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Prospect-area cow death likely not a wolf kill

Wolf OR-7 was in or near a northern Jackson County pasture around the time a cow was found dead there last month, and though it appears wolves may have fed on the carcass, it was not classified by state or federal biologists as a wolf kill.

The carcass found Oct. 29 in the unidentified pasture somewhere outside of Prospect marks the first time OR-7 has been associated with a livestock kill, but the cause of death for the cow was listed as possibly by a wolf but unknown, according to an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife depredation investigation report.

The scene and carcass were inspected by an ODFW biologist as well as a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist who could find no bite or claw marks or signs of trauma on the carcass, which was 85 percent intact, according to the report.

There was evidence of light scavenging and there were fresh wolf tracks but no struggle, chase or kill scenes were detected, the report states.

"There wasn't anything to indicate it was killed by a predator, or a wolf specifically," said Steve Niemela, an ODFW biologist who was part of the investigation.

"If it was a wolf, we'd definitely say it," he said. "But you got to have evidence."

Inspection of the larval stages of maggots, decomposition and ambient air temperatures led the biologists to estimate the cow's death between Oct. 24 and Oct. 27, according to the report.

OR-7's GPS collar showed the animal was at or near the pasture Oct. 19, 27 and 28, the report states.

In this case, ODFW issued no livestock advisory because the agency does so only when a livestock death is classified as confirmed or probable, said Michelle Dennehy, the ODFW's wolf program spokeswoman.

"We've had numerous investigations that don't turn out to be depredation," Dennehy said.

The pasture is within the known range of OR-7. Images of the collared wolf, his mate and at least three pups have been captured by government trail cameras in eastern Jackson County, but the number of wolves in the region is unknown.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.