ENTERPRISE — Staff with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife shot and killed two adult wolves in response to multiple attacks on cattle grazing in Wallowa County.
Department spokeswoman Michelle Dennehey said one uncollared wolf was killed Sunday night and a second was shot Tuesday morning in the northestern part of the state. One was shot from the ground and one from the air, she said.
ODFW will monitor the situation and could take additional action if remaining members of the Harl Butte pack continue to attack livestock, she said.
Ranchers in the area have complained about the pack for some time and asked ODFW to kill the entire pack, which included 10 wolves at the end of 2016 and at least seven this past spring. They said the pack operated in an area that put them within striking range of several herds grazing on public or private land. The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association said the dry summer caused deer and elk to retreat higher into the mountains, making cattle “easy targets” for wolves.
Todd Nash, an area rancher and county commissioner who is the OCA’s wolf committee chairman, said he was disappointed by ODFW’s decision to kill only two wolves.
“We have seen this happen before and we fully expect more cattle to be killed. It’s a very unfortunate way to do business,” he said in a prepared statement.
ODFW confirmed the Harl Butte pack attacked cattle seven times since July 2016. Ranchers or a hired range rider interrupted attacks seven other times by shooting at wolves, charging them on horseback or otherwise chasing them away.
Conservation groups opposed ODFW using lethal control against the wolves.
Ranchers believe the Harl Butte Pack is made up of remnants from the Imnaha Pack, which was notorious for attacking livestock. ODFW killed four members of that group in March 2016 after multiple attacks. However, ODFW said DNA analyzed from OR-50, a Harl Butte wolf that was captured and collared, “showed no familial relationship to wolves of the Imnaha pack.”
The department issued a lethal control order last week, announcing its intention to kill two adults. Dennehey, the spokeswoman, said ODFW hopes the remaining pack members will change their behavior. She said ODFW will monitor the situation and share information with producers and the range rider. The collar worn by OR-50 provides notice of the pack’s location.