The wolves found dead in Northeast Oregon’s Wallowa County last month were blamed for killing a calf in June, according to an Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife report.
State police have asked the public’s help investigating the deaths of the Sled Springs pair, whose bodies were found within 50 yards of each other during the week of Aug. 24. Police did not disclose the killings until Sept. 16, saying they didn’t want to tip off the person or people responsible. The spot where the wolves were found is north of Enterprise.
Police and wildlife officials have not disclosed how the wolves died. The investigation began when a tracking collar worn by the pair’s female, OR-21, emitted a mortality signal. She and her mate were found dead.
Wolves in northeastern Oregon are protected under the state’s endangered species law, and killing them is a crime. State police have referred to the case as a “criminal investigation.” Wolves west of Highways 395, 78 and 95 are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. The feds have delisted Oregon wolves east of those highways, but the state listing and management plan hold sway in that corner of the state.
ODFW biologists have not spotted the pair’s pups, which are thought to be about five months old. Department spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy said the pups — their number is unclear — are weaned and typically would be free-ranging at this point. Wolves are secretive, and not seeing them would not be unusual.
Meanwhile, the Mount Emily pack in Umatilla County has recorded five attacks on sheep since June, four in August alone.
Under Phase 2 of Oregon’s wolf plan, which changes as the number of breeding pairs increases, a producer can ask ODFW for “lethal control” of wolves after two confirmed “depredations,” as they are called, or one confirmed attack and three attempts. All five attacks have been confirmed, but the producer has not formally asked the department to take action, Dennehy said. The attacks happened on a public land seasonal grazing allotment that expires Oct. 1, she said.