Wolf attacks frustrate Fort Klamath
Four steer deaths confirmed by
Fish and Wildlife
by Lee Juillerat, Herald and
KLAMATH — A Fort Klamath rancher who had four steers
killed by wolves in less than three weeks is frustrated
by the lack of protections for cattle, especially in the
Wood River Valley.
valley, with so many cattle, is going to be like a
smorgasbord for the wolves. They’ll take the animals
that put up the least resistance,” worries Bill
Nicholson, third-generation owner of the Nicholson
Ranch, where the deaths, verified by state Fish and Game
biologists as wolf kills, took place.
recent confirmation was received Thursday from Roblyn
Brown, Oregon State Department of Fish and Wildlife
acting wolf program coordinator, for a steer believed to
have been killed either Sunday or Monday night. Its
partially eaten carcass was found Wednesday after Butch
Wampler, who oversees the ranch’s cattle, spotted large
numbers of circling crows and rode to the scene.
addition, a steer that had been attacked by a wolf
several days earlier died of its injuries either late
Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.
helpless when you don’t have a means of protecting your
animals,” Nicholson said, referring to the status of
wolves west of Highway 395, about two-thirds of the
state, remain on the federal endangered species list
while those east of 395 are no longer federally listed.
The federally endangered status means wolves cannot be
killed, even if they are seen attacking cattle. Only
non-lethal controls, such as noise, flagging electric
fences and strobe lights, are allowed.
most cattle have been or will be shipped out of the Wood
River Valley in coming weeks, Nicholson is concerned
about what might happen when they return to grazing
lands next year “when you’ve got a meal ticket like
spring and summer, upward of 35,000 head of cattle are
trucked to the Wood River Valley to graze on the
nutrient-rich grasslands. Most have been trucked out of
the area to winter grazing areas, predominately in far
Nicholson Ranch, pastures about 1,300 cattle from DeTar,
a ranch in Dixon, Calif., each summer. Nicholson said
there are still about 300 to 400 steers on his ranch and
estimates about 5,000 cows, calves and yearlings are
still in the enclosed valley.
heavier cattle that have been here the full season have
moved on to feedlots throughout the West,” he said.
“Cows and calves and lighter feeder cattle have moved in
for the fall feed and will remain until the snow comes,
or rains in the ‘bald hills’ of California start their
grass, whichever comes first.”
Stress compounds weight loss
focus has been on the wolf killing, Nicholson said a
potentially more serious problem stems from stress
caused by the attacks, noting, “You’re losing a lot of
pounds with the stress. Cattlemen estimate the average
steer will gain about 3 to 4 pounds a day feeding on
irrigated pasture known for its nutritious blend of
sedges, rushes, grasses, forbes and clover.
the presence of wolves, Nicholson and Wampler said that
instead of bedding down over relatively wide areas,
cattle have been bunched up in groups, often standing.
on the herd is another factor, and probably more
costly,” Nicholson said, noting stress impacts weight
gains and could reduce values for leased lands.
Recommended methods of reducing or eliminating wolf
attacks, including special fencing, strobe lights and
more frequent patrols, also increase costs for material,
time and labor, although the state pays some of those
who has seen wolves feeding on cow carcasses, discovered
the three dead and one badly injured steers. On Oct. 5,
concerned about possible attacks, he was in his pickup
truck using his headlight and spotlight when he heard a
bawling calf. Although unable to find the calf, he found
a large group of cattle. “They were all standing in a
big circle. They should have been bedded down.”
the calf, which weighs 458 pounds, the next morning.
“You could see the tooth marks.” Biologists shaved its
hair, which exposed deep wounds in its legs.
who had seen three wolves in a neighbor’s field in
mid-September, said he was riding to his home Oct. 2
when he found a dead 800-pound steer.
“I saw this
wolf take off toward the fence,” then spotted a second
wolf. The next day he saw three wolves feeding on the
On Oct. 4
he found a second dead steer, one weighing 600 pounds.
“His stomach was ripped open ... his heart, lungs and
liver, they were all gone,” Wampler said.
Fish and Wildlife hazing predators
Nicholson called the ODFW’s Klamath District office,
which immediately sent out biologists who confirmed both
were wolf kills. It was later learned a trail camera
photographed five wolves near the area where the attacks
“I give the
Fish and Wildlife people credit. They were right here,”
Nicholson said, noting biologists from the state and
federal U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have spent nights
in fields in efforts to distract wolves.
super-high priority for us,” said Thomas Collom, a
wildlife biologist in the Klamath office. “The sooner we
can get to them (killed or injured cattle) the better
chance we have to make a determination. We treat it like
a crime scene.”
Stephenson, wolf coordinator for the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service, said he believes the attacks were by
the Rogue Pack. A verification cannot be made because no
wolves in the pack have radio monitoring collars. “There
is a chance it is not (the Rogue Pack), but we believe
it was,” he said.
was told that wolves repeatedly bite cattle, which
causes them to hemorrhage, go into shock and then die.
“They can be still alive but the wolf eats them until
they die,” he said. “They (wolves) go right inside to
the chest cavity and the first thing they eat are the
heart and the lungs.”
by a thousand bites,” Collom said of deaths caused by
wolves, which typically relentlessly bite soft tissue
been seen in the Wood River Valley since the appearance
of OR-7 in 2011. He was known to have returned to
Southern Oregon in 2014, mated with a female wolf and
have since had several offspring in what is known as the
personally don’t think those are the first wolf kills in
the valley,” Nicholson said, noting a neighboring
rancher said the recent killings follow patterns seen in
a steer death that was not reported to state game
officials last year.
learned is what to look for,” Wampler said of examining
dead cattle. “Now we’re looking at the animals to see if
there are any wounds .... You can see them if you know
what you’re looking for.”
expects more attacks on livestock. “They will come back,
that’s just a given.”