Two yearling steers were attacked and killed by wolves from the Rogue Pack Thursday in two separate incidents near Fort Klamath.
Both depredations were confirmed Friday by the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife following investigations by wildlife biologists. A steer was also killed by wolves from the Rogue Pack in the same area on July 17.
“It’s a frustrating situation,” said rancher Jim Popson, who discovered four wolves attacking a 725-pound yearling steer only 200 yards from his Fort Klamath home early Thursday morning. “It seems to me the situation is escalating.”
Popson said the wolves ran off when he appeared, but the steer died later that afternoon.
ODF&W reported fresh wolf tracks within six feet of the yearling. Because the yearling was still alive, investigators viewed fresh injuries on its legs, flanks and hindquarters, “clear signs of predator attack and the size, number and location of the bite injuries are similar to injuries on other cattle attacked by wolves.”
So far, three cattle killings by wolves on Popson’s ranch have been confirmed this year by ODF&W. A fourth kill was not confirmed because Popson said “it was too badly torn apart to confirm.”
The other kill occurred Friday on a neighboring ranch owned by Bill Nicholson. The carcass of the 800-pound yearling steer was skinned but not eaten, possibly, he believes, because the wolves were scared off. ODF&W investigation found tooth scrapes and tissue trauma. The report made the same conclusions as to the Popson yearling.
“They got two of them,” said Nicholson, who called the attacks “brazen.”
Early Thursday morning, Jennifer Wampler, whose husband Butch oversees operations on the Nicholson Ranch, was walking about 5:30 a.m. when she reportedly heard sounds of a cow in distress and notified Popson. He immediately drove to the field about 200 yards from his house in a side-by-side vehicle.
“They saw me coming. They trotted off,” he said. “They’re not afraid of us, they’ll just keep a safe distance.”
Wolves west of Highway 395 between Lakeview and Pendleton are protected by the federal and state Endangered Species Acts, although wolves east of Highway 395, which have higher populations and depredations, lack that status.
According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, as of April 15 the state had at least 158 wolves, a 15 percent increase over last year.
Two other wolf attacks were reported in May. On May 14, a 650-pound yearling was found with much of it carcass eaten. On May 11, another wolf kill was confirmed on a Fort Klamath area ranch. According to the ODF&W report, that incident was also attributed to the Rogue Pack.
None of the four wolves known to be part of the Rogue Pack has a functioning monitor, although cameras have captured images of the group.