By Rob Davis
A wolf pack in Umatilla County in eastern Oregon is two strikes away from a possible state kill order.
Two confirmed attacks on livestock in June by the Umatilla River pack have qualified as formal strikes against the wolves. When a pack gets four strikes in six months, state wildlife managers can kill the wolves involved.
According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, a cow in a fenced-in pasture was repeatedly bitten by a wolf but not killed in early June. GPS data from OR-14’s collar showed he was in the pasture around the time the cow was attacked. So was another wolf, OR-23.
The cow’s owner had put the cow and 21 others in the pasture without any calves, an ODFW report says, knowing that wolves frequented the area. The cow attacked was the smallest in the group.
The other attack happened a few days later a mile away.
GPS data from OR-14’s collar showed he was within 10 yards of seven sheep when they were killed.
The landowner also spotted what was thought to be an uncollared yearling wolf nearby feeding on a sheep carcass. The sheep had been kept in an enclosure surrounded by electrified wire.
If the Umatilla River pack is involved in two more qualifying attacks, ODFW can consider lethal control as an option if it believes the attacks are likely to continue. It has not done that since establishing the four-strike system in a settlement with ranchers and environmental groups last year.
“At this point we are not near any lethal action decision,” said Michelle Dennehy, an ODFW spokeswoman.
The formal strikes will count against the Umatilla River pack until mid-December. The only other pack with a qualifying attack, the Imnaha pack, has its lone strike dropped at the end of July because the incident happened in January.
Six wolves are known to be in the Umatilla pack, which was involved in three confirmed livestock kills in 2013.