By Andrew Theen
Wolves howled the night of Jan. 3, and Ted Birdseye hopped on his all-terrain vehicle to check on the 200 cattle on the family’s ranch south of Prospect.
His wife, Ariel, also heard what sounded like cattle under attack. After about an hour of searching, the Birdseyes didn’t see much except for some spooked cows in the pastures.
The next morning, the 64-year-old rancher found it: A dead 500-pound heifer he’d intended on breeding. Later that day, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife officials would say the calf was killed by a wolf, the first confirmed livestock attack by one of the predators in Oregon this year.
The attack comes as the state’s fish and wildlife commission has yet to decide on an updated plan for managing the canid species as it continues to rebound and expand across the state after nearly being wiped out in the 1940s.
Key details, such as when and how lethal action will be allowed in certain areas of the state, remain unclear. The commission is now expected to vote on a plan in April after delaying a decision in December.
Meanwhile, wolves continue to expand their territory in rural parts of the state. At least three collared wolves have been illegally killed in southwest and south-central Oregon since October 2016, prompting multiple investigations and rewards of up to $50,000 for information about the animals’ deaths.
The kill on the Birdseye ranch marks the first confirmed attack on livestock by the Rogue Pack, home to the legendary wandering wolf OR-7, since 2016.
In 2017, wildlife biologists placed a tracking collar on OR-54, a female descendent of OR-7. The pack is believed to be traveling with five pups and six older animals, according to state officials.