JOHN DAY - A young wolf from the Imnaha Pack of northeastern Oregon moved south through the mountains of Grant County last week.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Michelle Denehy confirmed this week that the wolf dispersed from its pack in Wallowa County in early September.
The wolf, estimated to be 2 years old, was captured and fitted with a GPS collar last February. It was dubbed "Oregon 7" for the number on the collar.
Tracking signals from the collar, officials detected the wolf Oct. 2 in Baker County, and near the Strawberry Mountains in Grant County on Oct. 5.
Dennehy said that while the wolf apparently was in the Strawberries for a few days, wildlife officials on Monday determined that he has moved on to northern Harney County.
"It appears he's still traveling. We don't know where he'll end up, or where he's headed," Dennehy said.
The ODFW wolf program staff is continuing to monitor Oregon 7's movements, she said, with the staff in La Grande checking for signals from his collar several times each day.
They are relaying that information to ODFW's district staff in the region, including Canyon City, she noted.
The wolf would have crossed some private land after leaving the Strawberries and heading southwest, about four miles west of Logan Valley, said Dennehy.
Several other young wolves also have dispersed from the Imnaha pack.
News about Oregon 7 came less than a week after wolf advocates won a reprieve for two other male wolves from the Imnaha pack. ODFW had decided to kill the two - the alpha male and a yearling - after they got the blame for the latest calf kill in the Wallowa County.
However, the Oregon Court of Appeals on Oct. 5 granted an appeal by three environmental groups to block ODFW's kill order.
The number of known gray wolves in Oregon has dropped from 21 to 14, said Oregon Wild conservation director Steve Pedery.
"If they carry out the kill order, that's down to 12," he said.
The Imnaha pack is blamed for killing as many as 14 cattle since 2010.
Tony Green, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Justice, said the state will comply with the order, but hasn't decided whether the wildlife department will contest the ruling.
The conservation groups sought the stay to buy time to challenge the rule that gives ODFW authority to kill wolves under the Oregon Wolf Management Plan. The wolves are protected under the Oregon Endangered Species Act, which grants no exemption for killing wolves that prey upon livestock, an attorney for the groups said Wednesday. The temporary stay allows the petitioners and the state to prepare arguments on the underlying issue.
Killing the alpha male would put the existence of the Imnaha pack at risk, according to Pedery and Josh Laughlin, campaign director for Cascadia Wildlands, one of the three groups. Center for Biological Diversity is the third.
The Oregon Cattlemen's Association had applauded the agency decision to kill the two wolves.
Rod Childers, chairman of the OCA wolf task force, said ranchers have yet to resort to legal remedies to their disagreements with the state wolf management plan. Conservation groups that supported the wolf management plan are suddenly changing their position, he said.
"I don't know what to say," Childers said last week. "I guess I have more questions than comments."
Pedery said wolf advocates accepted the plan with the understanding that eliminating wolves would come as a last resort. The wolf management plan envisioned a goal of four breeding pairs as quickly as possible, after which flexible management, including compensation for lost livestock or wolf kills, would be employed, he said. That formed the basis for a compromise with the OCA, he said.
Instead, he said, there exists "a ceaseless demand to shoot a wolf every time a cow goes missing, even when compensation is offered."