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OR: Wolf’s arrival in Malheur County concerns ranchers

Sean Ellis
Capital Press

A lone wolf that showed up in Malheur County in Eastern Oregon April 10 is still hanging around and ranchers in the state’s top cattle producing county say it’s probably a matter of when, not if, wolves establish a permanent presence there.

ADRIAN, Ore. — The arrival of a lone wolf in Malheur County has ranchers in the state’s top cattle producing county concerned.

“It’s plum serious,” said Malheur County Cattlemen’s Association President Chris Christensen. “There’s nothing positive from a cattleman’s standpoint in the fact that a wolf showed up.”

The wolf, which separated from a Northeast Oregon pack in February, entered the county April 10 and has been living mostly in sagebrush county south of Vale and west of Adrian.

The adult male wolf, which has a tracking collar and is known as OR22, has been seen by several farmers during brief forays into farm country.

“He’s started moving around a little bit more and has gone a few new places but he’s still in that same general area,” said Philip Milburn, a district wildlife biologist in the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Ontario office.

Milburn said two cow carcasses were found in the area last week, which might be part of the reason he’s staying in that region.

ODFW officials removed the cow carcasses, which are believed to have died before the wolf found them, Milburn said.

“There’s no evidence the wolf was involved (in the cows’ deaths),” he said. “There’s still no evidence he’s killed anything since he’s been here.”

Christensen said ranchers should ensure their dead animals are disposed of quickly and properly.

“They don’t want to give him any easy meals,” he said. “That’s probably why it’s staying around.”

This is the first time a wolf has stayed in the county for more than a brief period, ODFW officials said, but there have been multiple wolf sightings in the county and confirmed wolf tracks have been found in several places, including at the Oregon State University research station a few miles outside of Ontario.

OSU livestock extension agent Sergio Arispe said OR22’s arrival has caused some concern among the county’s 150 beef cattle producers, especially since the industry realizes it’s probably only a matter of time before wolves establish a permanent presence in the area.

At today’s cattle prices, a producer can lose a lot of money from a single wolf kill, he said.

“It’s not a matter of if they’re going to be here, but when,” Arispe said. “There is some big concern from cattle producers who are trying to make a living.”

Milburn said the Northwest part of the county, in particular, contains what could potentially be some good wolf habitat.

“(There is) a fairly high potential of wolves settling in that area eventually,” he said.

Christensen said Malheur County ranchers need to start learning from their colleagues in Northeast Oregon on how to operate with wolves present in the area.

“We’re not up to speed on wolves like the guys up north are and we need to be aware of what’s going on,” he said. “Malheur County is the No. 1 cattle producing county in the state. It’s certainly an issue to have a wolf show up.”