Written by Bill Rautenstrauch, The Observer
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said Monday it was unable to verify a reported sighting of a wolf Friday morning near Booth Lane and Carter Road northeast of La Grande.
Wildlife Biologist Leonard Ferguson said the department received reports from two citizens who said they saw the animal about 8:30 a.m. ODFW personnel responded to the scene but, by the time they arrived, the animal was gone and it left no trace of itself behind.
“We responded and looked around and did interviews. I did get a quick description, but the ground was frozen so there were no tracks,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson said reports of wolf sightings in Union County aren’t all that uncommon, but confirming them is difficult.
Sometimes the sightings aren’t reported for a long time after they occur. It’s not unusual for people to bring in pictures of tracks taken weeks or months before on cell phones.
“We attempt to verify everything we get. We do what we can, but a lot of times, it’s like chasing shadows,” Ferguson said. “A wolf can cover 20 miles in a night.”
He said he doesn’t doubt that wolves do occasionally stray into Union County. He said tracks have been spotted in several locations, including the Starkey project area and the Wenaha wildlife unit. He said he has seen tracks himself.
As for the Booth Lane sighting, Ferguson said it’s rare for a wolf to be seen out in the open as this one reportedly was.
“I’m not saying it couldn’t or didn’t happen, but it (the sighting) was in a place you wouldn’t expect it. Anecdotally, you expect them up in the forest and not out in the middle of the valley,” he said.