Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

Baker County District Attorney Matt Shirtcliff has determined that a Pine Valley cattle rancher was legally justified in shooting and killing one of four wolves he said were chasing his cow dog near his home on March 12.

Lawrence Aguilar, who lives about 9 miles from Halfway, said he shot the wolf three times with a .223 rifle.

In a press release, Shirtcliff said that “Oregon law clearly allows the use of lethal force to kill a wolf that is biting, wounding, killing or chasing livestock or working dogs.”

Aguilar, who has lived in Pine Valley for 15 years, said the wolves were 10 to 12 yards from the front door of his home in the incident that happened about 7 a.m. on March 12.

“I didn’t really feel good about it,” Aguilar said this morning in a phone interview, referring to his decision to shoot the wolf.

He said he was motivated to kill the wolf, rather than fire a shot to try to frighten the animals away, in part by two previous encounters with wolves on his property.

One of those happened in late February of this year.

Aguilar said he was awakened about 3 a.m. by wolves howling near his home.

He said he went outside and fired 25 to 30 warning shots, hoping to haze the wolves.

Aguilar said the wolves stayed approximately where they had been — based on their howling — even after he fired.

“They weren’t concerned at all by gunshots,” he said.

At daylight he telephoned the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) office in Baker City. Aguilar said officials arrived that morning and confirmed, through tracks in the snow, that wolves had been in the area Aguilar indicated.

His first experience with wolves on his property happened about two years ago, on a February morning, when his two Labrador retrievers started barking.

Aguilar, who was stoking his outdoor furnace, said he saw one of his cow dogs running down a hill being chased by what he initially thought was a Shetland pony but was in fact a wolf.

“It was a huge animal,” Aguilar said.

He said the wolf stopped about 35 yards away. Aguilar said he raised his arms trying to frighten the wolf, but it didn’t move.

He then got his rifle and fired one shot in the wolf’s direction.

Again, the wolf stood its ground.

“It was a beautiful animal, black with yellow eyes,” Aguilar said. “It was not at all concerned. It just gives you a different feeling when you see an animal that big and it doesn’t have any care about humans at all.”

Aguilar said he fired a second shot, nearer the wolf but without trying to hit it, and at that the animal turned and ran off.

The March 12 incident started when Aguilar was working on a computer in a room on the second floor of his home.

He has his cattle herd in a calving area about 200 yards, and downhill, from the house. Aguilar said he usually leaves his cow dog, Ruger, outside to watch over the herd.

Aguilar said he heard Ruger “creating a ruckus at the front of my house.”

He said he looked through a window and saw the dog near his front door with one wolf facing the dog and two others, one on either side.

Aguilar said a fourth wolf was behind the dog, but farther away.

Aguilar said it appeared to him, based on Ruger’s side to side movements, that the dog realized the wolves were “trying to flank him.”

Aguilar said he ran downstairs, grabbed his .223 rifle and left the house via a side door.

He said he didn’t want to go out the front door because if he had to shoot he would be aiming down the hill toward where his cattle, as well as horses, are penned.

Aguilar said that as he came around the house and saw the wolves still menacing his dog, he shot one of the wolves, which immediately went down.

He said he shot it two more times to make sure it was dead.

He said the three other wolves fled, but they apparently stopped in a draw about 500 yards away, where they howled for about 30 minutes.

Aguilar said he called the ODFW office in Baker City. He said biologists arrived and found wolf tracks around the area where his cows and calves were penned.

None of the livestock was injured, he said. He said the mother cows had formed a protective circle around their calves.

See more in the April 10, 2019, issue of the Baker City Herald.