MEACHAM, Ore. — Wolves attacked a flock of sheep and its guard dog earlier this month, according to a state investigation.
Wolf numbers in the northern Blue Mountains continue to increase, as does the risk to livestock and the dogs that protect and herd them.
According to a June 2 Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife livestock depredation investigation, a sheep herder on Horseshoe Ridge outside Meacham reported seeing four wolves near his sheep on a 1,200-acre, timbered private pasture. He soon found one dead and five injured lambs. A herding dog also was wounded and had a 1-inch tear in its skin and fresh blood in the armpit of the right front leg.
The investigation said the dog was injured at the same time and in the same area as the lambs, but lacked diagnostic evidence to determine the cause. The dog has since recovered.
A second lamb died before the investigation. The carcasses had multiple teeth punctures approximately a quarter of an inch in diameter on the neck, with associated hemorrhage and tissue trauma from 1 inch to up to 1¾ inches deep. Both injured lambs had fresh wounds on their necks and labored breathing.
Fish and Wildlife attributed the attack to what is known as the OR30 wolves.
Wolves have made Mount Emily their home for almost a decade, but, according to Roblyn Brown, Fish and Wildlife state wolf biologist, OR30 and his companions are the only wolves known to be in the Meacham area right now.
Because the area of this recent attack has become so well used by wolves, Brown said Greg Rimbach, district wildlife biologist at ODFW’s Pendleton office, has been working with this producer in this area for many years on cattle and sheep issues. Currently, the lambs are gathered each night and kept in a pen surrounded by an electric fence.
“They are very proactive and have been trying many different things over the years to reduce wolf-livestock conflict,” Brown said.
OR30 was originally a Wallowa County wolf, but around the age of 2, he left the Snake River Pack and was collared on Mount Emily in February 2015. He spent much of that year in the Mount Emily, Starkey and Ukiah wildlife units south of Interstate 84. In December 2015, he was observed with another wolf in the area formerly used by the Umatilla River pack.
In 2016, radio-collar locations showed OR30 primarily using a large area in the Starkey and Ukiah units that he had frequented in summer 2015. He also was discovered from time to time in the Mount Emily Unit and was believed to be alone.
In the spring 2017, OR30 was observed with a different wolf and the pair was in the northern Starkey and Ukiah units south of I-84.
In 2017, the OR30 wolves produced at least two pups that survived to the end of the year, but they were not counted as a breeding pair because the female died in October. Radio-collar data showed a 306-square-mile use of area primarily in the Starkey and Ukiah units. Roughly 67% of location data points showed them on private lands.
The following year the OR30 wolf group totaled three animals and were monitored until September. By the end of 2018, two of the wolves remained in the pack area.
By January 2019, OR30 left the Starkey and Ukiah area, and the group’s area of known wolf activity was discontinued. According to ODFW’s website, OR30 spent most of 2019 in the Wenaha Pack area of known wolf activity. In early 2020, he was observed with another wolf in the Mount Emily wildlife management unit.
Brown said the department has documented three wolves in the OR30 group this spring and suspect they are denning in the area and there are probably pups, as well.