Aug. 27–A wolf pack in eastern Oregon is one strike away from a possible state kill order after a sheep was killed in an August 20 attack in Umatilla County.
State wildlife officials confirmed Wednesday that the incident was a wolf attack and qualified as a formal strike against the Umatilla River pack.
It’s the Umatilla River pack’s third confirmed attack on livestock since June. When a pack has four confirmed attacks in six months, state wildlife managers can kill the wolves involved.
In the latest attack, a livestock owner had released 17 sheep from their night pen to graze during the day. Within 30 minutes, 16 sheep sprinted back to the pen. A ewe was missing.
After searching for nearly four hours, the ewe’s remains were found with large bites on its neck, according to an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife investigation.
GPS collar data showed two wolves, OR-14 and OR-22, were nearby when the attack occurred. That morning, OR-22 was within 300 yards of the pen the sheep were kept in overnight.
OR-14 was close by when the other two livestock attacks happened in Umatilla County in June, ODFW investigations found.
If the pack is involved in one more confirmed livestock attack before December, ODFW can consider killing the wolves involved if it believes the attacks are likely to continue. It has not done that since establishing the four-strike system in a settlement with ranchers and environmental groups last year.
For incidents to qualify as strikes, livestock owners must undertake non-lethal deterrence measures and ensure that nothing unnatural — like a pile of bones or carcasses — is present to attract predators.
Six wolves are known to be in the Umatilla pack, which was involved in three confirmed livestock kills in 2013.
— Rob Davis