JOSEPH — A local rancher legally shot and killed a wolf caught chasing livestock on private property early April 23, according to the Wallowa County Sheriff’s Office and Oregon State Police.
Wolves injured two calves in the same 600-acre pasture the previous day. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed both attacks, which were attributed to the Middle Fork pack.
The rancher, Rawley Bigsby, called the sheriff’s office April 22 to report the injured cattle about 10 miles north of Joseph. Chief Deputy Fred Steen arrived on the scene, and they found two calves with wounds and bite marks that appeared to be from wolves.
Both animals were taken to a veterinarian in Enterprise for treatment. Steen said one of the calves had a half-dollar sized hole through its left front leg. The other had a larger hole in its upper right hind leg along with multiple canine tooth scrapes and punctures above the hock. ODFW examined the wounds, and confirmed them as wolf depredations.
Bigsby did not return requests for comment, but Steen said the rancher also reported hazing two wolves in a neighboring cattle pasture the night of April 21.
“He felt there was a pack of wolves nearby,” Steen said. “It was concerning.”
Steen told Bigsby to keep a close eye on his cattle, given the wolf activity. At about 5:30 a.m. April 23 — the following morning — Bigsby found a young female wolf about 60 to 70 yards away that was following a group of cow-calf pairs. He shot at the wolf once and missed, though it was not deterred.
Bigsby shot at the wolf again, this time killing it. He reported the incident to Steen and ODFW.
“At that time he had to protect his property,” Steen said. “As it turned out, where the wolf was killed was almost exactly in the same place on that pasture where the owner had roped the first calf with a hole in its knee.”
Steen said the wolf weighed about 70 pounds and was not wearing a GPS collar.
The Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan allows ranchers in Eastern Oregon to kill wolves on private property if caught in the act of biting, wounding or chasing livestock and working dogs.
Gray wolves are still listed as a federally endangered species west of highways 395, 78 and 95.
Steen said he determined Bigsby shot the wolf lawfully, and OSP agreed in its report.
Derek Broman, state carnivore biologist with ODFW, said Bigsby had been out checking his cattle at dawn and dusk to try and keep wolves from entering the pasture.
ODFW staff recovered the wolf carcass, and it remains in their possession.