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Oregon State Police investigating the poisoning deaths of at least six wolves this year

OSP said that the Catherine Wolf Pack was wiped out in a February, 2021 incident, followed by subsequent connected deaths.

Posted: Dec 2, 2021 10:26 AM
Updated: Dec 2, 2021 4:48 PM

ASHLAND, Ore. — An entire pack of Oregon's protected gray wolves was wiped out early this year in what investigators say was an instance of poisoning, prompting an ongoing investigation by the Oregon State Police Fish & Wildlife Division.

According to the agency, OSP Fish & Wildlife troopers were alerted on February 9 that a dead, collared wolf may have been discovered in Union County, southeast of Mount Harris. Troopers arrived to find five dead wolves — three males and two females. The investigation ultimately concluded that these wolves were from the Catherine Pack. All known members of the pack were among the dead.

Searching the area by helicopter, investigators also found a dead magpie. All five wolves and the magpie were picked up and taken to the US Fish & Wildlife Service Forensics Lab in Ashland to determine their cause of death.

But this was not the end of the Union County discoveries. In March, troopers were notified of a wolf collar emitting a mortality signal from the same general area. A search of the location found a dead female wolf, a skunk, and another magpie all close to the scene. The wolf was one that had dispersed from the Keating Pack. All three creatures were sent to the Ashland lab for testing.

"Fish and Wildlife Troopers were initially hampered in investigating the scene due to snow levels and inclement weather," OSP said. "Troopers continued searching over the next few weeks as snow continued to melt and located evidence of suspected poisoning. The evidence was submitted for testing and analysis."

In April, the USFWS lab produced examination reports, finding that the deaths of all six wolves, the skunk, and the two magpies were consistent with poisoning. The results also confirmed that the evidence OSP had found was indeed a poisonous substance, although the agency did not reveal what kind of poison it was.

Still, the grisly discoveries weren't over. Between April and July, two more collared wolves were found dead in Union County — an adult male from the Five Points Pack found west of Elgin, and a young female from the Clark Creek Pack found northeast of La Grande. In both cases the cause of death was not readily apparent, but toxicology tests confirmed different types of poison in both wolves.

"Based upon the type of poison and locations, it was determined the death of the young female wolf may be related to the earlier six poisonings," OSP said.

Oregon State Police said that the Fish & Wildlife troopers have continued their investigation in the months since, but have exhausted all leads in the case. Now the agency is asking that anyone with information of these incidents contact OSP through the OSP TIP Hotline: 1-800-452-7888 or *OSP (677) or TIP E-Mail: TIP@state.or.us, reference Case #SP21-033033.

While gray wolf populations in Oregon have been rebounding steadily over the past several years, wolf killings have also increased sharply — both sanctioned and unsanctioned. In August, state wildlife officials had multiple members of the Lookout Mountain Pack killed in Baker County after concluding that the pack presented "significant risk" to livestock. In 2020, also in Baker County, OSP was investigating the unlawful killing of several wolves.

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