivity. However, the intensive management actions have paid off as relocation has been very successful. The Bass Creek pack was joined by the relocated alpha male, #117, of the Pleasant Valley pack immediately after release back to the wild. The new "Spotted Bear" pack appear to have formed an intact pack and have, so far, stayed in the general area of the relocation site. The Spotted Bear pack will contribute to wolf recovery in NW Montana.
The Chamberlain Basin pack including alpha wolves B-09-M and B-16-F have spent much of the winter in the Big Creek drainage. They were last located in the headwaters of the West Fork of Crooked Creek.
B-38-F, a dispersing female subadult wolf from the Stanley Basin pack, has moved from the high elevations around Pilot Peak to lower elevation winter range along the South Fork Salmon River. Currently, there is no evidence that B38 has paired.
The Thunder Mountain pack including alpha female wolf B-22-F and her mate of unknown origin has traveled to winter range along the South Fork Salmon River about 10 airline miles west of the western border of their territory. Last year, the Thunder Mountain pack used winter range along the Middle Fork Salmon River on the eastern border of their territory about 40 airline miles from this year's wintering area. Dispersing yearling wolf B-59-M was located in the North Fork Boise River drainage (See Wolf Sign Surveys).
B-45-F continues to concentrate her movements in the upper Secesh River drainage. She has been observed with another wolf and is suspected to be paired. We anticipate this pair will form a new pack this spring.
Boise National Forest
B-28-M and B-61-M, after separating and monitored only intermittently through much of this past spring and summer, these two wolves have rejoined and spent much of the fall and early winter together in the Bear Valley, and Deadwood Reservoir Area. They have more recently moved to winter range along the headwaters of the South Fork Salmon River. B28 is the lone survivor of the Bear Valley Trio and B61 is a Yearling wolf born to the Stanley Basin pack and orphaned as a pup. We suspect they are paired and will form a new ":Bear Valley" pack this spring.
Salmon-Challis National Forest
The Landmark pack including alpha male B-33-M, his unknown mate, and their pups has moved to wintering areas along the Middle Fork Salmon River.
The Jureano Mountain pups B-80-F and B-81-M continue to travel together within winter range just outside of Salmon, Idaho. Jureano Mountain subadult wolf B-53-M is no longer with the pups and his status is unknown. Jureano Mountain subadult wolf B-46-F continued to use winter range along the west side of the Salmon River between Salmon and Challis. She has been observed with another wolf and is suspected to have paired. We anticipate this pair forming a new pack this spring.
The Moyer Basin pack including alpha female B-37-F and wolf B-49-M, have moved to winter ranges along the upper Panther Creek and Camas Creek drainages.
Dispersing subadult male wolves B40 and B47 continue to travel together. They have most recently traveled within the headwaters of the South Fork Payette River. Aerial visual observations indicate these wolves are traveling with four additional wolves of undetermined status. We suspect the four uncollared wolves are members of the original Landmark pack.
The Twin Peaks pack including alpha wolves B-35-F and B-18-M have moved onto winter range along the main Salmon River south of Challis; about 30 airline miles east of winter range in Loon Creek used last year. The Loon Creek winter range is within the Frank Church River-Of-No-Return Wilderness Area. However, winter range used by this pack this year is composed of a mix of public Bureau of Land Management land and private ranch lands over wintering large numbers of cattle along the main Salmon River. The Twin Peaks pack has depredated on livestock this winter which resulted in the loss of one calf and the lethal control of three uncollared pack members (see Management and Control). Relocated Stanley Basin wolf B-68-M is still with the Twin Peaks pack.
Sawtooth National Forest
The Stanley Basin pack including wolf pair B-23-F and B-27-M continues to use areas of the southeastern end of the Sawtooth Valley. B-66-F was not located on the last monitoring flight.
The White Cloud pack including alpha female wolf B-36-F and her uncollared mate, have most recently spent time in the Sheep Mountain area of the East Fork Salmon River. Subadult White Cloud male wolf B63 was last located in the Copper Basin area, about 15 airline miles east of his natal territory (see Wolf Sign Surveys).
Wolf Sign Surveys
As the wolf population continues to expand, an increased number of wolves will be uncollared compounding the difficult task of documenting formation of new packs. The Wolf Recovery Program relies on wolf sighting reports from the public to identify potential areas to survey for new wolf pack activity. The Recovery Program encourages the public to report all sightings of wolves or their sign. Sightings can be reported to Curt Mack, Nez Perce Tribe, P.O. Box 1922, McCall, ID 83638 (208) 634-1061; or Roy Heberger, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1387 S. Vinnell Way, Rm 368, Boise, ID 83709 (208) 378-5347.
The Wolf Recovery Program has recently received numerous reports of wolf activity in two areas, the Boise Front and Copper Basin, across the state that warranted additional investigation. Reports received in the Boise Front area included sightings of collared wolves. Project personnel conducted an aerial survey of the Boise Front in hopes of locating missing collared wolves. No collared wolves were located in the areas of reported wolf activity. However, this does not discount the possibilities of wolves in those areas as many of the collars on missing wolves are several years old and may not be functioning. A recently dispersing Thunder Mountain yearling wolf, B-59-M, was located in the North Fork Boise River during the aerial survey. This, along with documented wolf activity in the Copper Basin area, is the southern most extension of confirmed wolf activity in the State. The Recovery Program will continue to monitor the Boise Front area closely to document the extent of wolf activity in the area.
The Recovery Program also received several recent reports of wolf activity in the Copper Basin area northeast of Arco, Idaho. Project personnel conducted sign surveys using snowmobiles, searching over 200 miles of roads and trails in the Copper Basin area. Although no pack activity was identified, White Cloud yearling wolf B-63-M was located through radio telemetry in the area. Wolf sign indicated that there were 2-3 wolves traveling with B63. The Recovery Program will continue to monitor this area closely to determine the status of B63 and wolf activity in this area.
Outreach, Information, Education, & Coordination
John Oackleaf and the University of Idaho are in the final stages of preparing the first year's annual report for the Diamond Moose Calf Mortality Study. The annual report should be available sometime this winter.
Both winter predation studies have initiated their second field season this winter. The Panther Creek study will continue to document kills of both radio collared mountain lions and wolves. Because the Jureano Mountain pack is no longer intact, study personnel will concentrate their efforts on the Moyer Basin pack and newly paired B-46-F. The Big Creek study will also concentrate on documenting both wolf and mountain lion kills. Because the Thunder Mountain pack has shifted to winter range outside the study area, project personnel will concentrate on the Chamberlain Basin pack which has spent much of the winter in the Big Creek drainage.
Management & Control
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed U.S. District Judge Downes' decision to remove reintroduced wolves to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho. The decision upheld the legality of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's decision to reintroduce wolves as nonessential experimental populations under section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act and supports the wisdom of providing management flexibility to address social concerns of wolf recovery such as wolf-livestock conflicts. The ruling is good news for wolves and wolf recovery in the northern Rocky Mountains, and sends a clear message that wolves are here to stay. Citizens of Idaho and the Wolf Recovery Program can now move forward focusing on crafting creative solutions to social concerns surrounding wolf recovery, generating long term tolerance for wolves, and exploring models for wolf conservation and management that encourage coexistence of wolves and people.
Project personnel continued to attend Idaho State Legislative Wolf Oversight Committee Meetings as they draft a post delisting Idaho Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. The draft plan is in its final stages and has just undergone a select pier review. The Committee is planning to submit the plan to the State Legislature this session. If you are interested and would like to be informed or get involved, contact Jon Rachael, Idaho Department of Fish and Game in Boise at (208) 334-2920.
Project personnel presented at the Missing Link conference in Portland, ME.
The Twin Peaks pack's territory is situated within the Frank Church River-Of-No-Return Wilderness. This past summer and fall, the Twin Peaks pack has been exploring new country outside the eastern border of their territory which includes a mixture of National Forest and Bureau of Land Management public lands, and private ranch lands. This winter, the pack followed big game herds to lower elevations along the Salmon River outside of the Wilderness and within scattered private ranches over wintering cattle. The Twin Peaks pack depredated on a new born calf on private property in late January. The landowner also reported the pack chasing and attacking horses. According to sightings and observed wolf sign, the pack remained in close proximity to the ranch for several days. Because the pack had attacked livestock on multiple occasions and posed continued threats to livestock, and opportunities for relocation were limited by winter conditions, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authorized Lethal control to reduce the risk of continued livestock losses and encourage the pack to move out of the area. Three uncollared subadult pack members were lethally controlled. The Recovery Program is now monitoring the situation closely. An aversive conditioning device which was designed by Wildlife Services and operates upon receiving a signal from wolf radio collars, was set up on the ranch to discourage the pack from returning and to monitor pack activity around the ranch. No further depredation have been reported to date, although the pack is still in the general area, using higher elevations above the ranch.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced ongoing investigations into several animal deaths near Salmon, Idaho. The Services National Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon confirmed poisoning to be the cause of death for alpha male, B-29-M, and subadult wolf, B-51-F, from the Moyer Basin pack. Alpha male B29 was recovered in March of 1999 in the Panther Creek drainage west of Salmon, ID. Subadult wolf B51 was relocated to the Selway River drainage after the Moyer Basin pack depredated on livestock during the summer of 1998. Almost a year after relocation, B51 traveled back to the Moyer Basin pack's territory around March of 1999. Shortly thereafter, his carcass was discovered and retrieved in May of 1999. Wolf recovery in Idaho has greatly benefited from the tolerance afforded wolves by the citizens of Idaho. The Wolf Recovery Program praises the, patience, understanding, and willingness to work together of all the livestock producers and private landowners we have had the pleasure of working with.
Unfortunately, the poisoning of these two wolves is a somber reminder of how tenuous the wolf's foothold is in Idaho and how short sighted attitudes of a few could prolong the burdens to many rural Idahoans by delaying the recovery of wolves in the northern Rockies. It is important to remember there is overwhelming public support for restoring wolves across the United States, and the Service has a legal mandate to recover endangered species and remains committed to wolf recovery in the northern Rockies. Wolves are here to stay in Idaho. Illegal take of wolves will only serve to delay delisting thereby prolonging federal management of wolves under the protection of the Endangered Species Act. Delisting, or removing the wolf from the Endangered Species list, is to the benefit of all. Only after the wolf population has recovered will the federal government relinquish management authority, allowing for more local and flexible management of wolves to address wolf conflicts.
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