Tuesday, October 11, 2016

OR-7's pack suspected in 3 attacks on cattle



OR-7 wolf.jpeg
In March 2016 a photo was retrieved from a remote trail camera showing OR-7 (at left) and one of his offspring. (Photo by John Stephenson/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

By Tony Hernandez | The Oregonian/OregonLive
  on October 11, 2016 
 
A pack of wolves, started by the well-known OR-7, could be responsible for the killing of two calves and of injuring a third last week in western Klamath County, authorities say.

The Mail Tribune reports the area where the animals were killed is known to be frequented by the Rogue Pack. But authorities haven't confirmed whether the pack is to blame.

An Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife report says wolves killed an 800-pound calf Oct. 2, and three wolves were observed feeding on the carcass the next day. A 600-pound calf was killed Oct. 4 and a third calf suffered wolf bites the following night.

John Stephenson with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it's now a higher priority to have a Rogue Pack member collared to keep track of the animals.

He says the pack could be as large as nine wolves.

OR-7 became well known in 2011 when he wandered to Siskiyou County, California and back in search of a mate after leaving his own pack in northeast Oregon in 20011. Officials tracked his journey by GPS satellite collar, and he's believed to be the first wolf to venture into California since 1924, and the first to reach western Oregon since 1947.

He eventually found a mate and the pair produced two litters -- one with three pups in 2014 and two pups last year. However, the wolves were not counted as a breeding pair in 2015 as only one of the two pups was captured on camera and known to have survived the year, according to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted in November 2015 to remove gray wolves from the state's endangered species list. The 2015 minimum wolf population in Oregon was 110 wolves, a 36 percent increase from the year prior. A dozen wolf packs were distributed in northeastern and southwestern Oregon, according to an annual report. 

Stephenson told the Mail Tribune, even if OR-7's pack of wolves, which are federally protected, were clearly linked to last week's killings, the attacks won't lead to "lethal control."

"That's not being contemplated at all," Stephenson told the newspaper. "We're trying to stop it from continuing."

Last March, state wildlife officials killed four wolves in Wallowa County after members of a pack attacked livestock five times in the past three weeks, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported at the time.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife policy allows officials to order wolves killed after two attacks on livestock, but the lethal force is not required. After members of the Imnaha pack attacked sheep and cattle on private land, the department obliged an outside request to kill them.

Four of the pack's eight members were shot on March 31. They include the alpha male, OR-4, his mate, OR-39, and two younger wolves. State officials said the decision came after a marked change of behavior among the four wolves.

Officials believed those wolves traveled beyond their typical home range and headed west to private land. More than four other wolf pack members stayed behind.

State biologists had suspected a rift in the pack may have caused OR-4 and his companions to strike out in search of new territory. OR-4's advancing age could have played a role, possibly allowing another wolf to dethrone him as the alpha male.

The Associated Press and The Oregonian/OregonLive staff contributed to this story.
— Tony Hernandez

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