Snake River wolf pack makes second confirmed attack on livestock
By Eric Mortenson
A five-month-old calf was badly bitten on its hind legs and flank is what is the second confirmed attack by the Snake River wolf pack in Oregon’s Wallowa County.
The calf was discovered injured Oct. 30, when a livestock owner was checking cattle in a forested grazing area known as Upper Freezeout Creek, on U.S. Forest Service land. The calf was caught and taken back to a barn two days later, and examined by an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife investigator on Nov. 4.
The calf’s injuries, including a 4-inch wide hole in the muscle tissue of its right flank and similar large, open wounds on the back of both legs, were estimated to be 12- to 16-days old. Data from GPS collars worn by wolves of the Snake River pack showed they were in the area at the estimated time of the attack.
The pack’s first confirmed livestock attack was discovered Oct. 15 about 1.5 miles north.
In that case, a rancher checking on cattle saw a cow running down a slope with four wolves on the hillside above her. The rancher chased the wolves away, but found the injured 250-pound calf when he returned the next morning. The calf later died, becoming the 82nd confirmed livestock kill by wolves since the first one crossed into Oregon from Idaho in 1999.
Under a procedure set out by Oregon’s wolf management rules, the first confirmed attack has been declared a “qualifying” incident. Wildlife managers can consider killing one or more pack members if they rack up four qualifying incidents within six months. Investigators have not yet determined if the second attack is a qualifying incident.
Wildlife agencies have killed four wolves for livestock attacks: two in Baker County in 2009 after 29 animals, mostly sheep, were killed in a series of attacks; and two in Wallowa County in 2011 after half a dozen head of cattle were killed in multiple incidents.
Oregon has seven packs, all in the state’s northeastern corner, and counted 46 individual wolves at the end of 2012. Officials with ODFW believe the wolf population is higher; another estimate will be reported at the end of 2013.