For the Capital Press
A new wolf has been reported in southern Klamath County, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife representative says. If the sighting is confirmed, the wolf is not believed to be part of OR-7's Rogue Pack.
CENTRAL POINT, Ore. — On the heels of last week’s official designation of an eighth wolf pack in Oregon, biologists believe yet another wandering wolf is prowling timberland just north of the California border.
Biologist Mark Vargas of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife reported the probable wolf sighting near the community of Keno in Klamath County during a wolf update at the Jan. 10 annual meeting of the Jackson County Stockmen’s Association. Vargas said the sighting came while the known pack was in another location.
Evidence of at least one wolf was collected twice during December in the department’s Keno management area. The agency says it will formally designate the new area of wolf activity next week.
“Little is known of this new wolf … and efforts to gather additional data will be made by both ODFW and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Michelle Dennehy, a spokesperson for the state agency. ODFW and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service earlier designated as the “Rogue Pack” a group of wolves running with OR-7 and his mate.
The pack’s home turf, most of it national forest timberland, is southeastern Douglas County, eastern Jackson County, western Klamath County and perhaps portions of far northern Siskiyou County in California. “There could be more wolves, we don’t know yet,” Vargas said. The Oregon wolf census is currently in progress.
Several members of the stockmen’s association run cattle on public lands in the Cascade Mountains where the Rogue Pack apparently spends much of its time. Vargas told the cattlemen they need to deal with the reality. “We have wolves, folks. They are not going away. I realize this is a lifestyle change,” Vargas said. He urged cattlemen to look into forming the county advisory committee, which allows them to tap into state funds should confirmed livestock losses occur.
The Oregon Legislature in 2013 established a wolf predation loss compensation program. Funds were distributed to producers in eight Eastern Oregon counties in 2014. Neither Vargas nor Jackson County Commissioner Doug Breidenthal had details on the Oregon Department of Agriculture compensation program or county advisory committee duties.
Breidenthal, who followed Vargas on the stockmen’s program, said the Jackson County Board of Commissioners won’t form a wolf predation loss advisory committee without a formal request. Stockmen indicated they will study the law and regulations with an eye toward making that request next month.
An informal show of hands indicated most folks at the meeting favor forming the committee. That’s the only legal way to tap the state compensation fund. Several stockmen had questions about how the county committee process might work.
The state law says confirmed losses will be paid at “fair market value,” with 90 percent coming from the newly established state trust fund and 10 percent from county funds. Jackson County has no item in the current budget for livestock loss compensation.
Mark Hopkins, who coordinates grazing allotments on the Rogue-Siskiyou National Forest, said official designation of the wolf pack triggers a set of rules for livestock permittees. They include prompt removal of carcasses that would attract wolves and a ban on salt block placement in the vicinity of known wolf den sites.
Last week’s official designation of the Rogue Pack is a formal change to the Oregon Wolf Management Plan. The other seven packs are concentrated in Northeastern Oregon, where Idaho wolves initially swam the Snake River from Idaho.
OR-7, a radio-collared male from one of those packs, undertook a celebrated trek in 2011 and 2012 to Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, then spent time in Northern California before returning to Southern Oregon and setting up housekeeping. His mate apparently came south on her own from Northeast Oregon.
The Rogue Pack had three pups in 2014. Vargas says ODFW and federal biologists assume at least two survived into the new year. Pup survival is part of the state criteria for designating packs. ODFW is reviewing all wolf data this winter to make official determinations on known breeding pairs and pup survival rates. Dennehy, the ODFW spokesperson, said it will be several weeks before that data is analyzed and official 2014 wolf populations are announced.