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Nonlethal methods of wolf management
A recent forum on the topic was hosted by the Crook County Wolf Depredation Committee
Wolf pups from the Wenaha Pack, taken May 30, 2012.
November 15, 2012
A recent wolf forum on nonlethal methods of deterring wolves brought mixed reviews among local cattle producers and audience members.
Seth Crawford, Chairperson of the Crook County Wolf Depredation Committee, indicated that the forum was one the education pieces put on by the committee to educate stock producers on non-lethal methods to reduce or eliminate interactions between wolves and livestock.
“We got a $1,000 from the state for nonlethal (measures),” said Crawford. “That would not go very far out in the field if we actually did projects. We thought the best thing to do with that money was to bring in speakers and have a conversation about what is working out there and what’s not in places that already have wolves.”
He said that they want to be sure that the County is prepared, and will have something in place before the wolves are on the landscape.
“Instead of putting a Band-Aid on something after the fact, we need to be ready for it before it happens,” he added.
The forum included speakers from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), Oregon State University, a panel of stock producers and OSU extension agents, and members of the Crook County Wolf Committee.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Coordinator Russ Morgan listed the main recommended methods of non-lethal methods to reduce or eliminate interactions between wolves and livestock. These include eliminating bone piles, range riders to provide presence among herds, guard dogs, and fladry (a series of red or orange flags hung on a rope). Although there are many others, Morgan emphasized that no single method is 100 percent effective.
Morgan added that tolerance of wolves is an important part of wolf management.
“Lack of tolerance to any sort of conflict to a wolf/human interaction is realistically why wolves were extricated in the first place.”
Lynn Breese and her husband John attended the forum, and have stayed informed as the issue of wolves in Oregon has transpired.
“We were impressed by how much there is to learn,” commented Lynn.
John said that the message he came away with was the fact that the learning curve was pretty steep in regards to wolf depredation, nonlethal measures for protecting livestock, and wolf behavior.
“We also learned that we will get good support from the Crook County Sheriff’s Department.”
Oregon is the first state to fund depredation compensation. The Livestock and Wolf Co-Existence Act (House Bill 3560) directed the Oregon Department of Agriculture to establish and implement a wolf depredation fund of $100,000. The bill is administered by the Oregon Department of Agriculture and implemented by individual counties. The ODFW’s role is confirming the wolf kills.
Wolves are still federally listed as endangered West of Highway 395 in Oregon, which cuts a north-south route through the state, about halfway between the Cascades and the Idaho border. They are listed under the Oregon State Endangered Species Act in the rest of the state. The local wildlife biologists for the ODFW will be involved in helping to monitor wolf numbers in Crook County.
“The biggest concern is to make sure that ranchers who lose cattle are getting paid,” said Crook County Wolf Depredation Committee member Trent Smith, who is also a cattle producer.
“We just didn’t know for positive how many people were going to supply the information for this, or how much money was going to be left in the coffer,” he added. “We don’t want to leave any money for sure —we want that money on the ground helping as much as we can.”
Thirty percent of the amount dedicated to counties that qualify for compensation from HB 3560 must go to non-lethal methods of deterring wolves. Smith said that the presentations from the producers who were dealing with wolves in their backyard were a reality check for many of the stock producers present who had not dealt with wolves.
“One of the biggest points that I took from the whole thing is that we go to school for beef quality assurance and we go to school to learn how to handle cattle in low-stress methods,” indicated Smith. “We try to incorporate all these gentle techniques because that is what puts beef on the hoof, and it puts pounds on the animals.”
He said that all that goes out the window when wolves are present.
“It’s amazing the extended reach that it (wolves) has — not just in the kills, but everything else that goes with it,” exclaimed Smith.
Breese said that there could be a number of unintended consequences and costs associated with the presence of wolves.
“It’s not just the animal that dies, it’s all the animals that live that are pretty stressed,” said Breese in regards to the affect that a wolf pack has on cattle herds. “Once the wolves decide that they want to kill domestic animals, then it’s going to be pretty hard to stop them. It’s going to be really hard to figure out because they are so mobile.”
Breese believes that having wolves on the local landscape could be an economic cost to everybody in the community.
Rod Childers, the Committee Chair for the Oregon Cattleman’s Association, lives in Enterprise, Ore. He is not only active in the association, but is a cattle rancher who has lived with and experienced the presence of wolves in Wallowa County. He was scheduled to speak at the forum but was unable to make it, but said that he received a number of comments afterwards.
Childers and ODFW State Wolf Coordinator Russ Morgan both emphasized that non-lethal measures to deter wolves must be taken to meet the qualifications for the HB 3560 funds.
“You have to do that to be able to qualify depredations to count towards lethal control on wolves, and you have to do a non-lethal to qualify for the compensation dollars,” said Childers.
Morgan said the compensation helps recover a lost value when a producer loses livestock due to wolf depredation.
“Wolves are the only wildlife species that are compensated currently right now in Oregon.”
Many environment groups have used law suits to block attempts to take lethal measures by the ODFW when wolves were depredating in a specific area, and the losses were significant.
“We made a wolf plan that is a bit of a hard-fought wolf plan,” commented Morgan. “There are a lot of agreements and compromises, and it’s a very much-negotiated document, and so I feel pretty strong that we need to have the ability to implement that plan in order to be successful.”
He emphasized that while it’s a valid concern, they have to work within the same set of laws.
“We wrote a plan and adopted a plan as an agency so the public would know what to expect,” he went on to say. “I feel strongly that we need to implement that plan. We had every step of the way until we got to some of the lethal control part — which is clearly on the table when we have chronic depredation, and now we are not in a position to implement that. We are hoping to work through that, and I believe we will.”
Morgan concluded that it is important to understand how wolves operate — whether you like them or you don’t like them.
“I find that there is so much misinformation out there, that people don’t know what to believe — on both sides of the fence.”
He used the example of rumors of 200-pound-wolves in Oregon.
“They read things on both sides of the fence, and it leaves them wondering, based on their personal belief system, what is actually a fact.”
Morgan recommends looking at sites that have facts based on data collected from agencies and sources that track and catch wolves for the purpose of collecting data.