Wallowa County and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife authorities were called out to a ranch on the upper Imnaha River to investigate a possible wolf depredation on a horse. The incident occurred Sept. 18.
ODFW wildlife biologist Mike Hansen said his investigation indicated wolves were not responsible for the killing. He cited a number of reasons for his conclusion.
Hansen said his investigation showed the horse suffered a single puncture wound to the left groin, which he theorized had nicked a femoral artery, causing the horse to bleed to death. The biologist said the other horse in the pasture was unharmed. No predator tracks of any kind were found near the body or in the pasture. A subsequent search into the surrounding area didn’t turn up any predator sign.
Hansen also reported that other than an eye puncture, probably caused by a bird, the horse suffered no other injuries except a couple of scrape marks near the puncture site.
“I think it was probably an elk. We found numerous elk tracks in the area, and the puncture is consistent with an elk horn wound. This is unusual, but not unheard of,” Hansen said.
Hansen related how in the past, a Rogue Valley rancher watched as a spike bull elk killed one of his heifers during feeding time, goring the heifer through the lungs and liver. ODFW Rogue Watershed biologist Mark Vargas confirmed the incident.