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Two more cattle kills by wolves near Fort Klamath

Two yearling steers were attacked and killed by wolves from the Rogue Pack on Thursday in two separate incidents near Fort Klamath of Klamath County. A steer was also killed by wolves from the Rogue Pack on July 17 in the same area.

Both depredations were confirmed Friday after by the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife following investigations by wildlife biologists. So far this year, no wolf kills have been reported in Jackson County, which had four deaths attributed to the Rogue Pack in 2019.

“It’s a frustrating situation. It seems to me the situation is escalating,” said Jim Popson, who discovered four wolves attacking a 725-pound yearling steer early Thursday morning only about 200 yards from his Fort Klamath ranch. The wolves ran off when he appeared but the steer, which had been in an irrigation ditch, died later that afternoon.

ODFW reported fresh wolf tracks within 6 feet of the yearling. Because the yearling was still alive, on arriving investigators viewed fresh injuries on its legs, flanks and hindquarters, “clear signs of predator attack and the size, number and location of the bit injuries are similar to injuries on other cattle attacked by wolves.”

So far this year, three cattle killings by wolves on Popson’s ranch have been confirmed by the ODFW. A fourth kill was not confirmed as being by wolves because, Popson said, “It was too badly torn apart to confirm,” he said. “What else could it have been?”

The other kill occurred Friday on a neighboring ranch owned by Bill Nicholson. The carcass of the 800-pound yearling steer was skinned but not eaten, possibly, he believes, because the wolves were scared off. The ODFW investigation found tooth scrapes and tissue trauma the report made the same conclusions as reported to the Popson yearling.

“They got two of them,” said Nicholson, who termed the attacks, especially near the Popson home, “brazen.”

About 5:30 a.m. Thursday, Jennifer Wampler, whose husband Butch oversees ranch operations on the Nicholson Ranch, was walking when she reportedly heard sounds of a cow in distress and notified Popson. He immediately drove to the field about 200 yards from his house in a side-by-side vehicle.

“They saw me coming. They trotted off,” he said. “They’re not afraid of us, they’ll just keep a safe distance.”

Wolves west of Highway 395 between Lakeview and Pendleton are protected by the federal and state Endangered Species Acts, although wolves east of Highway 395, which have higher wolf populations and depredations, lack that status. According to the ODFW, as of April 15, Oregon had at least 158 wolves, a 15% increase over last year.

On May 11, another wolf kill was confirmed on a Fort Klamath area ranch. According to the ODFW report, that incident was also attributed to the Rogue Pack.

“Definitely,” Popson said of being frustrated because ranchers cannot kill wolves depredating livestock. “There’s nothing we can do. This is discouraging to me. It’s frustrating because this ground is deeded land and I pay property taxes. It seems to me the activity is escalating I don’t think we know how many (wolves) are out there.”

None of the four wolves known to be part of the Rogue Pack have a functioning monitor, although cameras have captured images of the group.

Popson said the increase in wolves has also been accompanied by sharp declines in deer and elk populations — “They’re all gone.” He said he has no fear of being attacked by wolves, noting, “I don’t worry about them attacking me. You go out and they’re trotting away.”

Wolf OR-7 was caught on a remote camera on public land in western Klamath County Oct. 23, 2016.