A famous Oregon wolf named OR-25 has been found dead in the Sun Pass Forest in Klamath County. The 4-year-old collared male becomes the third wolf to have been illegally killed in southern Oregon in the past year.
The carcass was discovered Oct. 29 in the Sun Pass Forest in Klamath County. The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service has not revealed the cause of death, but an agency spokesman told the Mail Tribune, “It did not die of natural causes.”
OR-25, originally from the Imnaha pack in northeast Oregon, gained notoriety in 2016 when his tracking collar showed him crossing into California.
Wolves are federally protected in the western two-thirds of Oregon, and all three killings have occurred within this zone.
“This is an unfortunate situation and we are concerned about it,” John Hall, spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, told the Idaho Statesman-Journal. “We’re going to work with our partners to try to find out what’s going on here.”
(A fourth wolf was killed in the same region recently, but the shooter was determined to have acted in self defense and was not charged.)
The USFWS is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case of OR-25. Rewards total nearly $50,000 for all three unsolved cases, which are being investigated with the help of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Oregon State Police.
Killing federally protected wolves can result in fines of up to $100,000 and a year in jail.
The other cases involved wolves OR-28 and OR-33.
OR-28, a collared female, was found dead on Oct. 6, 2016, near Summer Lake. The cause of death was not released. Besides a $5,000 reward offered by the USFWS, more than $30,000 is being offered by conservation groups.
OR-33, a collared male, was found dead with a gunshot wound 20 miles north of Klamath Falls on April 23, 2017. The USFWS reward is $5,000.
Gray wolves have been expanding their territory from the northeast to the southern and southwestern portion of the state.
Though wolves prey largely on elk, deer and moose, they’re opportunistic and numerous predations involving ranchers’ livestock have been reported.
The Associated Press reports that OR-25 was believed to have killed a calf at a ranch near the town of Prospect earlier this year.
At the end of 2016, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the statewide wolf population was 112 animals.
–OR-25 file photo is Courtesy of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife