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Two Oregon wolves to be targeted after another livestock death

PREDATORS -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it has authorized the killing of two young wolves from the Imnaha pack in northeastern Oregon after another livestock kill was confirmed.

An investigation determined a calf carcass found Saturday near Joseph was the product of a wolf kill.

Nonlethal measures such as electric fences have not kept the pack from livestock, so lethal controls are in order, officials said.

The plan is to capture and kill two sub-adults from the pack, which numbers 10 to 14 wolves. That could be enough to discourage the pack from attacking livestock without affecting breeding.

Two wolves from the same pack were under a state kill order last summer, but that was lifted after conservation groups challenged it.

Read on for details from the just-issued press release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlfie Service made an official determination that a calf found dead about 10 miles east of Joseph, Oregon, is a confirmed wolf depredation incident. The Service made the determination today after an investigation on May 1, 2011 and review of evidence gathered along with partners in wolf conservation and management, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and USDA Wildlife Services.

A dismembered and mostly consumed calf carcass was found on private rangeland east of Little Sheep Creek late afternoon April 30. When discovered, the mother cow had a "tight bag," a sign that her calf had not nursed recently, and she was calling for her calf, suggesting that the calf had died recently. Upon investigation, wolf tracks were found about 1,000 feet away from the location of the carcass, and one of the Imnaha pack’s GPS-collared wolves was shown to be about a 1/2-mile away from the area of the incident around the time it is believed to have occurred (probably April 29).

The Service’s policy when it has confirmed that wolves are repeatedly attacking livestock—and non-lethal measures have proven unsuccessful in preventing livestock depredation by wolves—is to carry out lethal control measures to prevent additional livestock losses. "Lethal control of wolves is not something any of us in the conservation field take lightly," said Paul Henson, State Supervisor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office. "In fact, we do all we can to prevent situations from reaching this point. But in chronic cases like this, preventing a worsening conflict is in the best long term interest of wolf recovery."

Over the last two months, the Service and partners have installed more than 11 miles of electrified fladry (flagging) fence on private ranchlands east of Enterprise and Joseph to keep wolves away from livestock. In addition, the ODFW also has worked with local landowners to clean up bone piles which can attract wolves, hired a range rider to monitor the area, and carried out hazing activities to dissuade wolves from coming into the area.

The wolf/livestock conflict situation is now considered chronic because the Imnaha pack was implicated in six livestock losses in the vicinity last year, in an incident in February 2011, and most likely another last week that the Service determined was a probable wolf kill.

Lethal control measures will be handled by the Service and will involve capturing and euthanizing two un-collared sub-adults from the Imnaha pack.

This control effort will avoid breeding adults and pups, and will not jeopardize the continued existence of the pack. The Service and partners have taken similar action in other areas throughout the Rocky Mountain region, such as northwestern Montana, to manage the size of wolf packs.

This approach is intended to encourage wolf packs to target their natural prey and reduce attacks on livestock.

The Imnaha pack is believed to consist of 10-14 wolves. The ODFW has collared two with GPS tracking devices that provide signals of the wolves’ whereabouts every 4 hours. Two other wolves from the pack have regular radio collars that are located less frequently. This pack is part of the Northern Rocky Mountain area population of gray wolves, which numbers about 1,700 wolves in all.

Northern Rocky Mountain area wolves are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act and wolves are state-listed as endangered in Oregon.

Due to language in the recent Fiscal Year 2011 budget agreement, the Northern Rocky Mountain Distinct Population Segment of gray wolves (in Idaho, Montana, and parts of Oregon, Washington, and Utah) will be removed from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. Legislative language requires this federal delisting within 60 days of the budget agreement’s signature by President Obama, which occurred on April 15, 2011.

Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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