A collared gray wolf blamed for a three-day livestock killing spree east of Ashland in June 2016 was illegally shot dead in western Klamath County sometime before last spring, and federal officials are asking the public to help solve the case.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday announced the death of wolf OR-33 after a recent necropsy at the service’s Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Ashland matched DNA from the carcass to DNA banked from OR-33 when it was collared in 2015 by state wildlife biologists.
The carcass was found April 23, about 20 miles northwest of Klamath Falls on the Fremont-Winema National Forest, according to the service. It was identified only as a canid at the time, service spokesman Brent Lawrence said.
It was heavily decomposed and, although it sported a GPS collar, investigators had to determine whether it was a wolf carcass and its cause of death before opening a criminal investigation, Lawrence said.
Fish and Wildlife Service agents received that confirmation in an email Monday from the forensics lab, Lawrence said.
“We just recently confirmed it was a wolf, and it was that wolf,” Lawrence said Wednesday. “We had to know if it was a wolf and a wild wolf, not a captive wolf or a hybrid, before we opened our investigation.”
The necropsy determined it died from gunshot wounds, but Lawrence declined to be more specific because the case remains under investigation.
It is a violation of the federal Endangered Species Act to kill a gray wolf, which is listed as endangered in the western two-thirds of Oregon.
The shooting is also a violation of Oregon wildlife laws. Oregon State Police and the federal service are working together on the investigation, and investigators have offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of OR-33′s killers.
OR-33 was blamed for killing two goats, one sheep and injuring a third sheep on the nights of June 9-11, 2016, in the lower Grizzly Peak area east of Ashland. GPS coordinates from OR-33′s collar showed he had been in the area during that period, then promptly left Grizzly Peak after an eight-day stay, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife records show.