Rogue Pack on record killing streak

·4 min read

Jul. 31—The Rogue Pack of gray wolves is in the midst of a record-breaking spree of livestock attacks, the likes of which would possibly lead to government killing of pack wolves if they were not protected by federal law.

Thursday's confirmation of a 700-pound yearling steer injured from wolf attacks in a private Fort Klamath-area pasture brings to seven the number of confirmed livestock attacks attributed in just more than two weeks to the Rogue Pack, which includes the offspring of famed wolf OR-7.

It dwarfs past killing sprees by the Rogue Pack, which set records for killing or injuring livestock — called predation — during OR-7's final years late last decade.

The extent of this livestock predation also eclipses that of Northeast Oregon's Lookout Mountain Pack, blamed killing or injuring a dozen livestock between July and October of 2021, records show.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife killed eight of those wolves under protocols of the state plan that governs wolf management in most of Eastern Oregon.

In the Lookout Mountain case, the state's killings whittled down that pack to just two wolves, and the predation then stopped, according to ODFW reports.

However, wolves in Western Oregon are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act, which sets very strict standards for "lethal removal," and federal biologists have not called for killing federally protected Oregon wolves.

The current number of depredations is greatly concerning, said Susan Sawyer, the Klamath Basin spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees wolf management in the Wood River Valley, which is part of the Rogue Pack's historic range.

"In the past, nighttime human presence has been an effective nonlethal approach to minimize wolf depredations in the Klamath Basin area," Sawyer said in a Friday email to the Mail Tribune.

"The pastures in the Wood River Valley are quite expansive, making it a challenge to effectively implement these measures, including nighttime hazing," she said. "We will continue to work with ranchers and Wildlife Services to implement and evaluate the use of nighttime hazing in conjunction with other nonlethal measures."

ODFW and federal biologists are still trying to trap and fit a GPS-transmitting collar on a member of the Rogue Pack to better monitor the animals, she said.

The latest incident came Wednesday when a livestock producer found a wounded 700-pound yearling steer on a 200-acre private pasture, according to ODFW.

It followed a similar discovery Tuesday of a dead 725-pound steer in a nearby private pasture, where it also sported tell-tale scratches and bite marks of a wolf attack, the agency reported.

Similar, separate livestock kills in the Fort Klamath area were reported Saturday and Sunday morning. Three individual killings also were reported during the week of July 12.

All the reports were of dead yearling cows or steers in which the offending wolves left the prey mostly intact, and all with multiple bite scrapes common among wolf attacks, according to ODFW.

All were attributed to the Rogue Pack, because these are areas where the pack is known to frequent.

The pack typically toggles between western Klamath County and northeastern Jackson County, where the pack historically has denned, records show.

The pack's alpha female is an uncollared 4-year-old from the 2018 brood of OR-7 and OR-94, two animals known for their collar numbers but infamous for their places is Oregon wolf history.

OR-7 was known worldwide as the wolf whose search for a mate sent him from northeast Oregon into southwest Oregon and even California before he finally found a mate and settled down in eastern Jackson County.

OR-7 was at one time a model citizen and a bastion of wolfdom for those who champion these apex predators — until he turned his pack toward livestock predation late in his lifetime.

OR-7 disappeared and has been presumed dead since 2019. OR-94 was found dead of apparent natural causes in 2021 in the Sky Lakes Wilderness Area near Prospect in northeast Jackson County.

The pack remained under biologists' radar until last summer, when trail cameras captured images of the new Rogue Pack 2.0 and as many as four pups.

Under Oregon's wolf plan, packs are defined as four wolves traveling together in winter.

Mark Freeman covers the environment for the Mail Tribune. Reach him at 541-776-4470 or email him at mfreeman@rosebudmedia.com.