Oregon wildlife officials are beginning required reviews of the way they manage wolves and cougars, while researchers are continuing to study how the two predators interact.
Information on the review process was scheduled to be presented to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission at its meeting Oct. 6-7 in La Grande.
In the background is an intriguing study, now in its third year, on wolf-cougar interaction in the Mount Emily Wildlife Unit of the Blue Mountains outside of the city.
Cougars and wolves compete for the same prey, primarily deer and elk. Cougars far outnumber wolves in Oregon — the state has an estimated 6,000 cougars and a minimum of 110 wolves — but are thought to be at a disadvantage because they are solitary animals while wolves hunt in packs.
From July 2014 through January 2016, ODFW and Oregon State University researchers documented 16 cases of direct and indirect wolf-cougar interaction in the Mount Emily management unit, according to research material. The majority of the interactions involved wolves scavenging prey that cougars had killed and hidden in caches, as they are called. There were two cases where wolves chased cougars up trees, one case in which wolves chased a collared cougar off a fresh kill and one case, in November 2015, where wolves killed three cougar kittens.
Since December 2013, researchers have collared 18 cougars in the study area, but four have died — one from unknown causes and the three kittens killed by wolves — and one is missing. Eleven wolves have been collared since the fall of 2013, but 10 have dispersed from their home packs, died, or their status is unknown. “This was not unexpected due to the dynamic nature of wolf packs,” the researchers commented in their report.
Four wolf packs use sections of the Mount Emily unit as their home range, but only one wolf is wearing a tracking collar at this time, the researchers reported.