Oregon wildlife officials have confirmed wolves killed another calf July 22 in the Harl Butte area of Wallowa County, where repeated attacks on cattle in 2016 and 2017 to several “lethal take” permits for the offending pack.
The latest incident happened on a public grazing allotment within the area of known wolf activity for the Harl Butte pack. A rancher reportedly saw two wolves in the vicinity before finding a dead, partially eaten calf.
Ranchers’ struggles with the Harl Butte pack date back several years. Wolves preyed on cattle six times between July 15, 2016 and July 22, 2017, prompting the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife to kill two wolves in August 2017 to prevent future attacks.
Just one week later, the pack notched another depredation, leading to a second kill order by ODFW for another two wolves. The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association had argued for killing the entire pack, while environmental groups decried killing any wolves, favoring stronger requirements for non-lethal deterrents.
By the end of 2017, the Harl Butte pack had four animals left and was not counted as a breeding pair, according to the state’s population estimate. There are a minimum of 124 wolves across the state, and the species remains federally endangered in western Oregon.
Derek Broman, state carnivore biologist for ODFW, said it is not clear whether those wolves disbanded and joined with other neighboring packs, such as the Pine Creek, which also had three wolves culled by ODFW earlier this year after a string of livestock attacks.
Broman said the department has not received any new requests for lethal control.
Shooting wolves remains a contentious point in the state’s wolf conservation and management plan, which is now undergoing an update. ODFW recently hired a professional mediator, Debra Nudelman of Portland, to try to help resolve lingering disagreements.
Broman said those meetings are still being scheduled.