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Third collared wolf found dead in Klamath County

Another collared gray wolf with ties to Jackson County was found dead last week in Klamath County, the third killing of a federally protected and collared wolf there in the past year.

Wolf OR-25, which spent about two months in Jackson County about a year ago and was responsible for killing a cow near Prospect, was found dead Oct. 29 on Sun Pass State Forest lands near Fort Klamath, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

It was found after service biologists received a mortality signal from the wolf's collar and was positively identified, service spokesman Brent Lawrence said this morning.

Lawrence declined to reveal how investigators believe the wolf was killed, but said, "it did not die of natural causes."

The animal was taken to the service's National Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, where it remained today, Lawrence said.

This is the third open investigation of the slaying of a collared wolf in Klamath County since October 2016, service records show.

OR-33, a collared male, was found shot dead April 23 about 20 miles northwest of Klamath Falls in the Fremont-Winema National Forest.

OR-28, a collared female, was found dead Oct. 6, 2016, in the Fremont-Winema National Forest near Summer Lake. The service has not released its cause of death.

Lawrence declined to say whether investigators believe any or all of the killings are related, citing active police investigations.

"We're concerned about the recent illegal killings of wolves in the Klamath region," Lawrence said.

Gray wolves in Western Oregon are listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act, and killing one is a federal crime.

As in all three cases, the service is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest or conviction of whoever was responsible for the killing.

OR-25, which was collared in 2014, dispersed from the Imnaha Pack in 2015 and ended up in Jackson County while apparently trying to lure a mate away from OR-7's Rogue Pack last winter, according to service biologists.

On Feb. 25, OR-25 was blamed for attacking and killing a 3-day-old calf on a private ranch off Red Blanket Road near Prospect, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The wolf’s GPS collar showed it was at the location at 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. the same day, and a ranch hand later found the dead and eviscerated calf, according to ODFW’s livestock depredation report.

A single set of wolf tracks was found at the scene when investigated later that day by ODFW biologists, leading to the confirmation that it was predation, the report stated.

— Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtfribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman