Three additional wolves from the Imnaha Pack were collared by state and federal biologists last weekend in Wallowa County.
On Feb. 25 a gray yearling male was captured and collared with a GPS collar, a device that will automatically record its location and send the information to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Also on Feb. 25, a gray yearling female was captured and fitted with a radio collar, a device that requires biologists to search for it with a radio. The following day, a gray 2-year-old male was fitted with a GPS collar.
All of the wolves collared were in good body condition, according to Russ Morgan, ODFW wolf coordinator. Further, all three wolves’ collars were located following the capture, indicating the animals had moved from the capture site.
Meanwhile, the yearling female collared on Feb. 25 was found dead on March 1. The wolf’s radio collar emitted a signal indicating it had been motionless for a minimum of four hours.
The wolf’s carcass is being transported to Washington State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for a complete examination. While recovering the carcass, ODFW staff observed no visible indication of foul play or any other cause of death.
“Wolves and other wildlife can die in the wild for a variety of reasons,” said Morgan. “U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and ODFW are working together to evaluate the death of this wolf, but we will not speculate on the cause until we receive results from a complete forensic examination.”
“While this individual wolf’s death is unfortunate, it is not expected to change the status of the pack, which at last count, had 14 other wolves,” he added.
It is unknown when the forensic examination will be complete.
Wildlife biologists from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Wallowa Whitman National Forest assisted with the capture and collaring of the three Imnaha pack wolves. The wolves were found by locating radio collars already on the pack’s alpha female and another adult in the pack.
The alpha male was observed with the pack. He was originally GPS collared last February but his collar stopped working in May 2010.
“We did attempt to capture the alpha male but we were unable to get him to an appropriate location where we could safely dart him,” explained Morgan.
The wolves were darted from the air by Morgan in a helicopter operated by Quicksilver Air. Difficult terrain and below zero temperatures made capture conditions tough.
ODFW also tried to locate the Wenaha pack during the capture/collar effort, but did not find the pack despite a thorough search in the area where they had been most recently located. There have been no recent reports or sign of a new pack believed to be using the Walla Walla Unit so no attempt was made to capture and collar this pack.
ODFW and its partners will try to collar more members of the Imnaha and Wenaha packs this winter. Wolves tend to spend time in open country rather than timber cover during this season, and these conditions are necessary for a successful aerial capture.
Wolves throughout Oregon were returned to federal Endangered Species Act protection in August 2010. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the lead management agency for wolves in Oregon. However, ODFW continues to conduct capture and monitoring operations as part of the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.
For more information on wolves in Oregon go to http://www.dfw.state.or.us/wolves/