The animals were believed to have killed some livestock.
OR-4, the alpha male of the Inmaha pack of wolves that lived in Eastern Oregon, before he was shot to death Thursday. (Photo: Courtesy Center for Biological Diversity)
The bullet he'd been dodging for many years finally caught up with the great Oregon wolf, OR4, on March 31. In the early afternoon, officials from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife shot to death the patriarch of the Imnaha Pack from a helicopter over Wallowa County, an area where gray wolves dispersing from Idaho first began returning to Oregon, where they'd been killed off in the mid-20th century. Shot along with OR4 was his likely pregnant partner, OR 39, known as Limpy for an injured and badly healed leg, and their two pups.
The animals were killed for being presumed guilty of the deaths of four calves and a sheep on private pastureland on the fringes of the pack's territory in northeast Oregon. ADVERTISEMENT
Rob Klavins, who has been a wolf advocate on the frontlines of the cultural and political battles that have accompanied the reemergence of wolves in the West as field coordinator for the conservation group Oregon Wild, heard the helicopters take off and knew the sound spelled doom for OR4. "It was hard for a lot of people," said Klavins, reached on Friday at his home near the town of Joseph in Wallowa County. "Even some of his detractors had a begrudging respect" for OR4, the fourth wolf to be fitted with a location-tracking radio collar in Oregon. He weighed at least 115 pounds, the largest known wolf in Oregon at the time of his death, and survived for 10 years, three years longer than most wolves in the wild.
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OR4 and his progeny have been largely responsible for the gray wolf's intrepid return to lands where the species was long ago hunted, poisoned, trapped, burned, and otherwise chased nearly to extinction.
Cattle farmers, who receive a subsidy from taxpayers to graze their animals on vast ranges of publicly-owned land where the wolves also dwell, worry about wolves killing their property. Hunters want first shot at the game, such as deer and elk, that wolves favor. But livestock depredations in Oregon are extremely rare, and have become scarcer even as the wolf population has increased. Meanwhile, ODFW's data shows that Oregon's wolves are having no effect on elk, deer, and wild sheep populations. Of course, those statistics are small consolation to the rancher who suffered the loss of property in March.
Joe Donnelly is an award-winning journalist and author. Formerly deputy editor of LA Weeklyand editor of the seminal pop-culture magazine Bikini, he is a visiting professor of journalism and English at Whittier College. Bio
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