An adult wolf from the Cornucopia pack in eastern Baker County was hit and killed by a car on Highway 86 near Richland last week.
Several motorists reported the dead wolf, starting around 6:30 a.m. Thursday, said Brian Ratliff, district wildlife biologist at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife office in Baker City.
The wolf was hit near Milepost 36, about five miles west of Richland.
Ratliff said he doesn’t know who hit the wolf. No one has reported doing so.
The dead wolf, a male weighing 95 pounds, was born in the spring of 2019 along with two other pups, Ratliff said. That litter elevated the group of wolves to pack status.
Although the wolf did not have a tracking collar, Ratliff said a GPS signal from a collar fitted to a female wolf in the Cornucopia pack, also part of the pack’s spring 2019 litter, showed that wolf, early Thursday morning, was near the point on the highway where the male wolf was killed.
Also, during a wolf census flight this winter, ODFW biologists saw a gray wolf with the Cornucopia pack with colors similar to those of the wolf hit on the highway, Ratliff said.
Based on previous GPS signals, that pack has crossed Highway 86 in that area, he said.
The Cornucopia pack’s breeding male and female produced their first litter, consisting of three pups, in 2019, and another litter in the spring of 2020.
At the end of 2020 the pack consisted of seven wolves, Ratliff said.
Someone shot and killed the Cornucopia pack’s breeding male in late September 2020 in the Skull Creek area of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, about one mile east of Eagle Forks Campground.
Oregon State Police investigated the case, but no suspects have been arrested.
Based on this winter’s aerial survey, the Cornucopia pack doesn’t have a new breeding male, Ratliff said.
If another male had taken over that role, the two breeding wolves would have been running very close together, and that wasn’t the case, he said.
It’s possible, however, that the pack’s breeding female did mate, and if that happened, the female will move soon into a den to have her pups, Ratliff said.
Biologists will be able to determine that she’s gone to a den based on data from her tracking collar, which emits radio signals rather than GPS signals.
Recently the Cornucopia pack has been in the area near Highway 86, mostly private land used for cattle grazing, Ratliff said. He said that “gives me concern” because the wolves could be close to cattle. Ratliff said he has alerted ranchers in the area to the wolves’ presence.
Data from the collared wolves in the pack in 2019 showed that they roamed a 162-square-mile area ranging from the southern part of the Eagle Cap Wilderness near Cornucopia (hence the pack’s name) to the northern parts of the Pine and Eagle valleys.
About 92% of the location points were on public land, according to ODFW.