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9-06 wolf collared

Wildlife biologist Tom Collom places a GPS collar on the Rogue Pack’s matriarch.

The breeding female of the Rogue Pack of gray wolves was captured Friday in the Fort Klamath area and equipped with a GPS collar before she was released later that day.

It marks the first time wildlife biologists have been able to track pack movements since 2018.

The capture came after the Rogue Pack killed a yearling steer on Wednesday, the 13th confirmed wolf kill in the Fort Klamath area of the Wood River Valley since May. The most recent death by the Rogue Pack was reported Wednesday when K2 Cattle Co. ranch hands found a dead, approximately 700-pound yearling steer in a 300-acre private land pasture.

Wildlife biologists hope the radio collar on the female wolf, the former mate of OR-7 who is believed to have died, can be used to track the movements and possibly help end the ongoing depredations.

The collars typically work for 2-1/2 to 3 years, according to Tom Collom, a wildlife biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. It’s believed she has mated with the pack’s new breeding male and that she is 8 or 9 years old, relatively old for a wolf.

“She’s getting a bit long in the tooth,” Collom said, although he expressed optimism the collar will help track the pack’s movements.

“It will allow us to monitor her much more closely. It will tell us where she is,” although he notes she may not always necessarily travel with the pack. Based on camera monitors the pack currently consists of five wolves, including one born earlier this year in mid-April.

Like OR-7, who was a member of the Imnaha Pack in northeastern Oregon when he was collared in 2011 and eventually formed the Rogue Pack, young Rogue pack wolves have left and formed other packs, including the Lassen Pack in far northern California.

OR-7, whose collar stopped transmitting several years ago, is believed to have died, although no carcass has been found. OR-54, until now the last Rogue pack wolf with a radio collar, left the area in 2018. As a result, Collom said “there was a lot of interest in trying to get a radio collar on a member of the pack.”

Until this year, the Rogue pack spent much of the year in the Butte Falls and Prospect areas of Jackson County and moved to the Wood River Valley of Klamath County during the summer when thousands of cattle, mostly from Northern California, are trucked to the Fort Klamath area to graze and fatten.

For the first time, the pack this year denned on the east side of the Cascades, not the west side.

Collom said biologists from ODFW and other agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, believe the pack may be attacking cattle because natural prey like deer fawns and elk calves have grown.

“They’ve become pretty dependent on livestock,” he said. “It’s all about opportunity. They don’t care where their protein comes from. This is the highest depredation pack in the state.”

Collom hopes having a pack member collared will help ongoing efforts by the various agencies and others, including Wood River Valley ranchers, to monitor and haze wolves by creating a human presence. Hazing techniques include spotlights, cracker shells and other noise-making efforts.