Oregon’s famous wolf, OR-7, could be in hot water.
The wolf that captured international headlines for roaming into territory untouched by wolves for almost a century is now a suspect in multiple attacks on livestock in Southern Oregon.
Federal and state officials say the Rogue Pack, which OR-7 started with a mate in 2014, were likely involved in three depredations in Klamath County earlier this month.
The attacks killed two calves and injured another on Oct. 4 at a ranch in Wood River Valley, according to reports filed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“It happened on the edge of the Rogue Pack’s territory, and it very well could have been them, but we’re not 100 percent sure yet,” said John Stephenson, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wolf Coordinator. “There has been some other wolf activity in that area. We’re working hard to deal with this situation and stop it from continuing.”
Reports from ODFW said evidence is “adequate to confirm the death(s) as wolf depredation” and that the “Rogue Pack is known to frequent this general area at this time of year.”
Wolves in Western Oregon, including the Rogue Pack, remain protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, meaning they won’t be killed as a result. Stephenson said he’s been setting up non-lethal deterrence at the ranch to prevent future attacks.
“We’re taking it very seriously, and hoping to nip this in the bud,” he said.
OR-7 became something of a celebrity in 2011 after dispersing from northeastern Oregon’s Imnaha Pack, traveling west into the Cascade Range and crossing into California, becoming the first wild wolf to reach the Golden State since 1924.
Nicknamed “Journey” by environmental groups, OR-7 became the poster wolf for the return of canis lupus to Oregon and California. He returned to Southern Oregon with a mate and sired three pups in 2014, eventually establishing what biologists named the “Rogue Pack.”
OR-7 had two more pups in 2015 and 2016, bringing the pack total as high as nine wolves.
The problem with confirming the attacks as resulting from the Rogue Pack, Stephenson said, is that OR-7’s radio collar stopped working in 2015. He said the wolves from the 2014 litter may have already dispersed.
“With this happening, we’ll make it a priority to get a working collar in that pack and keep tabs on them a little closer,” he said.
Stephenson said that if it was the Rogue Pack, they could be resorting to feeding on livestock due to the size of the pack.
“There is some research that depredation risk increases with pack size,” he said.
Zach Urness has been an outdoors writer, photographer and videographer in Oregon for eight years. He is the author of the book “Hiking Southern Oregon” and can be reached at zurness@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6801. Find him on Zach Urness or @ZachsORoutdoors on Twitter.