Oregon grants rancher’s request to kill wolves

This May 25, 2014 photo shows OR-26, a 100-pound adult male, after he was fitted with a GPS tracking collar outside La Grande. Baker County ranchers have asked the state to kill wolves involved in livestock attacks.

HALFWAY — A Baker County cattle rancher’s request to have the wolves preying on his herd killed was granted Tuesday by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

According to an ODFW press release, the agency will provide a kill permit to allow the take of two wolves. Under the terms of this permit, the producer can kill up to two wolves on the private property he leases where the depredations occurred, when his livestock is present on the property. The permit expires on May 4.

ODFW staff members are also authorized to kill up to two wolves.

The rancher’s request asked that the state kill all eight wolves in what has recently been dubbed the Pine Creek pack, but the state is using what it calls incremental take — authorizing the lethal removal of two wolves in an attempt to change the wolf pack’s behavior.

OR-50 is the breeding male of the pack, a wolf involved in repeated kills in Wallowa County last year when he was a member of the Harl Butte Pack.

According to George Rollins, Oregon Cattlemen’s Association wolf committee co-chaiman, rancher Chad Delcurto turned out 130 cow and calf pairs into a private pasture Wednesday, April 4. The cattle were held overnight in a corral so the mothers and calves could find each other in a safe enclosure.

On Thursday, the cow/calf pairs were driven up from the corrals to higher ground. Rollins said the cattle were held to make sure they paired up again. There were no wolf sightings that afternoon, yet the next day an employee of Pine Valley Ranch was scouting for a hunting trip and saw wolves chasing and attacking Delcurto’s cattle.

“He (ranch employee) ran to them, video taped them and then contacted everyone he could get in touch with Chad,” Rollins said.

Delcurto assembled a crew on horseback to check the cattle. The horseback riders rode into the middle of wolves among the cattle and attempted to chase the predators away.

While checking the herd the horseback crew found two dead calves approximately one mile apart from each other. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife staff in Baker County as well as Baker County Sheriff Travis Ash and Deputy Rob Adams performed an investigation.

“A picture was taken of a cow standing over her dead calf with wolves 20 feet away,” Rollins said.

Rollins said another crew was assembled April 7 to gather the entire herd and determine if there were any further losses. During the gathering the horseback riders discovered wolves attacking another calf.

“Riders harassed the wolves (five wolves were visible at the site) and drove them over the ridge west of where the attack took place,” Rollins said.

The calf had significant bites with visible open wounds on both rear legs. Rollins said it was unable to travel and was left behind with his mother who was also showing lameness. At the corrals, 130 cows were counted and 124 calves, including the pair left on the hillside. Four of those calves showed visible wounds on their rear legs and hindquarters.

The calf left on the hillside was later euthanized and the carcass investigated. Again, wolves were seen in close proximity during the investigation.

“So at this point Chad had three calves confirmed killed, four confirmed injured and three missing in 48 hours,” Rollins said. “If you total that up, sold as 550 pound calves, that’s a $10,000 loss.”

According to Michelle Dennehy of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, OR-50 moved into the Pine Creek Wildlife Unit in Baker County last fall and joined up with a female wolf, OR-36.

Rollins said there have been regular sightings of wolves within 400 yards of the Pine Valley Ranch shop outside of Halfway where he recently retired as manager. Fish and Wildlife biologists have repeatedly hazed wolves away from the ranch headquarters.

“The ODFW guys have done a remarkable job hazing — they were concerned there would be depredations in the spring time,” Rollins said. “They ran wolves probably 20 miles with helicopters back into the forest to the Imnaha River again and that lasted about 36 hours.”

In the next few days Rollins said eight more producers are getting set to turn out cattle in the low hills where Delcurto’s cattle are grazing. Convinced the wolves will continue attacking livestock, Rollins said he anticipates a decision from the state on the kill request this week.

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