LA GRANDE — Two of the most recent livestock depredations the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife investigated in Eastern Oregon lack any markings that point to a wolf.
The kills occurred in late September, one in Union County, according to the ODFW investigation report, which showed 25 depredation exams from July to September.
The first investigation was Sept. 23 after a livestock producer that morning found a dead 400-pound calf in a large private pasture in the Manning Creek area of Baker County. Investigators estimated the calf died the day before.
“No attack or struggle scene was found,” according to ODFW’s report. “There were no premortem bite marks or hemorrhage found on the carcass. The death of this calf was not wolf related.”
The next morning, a landowner in the McIntyre Road area of Union County found a dead 500-pound calf in a large forested private pasture. The calf, investigators determined, died about three days before the examination on the carcass began. It was missing intestines and muscle tissue from its spine, ribs and hindquarters.
The examination of the site found no signs of an attack or struggle, and this carcass also lacked premortem bite marks or hemorrhaging.
“The death of this calf was not wolf related,” the reported stated.
Michelle Dennehy, ODFW communications director, said there is no evidence of the death falling in the same camp as recent mutilation cases that have been reported around the state.
“There was nothing to suggest the death or missing parts were human caused,” she said. “The missing portions of the animal were consistent with scavenger activity — not surprising since there was sign of coyotes, fox and scavenging birds at the scene. This is virtually always the case unless the carcass is found very quickly after death. Had there been evidence of human involvement it would become a potential criminal case and law enforcement would take over.”
Dennehy said it’s not uncommon for livestock deaths not to be a depredation.
“Most livestock, young and especially adults, die from nonpredator causes,” she said.
ODFW, though, does not determine what results in an animal’s death in cases it’s called to examine.
“Our process only looks at whether or not it was wolf related, not cause of death,” she said. “Though we try to be helpful to the livestock owner, sometimes a veterinary pathologist is necessary to determine cause of death.”
The case was one of four in Union County that ODFW examined in that three-month period. The state wildlife agency blamed the killing of a 550-pound calf in September on the Five Points Pack and determined the Ruckel Ridge Pack in August killed a guard dog.
Union County’s other case was from July 14, when an owner found a dead ewe and a lamb just over half a mile apart. The evidence from the first sheep, according to the report, fit the description of a black bear kill. The investigation ruled out wolves for the killing of the second sheep but did not determine what predator was likely responsible. Dennehy said it also could have been a black bear.
“Yes, it is possible, she said. “The cause of death was predator, with the location of wounds not what has been observed when wolves kill sheep.”
ODFW investigated four cases in Wallowa County — one from July 24 and three on July 27 — and confirmed the Chesnimnus Pack was responsible for one. Another was a possible wolf kill, but scavenger activity and decomposition made determination impossible, and one may have been a nonwolf depredation, but the investigation could not pin down the culprit.
Of the 25 cases, ODFW confirmed 12 as wolf kills.