The alpha female of the Pine Creek wolf pack in eastern Baker County probably has given birth to a litter of pups over the past few days, or she is in a den preparing to do so.
Brian Ratliff, district wildlife biologist at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (ODFW) Baker City office, said GPS signal locations for the pack’s alpha male over the weekend show that the male has been returning to the same site in the Fish Lake area, in the snowbound Wallowa Mountains north of Halfway.
That’s the same area where the alpha female had pups last spring, Ratliff said.
Typically when the female retreats to a den to give birth, she won’t allow any members of the pack except the alpha male to come near, Ratliff said.
“What I think has happened is that the breeding female has pulled back into a den,” he said.
The Pine Creek pack, which originally numbered eight wolves, has killed four calves and injured seven others in the Halfway area since early April, according to ODFW reports.
The most recent confirmed attack happened Wednesday morning about 10 miles east of Halfway, when wolves injured a calf belonging to Barry and Shella DelCurto of Pine Valley.
The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association and affected ranchers have asked ODFW to kill all the wolves in the pack.
ODFW employees have killed three wolves from the pack.
The DelCurtos’ son and daughter-in-law, Dustin and Cindy DelCurto, camped Friday and Saturday nights near Barry and Shella DelCurto’s cattle herd.
Cindy DelCurto said she and her husband saw four wolves about 5:30 a.m. Saturday after they were awakened by what sounded like a calf wailing.
The wolves walked through the herd, coming within five or 10 feet of a cow-calf pair, she said.
They watched the wolves through binoculars from a distance of 800 to 1,000 yards, Cindy DelCurto said.
Later Saturday Barry and Dustin DelCurto, along with George Rollins, who lives near Halfway and is the volunteer co-chairman of the wolf committee for the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, rode on horseback through the area searching for a possible injured calf.
Ratliff suspects that the four wolves seen Saturday among the DelCurtos’ cattle were the pack’s alpha male, OR-50, and three of the pups born last spring.
See more in the April 23, 2018, issue of the Baker City Herald.