Another wolf update. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife reports today that three additional wolves from the Imnaha pack were collared last weekend in eastern Oregon’s Wallowa County:
- On Friday, a gray yearling male was captured and collared with a GPS collar, a device that will automatically record its location and send the information to ODFW.
- Also on Friday, a gray yearling female was captured and fitted with a radio collar, a device that requires biologists to search for it with a radio.
- On Saturday, a gray 2-year-old male was fitted with a GPS collar.
But officials couldn’t find either one of Oregon’s other wolf packs – most notably the well-established Wenaha.
A third pack that was recently discovered in Umatilla County also evaded the search team.
All of the wolves collared were in good body condition according to Russ Morgan, ODFW wolf coordinator. Further, all three wolves’ collars were located following the capture, indicating the animals had moved from the capture site.
Wildlife biologists from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Wallowa Whitman National Forest assisted with the capture and collaring of the three Imnaha pack wolves. The wolves were found by locating radio collars already on the pack’s alpha female and another adult in the pack.
The alpha male was observed with the pack. He was originally GPS collared last February but his collar stopped working in May 2010.
“We did attempt to capture the alpha male but we were unable to get him to an appropriate location where we could safely dart him,” explained Morgan.
The wolves were darted from the air by Morgan in a helicopter operated by Quicksilver Air. Difficult terrain and below zero temperatures made capture conditions tough.
ODFW also tried to locate the Wenaha pack during the capture/collar effort, but did not find the pack despite a thorough search in the area where they had been most recently located. There have been no recent reports or sign of a new pack believed to be using the Walla Walla Unit so no attempt was made to capture and collar this pack.
ODFW and its partners will try to collar more members of the Imnaha and Wenaha packs this winter. Wolves tend to spend time in open country rather than timber cover during this season, and these conditions are necessary for a successful aerial capture.
Wolves throughout Oregon were returned to federal Endangered Species Act protection in August 2010. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the lead management agency for wolves in Oregon. However, ODFW continues to conduct capture and monitoring operations as part of the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.