Eastern Oregon apparently has a new wolf pack.
Tracks of five wolves were documented in late December and have since been found three more times in southern Union and northern Baker counties. A landowner first reported seeing the tracks, and Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife biologists confirmed the wolves’ presence. The repeated use of the area over a sustained period of time indicates the wolves have become established and are not animals dispersing from other packs, department spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy said.
Researchers still don’t know much about the five wolves, she said. It’s not known whether the group includes a breeding pair and whether it includes pups.
Oregon has seven known packs: Imnaha, Minam, Umatilla, Wenaha, Walla Walla, Snake River and Mt. Emily. At last count, in 2012, the state was home to 47 wolves. The 2013 survey data is expected to be compiled soon.
In other wolf news, a ewe found dead in northeast Oregon Jan. 30 was killed by members of the Imnaha pack, according to an investigation by ODFW.
The investigation didn’t take long. Investigators found multiple wolf tracks in the snow near the carcass, which was in a paddock, and the ewe had suffered severe bites.
It was partially consumed and still warm when discovered by the livestock owner, according to a department news release. Readings from a radio tracking collar showed the pack’s alpha male, OR-4, was in the area Jan. 29 and 30.
On Feb. 1, biologists darted OR-4 and fitted him with a new GPS radio collar. It was the fourth time OR-4 has been collared.
A cow was attacked by the pack in August 2013, about five miles away.
The state Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted rules in January that allow livestock owners, under certain circumstances, to shoot wolves without a permit if they are biting or killing livestock or guard dogs. The action is allowed if the wolves are east of Highways 395, 78, and 95, if the livestock owner didn’t attract them with bait and the attack happens on land owned or legally occupied by the producer. The incident must be reported to ODFW within 24 hours.