JOSEPH - Two Zumwalt-area ranchers lost cows to the Imnaha wolf pack in separate attacks sometime around the Thanksgiving holiday, state wildlife managers confirmed this week.
In an email response to the Wallowa County Chieftain on Nov. 28, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman said wolves were determined responsible in both incidents.
A tracking collar indicated that the alpha male of the Imnaha pack, referred to as OR-4, was in the area at the suspected time of the attacks, according to area ranchers, who say ODFW notified them of the wolf's proximity. The cows were killed while grazing in private pasture on the Zumwalt Prairie.
Rancher Charity Ketscher said she went to let her dog outside Thanksgiving night and noticed that he seemed spooked by something. Wolves crossed her mind.
The next morning she and her husband, Phillip Ketscher, received a text message from ODFW notifying them that wolves were near their ranching operations. The message came as no surprise to the Ketschers, who had heard howling that morning at breakfast.
Not long after that, Ketscher's father, Randy Warner, was returning from an elk hunt on an ATV and followed wolf tracks to the carcass of one of the Ketschers' cows.
Ketscher estimated that the wolves ate less than five pounds of meat off the cow before leaving the carcass. The site of the wolf attack was a pasture less than one-third of a mile from the Ketschers' house.
Warner also came across the wolves during his elk hunt and said the pack came to within 100 yards of him.
On Saturday, Nov. 26, Charity grabbed her camera and took a photo of five wolves crossing property near the Ketschers'.
"It is very frustrating to me to be afraid for my kids and dogs to be safe to go out by themselves on our own property," she said.
The second cow confirmed killed by wolves was a bred heifer, found about three miles east of the Ketschers. The animal belonged to Gaylon Dawson and was on property owned by Bob Lathrop.
The wolves thought responsible for the latest attacks on livestock have already been identified by ODFW as reaching the level of chronic depredation on livestock and a kill order was earlier issued to remove OR-4 and two other adults from the Imnaha pack.
The Oregon Court of Appeals halted the killing of the wolves on Oct. 5 after three wildlife advocacy groups filed for and were granted a stay on the kill order. The court extended the stay Nov. 15.
The latest cases of cattle depredation by the Imnaha pack come as the court is deciding whether to go ahead with the kill order or to halt the killing of the wolves by extending the stay indefinitely.
In its Nov. 15 extension, the court required the wildlife advocacy groups requesting the stay to post $5,000 security, money to compensate ranchers for any losses of livestock to wolves while the case is pending.
The Ketschers say that after their cow was confirmed as a wolf kill, a USDA Wildlife Services employee told them they would probably qualify for a compensation payment out of the $5,000.