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Remote camera photo provided by CCT.
Managing the gray wolf population on the Colville Indian Reservation (CIR) has been no easy task for the Colville Confederated Tribes’ wildlife program with a large land base of 3.1 million acres (north and south half of reservation) to cover and limited funding available. In recent months, wildlife staff has been able to continue their research work on gray wolves with a $187,000 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The data gathered will assist in the development of a Gray Wolf Conservation and Management Plan for the tribe.
CCT wildlife staff will monitor gray wolf activity through DNA sampling and analysis, tracking and howling surveys, remote cameras, and trapping and collaring efforts. “We are monitoring gray wolf movements and identifying home ranges by capturing wolves and deploying GPS and VHF collars,” said Eric Krausz, CCT wildlife biologist. “The radio signals from these collars allow us to locate wolf packs during the winter months using radio telemetry equipment from an airplane in order to observe the number of wolves occurring in each pack.” GPS (Global Positioning System) collars record location data of each collared wolf which is transmitted to a satellite and back to a computer giving biologists information of wolf home range sizes, distribution, denning activity, kill site locations, and dispersal. This winter, wildlife biologists successfully conducted aerial helicopter captures and deployed GPS collars on an adult female wolf from the Strawberry Pack and an adult female wolf from the Nc’icn Pack.
Throughout the year, fecal (scat) samples are collected from each wolf packs home range and are sent to the Laboratory for Ecological, Evolutionary and Conservation Genetics at the University of Idaho. The DNA extracted from these samples identifies individual wolves and the number of wolves within each pack. “The DNA taken from these scat samples will not only tell us what they are eating, but also what percentage of each species they are selecting during different times of the year,” said Krausz. “The data gathered will also help us to estimate annual consumption rates of prey species such as elk, deer, and moose.”
New to the CCT wildlife team is Justin Dellinger who was recently hired in January of 2014 as a wildlife biologist. “Dellinger is a welcome addition to the CCT Wildlife Management
Program with experience in wolf, cougar, and deer research,” said Rich Whitney, interim wildlife manager. “He will primarily be working on the tribes Gray Wolf Monitoring Project. He is currently a PhD candidate through the University of Washington, examining the differences in white-tailed deer and mule deer behavior in areas where wolves are present and in areas without wolves.”
Wildlife biologists will continue to deploy remote cameras and conduct tracking and howling surveys within the North Half and South Half Reservation in areas where wolf presence is suspected but not confirmed. Ground trapping efforts this spring and summer will focus on collaring additional adults from the Nc’icn Pack and any new packs located during surveys or through public reports. Wildlife staff encourages the public to call 509.722.7681 and report any wolf sightings. A wolf reporting form can also be found at www.colvilletribes.com.