A wolf pack in Union County north of Elgin has killed 12 ewe sheep and injured two guard dogs protecting sheep over the past week or so, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).

The attacks are attributed to the Balloon Tree pack, according to ODFW investigations.

That pack’s breeding pair produced pups for the first time in 2020, with at least three surviving through the end of that year.

Attack on sheep

An employee of a sheep rancher found three dead adult ewes on Sept. 29 on a private, timbered pasture, according to ODFW.

Officials from ODFW and from the federal USDA Wildlife Service agency arrived on Sept. 30 and found four more dead ewes. Wildlife Service employees then found three more dead ewes on Oct. 1, and one dead and one injured ewe on Oct. 1. Workers euthanized the injured ewe that day.

All the sheep were in the same pasture. Officials estimated the sheep were attacked the night of Sept. 28.

ODFW employees examined seven sheep carcasses on Sept. 30, three on Oct. 1 and two on Oct. 4. All had pre-mortem wounds, with tissue trauma up to two inches deep and tooth scrapes consistent with wolf attacks on sheep, according to ODFW reports.

Attack on guard dogs

On the morning of Oct. 1, a sheep herder found two injured Kangal guard dogs on an industrial timberland grazing allotment. The herder told ODFW employees that at about 2 a.m. on Oct. 1 he heard an apparent fight between his guard dog and an unknown predator, with barking and growling.

Biologists examined both guard dogs. One had a six-inch-long area of matted blood on its throat and the left side of its neck that was dripping blood. The dog was agitated and could not be held for further examination, according to an ODFW report.

The second dog had a bite puncture one-quarter inch in diameter on the inside of its right front leg near the elbow. The dog also had two other bite marks, and a two-inch-long tooth scrape on the inside of its upper right rear leg. The wounds are consistent with a predator attack, and similar to other cases when a wolf attacked a guard dog, according to ODFW.

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