Ranchers lament news of OR-7’s possible mate
By Eric Mortenson
Wallowa County rancher Todd Nash has some words for livestock producers in southwest Oregon now that OR-7, the famous wandering wolf, apparently has found a mate deep in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest:
“I feel bad for anybody who has a wolf in their backyard,” said Nash, chair of the Wolf Committee for the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association.
“I hope for the best for everybody in that in area, but our experience with wolves in Oregon so far has been quite negative for livestock producers,” Nash said. “It’s changed a lot of people’s lives.”
The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife announced Monday that remote cameras in early May captured several images of a black wolf, apparently a female, in the same part of the forest that OR-7 frequents. He was photographed by the same camera, one of three spaced about a mile-and-a-half apart along what appears to be a logging road.
John Stephenson, a biologist with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, said the sighting is not definitive, but said it’s likely the two wolves have paired up. Tracking data from OR-7’s GPS collar indicates the pair may have denned together as well, Stephenson said. The state and federal agencies cooperate on tracking wolves.
Stephenson said it’s unknown where the female wolf came from. He said the wolf may have dispersed from a pack in northeastern Oregon, as OR-7 did, or from Idaho or Canada.
The agencies won’t be able to tell until June or later whether the pair have produced pups. Wolf pups typically are born in April; Stephenson said it’s too early for researchers to go check.
Stephenson confirmed that a rancher has a federal grazing allotment near the area where the wolves were photographed. The rancher has been notified that wolves are in the area. Cattle typically aren’t turned out in that area until June, Stephenson said.
If OR-7 and the female have pups, it takes their presence to another level, said Nash, the rancher.
“Once they’re a full-fledged pack and need to feed a family of 10 wolves or more, they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with,” he said.
Nash is familiar with OR-7, who was born into Northeast Oregon’s Imnaha pack in 2009 and left in 2011, cutting a diagonal across the state and venturing into California. He was the first documented wolf in that state since 1924.
Since March 2013, OR-7 has spent the majority of his time in the southwest Cascades. ODFW has a map of the area on its website: http://www.dfw.state.or.us/Wolves/AKWA/OR7.asp.
Nash believes OR-7 was involved in five livestock attacks before leaving Northeast Oregon, including the killing of one of his calves in May 2011. The Imnaha pack has been involved in multiple livestock depredations, but ODFW has not confirmed OR-7’s specific involvement, department spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy said. Stephenson, the federal biologist, said there’s no evidence OR-7 attacked livestock during his wanderings.
Gray wolves are protected statewide under Oregon’s Endangered Species Act and also are on the federal ESA list in areas west of Oregon highways 395, 78 and 95. ODFW is responsible for wolf management east of the boundary, while USFW is the lead agency in the rest of the state, including the southwest Cascades where OR-7 has taken up residence.
In that area, federal wildlife officials won’t be under the “constraints” of the Oregon wolf plan and will have more latitude to kill problem wolves, Nash said.