A pack of wolves has killed at least three calves since Thursday night in eastern Baker County, and the rancher involved is calling for state wildlife officials to kill all eight wolves in the pack.
“I would like to see the whole pack annihilated,” Chad DelCurto said this morning. “If a pack is killing livestock, you’ve got to kill every one of them that has been involved in that.”
DelCurto said he turned out 130 cow-calf pairs late last week in the Sheep Mountain area southeast of Halfway.
Within 48 hours, he said, wolves had killed three calves. Seven others were either injured or are missing, DelCurto said.
He has asked the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) to kill the wolves, but an agency decision is pending.
DelCurto said he learned about the wolf attacks when a Halfway resident who was scouting for wild turkeys in the area saw wolves attacking DelCurto’s cattle.
“It was just dumb luck that we knew what was going on,” he said.
The man took video of the wolves, DelCurto said.
During the weekend two ODFW biologists from the Baker City office, Justin Primus and Phillip Perrine, investigated the wolf attacks and also worked to drive the wolves away from the cattle, said Brian Ratliff, district wildlife biologist at the Baker City office.
ODFW also used a helicopter to try to scare the wolves away, Ratliff said this morning.
The tactics have not been effective, DelCurto said.
“The wolves have been in there every day,” he said.
The Pine Creek wolf pack consists of three adults and five pups that were born in the spring of 2017, Ratliff said.
The pack, which has roamed in the Sheep Mountain area in the past couple years, probably was in the area during the winter because herds of elk, a favorite prey of wolves, shelter there during that season, Ratliff said.
The Pine Creek pack’s alpha male was ousted last fall by the alpha male from the Harl Butte pack in Wallowa County. The Pine Creek pack’s former alpha male then migrated to Idaho, where it was legally killed by a hunter this winter, Ratliff said.
The Harl Butte pack killed three cattle and injured four others in Wallowa County during 2016 and 2017. That prompted ODFW to kill four wolves from the pack last summer. The agency didn’t kill the Harl Butte pack’s alpha male, however, in part because it’s the only wolf in that pack that has a working tracking collar, Ratliff said.
Oregon’s wolf management plan allows livestock owners or their designated agents to kill wolves that are in the act of harassing or attacking livestock, Ratliff said.
DelCurto said there were two opportunities to shoot at wolves during the weekend but he was told not to do so.
“This whole thing is a screwed up mess,” he said.
In an email to the Baker City Herald this morning, Michelle Dennehy, a spokesperson for ODFW, wrote that “ODFW is continuing to investigate the situation and working with the producer using non-lethal measures to stop the losses.”
See more in the April 9, 2018, issue of the Baker City Herald.