Wolf management review moves forward

Here’s an update on the state wolf management plan: new attacks on livestock, a poll and the bureaucratic review process.

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Wolf attacks continue in Eastern Oregon

A total of five attacks were reported recently. The first occurred on Sept. 28 in Lake County near Timber Fall Butte. A 3-year-old female from the Silver Lake pack attacked a calf on federal land. The calf survived.

A second attack was noted in Wallowa County by an unknown wolf. A calf’s legs and shoulder were injured. Wallowa was home to the Imnaha Pack, which was killed by Oregon officials earlier this year.

The third grouping occurred in Klamath County. Two calves were killed in the Wood River Valley on Oct. 5. A third calf was attacked on the same ranch, sustaining injuries to all four legs the next day.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife now believes the Rogue Pack, led by OR-7 in 2014, is responsible for these attacks. ODFW Wildlife Communications Coordinator Michelle Dennehy said the department is working with the ranchers involved to develop conflict deterrence plans.

“We are working with livestock producers to try to reduce the risk of wildlife depredation,” Dennehy said.

Wolf plan review underway

Ranchers have expressed frustration with the time it takes to go from a wolf attack to a wolf take — when ODFW kills the offending wolf. This is something ranchers hope to address with the ongoing Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan review. The review process occurs every five years and started last week.

Dennehy said 53 people signed up to testify on issues including the hunting of wolves, the definition of chronic depredation, non-lethal requirements and population objectives. She said the comments were split down the middle, for and against lethal takes.

“I’ve been here 10 years now, it’s always been a polarizing topic,” Dennehy said.

Jerome Rosa, Oregon Cattleman’s Association executive director, said they are still advocating for more aggressive wolf management.

“I believe the number of confirmed kills (required to kill a wolf) should be reduced. The economic impacts to ranchers at the current recommended level is not sustainable,” Rosa said. “Cattle prices have crashed in the last year, and with increasing South American imports, future prices are not promising.”

Wildlands advocates like Aaran Robertson, spokesperson for Oregon Wild, promote more nonlethal management tools.

Dennehy said ODFW will develop a draft plan to present to the commission in December. A final plan isn’t expected until 2017.

Is support for lethal wolf management down?

A recent poll found that 67% of Oregonians don’t believe wolves pose an economic threat to the cattle industry, at least not enough to justify killing offending wolves.

The poll was commissioned by the Pacific Wolf Coalition, an environmental group that includes Oregon Wild. The same poll also found 67% of the state opposes wolf hunting to maintain deer and elk populations, and 72% believe nonlethal measures must be taken before killing wolves who have attacked livestock.

Oregon Wild’s Robertson said the poll makes it clear that many Oregonians don’t share ranchers’ perspective and instead favor a softer approach to wolf management. 

“It’s very encouraging — and far from surprising — that the survey indicates a broad majority of Oregonians believe we can, and should, find ways to coexist with wolves,” Michael Paul Nelson, Oregon State University professor whose research focuses on ecosystems and society, said in a press release. 

Ranchers and ODFW staff responded to the poll by saying lethal measures are sometimes necessary to sustain the industry.

“We have a responsibility to address livestock damage. It’s not just for wolves, we do this for cougars, we do this for bears and we do have to address livestock losses,” Dennehy said. “We always stress nonlethal measures first, and we will continue to do that.”