John and Karen Hollingsworth/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Wildlife officials say a third livestock attack by the Snake River wolf pack since mid-October is a “qualifying incident” under Oregon wolf management rules. If there’s one more in the next few months, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife may consider killing one or more of the pack members.
Gray wolves are protected under state and federal endangered species laws, but Oregon’s gray wolf management rules allows the ODFW to consider killing wolves in situations of “chronic livestock depredation.” One of the conditions is that a pack must have committed four confirmed and “qualifying” attacks on livestock within six months.
In making the determination that the latest attack qualified, the department had to issue findings that the ranch where the attack took place did not have “unnatural attractants” such as bone piles that might draw wolves’ attention. The department also reported the ranch was using non-lethal methods, including three radio-activated guard (RAG) units that emit an alarm when radio-collared wolves approach and a handheld telemetry receiver that can detect wolves wearing radio-collars. Finally, ranch personnel increased their checks on cattle, day and night.
Nonetheless, the rancher found an injured cow walking a fence line along the Imnaha River on Nov. 20, and it was examined by ODFW the following day. The cow had numerous bite wounds to its hind legs, according to a department news release.
Judging from the condition of the wounds and using data from GPS tracking collars worn by pack members, biolgists estimated the attack happened Nov. 9 or 10. The pack previously attacked calves on Oct. 16 and Nov. 4 in areas 2.5 and 4 miles north of the latest attack. April 16 would mark six months since the first confirmed and qualifying attack.
Wildlife managers have killed four wolves since the predators crossed into Oregon from Idaho in 1999. Two were shot in Baker County in 2009 after 29 animals, mostly sheep, were killed in a series of attacks; and two were killed in Wallowa County in 2011 after half a dozen head of cattle were killed in multiple incidents.