... after 'outlaw' pack repeatedly preyed on livestock
- Four gray wolves have been shot dead in Oregon for attacking livestock
- Elderly wolf called OR-4 was killed alongside pregnant female and 2 cubs
- State officials used a helicopter to hover over pack before shooting them
- 'Outlaw' wolf may have been hunting farm animals because of his old age
- There are just 110 gray wolves left in Oregon and 1,800 in the mainland US
Four rare gray wolves have been shot dead in Oregon after they repeatedly attacked livestock, killing cattle and sheep.
The wolf pack, led by an alpha male known as OR-4, was shot dead by state officials who hovered above them in a helicopter before firing the fatal shots.
OR-4 was 10 years old - considered elderly for a gray wolf - and is believed to have been preying on livestock because he was no longer able to successfully hunt wild animals, such as elk.
Four rare gray wolves have been shot dead in Oregon after they repeatedly attacked livestock, killing cattle and sheep. Pictured, one of them, OR-4
OR-4 (pictured howling) was 10 years old - considered elderly for a gray wolf - and is believed to have been preying on livestock because he was no longer able to successfully hunt wild animals, such as elk
OR-4 and a larger pack had not attacked farm animals for months, but five attacks on sheep and cows in recent weeks led officials to feel they had no choice but to kill the wolves.
The wolf may have been usurped by a younger animal taking over the pack because of his old age.
'It's very possible he had been deposed and that's why he was using a less-than-optimal area to hunt,' state wolf coordinator Russ Morgan told The Oregonian.
'This is a really tough situation to be in, but it's part of the responsibility of managers. We felt in this situation, the only logical move was to lethally remove these wolves.'
OR-4's partner, called OR-39 by state officials, is believed to have been pregnant and was killed alongside two cubs, Yahoo News reported.
Campaigners slammed Oregon's Department of Fish and Wildlife for the killings.
The wolf pack, led by an alpha male known as OR-4, was shot dead by state officials who hovered above them in a helicopter before firing the fatal shots. Pictured, OR-4 being tagged in 2011
'What was done was sufficient for an agency that views wildlife as agents of damage and whose primary job is to protect private interests at taxpayer expense,' wolf conservationist Rob Klavins said.
'They need to do better. Oregonians deserve better.'
Mr Klavins said even those who wanted the wolves killed had a 'begrudging respect' for OR-4, saying his death was 'hard for a lot of people'.
Amaroq Weiss, west coast wolf coordinator at the Center for Biological Diversity, said OR-4 was 'definitely a father figure'.
'He was an outlaw wolf with a heart of gold,' she said.
Laws in Oregon allow state authorities to kill wolves after two attacks on livestock, but officials usually do not act until cattle or sheep are repeatedly hunted.
The killings were the first time Oregon officials have shot dead wolves since 2011, when two were killed.
There are just 110 wolves left in Oregon, according to official figures, but numbers have been increasing over the last few years.
Approximately 1,800 wolves live in the north west of the United States, excluding Alaska.
Tens of thousands more are found in Canada, with populations of gray wolves also in Europe, Asia and Greenland.