Science | November 3, 2017 12:38 pm

Wildlife Officials Kill Famous Wolf for Breaking One Too Many Rules

Alpha male of Oregon's first wolf pack in 70 years was hunted down after another attack on cattle.

OR4. (ODFW)
OR4. (ODFW)

With a coat of shiny black fur and a stunning tenacity as a father, hunter, and protector, an alpha male wolf known as OR4 had been tracked by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife tracked for years. Recently, however, the agency decided to shoot him in the head from a helicopter just one month shy of his eleventh birthday. The reason? He and his pack had overstepped their boundaries with local ranchers one too many times.

The Outside profile of OR4—leader of the first wolf pack to live in Oregon since 1947—paints a complicated picture of the department’s wildlife management policy. The story isn’t simply about the community of Wallowa County on one side, and the wolves on the other. Instead, there are numerous voices and constituencies—ranchers, outdoor enthusiasts, Native Americans, and animals—that need to be considered when it comes to the wolf pack’s role living alongside all of them in the Pacific Northwest. In the story, you also meet Russ Morgan, ODFW’s biologist in charge of wolf conservation and management. Over the years, Morgan had chased OR4, photographed him, counted his pups, and even protected him. But then one day, after the wolfpack killed one too many cattle, he had to make the call to kill OR4.

“I try not to get emotionally involved with particular individual [animals],” Morgan told Outside. “You have to focus on the task at hand and get it done, desensitize yourself. One of the things we’re thinking is that wolves are going to be OK in Oregon, and this is part of management. It is what we signed up for when we did the wolf plan.”

Take a look at the video above to get an idea of the complexity of the situation before reading the in-depth piece.