Wolves from the Lookout Mountain pack, which state officials pared last year by killing eight wolves, injured three calves in the Daly Creek area in eastern Baker County in late May.
That’s the conclusion in an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) report from a June 6 investigation.
The three calves, which ranged in weight from about 150 pounds to 250 pounds, survived, although two had infected wounds, said Brian Ratliff, district wildlife biologist at ODFW’s Baker City office. Ratliff examined the three injured calves on June 6.
The attacks are the first attributed to the Lookout Mountain pack since October 2021, and the farthest northeast within the Lookout Mountain unit, Ratliff said.
During the summer and fall of that year, Lookout Mountain wolves killed at least nine head of cattle and injured three others, according to ODFW investigations. Most of those happened in the central and southern parts of the area, near the Durkee Valley.
The repeated attacks prompted agency employees to kill eight wolves from the pack, which initially included an estimated 11 wolves.
After ODFW biologists confirmed that Lookout Mountain wolves had attacked cattle five times during July 2021, killing three and injuring three others, agency employees killed two wolf pups, born during the spring of 2021, on Aug. 1.
Following additional attacks in August and September that killed five head of cattle, ODFW employees shot and killed three more wolves, including the pack’s breeding male, on Sept. 17, 2021.
There were no attacks on cattle for almost a month, until Oct. 16, when biologists determined that wolves had killed a 400-pound calf, likely on Oct. 14.
ODFW employees then shot and killed three more wolves, two juveniles born this year and one wolf born in 2020, on Oct. 20, 2021.
At that point, ODFW officials believed the pack, which roams the area between Highway 86 on the north and Interstate 84 to the south, consisted of just two wolves — the breeding female and one juvenile (now a yearling) born in the spring of 2021.
The breeding female has a GPS tracking collar that allows state biologists to monitor her movements.
Ratliff said an adult male wolf joined the breeding female at the end of January 2022. ODFW officials captured the male on Jan. 31 and fitted the animal with a radio tracking collar. Ratliff said radio collars, although they don’t automatically send location data daily as GPS collars do, tend to last much longer and are less prone to malfunctioning.
The adult wolves apparently mated, Ratliff said.
He bases that on a series of GPS locations for the alpha female this spring that indicates she found a den site where she gave birth to pups.
Ratliff said a female wolf that has a litter leaves a distinctive record of movements, continually returning to the same site after short forays in what biologists call a “wagon wheel pattern,” with the den site as the hub and the trips away as the spokes of the wheel.
Ratliff said ODFW has not set up any remote cameras near the den site, so biologists don’t know how many pups were in the litter.
He said the alpha female has continued to return to the site, however, so at least one pup is still alive.
Ratliff said there are no cattle grazing near the den location now, although cattle use most of the Lookout Mountain unit at some point during the summer.
On the morning of June 6, a rancher found three injured calves while gathering cattle in a 3,000-pasture in the Daly Creek area north of the Snake River Road near Richland. The pasture includes both public and private land, according to an ODFW report.
Ratliff estimated the calves had been attacked two to three weeks earlier.
One calf had multiple bite scrapes and tooth punctures on the inside of the right hind leg, with infection and tissue damage, according to the report.
A second calf had a tooth puncture on the inside of the right hind leg and an open wound on the outside of the leg, as well as multiple tooth scrapes on the inside and outside of the leg.
The third calf had a ¾-inch open wound at the base of its tail and multiple tooth scrapes around the tail.
“The locations of the injuries on all three calves are consistent with wolf attacks on calves,” the report concludes. “These attacks appear to be from the same event and are attributed to the Lookout Mountain pack.”
Ratliff said that although there were no GPS location data from the alpha female that put the pack in the area when the calves were attacked, there are no other wolves known to roam that area, so the attack was attributed to the Lookout Mountain pack.
Ratliff said he has been in touch with ranchers who have cattle in the area and will continue to give them updates about the alpha female’s location.