Wolves at the door in Wallowa County

Karl Patton has a radio that will emit a pulse noise when radio-collared wolves are within line of sight and a ‘RAG Box’ (on the fence post), which will emit a piercing noise and activate a strobe light when radio-collared wolves are near.

75 years ago

President Roosevelt dies suddenly; Truman takes oath

President Franklin D. Roosevelt died suddenly Thursday at 3:45 p.m. at Warm Springs, Georgia, following a three weeks’ illness. The report of the President’s death was first heard here at 3 p.m. when a radio flash was given. Shortly after his death the vice-president, Harry S. Truman, was sworn in as President of the United States. President Roosevelt’s funeral will be held at Hyde Park Sunday afternoon.

25 years ago

Canyon Mountain slide causing concerns

Oregon Department of Transportation officials are monitoring a rock slide in the Canyon Mountain area along the John Day-Burns Highway (U.S. 395) about 10 miles south of the city of John Day.

“We are deeply concerned about this section of slope,” said Tom Busche, assistant manager of ODOT District 14, “and we are checking it regularly for signs of movement. If the slide becomes dangerous, we plan to effect temporary road closure of up to three hours at a time so we can make the area safe.”

Busche notes that, should any detours around the slide become necessary, truck traffic would be restricted for the time that a detour was in place. “Our planned detour route for that section of the highway is along county and Forest Service roads, which are not able to sustain truck traffic. In the event of a closure or detour, we will set up informational barricades along the highway in John Day and near the junction with U.S. Highway 20 just north of Burns.

10 years ago

Wolves at the door in Wallowa County

It was 3:30 a.m. Friday, March 26, when Karl Patton, a Joseph cattle rancher, knew the wolves were among his newborn calves. Outside the window he kept open as he slept, he heard his three border collies “creating a commotion” and then heard their change from aggressive to “getting-away barking.”

“I knew at the time it was probably wolves,” he said. “I jumped in my coveralls and grabbed my cell phone and pistol and ran out. I could hear the cows calling for their calves in the pasture right next to the house.

Oregon Department of Fish and Game (ODFW) District Biologist Vic Coggins had warned Patton’s neighbor, Rod Childers, on March 18 that radio telemetry showed the wolf pack was in the area – four miles east of Joseph on the south end of Zumwalt Prairie. Then, on March 19, some squirrel hunters saw six wolves in the open, in the middle of the day, just up the canyon from Patton’s house.

Now, Patton ran through the dark, across the skiff of new-fallen snow, with only his “youngest and dumbest” dog willing to go with him. He was headed toward the sound of his 60 head of distressed mother cows. He’d gone about 100 yards from the house when he saw the wolves.

“The wolves came and they were coming hard,” he said. “Four or more and they were circling us. I just yelled and went to shooting my pistol to scare them off and they turned and ran. My adrenaline was pumping. I don’t know if I was scared – I know I wanted the wolves gone. All my cows and calves were in the far corner of the field, bunched tighter than tight, like musk ox do when they face a predator. I was sure we’d find a dead calf.”

Patton dialed 911 and neighboring rancher Rod Childers.

“I wanted confirmation,” he said. “I wanted all the official confirmation I could get. I was worried that if I waited and the snow melted so we couldn’t see the tracks, ODFW would come out and say we couldn’t prove it was wolves.”

By morning, Wallowa County Sheriff Fred Steen, U.S. Department of Agriculture wolf hunter Marlin Riggs and Childers, also wolf committee chairman for the Oregon Cattleman’s Association and vice chairman of the Wallowa County Natural Resources Advisory Committee, had all seen and documented the wolf tracks. Soon thereafter, ODFW Wolf Program Coordinator Russ Morgan arrived. There were plenty of wolf tracks. Some measured six-and-a-half inches long.

Riggs and Steen also discovered that the wolves had dug up a dead cow Patton had buried about a half a mile east of the ranch.

Patton has since moved his burial pit, is digging it deeper and is now armed with tools that will let him know when the collared wolves come again.

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