By Mark Freeman
MEDFORD, Ore. – State and federal wildlife managers will again be able to track gray wolf OR-7’s Rogue Pack now that one of his presumed offspring is sporting a new GPS collar.
In what was described as a “textbook” capture, biologists on the morning of Oct. 3 were able to trap, tranquilize and collar the newly named OR-54 in Klamath County’s Wood River Valley, the eastern portion of the pack’s normal range, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The roughly 80-pound female is about 1 1/2 years old and is likely from OR-7’s 2016 litter, said John Stephenson, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Bend who tracks wolves here.
“It’s very helpful to have a member of the Rogue Pack collared to give us an idea of where they are,” Stephenson said. “It’s working well so far.”
The collar already has paid off, Stephenson said. GPS coordinates from the collar showed earlier this week that the pack was headed deeper into the Wood River Valley toward cattle ranches where members of the pack were blamed for three livestock attacks last year, Stephenson said.
At least eight members of the pack – which is officially listed as containing nine animals – were spotted earlier this week in the Wood River Valley, Stephenson said.
“I’m sure they’ll go back over to the Jackson County side (of their range) in not too long,” Stephenson said.
State and federal biologists went to the Wood River Valley to capture and refit a collar on wolf OR-25, whose GPS unit is close to failing, according to ODFW. OR-25 is a lone wolf that has spent time in eastern Jackson County, presumably to woo a mate from the Rogue Pack. OR-25 was blamed for killing a cow near Prospect in late February, records show.
However, they captured the Rogue Pack female in their rubber-jawed foot-hold trap instead, Stephenson said. A nearby trail camera earlier that morning had captured an image of the aging OR-7, who still sports the GPS collar that died almost two years ago, Stephenson said.
“That sure seems logical to conclude it’s a member of the Rogue Pack,” said Mark Vargas, ODFW’s Rogue Watershed manager, who took part in the Oct. 3 capture.
To make sure, however, biologists took DNA, blood and fecal samples from OR-54 after Vargas sedated her, he said.
“She went down quickly and calmly,” Vargas said. “Two hours later, she walked away. Everything went well. It was textbook. We’ve been trying to collar a member of that pack on both sides of the (Cascade crest) for a long time,” Vargas said.
OR-54 brings to 16 the number of wolves in Oregon with active collars, according to ODFW.
Just how long OR-54 will be giving away Rogue Pack secrets remains unclear, Stephenson said.
“Given her age, she could disperse, and we’ll lose that ability,” Stephenson said. “Hopefully she sticks around.”