Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Wallowa County horse killed by elk, not wolves

When a horse turned up dead earlier this month in rural Wallowa County after an apparent bloody struggle, wolves were investigated as the primary target. The evidence, however, soon pointed to a much more unlikely suspect. Wildlife officials determined the horse, which was found dead Sept. 18 in a pasture along the upper Imnaha River, had actually been gored by a bull elk — a scenario they admit is extremely rare, though not entirely unheard of. The unusual ruling is tough for some local ranchers to believe in an area where suspicion of wolves runs high. But the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife says its examination clears the predators this time, and places the responsibility on the antlers of a feisty elk. “It is breeding season for elk. Bulls are very aggressive this time of year,” said Mike Hansen, district wildlife biologist with ODFW in Enterprise. The horse was initially found by elk hunters in a 20-acre pasture on the Grouse Creek Ranch, about 18 miles upriver from the town of Imnaha. ODFW arrived the same day to investigate, noticing the carcass was mostly still intact except for a piece of intestine on the ground 40 yards away. After surveying the scene, Hansen said they identified elk and horse tracks indicating the animals had been in a tussle. There was a single half-inch cut on the horse’s nose, deep puncture wound into the groin and scrapes on its side matching the size and space of elk antlers. The horse struggled and slid down the hillside, Hansen said, before it died of internal bleeding. There were no predator tracks of any kind in the area, and no sign of wolf bite marks...more

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