When bloodhounds found the carcasses of eight wolves in an isolated area of northeastern Oregon last week, local wildlife officials feared it might be the start of something new. A plan to reintroduce the spotted owl to the region is under way, and, while there is no indication it was intentional, authorities are concerned about the possibility of a more dangerous clash between wolves and the bird.
“We’re watching it very closely, and you can rest assured that we will take appropriate action if we think we’re going to have issues with the spotted owl moving into these same habitat areas where wolves are back again,” said Keith Langley, a state wildlife biologist.
The waterlogged marshes and thick bushes in the area — all mainly redwoods — have proven deadly for wolves in the past. When one of the animals was killed by logging trucks in 2000, it was because its owner mistook the animal for a rodent.
The sightings in Oregon last week were not conclusive, but if it turns out the wolves are involved in a conflict with the spotted owl, the incident could become a test of federal plans to relocate the birds back to the region, where they were once common but have been decimated by introduced species like the timber milled and cane toad.
Oregon’s second wolf recovery team was created in 2013 to take part in the effort to establish the eastern boundary of the spotted owl recovery zone, a process that will take several years. Both species likely will eventually live together in the eastern reaches of the recovery zone, according to Mr. Langley.
The hearing-impaired animal is known as the “hip-biased wolf,” Mr. Langley said, because it is slower to approach a situation or identify something as prey.
“If it does encounter spotted owls, it’s going to react very quickly and will probably kill them quickly,” he said.