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ODFW to kill two more Imnaha wolves

LA GRANDE - Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife staff will kill two wolves from the Imnaha pack after confirming they were involved in another livestock loss near Joseph.

Environmental activists immediately decried the order, announced by ODFW about 6 p.m. Friday.

The wolves targeted by the kill order are the alpha male and an uncollared wolf in the pack. Data from the alpha male’s GPS collar confirm he was at the site where a calf was killed earlier this week.

Removing two wolves will reduce the size of Imnaha pack to two - the adult/alpha female and a pup born in spring 2011. Other wolves from the Imnaha pack moved to new areas earlier this year.

“Today’s decision was not made lightly,” said ODFW Director Roy Elicker. “We’re working hard to conserve wolves in Oregon, yet be sensitive to the losses suffered by livestock owners.”

Yesterday’s investigation brings to 14 the number of livestock animals confirmed to be killed by the Imnaha pack in the past year and a half. ODFW or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed seven losses this year (two in February, and on April 30, May 4 and 17, June 5, and Sept. 22) and seven last year.

The 2011 losses are repeating a pattern similar to 2010, when the Imnaha pack wolves killed livestock April through early June and again in the fall. Two more losses were determined to be probable wolf kills by this pack, including one on Sept. 7, 2011.

ODFW assumed responsibility for wolf management in the eastern third of Oregon May 5, after wolves in this area were delisted from the federal Endangered Species Act. After four confirmed livestock losses in last spring, ODFW killed two wolves from the Imnaha pack in mid-May.

Under the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, ODFW kills wolves after chronic livestock depredation.

The investigation this week found clear evidence of a wolf attack. A large spring calf had been dead less than two days, yet was almost completely consumed, suggesting the entire pack had fed on it. The alpha female was observed near the investigation site the following day, and GPS collar data indicates the alpha male was with her at the time.

The kill was in the same area where livestock losses had been confirmed in May and June, on private property with livestock operations.

Landowners in this area have been using numerous non-lethal measures to avoid wolf-livestock problems.

The decision to kill two more wolves brought an immediate outcry from conservation groups.

Rob Klavins of Oregon Wild called it an effort to assuage anti-wolf advocates, and he noted that it comes despite the state’s recent approval of a compensation program to pay livestock owners for losses.

“After two previous lethal control actions, the accidental killing of another by ODFW, and natural dispersals this year, the pack was already down to four members,” he said.