by Lee Juillerat for the Mail Tribune
Wildlife biologists for state and federal wildlife service offices in Klamath Falls said both agencies are working cooperatively to reduce wolf kills of cattle in the Klamath Basin.
Elizabeth Willy, senior wildlife biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Klamath Falls office, and Mike Moore, assistant district wildlife biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife’s Klamath Falls office, both said two recent cattle kills in the Fort Klamath area have focused efforts on preventing more depredations.
Moore said efforts continue to keep the four known wolves in the Rogue Pack, which travels in the Southern Oregon Cascades in Klamath and Jackson counties, away from cattle ranches and, instead, living in forests and feeding on deer and elk.
Unusually, after last week’s two kills — Thursday and Friday near Fort Klamath — the wolves were chased off before devouring the two yearling cattle, something that may have repercussions.
“They were not able to have a feeding event,” Moore said of the Thursday attack on a Fort Klamath area ranch owned by Jim Popson. After being notified by a neighbor on an early morning walk, Popson went out to check. He found the four wolves about 200 yards from his house and, as he approached, they unhurriedly left. He found the steer, which died that afternoon, crippled with fresh injuries.
“They were not able to have a feeding event, so they were probably hungry,” Moore said of what happened Friday.
The next day, a range rider who was patrolling the area apparently drove near wolves feeding a steer killed earlier that day. It’s believed the wolves ran off when the range rider unknowingly passed nearby. Moore said the range rider never saw the wolves. The yearling steer, which weighed an estimated 800 pounds, was skinned but not eaten.
“It wasn’t fed on at all,” he said.
Because of the attacks, Moore said personnel from the state and federal agencies will continue hazing operations and maintain a human presence in coming days.
The most common question by many people, especially ranchers, is how many cattle depredations are necessary before there will be some changes in current polices that prohibit ranchers from attempting to kill wolves found attacking cattle?
Willy said that Gray wolves west of Highway 395 in Oregon are federally listed as endangered. She said it is illegal to kill a wolf without a federal permit. Wildlife biologists with the ODFW are permitted to trap and collar wolves, but staff from the agencies cannot intentionally kill a wolf in western Oregon where wolves remain under federal protection.
Willy said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, ODFW and APHIS Wildlife Services (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services) are “all coordinating and are implementing non-lethal methods to prevent additional depredations. In the past, nighttime human presence has been the best non-lethal approach to minimize depredations in this area and this approach is being used. The Service and ODFW continue to monitor trail cameras in the area for wolf activity. The best approach is to trap and collar a member of the Rogue Pack, allowing the agencies a chance to monitor movements of the pack, communicate with landowners, and be proactive in implementing non-lethal methods such as human presence.”
Moore believes trapping efforts, which allow biologists to place collars used to track pack movement, are challenging because, “The Rogue Pack has seen a lot of different traps.” As a result, he said biologists from both agencies are attempting to “get a little creative.” Calling trapping a “high priority,” he noted agencies are required to follow protocols and avoid injuring or killing wolves. “We want to do it in a manner that avoids any extreme stress.”
Moore remains hopeful that trapping efforts will be successful. “Persistence will pay off for everybody. That information is extremely helpful.”
“Wolves are smart, and trapping them is an art that takes considerable time and effort,” echoed Willy.
While the Rogue Pack is the best known, other regional wolf packs in Southern Oregon and far Northern California include the Indigo Pack and Silver Lake Pack in Lake County and the Lassen Pack in Lassen and Plumas counties of California.
Moore said people should be aware of the possibility of being attacked by wolves, although he downplays the threat. “Generally speaking, wolves get a bad rap as monsters with big teeth,” he said, adding, “It is good to have the presence that [wolves] are on the landscape.” He urges people hiking in forested areas like the Sky Lake Wilderness and neighboring lands to not travel alone and keep dogs on leashes.
For updated information on wolves and activities visit the website at https://dfw.state.or.us/Wolves/docs/dep_inv/2020/ODFW%20Depredation%20Investigation%20Report%20200731.pdf.