Fish & Wildlife | Ecotrope

Did capture methods contribute to wolf's death?

Ecotrope | March 16, 2011 9:28 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:40 p.m.

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Leon Pielstick, an experienced wildlife capture veterinarian, assisted with the collaring operation earlier this month. This female yearling wolf was found dead shortly after being collared.

Leon Pielstick, an experienced wildlife capture veterinarian, assisted with the collaring operation earlier this month. This female yearling wolf was found dead shortly after being collared.

An autopsy did not pinpoint what killed the Imnaha wolf found in Wallowa County earlier this month. It was found dead shortly after being darted, captured and collared by wildlife officials.

Lab tests revealed an abnormal chest hemorrhage that may have contributed to the wolf’s death. Wildlife managers say despite their precautions to protect wolves during captures, capture related deaths can happen.

Rob Klavins, wolf advocate for Oregon Wild, said the fact that the hemorrhage occurred so soon after the wolf was captured and reported by officials to be “in good condition” suggests the death has is connected to the collaring. He said his group supports efforts to track and monitor wolves, and sometimes that means accepting the risks of capture and collaring.

“There is an inherent risk any time you’re anesthetizing an animal,” he said. “We wouldn’t accuse ODFW of purposeful malfeasance or anything like that. I’m sure the people who did the collaring had the best of intentions, but it’s stressful for the wolves, and one more threat we wish they didn’t have to face.”

Klavin said wolves face graver threats from poachers and legislation that would ease regulations on hunting and killing wolves.

More on the autopsy results from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife:

“Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory ran several tests on the carcass looking for injuries, disease and toxins, but the test results did not point to a specific cause of death.

The only abnormal finding was some internal hemorrhage in the wolf’s chest cavity. Forensic analysis did not point to a clear cause of the hemorrhage but biologists believe the hemorrhage may have contributed to the wolf’s death.

While the cause of the wolf’s death is unclear, wildlife managers acknowledge that capture-related deaths of wildlife can happen.

Wildlife managers take several steps to reduce the risk of injury during capture efforts, including blindfolding the animal (to protect eyes and reduce stress), cooling or warming the animal as needed, providing sedatives when necessary, and having a veterinarian on site.

All the above steps were taken with this wolf. According to the veterinarian and wildlife biologists at the capture site, no problems were observed when the wolf was released. Radio tracking data indicated that the wolf recovered and traveled at least five miles after the collaring.”

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