ADRIAN — A lone wolf that inexplicably spent more than five weeks in an area of Malheur County not considered typical wolf habitat has moved on.
The wolf, known as OR22, moved into Grant County a little over a week ago, according to Philip Milburn, a district wildlife biologist in the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Ontario office.
The male wolf, which separated from a Northeast Oregon pack in February, moved into Malheur County on April 10 and bucked conventional wisdom by spending much of its time here in sagebrush country west of Adrian and south of Vale.
OR22, which has a tracking collar, even made a brief foray into farm country near Adrian, where it was seen by several farmers napping in a wheat field and by ditch workers as it swam across a canal.
Before OR22, no other wolf was known to have spent more than a brief period in the county, Milburn said.
“I don’t know why he took a month-long break in Malheur County, but he did,” Milburn said. “He’s been a little unique. There’s probably no telling where he will ... move to.”
The wolf was moving 10-plus miles a day in recent days and was south of Prairie City last week.
“We’re pretty happy he’s moved on,” said Malheur County Cattlemen’s Association president Chris Christensen. “Obviously, he didn’t like Malheur County and that’s a good thing.”
Fish and wildlife biologists found two cow carcasses the wolf had been feeding off and believe they played a major factor in the wolf’s decision to hang around so long. Both died before OR22 found them, and the wolf started moving West after they were removed, Milburn said.
Milburn and Christensen said one of the biggest lessons learned from OR22’s visit to the county is that dead livestock carcasses are an enticement to keep wolves around and should be removed quickly.
“Having a readily available food source ... can really hold these animals in non-typical wolf habitat,” he said. “That’s a pretty good lesson.”
Milburn said communicating with people during the wolf’s stay here turned out to be helpful.
Milburn used emails to update media, local officials and the livestock industry on the wolf’s movements and notified producers who were directly impacted through text messages and phone calls.
“Good communication when something like this happens really helps so people are not having to rely on third-hand information,” he said.