Wolf visits, but does not linger, in Malheur County

An 18-month-old gray wolf – similar to this one – entered Malheur County in November but quickly departed. (Photo courtesy of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife).

IRONSIDE – A young male wolf visited Malheur County in November but he didn’t linger and ended up going to California.

Phillip Milburn, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist in Ontario, confirmed the 18-month-old gray wolf – dubbed OR-59 – wandered into the very edge of the county near Malheur Reservoir around Thanksgiving. Milburn said a radio collar helped game officials track the animal.

“He made a couple of loops around eastern Oregon,” said Milburn. OR-59 wandered onto a carcass of a calf, said Milburn, and lingered near it for a few days near Malheur Reservoir until it was buried by a cattle rancher.

 “Then it headed down toward Burns and on to California,” said Milburn.

Milburn said typically a wolf like OR-59 will “move 15 to 30 miles a day.” When they stop suddenly, he said, it is usually because they’ve found food.

“Every time there will be something on the landscape, an elk caught in a fence or dead livestock,” said Milburn.

OR-59 is not the only wolf to wander through the county. A male wolf loitered south of Vale in 2015 for three weeks.

Wolves, Milburn said, usually don’t spend a lot of time in Malheur County because “they don’t seem to like the open country very well.”

“They hit the big, open patches of country and tend to turn around and go back into the trees or some level of timber,” said Milburn.

Brian Wolfe, Malheur County sheriff, said fish and game officers notified him of the presence of OR-59 and delivered daily updates on the animal until it left the county.

Adult male gray wolves usually weigh between 90 and 110 pounds and may surpass five and a half feet in length from nose to tail.

Young wolves may appear to be coyotes or some larger domestic dogs.

Wolves, though, typically have longer legs, feet and head than a coyote or domestic dog.

“We’ve had multiple radio-collared wolves move through the county. We have wolves visit but haven’t been able to document an established pack,” said Milburn.

Milburn said county residents and cattle producers should quickly bury any dead animals.

“The best thing is to not have something there that will attract them,” said Milburn.

Milburn said fish and game officers try to monitor the wolf presence in the county.

“We do put effort in every time we get sightings. We try to get out and follow up on it, put up some cameras. And we run track surveys periodically this time of year,” said Milburn.

OR-59 was part of a pack with a range south of La Grande. Milburn said OR-59 departed the area south of La Grande in early October.

Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.