By Jayson Jacoby
Officials from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) will have a public town hall meeting Tuesday evening at the Keating School to give local ranchers ideas about how to protect their herds from possible attacks by a wolf pack that has killed at least one deer and one elk in Baker County this month.
The meeting will start at 6 p.m., said Brian Ratliff, district wildlife biologist at ODFW's Baker City office.
Space is limited, and Ratliff said priority will be given to livestock owners in the vicinity. All others are welcome to attend, space permitting, he said.
Keating School is about 15 miles northeast of Baker City. To get there, drive Highway 86 east of Baker City past the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center for about two miles, then turn left onto Keating Cutoff Road and follow it to the school.
ODFW officials confirmed last month that an estimated five wolves had spent much of January in the Medical Springs area about 22 miles northeast of Baker City.
More recently, a group of at least four wolves killed a female deer on Feb. 7 near Ruckles Creek, about 10 miles east of Baker City.
And a group of three to four wolves ate, and probably killed, an adult cow elk around Feb. 16 near Manning Creek about one mile north of Durkee.
Russ Morgan, ODFW's wolf program coordinator, said last week that although there's no definitive proof, it's quite possible that all three cases involve the same group of wolves.
No attacks on livestock have been reported, but with calving season underway Ratliff said a town hall meeting is called for.
"We will try to answer all relevant questions," he said.
He emphasized that Tuesday's meeting is not designed as a public forum for debating Oregon's wolf management plan.
The focus, he said, is on explaining to livestock owners ways they can reduce the risk of wolf depredation.
Ratliff said ODFW officials don't know where the new wolf pack is now.
Photographs of 5-inch-long canine tracks taken Saturday morning near Ruckles Creek appear to be from wolves, but that hasn't been confirmed, Ratliff said.
If wolves did make those tracks on a dirt road on BLM land just south of Highway 86, that would mean wolves were in the area some time after snow melted, Ratliff said.
When wolves killed the deer in that area in early February there was a deep snow cover.