Oregon wolves have notched their first confirmed depredation of livestock in 2018.
A 250-pound calf was found dead and partially eaten Jan. 4 at Mill-Mar Ranch in Jackson County, which wildlife officials attributed Monday to wolves from the Rogue pack in southwest Oregon.
The Rogue pack was established by Oregon’s famous wandering wolf, OR-7, which traveled more than 1,000 miles from northeast Oregon to California and into southern Oregon before finding a mate in 2014. The pack now has between seven and 12 individuals, according to John Stephenson, Oregon wolf coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Wolves remain listed as a federally endangered species in western Oregon.
GPS collar data shows OR-54, a female member of the Rogue pack that biologists believe is directly related to OR-7, was less than a mile from the dead calf the morning it was found. Investigators also documented numerous wolf tracks and bite marks consistent with a wolf attack.
Ted Birdseye, who purchased Mill-Mar Ranch near Boundary Butte about two years ago, said wolf activity is not unusual around the area, but until recently the predators had kept to hunting deer and elk.
Birdseye said he is fascinated by wolf behavior — he even hand-raised a pup years ago. At the same time, the animals are capable of causing serious damage, he added.
“They are major apex predators, and eat a lot of meat,” Birdseye said. “They still fascinate me, but I have to make a living and the way I do that is by selling these calves.”
Birdseye, a sixth-generation rancher, sold the historic Birdseye Ranch in Jackson County to Del Rio Vineyards. He looked to continue in the cattle business, mulling land in British Columbia, Canada before returning to southern Oregon and buying the Mill-Mar Ranch.
“We knew wolves were out here,” Birdseye said.
Birdseye used a combination of fladry fencing and flashing lights to haze wolves from his fields. Stephenson, with the USFWS, said wolves have been visiting the Mill-Mar Ranch for years, but until recently had not preyed on livestock.
Stephenson said the agency will be ramping up use of nonlethal deterrents to prevent wolf attacks from becoming a chronic problem at the ranch.
The Rogue pack was also involved in a confirmed depredation in the fall of 2016 on private land in adjacent Klamath County. Stephenson said the pack tends to travel back and forth between the two counties.
The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife is in the home stretch of updating its Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. The plan is scheduled for adoption at the Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting April 19-20 in Astoria.