WHITE MOUNTAIN, Ore. — A number of sheep found dead in a northeastern area of Curry County were likely killed by wolves, according to the latest report by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).
The kills reportedly occurred between February 23 and March 4, when the owner and a Wildlife Services specialist from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found the bodies of the dead sheep "in a partially fenced pasture on private property" near White Mountain.
Despite the high number of sheep reported dead, ODFW said that only five carcasses were examined — although the wounds on the dead sheep were similar.
"The premortem trauma and attack locations on all three carcasses are consistent with a wolf attack, but lack diagnostic evidence to clearly differentiate between wolf and domestic dog," ODFW said in its report.
Because the evidence was not entirely damning, ODFW concluded that a cause of death by wolf depredation was only "probable," and not confirmed.
ODFW periodically releases a report on investigations into livestock believed to have been killed by wolves. Before this most current case in Curry County, the last confirmed report in Southern Oregon was a calf killed in Jackson County on January 18.
This local case connects to an issue now playing out on the national stage — the prospect of gray wolves losing protected status in the U.S. Acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt announced the proposal on Wednesday, although it is not final.
Gray wolves received endangered species protection in 1975, after their numbers had dwindled to about 1,000, and only in a small area of the Midwest. Now wildlife officials estimate that there are at least 5,000 in the Lower 48 states of the U.S.