Todd and Angie Nash, owners of Marr Flat Cattle Co., are the fourth Wallowa County ranchers in 15 days to suffer wolf kills of their livestock. One of their calves was killed sometime Thursday, May 20.
Marlyn Riggs, USDA Wildlife Services wolf hunter, confirmed the wolf kill after inspecting the site where the partially eaten remains of the calf were found about 10 miles east of Wallowa Lake in the Cat's Back area.
Nash had checked his cattle that morning and then went to a meeting of cattlemen, county commissioners, Wallowa County Sheriff Fred Steen and Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner, to discuss the issue of Oregon Fish and Wildlife officials' refusal to abide by Wildlife Service findings on wolf kills.
When Nash rechecked the pasture at 1 p.m., he found the kill.
"I saw a cow that I suspected had a dead calf on the morning before the meeting. That's why I went back up there. I had an inkling," he said. "When I went back up I saw a couple of golden eagles on the carcass and kicked them off and called Fred Steen and Marlyn Riggs."
According to Steen and Nash, Riggs was able to identify trauma and bite marks on the carcass and wolf tracks and scat were found nearby.
ODFW Biologist Vic Coggins represented his agency at the site inspection, but could not reveal his determination until after consulting with his superiors. Late Friday, ODFW announced that it had determined the kill was done by a wolf or wolves. "ODFW is considering next steps to avoid more livestock losses," spokeswoman Michelle Denehy said. "Under Oregon Administrative Rules guiding responses to wolf depredation, the department may issue permits to landowners allowing them to injuriously haze wolves or to shoot wolves "caught in the act" of biting, wounding or killing but not testing or scavenging livestock."
Steen has taken possession of the remains of the Nash calf as he did with the Makin calf killed May 16. Steen has vowed to treat all wolf predation as a matter of public safety. Although Nash's calf was killed in a remote location, several ranchers have reported wolves within sight of their homes and say that the wolves simply stand and look at them until they fire a gun in the air or pursue them with a motor vehicle. Several ranchers have said publicly that they no longer allow their children to check the cattle out of fear for their safety.
On May 5, ODFW confirmed Bob Lathrop's calf was killed by wolves but has refused to confirm that wolves killed the calves of Tom and Lori Schaafsma on May 13 or Kirk and Liz Makin on May 16. ODFW Wolf Program Coordinator Russ Morgan did not examine the kill site in any of the last three cases.
Although this the fourth kill confirmed by Wildlife Services, Nash and other ranchers have been complaining for months that previously pregnant cows pastured on remote locations are found without calves. Other ranchers have reported that they did not call in suspected kills because the carcass did not match ODFW's classification of a "textbook" wolf kill.
Wallowa County Stockgrowers plan a workshop June 15 to be conducted by a Wildlife Services official to teach ranchers how to properly identify wolf kills and preserve evidence.