2003 North American Interagency Wolf Conference
Speaker's Abstracts

99 Wolff Den Design - Rocky Mountain Wolf Conference Sponsored by:

US Fish & Wildlife Service,
Yellowstone National Park,
Wolf Recovery Foundation,
Defenders of Wildlife.

April 8 - 10, 2003
Chico Hot Springs, Pray, MT

An Assessment Of Boyce's Yellowstone Wolf Recovery Model: 8 Years Post-wolf.
Nathan Varley, University of Alberta, Biological Sciences Department, Edmonton AB Canada

Recovery of gray wolves (Canis lupus) within and around Yellowstone National Park has provided the opportunity for examining predictions made prior to recovery. Eight years after wolves were transported from Canada to Yellowstone a thriving population has been established. Efforts to forecast the ecological ramifications of restoring wolves to the Yellowstone ecosystem were made prior to reintroduction and included various attempts to model outcomes of wolf and prey populations. Dr. M. S. Boyce constructed a model and expanded it to simulate the consequences of wolves for ungulate populations in the greater Yellowstone area in which he used regression relationships based on observed growth in elk populations under varying levels of population density and winter severity. Prey populations were expected to be reduced by 10-30%, with elk (Cervus elaphus) as the principal species. The expected consequences of wolf predation on ungulate populations was further influenced significantly by climate and management practices. These simulations of the pre-wolf era will be revisited in the context of the contemporary understanding of the outcomes of wolf recovery, and evaluated based on their accuracy.

The Effectiveness of Wolf Control: An Assessment of Wolf Control Programs in Alaska.
Helene Jorgensen, George Mason University

Since 1976, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) has conducted a number of wolf control programs (defined as the human act of reducing the wolf population below levels that the prey population could otherwise support.) The most recent being a non-lethal wolf control program implemented in 1997 to restore the Fortymile caribou herd. The objective of these wolf control programs has been to increase the abundance of ungulates for human consumptive uses. My review of the Alaskan wolf control programs find that they have been rather ineffective in obtaining this objection. Factors, other than reduction in the density of wolves, may have contributed significantly to subsequent increases in ungulate populations. Specifically, reduction in ungulate harvest levels and favorable weather conditions have been shown to significantly affect ungulate densities, and controlling for these factors decreased the estimated impact of wolf control. This indicates that at best wolf control may be effective only in combination with reduction in ungulate harvest levels, and that wolf control alone likely has little impact on the long-term abundance of ungulates.

A 1997 evaluation by the National Academy of Sciences of predator management in Alaska recommended that economics, social and cultural considerations should be incorporated into predator management-decisions. Generally, wolf control programs conducted by a government agency have been expensive. Nevertheless, studies on the economic cost and benefits of wolf control have found that the benefits in terms of increased ungulate hunting opportunities outweigh the costs of implementing such programs. However, these findings are based on the assumption that a temporary reduction in the density of wolves has a significant and lasting impact on the abundance of prey populations. In the case where wolf control has only a small or a short-term impact on the ungulate population, such programs can be highly cost inefficient, compared to other management options, such as habitat improvement and hunting regulation. My investigation of wolf control therefore suggests that wolf control programs can be cost inefficient and relatively ineffective in enhancing ungulate populations. Moreover, other factors may contribute to the observed changes in ungulate levels, and any evaluation of wolf control should disentangle the effects of these from the effects of reducing wolf population

Legal, Political, and Social Considerations for Managing Re-colonizing Wolves in Utah.
Craig R. McLaughlin and Kevin Conway, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

In late November 2002, a wolf dispersed from Yellowstone National Park into northern Utah and was captured in a trap set for coyotes. This incident rekindled public debate over the future of wolves in the State. Wolves are expected to continue dispersing into Utah from expanding populations to the north, and federal recovery goals have been met, providing the expectation of relaxation and removal of federal protections from wolves throughout the West. The Utah State Legislature passed a resolution during the 2003 session that provides general direction for addressing wolf management in the future. The resolution;

  1. urges timely removal of wolves from federal protection to transfer management authority to the states;
  2. urges the US Fish and Wildlife Service to reject any requests to establish additional wolf recovery areas that include Utah;
  3. reiterates support for the Wildlife Board as the policy-setting body that oversees state management programs directed at wolves;
  4. encourages the Division of Wildlife Resources to develop a wolf management plan; and
  5. suggests a mechanism for funding a program to fully compensate owners of livestock injured or killed by wolves.

The Legislature is also considering a bill that sets conditions for transplanting wolves within the State, and a bill that would establish an income tax check-off to fund a program for compensating owners of livestock damaged by wolves and state wolf management activities. This paper describes the roles of the Legislature, the Wildlife Board, the Division of Wildlife Resources, and the public in setting and implementing policy regarding wolf management in Utah. It also reviews legal, political, and social considerations for management of wolves, if and when the State regains management authority of the species. State law mandates that the interests of agriculture, sportsmen, and county governments are considered when the Wildlife Board sets policies. In addition, a government-to-government agreement with the Ute Tribe requires the Division to manage wildlife cooperatively with the Tribe on Indian Lands. Wolf advocates are concerned that these legal constraints will preclude a rational, science-based approach to wolf management. Given this background, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources will be challenged to craft a wolf management program that addresses the diverse concerns of all stakeholders.

Predators in Conflict: Human-wolf Interaction in Montana's Ninemile Valley.
Margaret A. Shunick, MS University of Montana - School of Forestry (Ph. D. student) and University of Montana - Practical Ethics Center (Advanced Graduate Studies in Teaching Ethics)

In 2002, wolves began to depredate livestock in the lower Ninemile valley west of Missoula, Montana. Wildlife officials responded by authorizing lethal removal of individual wolves from the pack. Seven of the estimated thirteen-member pack were killed by government agents before winter. Some residents thought it wrong to kill wild wolves for simply doing what wild animals do to make a living. These folks were likely to shift blame for livestock deaths to the owners for daring to live in the forest interface or for failure to adequately protect their animals. Other residents thought it wrong to let any of the wolves live, that the government had not gone far enough to promote the safety of people and animals in the Ninemile valley. However, to characterize this situation as a clash of values fails to identify its ethical dimensions and provides no insight on how the issue should be resolved in the public interest. After all, public officials in the United States are expected to act for the common good of all citizens, not to select which values to promote in a society that encourages diversity.

A systematic moral analysis according to Bernard Gert's (2002) Common morality - conducted on interviews with Ninemile residents and wildlife managers - offers justification for the lethal removals based on government's role related duty to protect people and property. The general rule of thumb for Gert's system is that 'it is immoral for people to do that which it is unreasonable for them to want.' For example, it is reasonable for people not to want hungry wolves within grabbing distance of their children, therefore it is not immoral for government agents to make sure that does not happen. They would, in actuality, be morally blameworthy only if they were derelict in performing their job efficiently and equitably. The analysis also suggests government's role related duty to keep the peace supports the intuition that lethal removal of some wolves prevents ordinary citizens from breaking the law and causing greater (illegal) harm to wolves.

Preliminary-results of a Low-Intensity Disturbance-Experiment at Tundra Wolf Home-Sites.
Paul F. Frame and David S. Hik, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta; H. Dean. Cluff, Resources, Wildlife, and Economic Development; and Paul C. Paquet, World Wildlife Fund Canada

We report first year results of experimental disturbance at wolf home-sites (natal dens and rendezvous sites) in the central Canadian Arctic. The experiment was done in the sub-arctic wilderness of mainland Canada, with study sites located approximately 300 km northeast of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. In the last fifteen years, portions of the study area have been developed for exploration, mining, outfitting, and eco-tourism. We established temporary field camps near six wolf home-sites and observed them from concealed points 300 - 1600 m away. Initially we identified individuals to determine the number and social status of wolves present. Our experimental disturbance treatment involved a person walking up to the site and staying there for 5-10 minutes on three consecutive days. Wolf reactions were described on audiotape and recorded with a video camera. We report the mean and range of response distances by wolves to the treatment. Dominant males reacted more intensely to our disturbance treatment than females. Four sites were disturbed from 6 June to 3 July 2002 (early period) and two from 9 to 22 August 2002 (late period). Of packs treated in the early period, one moved from the site after the second treatment while the other three tolerated our disturbance without abandoning the site. Both packs treated in the late period were at rendezvous sites and moved after the second day of disturbance. These preliminary results suggest that wolves are less likely to move home-sites in response to low intensity disturbance when pups are young, indicating that this may be a sensitive time in the annual cycle of wolves. This work supports decisions that consider the age of pups before implementing management action at wolf dens.

Winter Movement Patterns of a Recolonizing Wolf Population.
Eric J. Bergman and Robert A. Garrott, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT

A largely unanswered question concerning the ecology of wolves centers around what habitat and landscape factors substantially influence their movement patterns. To address this question, we are studying fine scale movements and broader scale habitat use of wolves in a Yellowstone prey system. By focusing on the winter ranges of Yellowstone's non-migratory Madison-Firehole elk herd and Central bison herd, we are hoping to use intensively studied ungulate populations as well as other environmental features to tease apart the influential drivers of wolf movement. Wolf spatial data were collected on multiple scales over the past four winters. At the broadest scale, wolf core use areas have been delineated based on 522 ground based telemetry locations. At a finer scale, snow tracking resulted in 1,287 kilometers of data which are being used to model wolf movement patterns across a heterogeneous landscape of terrain, vegetation and prey availability. At the finest scale, 272 wolf kill sites were visited in order to gain insight into locations of concentrated wolf hunting efforts and sites of higher elk vulnerability. Preliminary conclusions will be presented in the context of potential management implications as well as possible affects on predator-prey models in large mammal systems.

An Analysis of Wolf Hunting Behavior in Yellowstone National Park.
Daniel R. MacNulty, L. David Mech, and Douglas W. Smith. Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of Minnesota; U.S. Geological Survey, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center; Yellowstone Center for Resources

To study the hunting behavior of the wolf (Canis lupus) in Yellowstone National Park (YNP), we first define the wolf predatory sequence as consisting of six principle behaviors: travel, approach, watch, attack, target, and capture. These behaviors are organized into three nested groups: hunting bout, prey encounter, and predation attempt. Using this framework, we evaluated general patterns of hunting behavior and estimated hunting success rates, for wolves hunting elk and bison in YNP. From May 1995 to March 2000, 62 hunting bouts, 267 prey encounters, and 565 predation attempts were observed in their entirety. The typical hunting pattern involved a brief hunting bout (« 60 min.) including at least one prey encounter(« 15 min.) and at least one predation attempt (« 4 min.). Wolves encountered prey within 25 minutes of hunting, and approximately once every 20 minutes thereafter (3.00 0.42 encounters/ hour/bout N = 62).

Bison confronted wolves more frequently than elk (79% vs. 55% of encounters; c2 = 8.60, d.f. = 1, P « 0.01) and charged wolves more frequently than did elk (62% vs. 26% of encounters; c2 = 22.20, d.f. = 1, P « 0.001). During bison encounters, wolves made fewer predation attempts (60% vs. 80%; c2 = 8.50, d.f. = 1, P « 0.01) and shorter predation attempts (2.90 0.51 min. vs. 4.00 0.38 min.; t = 4.04, d.f. = 165, P « 0.001) than during elk encounters. Wolf encounters with bison also included frequent periods of watching from within 10 m. Consequently, bison (Bison bison) were more difficult to kill (0.04 kills/encounter) than elk (Cervus elaphus) (0.24 kills/encounter). Comparisons with other studies indicate a general association between hunting success and ungulate size.

These results suggest that:

  • large prey are less vulnerableto wolf predation because they are more dangerous to kill and
  • wolves kill mainly vulnerable ungulates to avoid the risk of prey-caused injury.

Wolf Recovery in the Southern Rockies.
Mike Phillips, Turner Endangered Species Fund

Since the mid-1990s there has been considerable interest in restoring wolves to the Southern Rockies Ecoregion. This area extends from south central Wyoming, through western Colorado and north-central New Mexico. The Ecoregion includes much wild land (about 25 million acres) and much wild prey (e.g., an estimated 260,000 elk and 490,000 deer inhabit Colorado) that could easily support a wolf population. There is considerable public support for restoring wolves to the area (66 percent of registered voters from the region support restoration), and significant citizen-based efforts have arisen to do just that. Since the Ecoregion is nearly equidistant from the population of wolves in the northern Rockies and the population of wolves in southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona, restoring wolves here could provide nature with badly needed grist to recreate a metapopulation of wolves from the arctic to Mexico. Nowhere else in the world does such an opportunity exist to effect large carnivore restoration over an area of continental proportions. Moreover, the southern portion of the Southern Rockies may offer the only hope for recovering the Mexican wolf.

Wolf Recovery in the Contiguous United States.
Mike Phillips, Turner Endangered Species Fund; Brad Bartlett, Southern Rockies Wolf Restoration Project; Michael Bean, Environmental Defense; Joel Berger, Wildlife Conservation Society; Carlos Carroll, Klamath Center for Conservation Research; Nina Fascione, Defenders of Wildlife; Tom France, National Wildlife Federation; Kyran Kunkel, Turner Endangered Species Fund; Dan Pletscher, Department of Forestry and Wildlife, University of Montana; Mark Shaffer, Defenders of Wildlife; Bill Snape, Defenders of Wildlife; Michael Soule, The Wildlands Project

By July 2003 wolf populations in the contiguous United States included more animals and were more widely distributed than at any time since the early 1900s. In response to the species' improved conservation status, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a comprehensive proposed reclassification rule that effectively served as the Service's vision for wolf recovery throughout the contiguous United States. The proposal was complex and controversial. By early 2003 the Service had finalized the reclassification rule. This paper considers the legal and biological appropriateness of the Service's final rule and offer recommendations to ensure that wolf recovery is consistent with relevant biological and legal standards and the definitions, intent, and spirit of the Endangered Species Act.

Westward Bound Wolves: Oregon and California.
Nancy Weiss, Western Director, Species Conservation, Defenders of Wildlife

Wolves dispersing into Oregon after a multi-decade absence has sparked enormous interest, and varying responses from stakeholders. Though the issue is, at present, more elevated in Oregon, the prospect of wolves one day returning to California has generated a similar reaction. This presentation addresses the historical presence of wolves in both states; current state-level protections for wolves; and reactions by the media, state agencies and commissions, legislatures, conservation groups and other stakeholders in response to the issue of wolf restoration.

A Comparison of Snow-Tracking and Telemetry data in the Development of Resource Selection Models for Wolves in Kananaskis Country, Alberta.
Travis Logan, Shelley Alexander, Joanne Saher, University of Calgary, and Paul Paquet, World Wildlife Fund

Non-invasive detection strategies are gaining interest in wildlife research and conservation. We tested resource selection models developed using tracking data with those created using telemetry data for gray wolves (Canis lupus) in the Central Canadian Rocky Mountains. We recorded wolf tracks in snow on road right-of-ways and transects in Kananaskis Country, Alberta between November and March, from 1997-2000. We used Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems to examine the relationship between wolf presence and landscape characteristics. Independent variables included distance to roads, greenness, distance to high greenness, wetness, distance to high wetness, deer and elk abundance, percent cover, topographic complexity, distance to high topographic complexity, aspect (eastness, northness), slope, and elevation. We used logistic regression and information criterion to create a winter-based tracking model of resource selection in Kananaskis. We tested this model against telemetry data collected for wolves in the Kananaskis Valley from 1991-1993, to determine the efficacy of using non-invasive tracking data to create resource selection models.

Effects of Wolf Removal on Livestock Depredation in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming.
Liz Bradley and Dan Pletscher, Wildlife Biology Program, School of Forestry, University of Montana

Wolf recovery in the northwestern U.S has brought with it the challenge of managing conflicts with livestock. In response to these conflicts, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with the assistance of Wildlife Services, has relocated 107 wolves and lethally controlled 141 wolves from 1987-2002. Other wolves were legally or illegally killed, died of natural causes, or put in captivity after depredation events. In most cases, some wolves remained in the depredating packs. We looked at depredation activity of wolf packs remaining post-removal and compared this to depredating packs that did not undergo any form of removal, to determine the extent to which removal reduces livestock killing behavior. Potential effects of wolf pack size and composition were examined in this context. Wolf removal was considered successful if remaining packs were not implicated in any confirmed or highly probable depredations for » 1 year. Of 48 partial pack removal events from 1987-2001, 75% (n=36) of remaining packs depredated again within 1 year of removal.

Assessing Elk Group Size and Distributional Responses to Wolves in Winter.
Justin A. Gude, Robert A. Garrott, Scott Creel, Ecology Department, Montana State University

As the gray wolf population expands outward from Yellowstone National Park, there is potential for wolf- induced changes in the behavior of wintering elk populations. Certain anti-predator responses to wolves, such as changes in mean group size and animal distribution, are of interest due to their relationship to resource management policies, procedures, and objectives on the private and public lands that compose wintering areas.

The specific objective of this research is to quantify the effects of a wolf pack on mean elk group size and distribution on a winter range. Ground-based telemetry and tracking techniques were used to estimate wolf movements in the area and resulted in 267 wolf locations and 23 wolf kill locations in the first of what will be two field seasons of data collection. Data on elk group size and distribution was gathered via 257 surveys of km2 units around wolf locations, wolf kill locations, and in areas without recent wolf presence. To analyze these data, hypotheses of elk group size and distributional responses to predation pressure are being constructed in the form of statistical models grouped into 3 categories for comparison using Akaike's Information Criterion:

  1. no response;
  2. behavioral response independent of frequency of exposure to wolves (typical prey response), and;
  3. behavioral response dependent on frequency of exposure to wolves (risk- allocation).

The results of preliminary analyses will be discussed in the context of wolf and elk management and potential implications on the population dynamics of these two species.

Cooperative Wolf Depredation Management During Wolf Recovery in Wisconsin, 1990 - 2002.
Robert C. Willging, District Supervisor, United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services

Gray wolves (Canis lupus) were commonly found throughout Wisconsin prior to settlement of the state by Europeans. Wolves were largely extirpated from southern Wisconsin by the late 1800's and from central Wisconsin by 1914. A remnant wolf population existed in northern Wisconsin until the 1950's. Wolves began to reappear in the state in the 1970's under the protection of the Endangered Species Act. By 1980 five packs were documented to occur. Federal and state recovery plans established goals and objectives for wolf recovery in Wisconsin. Depredation management was a component of recovery plans. In 1990 provisions for wolf depredation management were included in a cooperative agreement between the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) and USDA-APHIS-Wildlife Services (WS). The role of WS included investigating reported wolf depredations, providing technical assistance, and conducting control trapping when appropriate. Confirmation of a depredation was required for eligibility for state sponsored damage compensation payments. Wolf numbers began a steady upward climb in the 1990's. The Wisconsin recovery goal of 80 animals was reached in 1995. The statewide population was estimated at 197 - 203 by 1999 when Wisconsin downlisted wolves from state endangered to state threatened status. The late winter 2001-2002 estimate was 323 - 339 wolves in 81 packs in northern and central Wisconsin. The process of state delisting was begun in 2002 after the population had surpassed the 250 animals required by the recovery plan. As wolves have increased in number, depredations on domestic animals have also increased significantly. WS investigated nearly 300 wolf complaints, 1990 - 2002, and confirmed over 100 of those, including depredations to livestock, poultry, pen raised white-tailed deer, hunting dogs, and pets. Thirty-seven wolves have been trapped by WS from chronic depredation situations during the same time period. Most wolves were transferred to WDNR for relocation within the state. The WDNR paid approximately $212,000 in compensation payments for wolf damage, 1990 - 2002. Wisconsin approved a wolf management plan in 1999 which set a population management goal of 350 animals. Effective depredation management will continue to play an important role as the emphasis shifts from recovery to management of a stable population.

Carnivores, Ungulates, and Fire.
Holly A. Akenson, James J. Akenson, and Howard B. Qiugley, Taylor Ranch Field Station, University of Idaho; Hornocker Wildlife Institute-Wildlife Conservation Society, Bozeman, Montana

A massive forest fire swept across the Big Creek winter range in August of 2000, where we have been researching winter cougar and wolf predation behavior for 4 years, 1998-2002. The purpose of our work was to look at the relationships between the large carnivores and their prey and the interactions between carnivores. Following the fire that burned the majority of the ungulate winter range, we compared our data pre and post fire to evaluate changes in predator - prey and predator - predator relationships. We assessed ungulate displacement and nutritional condition of ungulate carcasses. We compared pre and post fire cougar and wolf winter home ranges and diets. We evaluated carnivore strife and mortality causes. We will discuss the different adaptive strategies used by carnivores and ungulates in response to fire.

Preliminary Field Evaluation of Fladry to Deter Wolf Predation on Livestock.
Rick Williamson, USDA APHIS Wildlife Services; Stewart Breck, USDA APHIS Wildlife Services, National Wildlife Research Centerk; Carter Niemeyer, US Fish and Wildlife Services; Suzanne Laverty Stone, Defenders of Wildlife

The use of fladry, a visual deterrent consisting of regularly spaced strips of material hanging from horizontally suspended lengths of cord, has been proposed as a potential nonlethal measure to protect livestock from wolf predation (Muslini and Visalberghi 2001). During summer 2002 we undertook a cooperative effort to evaluate this tool's potential usefulness by installing approximately 10 km of fladry around a 400-ha fenced pasture containing nearly 400 cattle. The test site was a privately-owned ranch property in central Idaho, where a wolf pack with a known history of livestock depredation had denned in the spring of 2002. Fladry was constructed by sewing 50 X 10 cm red plastic flags at 50 cm intervals on a 0.2 cm diameter nylon rope. A continuous length of this rope was then attached to the existing barbed wire fence that surrounded the ranch. The entire fladry line was inspected and maintained at least once every 72 hours. The wolf pack in the area contained eight wolves, at least four of which had been captured and radio-collared over one year prior to the experiment. We monitored the collared wolves daily with radio-telemetry from the ground, and additionally monitored tracking plots inside and outside of the fladry line to assess whether wolves entered the ranch. Wolves crossed the fladry line after 61 days, and subsequently killed cattle on the ranch.

The effectiveness of fladry for protecting larger areas is not well understood, but results from this preliminary trial in Idaho suggest that fladry may potentially be useful in deterring wolf predation for up to 60 days. It is important to recognize, however, that the human activity associated with wolf monitoring and fladry maintenance during this evaluation may have contributed to a deterrent effect, and that merely stringing fladry around a pasture may not necessarily contribute to a deterrent effect for as long a period of time. Whether the time and expense involved in using this technique is worthwhile would likely depend on case-by-case circumstances and a variety of factors, including:

  1. the length of time livestock are anticipated to need protection;
  2. presence of existing perimeter fencing to reduce the logistical demands of erecting and maintaining fladry, and;
  3. anticipated management response if wolves do eventually cross the line and kill livestock.

If fladry deterred wolf predation on a ranch for 60 days, but the wolves then killed livestock and were subsequently removed through lethal control actions, the time and expense involved in erecting and maintaining fladry may have been better spent on other wolf management or monitoring efforts.

Using Logistic Regression to Model Wolf Habitat Suitability.
Michael E. Houts, Kansas Applied Remote Sensing Program, and Department of Geography, University of Kansas

The sixty six wolves that were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park and Central Idaho in 1995 and 1996 have prospered to over 560 wolves in Yellowstone, Idaho, and Montana. With the wolf population and occupied territory expanding so rapidly, being able to know where the wolves will go next would help wildlife managers and policy makers with proactive planning. In 1999 a geographic information system (GIS) was developed to model wolf habitat suitability using road density and land cover data from a subset of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Now, results from this model are re-assessed using 2001 wolf pack locations, and the study area has been enlarged to include all of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, plus Washington and Oregon. The model was tested using data from the entire study area and 2001 wolf pack locations for out-of- sample validation. Results indicated that the model created in 1999 was able to successfully predict suitable wolf habitat, and areas of future wolf occupation with a 91% overall accuracy (2001 pack locations). The resulting habitat suitability maps can assist management agencies in the identification of potential wolf habitat, areas where human/wolf conflicts are likely to occur, and areas that should be considered critical wolf habitat.

Mexican Gray Wolves: Status Report and Challenges Facing The Captive Breeding Program.
Daniel D. Moriarty, Ph.D., California Wolf Center and University of San Diego, Department of Psychology, University of San Diego; Patrick Valentino, J.D., California Wolf Center

Formidable challenges facing the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program include the release of captive raised wolves. This presentation will outline the current status of the Mexican Gray Wolf in captivity and challenges facing captive managers in raising a "wild wolf."

Listed in 1976 as an endangered subspecies under the U. S. Endangered Species Act of 1973 (Federal Register 1976, 41:17736), the Mexican gray wolf is one of the rarest land mammals in the world. The captive breeding program began in the early 1980s after five wolves were removed from the wild. The ultimate goal of the Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan, signed by federal wildlife agencies in the United States and Mexico in 1982, is the re-establishment of wild populations from captive-raised wolves. The captive population was first managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Mexican Wolf Recovery Team until 1985; then by a consortium of holders of Mexican gray wolves called the "Mexican Wolf Captive Management Committee." Since 1993, the population in the United States has been managed by the AZA Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan. Through the efforts of a captive breeding program, today about 260 Mexican wolves survive, and most are held at 43 captive facilities in the United States and Mexico. The others are free ranging in the Apache and Gila Forests of the Arizona - New Mexico border.

Mexican wolves are held in a variety of facilities throughout the United States and Mexico. Some are publicly funded, and others are supported by donations. Institutions represented in the breeding program include large and medium size zoos like the Bronx Zoo, Minnesota Zoo, and the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, and smaller wolf education centers like the Wild Canid Center, the California Wolf Center and Wolf Haven International. The diversity of these facilities creates management challenges. Breeding pairs and release candidates are selected each year at the Mexican Wolf SSP Annual Meeting and approved by the USFWS Mexican Wolf Recovery Team leader.

Critical issues facing captive managers focus on the development and improvement of husbandry practices that will increase chances of wild survival. Will wolves raised in large, remote enclosures fare better in the wild than ones raised in smaller facilities close to human contact? Will feeding them native prey carcasses from an early age help keep released wolves away from livestock? Are there pre-release conditioning procedures that could be used to prevent livestock depredation following release? What are appropriate characteristics for release candidates in addition to their status as surplus genetic material?

With only a small population of free ranging Mexican wolves, captive managers need accurate and reliable information to develop effective husbandry practices that improve the chances captive raised wolves will survive in the wild.

Habitat Selection by Elk Following Wolf Reintroduction in Yellowstone National Park.
Julie S. Mao, Mark S. Boyce, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta; Douglas W. Smith, Yellowstone Center for Resources; Francis J. Singer, Natural Resource Ecology Lab, Colorado State University; David J. Vales, Muckleshoot Wildlife Program; John Vore, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.

For decades, elk (Cervus elaphus) have been the focus of debate in Yellowstone National Park over the issue of how a large ungulate population affects the quality of its habitat. Given the absence of wolves (Canis lupus) since the 1920's and termination of culling in 1968, elk population size and distribution were determined largely by climate and forage conditions. However, the reintroduction of gray wolves in 1995 has restored the major predator of elk to the Yellowstone ecosystem. In this study we tested for changes in elk habitat use in response to heightened predation risk.

Using locations of radiocollared cow elk from pre-wolf (1987-1990) and post-wolf (2000-2002) periods, we generated Resource Selection Functions (RSF) to model elk habitat selection. These models characterize the relative probability of habitat use by elk based on site-specific habitat variables (e.g., wolf predation risk index, vegetation type, topography, snow, distance to roads). Models were built for summer and winter seasons, and at several spatial scales (selection within herd segments and selection of individual home ranges). Comparisons between pre-wolf and post-wolf habitat selection by elk allow us to describe changes in elk habitat selection following wolf recovery. Also, by predicting areas of high probability of elk use, the models help to identify areas where elk are likely to influence vegetation, soils, and other components of their range.

Habitat Selection by Recolonizing Wolves in the Northwestern United States.
John K. Oakleaf and Dennis L. Murray, Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, University of Idaho; Edward E. Bangs, Joseph A. Fontaine, Michael D. Jimenez, Thomas J. Meier, Carter C. Niemeyer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Douglas W. Smith, Yellowstone National Park; Curt M. Mack, Nez Perce Tribe; and James R. Oakleaf, University of Wyoming.

Gray wolf populations have persisted and expanded in the northern Rocky Mountains since 1986, while reintroduction efforts in Idaho and Yellowstone have further bolstered the population. However, rigorous analysis of either the availability of wolf habitat in the region, or the specific habitat requirements of local wolves, has yet to be conducted. We examined wolf-habitat relationships in the western U.S. by relating landscape/habitat features found within wolf pack home ranges (n = 56) to those found in adjacent non-occupied areas. Logistic regression of occupied versus unoccupied areas revealed that a higher degree of forest cover, lower human population density, higher elk density, and lower sheep density were the primary factors related to wolf occupation. Further, our analysis indicated that relatively large tracts of suitable habitat remain unoccupied, suggesting that wolf populations likely will continue to increase in the region. Analysis of the habitat linkage between the 3 main wolf sub-populations indicates that populations in central Idaho and northwest Montana have higher connectivity, and thus greater potential for exchange of individuals, than does either subpopulation to the Greater Yellowstone Area subpopulation. Thus, for the northern Rocky Mountains to function as a metapopulation for wolves and other carnivores (e.g. lynx, wolverine, and grizzly bears), it will be necessary that dispersal corridors to the Yellowstone ecosystem be established and conserved.

Use of Periodic Sampling to Estimate Wolf Predation Rates During Winter.
Mark E. McNay, Alaska Department of Fish and Game; Jay Ver Hoef, Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Estimates of wolf predation rates on ungulates are often drawn from observations of wolf packs on consecutive days during specified time periods in early winter or spring. Consequently estimates can be biased by seasonal variation in prey selection, prey vulnerability, wolf pack size and wolf pack composition. We developed a periodic sampling design to reduce those biases when estimating wolf kill rates. Sampling required aerial surveys of several wolf packs during 11, 4-day periods randomly distributed throughout the winter (late October to mid-April). Computer simulations suggested we could obtain a 90% C.I. of 24% of the true kill value. We applied the sampling design in the field during winters 1998-99 and 2000-2001 within a 5,500 km2 study area lying along the north side of the Alaska Range in central Alaska. We monitored 12 wolf packs in 1998-99 and 8 wolf packs in 2000-2001. During the 2 winters we detected 138 sites where wolves killed moose, caribou, or Dall sheep. We examined remains from 105 of those kills to determine sex, age, and condition of ungulates killed by wolves. Moose represented 90 and 98% of the ungulate biomass in the wolf diets during winters 1998-1999 and 2000-2001 respectively. Wolves killed moose at a mean rate of 29.1 moose per pack per winter (90%CI= 23.2-25.1 moose per pack per winter). Per wolf consumption rates averaged 7.0 kg/wolf/day (90%CI=5.5-8.4 kg/wolf/day). Calf and yearling male moose were taken disproportionately to their occurrence in the population.

Red Wolf Pup Fostering, Insertions And Management Of Wolf Pairings.
Buddy B. Fazio, Chris Lucash, Scott McLellan, Shauna Baron, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service; William Waddell and Susan Behrns, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium; Jennifer Gilbreathe, Red Wolf Coalition

The Red Wolf Recovery Program reports initial success in fostering captive-born pups into the wild. The Program also reports continuing success with insertion of 1.5 year-old island raised red wolves into the world's only wild red wolf (Canis rufus) population. Additional measures to manage pairing of wild red wolves also shows good success. Fostering pups was initially conducted to determine effectiveness as a population management strategy. Subsequent attempts were conducted to allow a single pup to derive social benefits of growing up with siblings, to reduce numbers in a large litter or to supplement red wolf numbers and genetics in the wild. Eight separate fostering events involving captive-to-captive (n=6) and captive-to-wild (n=2) litters were attempted from 1987-2002 for a total of 14 (range 1-3) pups fostered. Age of fostered pups the source litter was 10.38 days (range 5-14), and age in the recipient litter was 9.71 days (range 4-15). The time between removal from a source litter to placement with a recipient litter ranged from several minutes to about 6 hours. All pups involved in captive-to-captive fostering events survived to weaning. One of two pups involved in a 1998 captive-to-wild fostering event survived until weaning. Two pups involved in a 2002 captive-to-wild fostering event survived to beyond 6 months of age. Similar details are discussed for insertions and breeding pair management. The utility of intra-specific fostering, insertions and breeding pair management provides significant conservation application for recovery of other canids.

Can Or Is Gray Wolf Natural Recovery Taking Place In The Northeast?
Peggy Struhsacker, Wolf Project Coordinator. Northeast Natural Resource Center, National Wildlife Federation

Contributor: James Hammill, Retired wolf specialist, Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources. Iron Range Consulting

Gray wolves are native to northern New England, but, direct persecution and habitat alteration led to their demise by the late 1800's. The neighboring Canadian Province of Quebec has been able to maintain viable wolf populations, and it is from this source that wolves could potentially recolonize in suitable habitat in Maine and New Hampshire. Natural and human obstacles between the Quebec population and the Maine habitat deter wolf movement. The obstacles may be significant enough barriers to prevent recolonization. In recent years there have been numerous citizen sightings of large canids in Maine and northern New Hampshire. Although not considered current, the shooting of a wolf in Maine in 1993 indicates that there is movement of individuals across the borders. Also in 2001, a wolf was snared less then 40 kilometers from the Maine border, which further supports the notion of movement into the U.S. Similar conditions existed in both Wisconsin and Michigan before the passage of the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Following this experience, wolves could recolonize the northern New England states.

The U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife recognized that New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine have potential wolf habitat and so, recommended this region as another potential recovery zone. in the 1992 revised Eastern Timber Wolf Recovery Plan. The July 2000 USFWS Proposal to Reclassify and Remove the Gray Wolf listed wolves in the northeast as a separate distinct population ('DPS') segment for recovery. The National Wildlife Federation ('NWF') supported the 2000 proposal although the gray wolf protection would be reduced to threatened in the NE DPS. The continued delay of the national rule has prompted NWF to move forward with wolf recovery efforts in light of the inability of the federal government to move forward on the issue and the reluctance of the states to work on wolf recovery.

A priority for National Wildlife Federation is the restoration of another gray wolf population in the Northeast. NWF's work follows the recommendations of Wydeven et al's paper in the 1998 Wildlife Society Bulletin that include:

  • working with like-minded organizations in Canada and the U.S. to protect biotic corridors;
  • fostering relationships with the Quebec government and its citizens that encourages wolf sightings and offers support in the monitoring of dispersing wolves from Quebec;
  • continued dialogue with stakeholders groups, year round tracking surveys in New Hampshire and Maine and;
  • policy work with state governments on predator issues.

NWF's efforts will continue to ensure that the wolf becomes a reality in the Northeast.

Wolf/Elk Interaction On State-Managed Feed Grounds In Wyoming
Mike Jimenez, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Lander, WY

We monitored wolves during the winters from 1999 through 2002 to determine the distribution of wolf packs, describe prey selection by wolves, and document the behavioral response of elk to the presence of wolves on three state-managed feed grounds (Alkali, Patrol Cabin, and Fish Creek) along the Gros Ventre River drainage in Wyoming. We used radio telemetry to locate wolves and estimate home ranges. We backtracked wolves in snow to locate carcass remains of elk killed or scavenged by wolves. Elk (identified with radio-collars or tags) were followed to describe how elk responded to wolves hunting on the feed grounds. Two wolf packs recolonized in the Gros Ventre drainage and their home ranges overlapped in two elk feed grounds (Alkali and Patrol Cabin). We located 119 kills made by wolves in the three feed grounds and adjacent areas within the national forest. The mean age of adult elk killed was 10 years and the oldest elk killed was 23 years old. Forty-three percent of the elk killed were cows, 4% were bulls, and 53% were calves. Mean consumption of elk carcasses was 83% and surplus killing was documented on six occasions. Calf/cow ratios dropped in 2002 from a 5-year average of 24 calves/100 cows to 17 calves/100 cows. Approximately 800 elk were fed hay in each of the three feed grounds. Elk frequently left the northern (Fish Creek) and southern (Alkali) feed grounds but dispersed to the middle feed ground (Patrol Cabin) when wolves were present. Even though wolves killed elk on Patrol Cabin feed ground, elk often remained in the area. This unexpected crowding of elk on one feed ground became very controversial as the state game managers were forced to adjust winter feeding programs.

Winter Wolf Predation In An Elk-Bison System In Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Rosemary Jaffe, Robert G. Garrott, John Borkowski, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT

Winter kill rates and prey selection of gray wolves (Canis lupus) were studied in the upper Madison drainage of Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Elk (Cervus elaphus) and bison (Bison bison) formed the ungulate preybase in the study system and a single wolf pack used the study area as its winter territory. Daily ground telemetry, snow tracking, and necropsies were used to acquire data from mid-November through May, 1998-1999 and 1999-2000. During the two winters 108 wolf kills were located. Wolves preyed primarily on elk and showed the strongest selection for calves, which comprised half the diet (n=56). Thirty cow elk ranging in age from 1 to 15 (mean=9.9) and 8 bulls ranging in age from 1 to 10 (mean=5.1) were also killed. Although bison were more abundant than elk, only one adult and 13 calf kills were found. Prey switching was apparent during the first year of the study. By late March, no elk calf kills were found while cow and bull elk and bison calves were killed at an increased rate. An analytical method was developed to estimate smoothed kill rates across time using a moving window average and a weighting scheme to account for undetected kills. Estimated kill rates (kills/100 wolf days) nearly doubled from fall to spring each year, and were approximately twice as high the first year as the second year of study. Two factors that likely influenced kill rates were confounded between winters. Snow conditions were severe the first year and mild the second, and the wolf pack increased from 7 to 13 wolves between years. Offtake from the calf elk population was an estimated 20-25%, the highest among prey types. Though offtake was not consequential for adult elk or bison, recruitment of calf elk into the adult population may be affected by wolf predation, particularly during years of light snowpack when few calves would normally succumb to winter undernutrition. The new methodology reduced variability and improved kill rate estimation, providing new insight into wolf-ungulate dynamics in the Rocky Mountain ecosystem.

Wolves, Cougars And Wintering Ungulates: An Update On Research And Surveys In East Central Idaho
Gary Power, Lemhi County, Winter Project Coordinator

Cooperators: Nez Perce Tribe, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Hornocker Wildlife Institute, Wildlife Conservation Society, Wolf Education and Research Center, Salmon-Challis National Forest, Bureau of Land Management, Global Carnivore Fund, University of Idaho, Lemhi County

Concerns about potential negative impacts recovering wolves may have on hunting opportunity and elk, deer, and bighorn sheep populations resulted in the initiation of the Lemhi County winter predator study. The 3-year winter research project was made possible through funding and in-kind-match from a host of agencies and organizations (see cooperators). Intensive field surveys occurred in late January through April 15, 1999 and January through March 2000 and 2001 in big game management unit 28 west of Salmon, Idaho. Two telemetry equipped wolf packs, Jureano and Moyer and 4 to 6 telemetry equipped cougars were followed from air and ground. Aerial surveys were conducted by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game before, during and after the winter study. Data collected during the project was analyzed through the University of Idaho and culminated in a Master's Thesis "Prey Selection Patterns of Wolves and Cougars in East-Central Idaho" by Jason S. Husseman, 2002. During the 3 winter field seasons 218 big game animals were recorded killed by cougars and wolves. Cougars killed 72 elk (51% calves), 52 deer (24% fawns), 1 bighorn sheep and 1 mountain goat. Wolves killed 92 elk (60% calves) and 28 deer (65% fawns). Wolves killed elk, both juveniles and adults in poorer body condition (approximately 15%) than did cougars. The 1991 surveys estimated 2655 elk in unit 28 with 34 calves per 100 cows. By 1996 the population was up to 4165 with a reduction to 24 calves/100 cows. Wolves hadn't yet established in unit when flights were conducted. Elk populations continued to increase to 4435 with 24 calves/100 cows in 1999, the first year of the research. The population declined to 3336-3636 with 19 calves/100 cows in 2001. The reduction was due in part to the 220,000 acre Clear Creek fire which displaced elk to an adjacent management unit and directly killed others. Sampling to obtain reliable cow calf ratios since the study were only 14 calves/100 cows in 2002 but increased to 35 calves/100 cows in 2003. The general bull season peaked in 1996 with the highest number of hunters and harvest ever recorded. Season structures were changed in 1998 to reduce hunter numbers and harvest during the antlered only season. Additional reductions in permit levels have occurred during the antlerless season.

Predicting And Understanding The Impact Of Wolves In Utah: A Progress Report
Robert H. Schmidt, Jeremy Bruskotter, Brent A. Feldt, Department of Environment and Society; Trey Simmons, Department of Aquatic, Watershed, and Earth Resources, Utah State University; T. Adam Switalski, Wildlands CPR, Missoula, MT

We present an overview of our research and efforts to date on predicting the biological, social, legal, and economic impacts of recolonizing gray wolves in Utah. The Utah Wolf Project, in anticipation of gray wolves dispersing from Yellowstone National Park into Utah, initiated an attitudes survey in 1994. Utahns from urban counties held more positive attitudes toward wolves than respondents from rural counties, but respondents from northern rural counties held more positive attitudes than did respondents from southern rural counties. Big-game hunters were divided, with fewer respondents holding neutral attitudes toward wolves.

In 2001, we began work on a project to predict the biological and economic impacts of wolves recolonizing the state. This effort met with some controversy, which we will review, and resulted in the publication of the report, "Wolves in Utah: an analysis of potential impacts and recommendations for management" (available from www.cnr.usu.edu/nrei) in 2002. Coincidentally, publication coincided with the capture of Druid Pack wolf 253 in northern Utah. Media attention on this study focused on our map of potential wolf habitat and on hypothetical wolf numbers utilized in forecasting economic impacts (200 wolves). Negative comments seemed to result from a failure to read the report.

In 2003, we are expanding our 2001 study into three additional areas: education programs, new attitudes studies, and a refinement of mapping and modeling. This presentation includes an update of progress in all three areas.

Finally, we will discuss the utilization of university students in a problem-based learning environment to discuss controversial wildlife issues, as well as the current political climate, and progress of the state in developing a wolf management scenario.

Wolf Compensation And Proactive Programs: Tools For Conflict Resolution And Cooperative Partnerships
Suzanne Stone, Northwest Field Representative, Defenders of Wildlife

Acknowledging that wolf survival was dependent on the tolerance of local residents, in 1987, Defenders of Wildlife initiated the first livestock compensation program of its kind to reimburse livestock owners for wolf-caused losses. To date, the Bailey Wildlife Foundation Wolf Compensation program has reimbursed ranchers over $200,000 in the Northern Rockies alone. For confirmed losses, Defenders pays 100% of the fall market value (typically the peak price) at the average expected weight, and 50% for those defined as "probable" losses. These losses are investigated by biologists and/or Wildlife Service field agents.

As a natural outgrowth of the compensation program, Defenders' Bailey Wildlife Foundation Proactive Carnivore Conservation Fund supports implementation of non-lethal deterrent methods including:

  • Increasing the number of guard dogs per sheep band from one or two up to four or five to provide greater protection from wolves;
  • Utilizing electric corrals for protecting sheep, llamas and other livestock;
  • Installing fladry, a type of flagging that creates an unusual psychological barrier wolves are reluctant to cross during short term periods;
  • Hiring task specific range riders to manage herds and frighten away wolves; and many other methods.

We will discuss the parameters of these programs and explain how agencies, ranchers and landowners can obtain assistance through these resources.

Wolf Compensation Insurance: A Proposal For Wildlife And Ranching Collaboration In Conflict Resolution
John B. Sullivan, MD, MBA, Suzanne Stone, Paul Zucarelli, Anthony Vuturo MD, MPH, Carter Niemeyer, Wendy Hoffman, Jan Holder, Montana State Senator Jim Elliott, Nina Fascione, M.S., Frank Casey, Ph.D., Robert Varady, Ph.D., David Schmidtz, Ph.D., Craig Miller, Dan Groebner, Scotty Johnson

Over its first 15 years, the Defenders of Wildlife' wolf compensation program has achieved great success. Ranchers, biologists, conservationists, local government leaders and others actively endorse the well-founded merits of the program. However, it's not possible for ranchers to document every wolf depredation and some livestock losses are not compensated. Some of these undetected losses have been significant for some ranchers. When wolves depredate on livestock, government agencies sometimes use lethal means to remove the wolves, an action generally opposed by most Americans. As wolf populations grow and stabilize in the Northern Rockies, Defenders is working to reexamine the compensation program and exploring new designs for the future programs.

On February 12, 2003, a group of experts in wolf biology, wildlife conservation, ranching, federal and state fish and wildlife, natural resource economics, environmental ethics, public policy, politics, and health care financing met at the Lazy K Bar Ranch, in Tucson, Arizona, for a "think tank" session on a novel insurance idea as a proposed means to help resolve wolf-rancher conflict. The impetus for the meeting was the USFW's elimination of the White Hawk wolf pack for its history of predation in central Idaho.

The group reviewed potential insurance plans and identified four measurable outcomes for long-term success:

  1. Preservation and sustainability of wolves, ranching, and wildlife habitat;
  2. A community partnership with joint plan ownership;
  3. Economic benefits for communities adjacent to wolf country in addition to coverage of losses based on actual costs;
  4. Philosophical, cultural, and political shifts in attitude towards wolves and wildlife habitat.

To satisfy these outcome goals, the insurance plan is linked to a community foundation to serve as a vehicle for financing economic, health care, and educational benefits for the community. Models for consideration are a health maintenance organization (Wolf HMO), a mutual insurance company for wildlife (MICOW), or a combination. Premium dollar flow is in a risk sharing arrangement.

For information on wolf compensation and proactive programs, please visit Defenders' website at www.savewolves.org.

Yellowstone Wolves And GPS Collars: New Insights From New Technology
Daniel R. Stahler, Douglas W. Smith, and Debra S. Guernsey, Yellowstone Gray Wolf Restoration Program, National Park Service, Yellowstone Center for Resources, Yellowstone National Park, WY

We describe techniques in applying Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to investigate a variety of ecological and behavioral topics involving wolves (Canis lupus) in Yellowstone National Park (YNP), Wyoming. Because GPS collars provide more accurate and numerous data compared to traditional radiotelemetry collars, we have added this technology to our monitoring program to enhance our understanding of
  1. seasonal predation patterns;
  2. spatial and temporal interactions with other wolf packs, GPS collared cougars (Puma concolor) and grizzly bears (Ursus arctos);
  3. movements with respect to dens during pup rearing season; and
  4. territory size, use, and overlap.

Specifically, we tested the use of remotely downloadable GPS collars on Yellowstone wolves and their ability to periodically retrieve data on movements to identify location clusters. We have applied this relatively new technology to aid in determining predation patterns and prey selectivity of wolves during summer, a season from which such information is lacking. Preliminary results suggest that plotted GPS location data regularly downloaded from the collars can provide biologists with information fine scaled enough to determine kill sites from ground searching clustered locations, especially for large ungulates. Combining field observations on wolves with downloadable GPS location data can substantially improve our understanding of year round predator-prey relationships, multi-carnivore interactions, and wolf habitat use and activity patterns.

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