Crews continue to conduct aerial monitoring flights, respond to reports of wolf sightings, and coordinate information about wolf activity with affected livestock producers.
During mid February, project personnel from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wildlife Services, and Nez Perce Tribe conducted capture efforts using helicopter darting to radio-collar wolves along the upper Salmon River corridor. Efforts were successful as 8 new collars were placed on five different packs including Jureano Mountain, Moyer Basin, Stanley Basin, Wildhorse, and Whitehawk. Highlights included placing a new collar on the suspected alpha male for the Whitehawk pack allowing biologists to better track the activities of this pack, and replacing B2's old non-functioning collar. B2, the alpha male for the Wildhorse pack, is one of the original wolves released in 1995. This was the first opportunity to handle and replace his collar since his release. Released as an adult, B2 is now in the golden years of his life estimated to be at least 8 years of age. B2 appears to be in good health, although he is showing signs of his age.
Additional collars in these packs will assist the wolf recovery project in monitoring the movements and status of these wolf packs, and help project staff and livestock producers to resolve wolf-livestock conflicts.
Monitoring efforts for the past two weeks concentrated on the southern packs, in conjunction with the helicopter capture effort.
The Selway pack continues to use areas within their usual home range. This pack was last located, in the Bargamin Creek drainage of the Main Salmon River.
White Cloud female wolf B36 has returned from the Grasshopper Valley area and was located once again in the Big Hole country of northwest Montana. Pack member B86 has not been located for the past few flights.
Relocated White Cloud wolf, B63 was located in the West Fork of the Bitterroot River drainage.
The Jureano Mountain pack continues to use usual winter range within their home range. For the past two weeks, this pack has been traveling along the breaks of the Main Salmon River downstream from the town of Northfork, ID. One additional radio collar was placed in this pack. Dispersing Stanley Basin wolf B97 continues to be loosely associated with the Jureano Mountain pack, traveling within this packs territory. The status of this wolf within the pack is currently unknown. He most recently has been using areas within the southeastern portion of the pack's home range, west of the town of Salmon, ID.
The Moyer Basin pack continues to use traditional winter range within their territory. Most recently, this pack has been traveling in the Moyer Basin area within the upper Panther Creek drainage where two members of this pack were helicopter darted and received new radio collars.
The Whitehawk pack continues to travel widely throughout the upper Salmon River and Big Lost River drainages; outside of their previously determined home range. Areas used by this pack show a substantial overlap with areas traveled by the Stanley Basin pack; also traveling widely outside of their established home range. Most recently, this pack has traveled from the East Fork of the Salmon River to the Willow Creek Summit area within the Big Lost River drainage, and back to the East Fork. Two members of this pack including the suspected alpha male were helicopter darted and fitted with new radio collars.
The Wildhorse pack continues to use areas within their home range in Copper Basin. Two members of this pack, including alpha male B2, were helicopter darted and fitted with new radio collars.
The Stanley Basin pack disbanded this fall, and all collared wolves left the Sawtooth Valley. After separating, alpha female wolf B23 and two collared wolves B95 and B100 rejoined and have been traveling extensively throughout the upper Salmon River and Big Lost River drainages outside of their established territory. Their movements show substantial overlap with those of the Whitehawk pack. The three collared wolves have been observed traveling with 4-6 uncollared wolves, assumed to be members of the Stanley Basin pack, however during recent helicopter capture efforts only one other uncollared wolf was observed with this group, which was fitted with a new radio collar. The status of this pack is currently in question. Most recently, B23, B95, and B100 have traveled from the East Fork of the Salmon River to areas along the breaks of the Main Salmon River around the confluence of the Yankee Fork. Stanley Basin Wolf B97 has dispersed north and is loosely associated with the Jureano Mountain pack. The current whereabouts of relocated alpha male wolf B27 is unknown.
Dispersing Thunder Mountain wolf, B59, was recently located along the upper Main Salmon corridor in the Squaw Creek drainage. This wolf has been missing for over a year. He was observed traveling with two other wolves. He was last located within the Loon Creek drainage in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. Project personnel will monitor these wolves closely as they may represent a new potential breeding par.
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. Reports we received in the Copper Basin area last winter led to the confirmation of the Wildhorse pack. Many people are currently working with the project to help us document wolf presence in additional areas across the state. We would like to thank all of those who have taken the time to report observed wolf activity and are hopeful that continued help from the public will result in confirmation of additional wolf packs. The Recovery Program encourages the public to report all sightings of wolves or their sign. Sightings can be reported to Curt Mack by mail at Nez Perce Tribe, P.O. Box 1922, McCall, ID 83638, or by phone at (208) 634-1061, or by email at [email protected]; or Carter Niemeyer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1387 S. Vinnell Way, Rm 368, Boise, ID 83709, (208) 378-5347.