BAKER CITY, Ore. — Oregon wildlife officials will allow a cattle rancher in remote northeastern Oregon to kill any two wolves — including a pregnant one — from a new pack that's been attacking calves.
The wolves in the new pack, dubbed the Pine Creek Pack, killed three calves and injured four more over a two-day period, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said Tuesday. The pack roams along the Idaho state line and has eight members, including a breeding male and female and five yearlings.
The female is believed to be pregnant and could give birth in as little as a week, the agency said.
Wolf advocates blasted the decision and called it cruel to single out the pack when the breeding female was pregnant.
"We should not be killing wolves, especially a pregnant female, in the midst of a poaching epidemic, and using a wolf management plan that expired three years ago," said Oregon Wild executive director Sean Stevens.
The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission in December decided late last year to delay a vote on a long-awaited update to the state's wolf management plan that had been scheduled for January.
There are believed to be about 112 wolves in Oregon, mostly in remote and mountainous areas in the northeastern corner of the state.
In this instance, a rancher in Baker County requested the right to kill the entire Pine Creek pack, but ODFW set the limit at two animals.
The rancher has until May 4 to kill up to two wolves and Oregon wildlife officials can also kill them if they encounter them.
Ranchers must prove they have tried non-lethal methods to scare the wolves away from their herds and must document livestock killings by wolves to get approval to kill them.
They must also not have any bone piles or carcasses in the range that would attract wolves.
ODFW said the rancher had used pens, range riders and had fired weapons in the air to scare off wolves.
Data taken from the wolves' collars show the animals "have a pattern of routinely using this property at this time of year and many producers are getting ready to place cows on the neighboring pastures soon."
Wolves returned to Oregon about two decades ago after being wiped out by bounty hunters in the state 70 years ago.