A motion-detector camera has photographed two wolves that were killing lambs on a ranch in Eastern Oregon — the first documented wolf attack on livestock in Oregon since they started moving into the state in 1999.
Baker City-area sheep rancher Curt Jacobs said Wednesday his family — third generation sheep ranchers — had been moving ewes and lambs from the ranch compound, where they had been brought in for lambing, out to pasture last week.
When his brother and nephew went out to gather a band to load into trucks Friday morning, April 12, they found more than a dozen lambs penned near the house had been driven through the fence and killed. Only a few had been eaten.
Wolf coordinator Russ Morgan mounted four motion-detector cameras on fence posts in hopes of catching the wolves walking by and looking in. Some carcasses were put out to attract the wolves.
Monday morning, Jacobs found the wolves had come back and killed more lambs. One of the cameras captured a photo of two wolves looking right at it, with dead lambs at their feet.
The attack is likely to revive the contentious debate over whether ranchers should be allowed to shoot wolves on sight.
** Wolves were hunted out of existence in Oregon in the early 20th century, but have been moving back into the state from Idaho, where packs were re-established in the 1990s.
They are currently protected as state and federal endangered species in Oregon, and Oregon’s wolf management plan does not allow ranchers to shoot wolves, even if they catch them killing livestock. That job is left up to wildlife agents.
The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association tried to amend the wolf management plan in 2005 to allow ranchers to shoot wolves attacking their livestock, and to provide state compensation for losses. The Legislature, however, could not agree on changes.
Plans call for trapping the wolves and fitting them with radio collars to track their whereabouts, said Gary Miller of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Bend. If the wolves keep killing livestock, further steps can be taken.
Jacobs said he was told he would get a receiver so he would know when the wolves come back.
State wildlife agents also brought out some electric fencing with flagging to keep the wolves from the sheep until they are moved out to pasture, where six guard dogs will watch over them, Jacobs said.
Jacobs said photos of the wolves and their tracks will go into his claim for $7,300 in compensation from Defenders of Wildlife, a conservation group supporting the return of wolves to Oregon. In all he had 23 lambs killed, and others too injured to be sold.
Will wolves eventually move into California?
Theoretically, if the wolves have moved from Idaho, where they reintroduced in the 1990s, into Oregon in the last 10 years or so, seems like it’s only a matter of time until they eventually move into California. Maybe in the next 10 years? It will be interesting. Film at 11. /Gary