Effort To Trap Mount Emily Wolf Hit Or Miss, But Mostly Miss
ODFW biologists believe lone Mount Emily wolf could be forming a pack.
The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife has had more recent success trapping members of other packs such as this 2-year old female of the Wenaha Pack (courtesy ODFW)
A wolf deemed responsible for killing sheep on Weston Mountain, northeastern Umatilla County, in May continues to elude capture, and not without some panache.
The animal continues to have close encounters with traps set by a state biologist, sometimes coming tantalizingly close, but always walking away clean. This wolf is an an odd duck, Umatilla District wildlife biologist Mark Kirsch of Pendleton said Thursday.
“He sees things a little differently than I do,” Kirsch said. “I’ll set up logically where I think he’ll step, and he’ll step an inch and a half to one side.”
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife attributes as many as seven dead sheep to this wolf, all killed on private property on Weston Mountain. Afterward, the department announced plans to capture the animal and fit it with a GPS tracking collar. That would allow biologists to study its movements and give area livestock producers a heads up via an automatic text-message alert system that notifies subscribers of nearby wolves.
So far the wolf has proven less than cooperative. Kirsch said it skirts his “sets” teeth-clenchingly close. Based on wolf tracks Kirsch finds on one of his daily rounds in the Mount Emily Wildlife Management Unit, the wolf stood directly over a trap without stepping on the pan, the flat metal plate that springs the trap. State wildlife biologists use leg traps with jaws lined with 1/4-3/8 of an inch of rubber to minimize the threat of injury to the animals, according to state wolf coordinator Russ Morgan of La Grande.
“He’s standing over it, maybe missing the pan by a half-inch,” Kirsch said Thursday.
One more thing, wildlife biologists speculate the wolf may be hunting for more that himself. Trail cameras within the past two weeks captured an image it traveling with a female, Kirsch said. The wolf pair was first documented in August 2011, but disappeared until early spring.
Kirsch said no evidence exists to indicate the pair have denned up with pups. No pups have been seen, and the female has also disappeared, as well. But, the male was recently photographed “packing meat” — hauling a carcass somewhere in its mouth, Kirsch said.
Morgan said wolves typically den up the first few weeks in April. He said demands on a male to provide food for a nascent pack grow three- or four-fold over his own needs. Prey is hard to come by until May, when deer and elk start dropping calves.
The department suspects this wolf may made the first confirmed livestock kill in Umatilla County since wolves reappeared in Oregon. The first attack occurred overnight May 1 and 2, when two ewes and two lambs were killed in their pen and a third sheep was dragged away. Two weeks later, a wolf killed one ram injured three, one later euthanized, according to the department.
June 10, the department announced it counted four new pups in two Eastern Oregon wolf packs, two each in the Wenaha and Imnaha packs, which inhabit areas east of the Mount Emily unit.
The fish and wildlife department does not consider the Mount Emily pair a pack. But if evidence shows they’ve bred, that’s good news for a healthy population of wolves, said Executive Director Sean Stevens of Oregon Wild, a Portland-based conservation group. The animals, considered endangered and protected under state law, and generally west of U.S. 395 by federal law, began reestablishing themselves in Oregon around 2008.
“The more established the pack, the more the population is going to be diversified genetically and maybe more successful in the long term,” Stevens said. “It’s an exciting development if there’s a Mount Emily pack.”
Contact City Editor Joseph Ditzler at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0828.
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