Date of this Version
Sime, Carolyn A., V. Asher, L. Bradley, K. Laudon, M. Ross, J. Trapp, M. Atkinson, L. Handegard, and J. Steuber. 2007. Montana gray wolf conservation and management 2006 annual report. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. Helena, Montana. 119 pp.
MONTANA EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Wolf recovery in Montana began in the early 1980’s. Gray wolves increased in number and expanded their distribution in Montana because of natural emigration from Canada and a successful federal effort that reintroduced wolves into Yellowstone National Park (YNP) and the wilderness areas of central Idaho. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) approved the Montana Gray Wolf Conservation and Management Plan in early 2004, but delisting in the northern Rockies (NRM) was delayed. When federal funding became available later in 2004, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (MFWP) began managing wolves in northwestern Montana under a cooperative agreement with USFWS. In 2005, Montana expanded its responsibility for wolf conservation and management statewide under an interagency cooperative agreement. The agreement allows Montana to implement its federally-approved state plan to the extent possible and within the guidelines of federal regulations.
Using federal funds, MFWP monitors the wolf population, directs problem wolf control and take under certain circumstances, coordinates and authorizes research, and leads wolf information and education programs. MFWP wolf management specialists were hired in 2004 and are based throughout western and central Montana. A program coordinator is based in Helena.
The Montana wolf population increased from 2005 to 2006. The increase is due to a real increase in actual wolf numbers primarily in NWMT and western Montana and the significantly increased monitoring efforts that led to verification of packs that actually existed in 2005 but could not be verified until more information was gathered in 2006.
A total of 60 verified packs of 2 or more wolves yielded a minimum estimate of 316 wolves in Montana. Twenty-one packs qualified as a breeding pair according to the federal recovery definition (an adult male and female with two surviving pups on December 31). Across the southern Montana experimental area (Central Idaho and Greater Yellowstone areas combined), there were 29 packs, 10 of which met the breeding pair criteria. A minimum of 149 wolves were estimated (73 in the GYA and 76 in the CID). Across northwest Montana, there were 31 packs, 11 of which met the breeding pair criteria. A minimum of 167 wolves was estimated in the NWMT endangered area.
Montana Wildlife Services (WS) confirmed 32 cattle, 4 sheep, 4 dogs and 2 llamas were killed by wolves in calendar year 2006. Additional losses (both injured and dead livestock) most certainly occurred, but could not be confirmed. Most depredations occurred on private property. Fifty three wolves were killed to reduce the potential for further depredations. Of the 53, 2 were killed by private citizens under the 2005 10(j) regulations and 2 were killed by private citizens who had been issued a permit in the experimental area of southern Montana.
Wolves in Montana prey primarily on elk, deer, and moose. Numerous research projects are investigating wolf-ungulate relationships. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks recently compiled research results of wolf-ungulate interactions in southwest Montana. This report and other information about wolves and the Montana program are available at www.fwp.mt.gov/wildthings/wolf.
INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND
Wolf recovery in Montana began in the early 1980’s. Gray wolves increased in number and expanded their distribution in Montana because of natural emigration from Canada and a successful federal effort that reintroduced wolves into Yellowstone National Park (YNP) and the wilderness areas of central Idaho. Montana contains portions of all 3 federal recovery areas: the Northwest Montana Endangered Area (NWMT), the Central Idaho Experimental Area (CID), and the Greater Yellowstone Experimental Area (GYA) (Figure 1).
The biological requirements for wolf recovery in the northern Rocky Mountains of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming were met in December 2002. Before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) can propose to delist gray wolves, federal managers must be confident that a secure, viable population of gray wolves will persist if protections of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) were removed. To provide that assurance, the states of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming developed wolf conservation and management plans and adopted other regulatory mechanisms in state law.
In late 2003, all 3 states submitted wolf management plans to USFWS for review. Based on the USFWS’s independent review of the state management plans and state law, analysis of the comments of independent peer reviewers and the states’ responses to those reviews, USFWS approved the Montana and Idaho management plans as being adequate to assure maintenance of their state’s share of the recovered tri-state wolf population. Wyoming’s plan, however, was not approved. USFWS will not propose delisting until the Wyoming plan and associated state laws can be approved.