Wildlife biologists fitted a pair of young wolves from the Umatilla River pack with GPS collars after the animals were inadvertently trapped Oct. 26 in a forested area east of Weston.
The pups, born in April, were on private land when caught in separate foot-hold traps by a licensed trapper who intended to trap coyotes, according to the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife. Spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy said the trapper followed regulations and immediately reported the situation to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
ODFW biologists responded quickly, collaring the 55-pound male and 50-pound female. Once finished, the wolves were safely released, Dennehy said.
“The key benefit is going to be when and if they disperse,” she said. “We’ll be able to track them much more easily.”
The Umatilla River pack already has one GPS-collared adult to provide data about the wolves’ movement. At seven or eight months old, the wolf pups will begin traveling with the pack and start hunting, according to information from the nonprofit International Wolf Center.
Depredation of livestock continues to be an issue on Weston Mountain. ODFW officials reported Monday that following an investigation, they made a probable determination that Umatilla River wolves killed a 120-pound Suffolk lamb Oct. 25, roughly three miles west of where a mature milking goat was confirmed killed by the pack on Upper Pine Creek in August.
The lamb had gotten outside of a protective fenced area sometime the previous night. Evidence of a predator attack included a bite mark on the lamb’s upper right leg, and entrails removed during feeding on the carcass.
A fresh set of tracks from a single wolf was found in a muddy section of road about 80 yards away. However, there was no clear evidence the predator was a wolf based on size and spacing of the wounds.
A finding of “probable” depredation does not count toward potential lethal control of wolves in Oregon. ODFW can consider killing problem wolves from a pack if it has at least four confirmed “qualifying incidents” within a six-month timeframe, based on revised rules stemming from a court settlement reached May 23 and adopted by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission July 12.
The Umatilla River pack, which had four wolves and a breeding pair at the end of 2012, has one qualifying incident. That took place on June 3, Dennehy said. Though the August incident is a confirmed wolf kill, it did not qualify because ODFW did not complete its deterrence plan within a 14-day deadline. Steps are in place to make sure the error does not happen again, Dennehy said.
Contact George Plaven at email@example.com or 541-564-4547.