MISSION — Umatilla Tribal Police, with assistance from Oregon State Police, are investigating the shooting of a wolf found dead in early March up Kanine Ridge on the Umatilla Indian Reservation.
The carcass was found partially skinned with its tail missing, according to Carl Scheeler, manager of the Wildlife Program for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.
The first indication that a wolf might have been killed came when the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife was conducting exploratory flights looking for opportunities to get more collars on wolves in three separate packs that are moving across and through the Umatilla Indian Reservation.
Scheeler said ODFW encountered a “mortality signal,” which emits when a radio collar becomes stationary for a long time, such as when it “falls off for some reason or when an animal is dead.”
ODFW contacted OSP, which asked the CTUIR Wildlife Program to assist in locating the collar.
Greg Rimbach, the local ODFW District Wildlife biologist, and Scheeler hiked in with a radio receiver and located the collar. The carcass was nearby.
“The conditions indicated the animal was shot in the head,” Scheeler said. “It appeared to have been there several days. It had been scavenged heavily by coyotes and birds.”
Scheeler said the wolf packs have been roaming the reservation for a couple of years now with few problems.
“Apparently somebody thinks it’s OK to kill wolves,’” Scheeler said. “The only instance when it is permissible in Oregon and on the reservation is when a wolf is actively taking livestock or pets, or is posing an immediate threat to human safety.”
Scheeler said that although wolf and livestock conflicts make headlines, “concerns of impacts to local big game here are overblown.”
Because wolves are coursing predators, they run their prey singling out the sick, weak and aged.
“That actually creates a positive demographic effect on the population, leaving healthier, more vigorous animals on the landscape,” Scheeler said.
At this time of year, Scheeler said, there are hundreds, sometimes thousands of migratory elk on the foothills of the reservation that provide “ample foraging opportunities for wolves and other large carnivores.”
Scheeler said wolves serve an important role in maintaining the health of big game herds.
“Far from being a threat to them, they actually provide an important ecological service,” Scheeler said.
This article originally appeared in the April 2018 Confederated Umatilla Journal.