BAKER CITY — Wolves from the Keating Pack in Baker County killed a pair of 2-month-old calves on a public land cattle grazing allotment north of Keating Valley last week.
Brian Ratliff, district wildlife biologist at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (ODFW) Baker City office, said his investigation on Friday, April 30, showed ample evidence that wolves killed the calves.
“It was a classic case (of wolf depredation),” he said. “It was pretty straightforward.”
Ratliff said a hunter who reported the attack — not the rancher who owns the calves — was driving through the allotment on the morning of April 30 and saw one dead calf and a wolf standing on it.
The hunter texted Ratliff, who arrived at the spot later that day.
Ratliff said he found two dead calves about 40 yards apart. The calves were born this winter and were among a herd of 57 cow-calf pairs that were moved to the allotment, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, on April 16.
Based on the absence of any evidence that scavenging birds had fed on either carcass, Ratliff said he believes wolves killed the calves either late on April 29 or early on April 30.
He said there were “struggle scenes” and wolf tracks around each of the calves.
Ratliff said both carcasses had bite marks that, based on their location and depth, are consistent with wolves rather than smaller predators, such as coyotes.
Ratliff said he also found splotches of blood on vegetation that was still standing and had not been trampled.
That’s further evidence that the calves were attacked while alive, he said, because when bloody vegetation is not matted, it means the animals were standing when they bled.
Ratliff said blood on flattened vegetation, by contrast, is consistent with wolves or other predators dragging a carcass, or part of a carcass, across the ground before, or while, feeding on it. In that case it’s possible that the calf died from another cause and that the predator only fed on the carcass.
The Keating Pack consists of eight wolves, according to the annual wolf report ODFW released in April.
The pack had at least two pups in the spring of 2020 that survived through the end of the year.
Ratliff said ODFW trapped three wolves from the pack in January of this year and fitted them with tracking collars. However, he said that only one of those collars is still functioning.
That collar broadcasts radio signals rather than GPS, Ratliff said, so he can’t determine the location of any wolves from the pack during the period when he believes wolves attacked the calves.
However, Ratliff said that when he arrived at the attack scene, a radio receiver put the location of the collared wolf at about one-quarter mile away.
Ratliff said the owner of the calves, whom he didn’t name, spent the weekend in the area to prevent further wolf attacks.