The collars from two gray wolves sent a mortality signal Dec. 29. Oregon wildlife officials responded and found three dead wolves, two with collars and one without, the US Fish and Wildlife Service said in a statement
A United States federal agency is offering a $50,000 (£39,553.25) reward for information about the deaths of three endangered gray wolves from the same pack in southern Oregon.
The collars from two gray wolves sent a mortality signal Dec. 29. State wildlife officials responded and found three dead wolves, two with collars and one without, the US Fish and Wildlife Service said in a statement.
The collared wolves were an adult breeding female and a subadult from the Gearhart Mountain Pack. The other wolf killed was also a subadult.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said it is aware of seven wolves remaining in the pack, including a breeding male.
READ MORE: Chernobyl’s mutant wolves have learned to survive cancer and could provide cure, research shows
Officials did not indicate in the statement how the wolves died. A phone message left Saturday seeking more information was not immediately returned.
Gray wolves are protected by federal law under the Endangered Species Act. It is illegal to hurt or kill them. The reward is for information leading to an arrest, criminal conviction or fine.
In Oregon, gray wolves are listed as endangered in the western two-thirds of the state.
The three wolves were killed east of Bly in southern Oregon’s Klamath County, or about 310 miles (499 kilometers) southeast of Portland. They were an area that wolves are known to inhabit, stretching across Klamath and Lake counties, just north of the Oregon-California border.
News of the deaths come as packs of stray gray wolves living in Chernobyl appear to have developed mutations that increase their odds of surviving cancer, research has shown.
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Since the area was abandoned following the infamous nuclear disaster in 1986, canines have flourished in the exclusion zone and the population of wolves is reportedly seven times greater than surrounding areas in Ukraine.
The feral animals, which also include descendants of pet dogs abandoned during the evacuation, have been monitored by scientists for many years. It’s believed the radiation has increased the animals’ odds of surviving cancer, 35 years after the nuclear disaster.
Cara Love, an evolutionary biologist at Princeton University, has been studying the wolves for a decade and her research has found they have altered immune systems that are remarkably similar to cancer patients undergoing radiation treatments.
Love, who presented her work at a biology meeting in Seattle, Washington, last month, has noted how the “wolves of Chernobyl survive and thrive despite generations of exposure and the accumulation of radioactive particles in their bodies”. The world’s worst nuclear accident released cancer-causing radiation – but her research shows that the wolves “seem resilient to increased cancer risk”.