An image of what appears to be a wolf was captured on a trail camera mounted in the Fremont-Winema National Forest near the Sky Lakes Wilderness.
The image was captured Monday, Aug. 18.
Wes Lewis, who placed the camera in the forest to scout for elk, said the camera was in place for three days before capturing the black animal.
When Lewis first saw the image, he didn’t know what to think.
“I thought it was a small bear at first,” he said.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Wolf Coordinator Russ Morgan, who was e-mailed a copy of Lewis’ image, said the animal has characteristics similar to a wolf, but unless there is some kind of corroborating evidence, the agency can’t confirm the sighting.
“The animal in the picture really looks wolf-like, but without any additional information we can’t tell,” Morgan said.
Lewis said he was surprised by the images, but the thought of wolves in Klamath County forests doesn’t worry him.
“If they start to get overpopulated like coyotes, that could be a concern. But other than that, it’s kind of neat,” Lewis said.
According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist John Stephenson, hikers shouldn’t worry about a chance encounter with a wolf. It’s highly unlikely anyone will encounter one in the woods, he said.
“If you see one while hiking in the forest, it will probably high-tail it the other way,” he said.
Stephenson noted that many ranches in the Wood River Valley surrounding Fort Klamath are not cow-and-calf operations, which lessens the likelihood of wolf depredation.
Wolves are scavengers, much like coyotes, and they are attracted to dead or decaying meat and carcasses, Morgan said. Fencing can deter wolves from accessing carcasses and to avoid attracting wolves, Morgan said, burying, burning or treating livestock carcasses with lime can help.
“Burying is probably the most common and the best way,” Morgan said. “But it’s not an absolute.”
If wolves are in an area, they might still travel across farmland, but they will typically spend far less time in exposed areas if there aren’t any readily available food sources, he added.
According to Jason Chapman, past president of the Klamath Cattlemen’s Association and Klamath County Wolf Committee board member, wolves are reclusive animals that don’t like being around humans.
“The more you are out mingling with livestock, the less likely you are to have a wolf depredation,” he said.
Sheltering animals at night or moving them to lighted areas can also deter predator attacks, he added.
According to Chapman, if a wolf depredation does ever occur in Klamath County, the Klamath County Wolf Committee will help the landowner fill out the necessary compensation paperwork and complete the confirmation process. However, he said, until a depredation occurs in Klamath County, the state is not earmarking any money for the county.
“If there’s a wolf depredation, I’m sure there’s money somewhere,” Chapman said.
According to Chapman, before depredation compensation is issued, U.S. Department of Agriculture personnel must confirm whether a depredation is a wolf kill or not. He said predators typically strike prey on their bodies at the same place, and investigators will look for evidence of a wolf attack in wounds and search the area for wolf tracks and scat.
“You do not need to have video confirmation,” Chapman said. “But if you had (video), it’d make it really easy.”
Because wildlife officials cannot confirm whether the photographed animal is a wolf, it’s impossible to say whether it could be the black female that mated with famed OR-7 — the first confirmed wolf sighted west of the Cascades since 1937 — earlier this year. The two produced at least three pups.
Laurie Sada, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Klamath (USFWS) office field supervisor, pointed out that wolves throughout Oregon are protected by the state Endangered Species Act. Wolves west of Oregon highways 395, 78 and 95, including OR-7, the female wolf and pups, also are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act.
“The USFWS is committed to working with the state to help address public concerns and best management practices to help people protect their animals and livestock,” she said.
Morgan said he encourages anyone who thinks they have seen a wolf, or has evidence of one or more, to submit an online report to the ODFW at dfw.state.or.us/wolves/wolf_reporting_form.asp.
“We’re very interested in any type of information,” Morgan said.