LA GRANDE - The exact cause of death for the Imnaha wolf found dead in early March is unclear, said Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife officials.

Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory ran several tests on the carcass looking for injuries, disease and toxins, but 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," said information specialist Michelle Dennehy. "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, Dennehy said.

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, Dennehy noted. "According to the veterinarian and wildlife biologists at the capture site, no problems were observed when the wolf was released," she said, adding "Radio tracking data indicated that the wolf recovered and traveled at least five miles after the collaring."

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