By Boyd C. Allen

Pilot Staff Writer

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (ODFW) Wolf Program reported a “probable” wolf attack of sheep in Curry County.

The kills — reported between Feb. 23 and March 4 — occurred in a partially fenced pasture in a northeastern area of the county, according to the ODFW report.

ODFW Communications Coordinator Michelle Dennehy said evidence was not conclusive, so ODFW concluded death by wolf depredation was only probable, and not “confirmed.”

“Confirmed” is the most conclusive designation, she said but noted the difficulty in confirming wolf depredation without having physical evidence of a wolf.

“The premortem trauma and attack locations on all three carcasses are consistent with a wolf attack, but lack diagnostic evidence to clearly differentiate between wolf and domestic dog,” ODFW said in its report.

Dennehy said ODFW had not concluded there were resident wolves in Curry County in spite of multiple sheep kills at the site, saying that would require multiple or repeat incidents. She noted that multiple kills do not necessarily indicate the presence of multiple predators either.

“It is not uncommon for a wolf to kill multiple sheep,” she said, “because they are small and trapped.”

She said tracks were investigated last August along the Pistol River, and an ODFW biologist found them consistent with a wolf in that location.

”There was also a trail camera image of what ODFW believes is a wolf taken mid-July in Curry County,” Dennehy added.

County resident Ted Fitzgerald said predators put him out of the sheep ranching business when a cougar and a family of coyotes killed 200 of his 800 sheep in one year.

Older residents can remember wolves in the county, he said, but those were single wolves and not packs. Fitzgerald said local legends claim there are wolves in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness.

The fact that some of the sheep in the recent kills were said to have been partially eaten points to a wolf as well, according to Fitzgerald.

Wildlife managers have put cameras on the site where the kills occurred to get more information. People with information about wolf activity can report it online at odfw.com/wolves or to the ODFW office in Gold Beach at 541-247-7605.

Wolves to lose federal protection

Acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt announced Wednesday an upcoming proposal from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to delist wolves as an endangered species in the lower 48 states. The species was delisted in Wyoming in 2017, and hunting for the animals resumed.

There are between 7,700 and 11,200 gray wolves in Alaska, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife estimates, and wolves have never been threatened or endangered there, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

If wolves were delisted federally, they would still be protected by the state, Dennehy said, even though they would no longer be designated as an endangered species.

Gray wolves received endangered species protection in 1975, after their numbers had dwindled to about 1,000 located only in a small area of the Midwest. Wildlife officials currently estimate there are at least 5,000 in the lower 48 states.

Reach Boyd C. Allen at ballen@currypilot.com

22708387