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Southern Oregon wolf not thought to be hampered by injury

A Desolation Pack wolf was photographed in June 2021 by a remote camera on U.S. Forest Service land in Grant County. [ODFW photo]

Biologists with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife say it’s unlikely OR-103 — a lone wolf that has killed three cattle in the Doak Mountain area near Klamath Falls in recent months — was seriously injured earlier this year when caught in a coyote leg-hold trap.

Arran Robertson, communications manager for Oregon Wild, an environmental organization, has questioned the use of traps with wolves. In an email, Robertson said OR-103 “was substantially injured in a coyote leghold trap, and that’s when he was fitted with a radio collar.”

Derek Broman, carnivore-furbearer coordinator for ODFW, acknowledged OR-103 was caught in foothold trap. But he said after it was determined the wolf was not seriously injured, it was collared and released. He said there have been reports the wolf has frequently been seen standing alongside roadways, including Highway 140 in the Doak Mountain area.

According to ODFW, OR-103 is an adult male wolf captured and GPS radio-collared southeast of Bend in February 2021. From there, it dispersed into Northern California and resided there until returning to Oregon in July 2022.

“His recent localized movement indicated that the wolf was resident in and staying in an area where there was risk of conflict with livestock,” an earlier ODFW report said. “Therefore, An Area of Known Wolf Activity (AKWA) was designated in Klamath County’s Keno management unit in Klamath County Aug. 11.” The AKWA will be modified if OR-103 leaves the area.

Regarding the capture of wolves, Broman said traps used by ODFW are “effective and selective.” When wolves are captured, determinations are made on whether biologists believe the wolves will survive before they are radio-collared.

“We do see injured wolves all the time,” he said, noting statewide sightings include wolves likely injured while taking down, or trying to take down, much larger cattle. Broman noted ODFW has captured and collared more than 80 wolves.

Roblyn Brown, ODFW Wolf Program coordinator, said OR-103 was not caught by ODFW but by USDA Wildlife Services. Brown said there were concerns about OR-103 when he was released and that he was seen limping but noted, “There is a history of three-legged wolves in the wild that still hunt natural prey and are members of packs.”

Robertson said OR-103’s “injury might explain why he’s going after easier prey.” He said another leghold trap incident with wolves was “only indirectly” mentioned in the 2021 wolf report from earlier this year: One wolf was killed by a livestock producer that the agency said very specifically was not “caught in the act of chasing livestock.”

“It turns out that wolf had been caught in a leghold trap and was gnawing on its own leg to escape,” Robertson said. “According to Oregon State Police, a rancher said he was confused and thought the wolf was chewing on a calf and shot it. Apparently, the trap was also illegal. The ‘I thought it was eating a cow’ excuse seems dubious to me, but regardless, it’s another example of the consequences of wolves getting caught in indiscriminate leghold traps.”

Although agreeing that illegal wolf captures and killings “is a major concern,” Broman said of Robertson’s claims, “I don’t think that holds much water,” citing the success in radio-collaring wolves. The collars provide information on a wolf’s movements.

Although OR-103 is a lone wolf, wolves usually form packs. Broman said wolves often travel great distances, citing the example of the legendary OR-7, who ventured from northeast Oregon to California and was the alpha male of the Rogue Pack. Although it’s believed OR-7 died a year or more ago, the Rogue Pack still exists and has been blamed for several cattle deaths in the Fort Klamath area of Klamath County.

Broman said OR-103’s August calf kills resulted in designating an Area of Depredating Wolves and an Area-Specific Wolf Conflict Deterrence Plan to assist livestock and landowners manage potential conflict with wolves. The area includes large private ranches and industrial timberland, with cattle grazing happening spring through fall. The area is bordered on the west by the Mountain Lakes Wilderness and east by Upper Klamath Lake.

ODFW officials noted wolves west of Highway 395 are listed as endangered under the Federal Endangered Species Act, so all management of wolves is regulated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

If wolves, including OR-103, are delisted, a notice would be posted on the ODFW website, and ODFW would implement management according to the Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.

Reach freelance writer Lee Juillerat at 337lee337@charter.net or 541-880-4139.