The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has determined it is likely but not certain that a wolf or wolves killed a 250-pound adult llama in the Five Points Creek area about 10 miles northwest of La Grande in late November.
“There is enough evidence to suggest that wolves were probably responsible for the animal’s death,” said ODFW biologist Leonard Erickson, who investigated the incident.
The llama’s death is listed as a “probable” wolf kill in Erickson’s report, which was released late Friday afternoon. “Probable” is one of four categories on the ODFW’s depredation investigation reports for suspected wolf kills. The others are confirmed, possible/unknown and other.
The llama, owned by Howard Cantrell, is believed to have been killed sometime between late Nov. 22 and the evening of Nov. 23, Erickson said.
The llama was found in a fenced forested pasture about 200 yards from the home of its owner. Erickson, who began his investigation Nov. 25, the day he was notified of the suspected wolf kill, said the body of the llama was intact except for bite marks on its right rear leg and rump.
The bite marks were not as severe as those typically seen on the body of an animal killed by wolves, Erickson said.
“Normally you see deeper, more extensive bite marks,” Erickson said.
This may have been because the wolf or wolves ate the flesh on which there were deep bite marks.
“While they were feeding they may have removed evidence,” Erickson said. “That may have been why we did not have enough evidence to confirm a wolf kill.”
The investigation uncovered trail cam photo evidence indicating that a wolf was in the vicinity of the attack at 11 a.m. Nov. 23. The wolf, Erickson said, was moving toward the site where the llama carcass was found.
Further evidence was found in the form of scuff marks on a trail for 50 yards leading to where the llama was found. The scuff marks are indicative of a chase, Erickson said.
If wolves were involved in the attack, they may be from the Meacham Pack. The Five Points Creek area is on the edge of known Meacham Pack activity, Erickson said. Four livestock depredations have been attributed to the Meacham Pack in August about 10 miles away from the Five Points Creek area.
Erickson noted that there are other wolves in the area that are not with the Meacham Pack, but there are no recorded depredations associated with them.
The llama found dead is the second one in the area suspected of being killed by a wolf or wolves over a span of almost two weeks. That llama, also owned by Cantrell, was killed in the same pasture land on Nov. 10, according to an ODFW report.
The ODFW’s wolf depredation report lists it in the “possible/unknown.”
The report states that there is no evidence the llama was killed by wolves. Still, wolves cannot be ruled out, Erickson said, because it’s possible the wolves consumed all evidence of their kill.