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Video shows 10 wolves
Footage was taken of Wallowa County wolf pack last week
An Oregon state wildlife biologist videotaped a pack of at least 10 gray wolves last week on Forest Service land in Wallowa County east of Joseph.
The pack is the largest yet confirmed in Oregon since wolves began returning to the state in the late 1990s, said Russ Morgan, wolf coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.“ODFW has been regularly monitoring this pack but until this video was taken, we only had evidence of a minimum of three adults and three pups making up this pack,” Morgan said. “Pups can be difficult to distinguish at this distance, but it appears there may be as many as six pups in the video.”
Pat Matthews, an ODFW biologist in Enterprise, videotaped the wolf pack on Nov. 12.
Matthews saw the wolves across a canyon at a distance of at least several hundred yards, Morgan said.
The 1-minute, 32-second video is available on the ODFW Web site at: www.dfw.state.or.us/news/video_gallery/imnaha_wolf_pack.asp
The alpha, or dominant, female wolf in the Imnaha pack is designated as B-300, a four-year-old wolf that was born in Idaho, Morgan said.
ODFW first confirmed B-300 was in Oregon in December 2007 when biologists detected the signal from the radio collar that Idaho officials fitted to the wolf in 2006.
Oregon biologists first saw B-300 in January 2008 in the mountains south of Wallowa, Morgan said.
During that winter biologists also saw the wolf on the southwest side of the Wallowa Mountains above Medical Springs.
The wolf, which was always seen alone, behaved like a typical “dispersing” wolf that is seeking a mate and a territory, Morgan said.
“A dispersing wolf can be anywhere,” he said. “They move around.”
B-300 turned up in the Imnaha country east of Joseph — still alone —in June 2008.
The radio transmitter in the wolf’s collar failed in September 2008.
During the winter of 2008-09 biologists found tracks from a pair of adult wolves in the area, Morgan said.
On July 17, 2009, he trapped an adult wolf that turned out to be B-300. Morgan attached a new radio collar to the wolf.
Biologists also saw three pups, and three adults, in the area this past summer.
Matthews’ video showing at least 10 wolves is “not a surprise,” Morgan said.
Female wolves usually birth about five pups, but larger litters are not uncommon, he said.
Although Morgan said he has heard that cattle ranchers in the Imnaha country were missing calves this fall when they gathered their herds from summer pasture, he said he’s not yet seen evidence that wolves have killed any livestock in the area.
A pair of wolves killed two dozen sheep this past spring and summer on Curt Jacobs’ ranch in Keating Valley in Baker County.
Federal officials shot and killed those two wolves in early September.
Morgan said a wolf pack that establishes a territory — which appears to be the case with the pack Matthews videotaped — is less likely to roam as widely as a lone dispersing wolf does.
“All indications show that they have a home range over on that side of the (Wallowa) mountains,” Morgan said.
The video is important evidence as ODFW tries to determine how many “breeding pairs” of wolves live in the state — a statistic that determines when wolves could be removed from the state’s endangered species list.
(Wolves are no longer on the federal endangered species list in the part of Oregon east of Highways 395, 78 and 95, an area that includes Baker and Wallowa counties.)
According to Oregon’s wolf management plan, the state Fish and Wildlife Commission will consider delisting wolves when biologists have confirmed at least four breeding pairs are living in Eastern Oregon for three consecutive years.
To qualify as a breeding pair, a pair of wolves or a pack must produce at least two pups that survive until Dec. 31 of the year they were born.
The Imnaha pack is the second in Oregon in which ODFW has confirmed the presence of pups, Morgan said.
The other pack lives in the Wenaha-Tucannon area of northwest Wallowa County.
Biologists don’t know how many wolves are in that pack, in part because they haven’t trapped any of the animals in order to attach radio tracking collars.