The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Monday it will capture and kill two young wolves from the Imnaha pack.
The kill decision came after officials determined that wolf-livestock conflicts in the area have become chronic.
Lethal control of wolves is not something any of us in the conservation field take lightly, said Paul Henson, state supervisor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Oregon office.
The agency said the capture operation will avoid pups, breeding adults and collared wolves. The lethal removal is intended to move the wolf pack back to its natural prey and away from livestock.
The decision came one day after officials investigated and confirmed the latest predation in Wallowa County. A calf was found dismembered and largely eaten on private rangeland near Little Sheep Creek, about 10 miles east of Joseph.
The Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife and Wallowa County Sheriff Fred Steen also investigated another recent wolf attack case, in which a calf carcass was found near Crow Creek Road.
Officials said the Imnaha pack, which numbers 10-14 animals, is responsible for the loss of six calves in the area last spring.
The decision to capture and euthanize two wolves comes after the Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners put in place several measures to try to prevent the pack from again preying on livestock. During the past two months, they installed 11 miles of electrified fladry (flagging) fencing and ODFW has worked with ranchers to clean up bone piles, employed a range rider to monitor the area and conducted hazing techniques in an attempt to keep wolves from coming into the area.
In fact, we do all we can to prevent situations from reaching this point. But in chronic cases like this, preventing a worsening conflict is in the best long-term interest of wolf recovery, Henson said in the press release.
The decision drew fire from proponents of wolves.
This kill order randomly targets any two wolves of Oregons Imnaha Pack. That is not wildlife management, it is retribution, said Rob Klavins, wildlands advocate for Oregon Wild.
He said it looked as if regulators were trying to rush through the kills before authority over wolves reverts to the states.
Gray wolves in Idaho, Montana and parts of Oregon, Washington and Utah are being removed from the federal endangered species list, a delisting that was ordered as part of the fiscal year 2011 budget agreement signed by President Obama on April 15.
Once removed from the federal list, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will take over from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as the regulatory agency in the management of wolves in Eastern Oregon, according to ODFW wolf biologist Russ Morgan. The wolves are still on the states endangered species list.
In cases of wolf attack on livestock in the county, Sheriff Steen said that he continues to investigate the incidents as a crime scene.
This latest attack on livestock involved the loss of personal property on private property, Steen said.
Steen said that USDAWildlife Services has been the main ally of ranchers in the investigations because of the agencys local presence. Steen said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist John Stephenson is stationed in Bend and by the time he is able to travel to Wallowa County to carry out an investigation, much of the evidence has been degraded.