Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Wolves kill sheep on private land near Weston

George Plaven
East Oregonian
The Umatilla River wolf pack is responsible for attacking four sheep on Weston Mountain.

Wolves from the Umatilla River pack recently attacked four sheep on private land near Weston, three of which later died from their injuries.

The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife confirmed the predations based on bite marks consistent with wolves, and history of events on Weston Mountain.

Though the Umatilla River pack does not have any GPS-collared wolves, the area is within their home range where sheep have been killed in past years.

On July 2, a sheep herder found two injured lambs and one ewe on the property. One of the lambs died soon after the discovery, and the ewe had to be euthanized. A fourth sheep was found dead and partially eaten the next day, presumably part of the same incident.

It is the fourth confirmed attack by Oregon wolves on livestock in 2015, and second in Umatilla County. Mount Emily wolves were also found responsible of killing three sheep and a guard dog in June on the Umatilla National Forest near Ruckel Junction.

Under Phase II of the Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, ODFW can consider lethal management of “chronic depredators” after a pack’s second confirmed attack. Unlike Phase I, there is no set time limit, though producers must be using non-lethal deterrents in order to qualify.

The Umatilla River pack very nearly faced lethal management in 2014. The rules at the time stipulated four confirmed attacks within a six-month period. The pack came within one strike of meeting that requirement.

Even then, ODFW must decide wolf attacks are likely to continue in the area — even with non-lethal hazing — to authorize a kill order.

Wolves remain a state-listed endangered species in Eastern Oregon, though the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission could vote to delist the predators later this year based on the rising population.