Lookout Mountain wolf

A trail cam photo from May 30 shows one of the two yearling wolves in the Lookout Mountain pack.

Wolves from the Lookout Mountain pack in eastern Baker County killed a calf in the Lawrence Creek area north of Durkee last week, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Baker County Sheriff Travis Ash is calling on the state agency to kill all the wolves from that pack, citing an “unacceptable” level of depredation on livestock.

Wolves from the pack have killed five head of cattle and injured two others since mid-July.

ODFW employees shot and killed two wolf pups from the pack on Aug. 1, but the permit that authorized that also prohibits the killing of the pack’s breeding pair.

ODFW biologists believe the pack consists of the breeding pair, two yearlings born in the spring of 2020, and the five remaining pups from this spring’s litter of seven, two of which were killed Aug. 1.

In a letter sent Monday, Sept. 13, to ODFW Director Curt Melcher, Ash wrote that the nonlethal measures several ranchers have taken, including firing guns to try to frighten wolves away from cattle, are failing.

“The financial burden, physical strain and exhaustion they are going through in what has become a fruitless effort to keep the Lookout Mountain Pack from killing their animals is extreme,” Ash wrote. “I believe the most humane way of dealing with this problem wolf pack is to remove the adult breeding pair that are teaching the negative learned behavior of targeting cattle to their offspring.”

The most recent confirmed wolf attack happened last week, when ODFW employees found a dead 600-pound calf the morning of Sept. 9 on a 2,800-acre pasture that includes private and public land.

Biologists who examined the carcass estimated the calf died the night of Sept. 7. The carcass was partially consumed, but most of the hide was intact, according to an ODFW investigation report.

Biologists skinned the carcass and found numerous pre-mortem tooth scrapes on the calf’s rear right leg and on both front legs, along with tissue damage up to 2 inches deep.

The location, size and number of tooth scrapes, and the severity of the tissue damage, are both consistent with wolf attacks on calves, according to the report.

Melcher issued a permit on July 31 that allows ranchers who have lost cattle to kill up to four subadult wolves from the pack. The permit also allows the ranchers to designate someone else to kill wolves, and ODFW employees can also kill wolves under the permit.

ODFW employees shot and killed two wolf pups from the pack on Aug. 1. No other wolves have been killed since, according to ODFW.

The permit was set to expire Aug. 21, but Melcher extended the permit through Tuesday 14 after wolves killed a calf on Aug. 19. It’s not clear whether Melcher will again extend the permit, or change the parameters to allow the killing of adult wolves, including the breeding pair.

Ash included with his letter a list of the wolf attacks on livestock this summer.

The two most recent, a calf killed in late August and the calf killed last week, both belonged to the Phillips Ranch, according to Ash’s letter.

Wolves have also killed one calf belonging to the Bloomer Ranch, and two calves owned by Deward and Kathy Thompson.

In his letter to Melcher, Ash wrote that in his estimation the balance between grazing and predation is skewed toward the latter in the Lookout Mountain area.

“Wolves are pursuing cattle as a food source rather than hunting their natural prey — elk and deer, which are plentiful in the area,” Ash wrote. “Wolves can spend much less energy killing a cow than chasing an elk or deer.”

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