By Theresa Novak
A 2-year-old collared gray wolf accidentally was killed by a baited, spring-loaded cyanide canister used to kill coyotes that was placed by a federal predator control agent.
Rick Hargrave, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said Thursday that the young male wolf, who was designated as Wolf OR48, was a member of the Shamrock Pack. He died Feb. 26 on private land in northeast Oregon after an unintentional “take” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services division.
OR48 tugged on a baited capsule holder of M-44, which released a plunger and injected cyanide powder into the wolf’s mouth. According to the USDA’s Wildlife Service website, the sodium cyanide “quickly reacts with moisture in the animal’s mouth, releasing hydrogen cyanide gas. Unconsciousness, followed by death, is very quick, normally within 1 to 5 minutes after the device is triggered.”
The incident occurred on private land, where Wildlife Services personnel were targeting coyotes at the landowner’s request.
“The death of this wolf shows the risk involved when wolves are in areas where Wildlife Services conducts these types of operations,” said Doug Cottam, ODFW Wildlife Division administrator. “This is a situation we take seriously, and we’ll be working with Wildlife Services with the goal of preventing it from happening again.”
Hargrave said that all of Oregon’s collared wolves are monitored to gather data on their location, predation and other habits. The collars also alert ODFW when a wolf has stopped moving, as was the case with OR48.
“Sunday morning, it was found that the radio collar hadn’t moved in some time, and Wildlife Services … found the dead wolf near the M-44 device,” Hargrave said.
Hargrave said the Shamrock Pack started as a mated pair two years ago, then they had four pups.
“It was likely that (wolf OR48) was striking out … making excursions, and was on the precipice of leaving the pack altogether,” Hargrave said.
The wolf’s death will be investigated, but no laws were broken, he said.
“The concern is that these devices are in areas of known wolf activity, and that puts wolves in danger,” Hargrave said. “More information will be gathered about how the death happened.”
Information about Oregon’s wolf program is available at odfw.com under Wildlife Division and then “gray wolves” under the Hot Topics link.