Today, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife took over wolf management in eastern Oregon from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. And it wasn’t long before the state took the same position as the feds on chronic livestock losses to wolves in northeast Oregon. That is to kill two wolves from the Imnaha pack.
“Our ultimate goal is wolf conservation, but we need to respond when chronic livestock losses occur,” Craig Ely, ODFW’s northeast region manager said today in a news release. “Wolves need to rely on their natural prey, not livestock.”
Over the past year, there have been eight confirmed losses of cows to wolves in the area north of Joseph. Under both federal and state rules, lethal controls can be used after two confirmed livestock losses in an area.
The feds had already set the traps to capture two young wolves. Their strategy is to shrink the size of the wolf pack without affecting any breeding wolves. But their plan was instantly met with a lawsuit from four wolf advocate groups trying to stop the killing. The lawsuit apparently hasn’t deterred the state from proceeding with lethal removal plans.
There are 23 confirmed wolves and two breeding pairs in Oregon right now. They were protected under the federal Endangered Species Act until today (remember the controversial federal budget bill rider that reinstated the 2009 delisting?). They will remain protected as a state endangered species, which will limit who can kill them and for what reason.
The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association wants people to have the ability to kill wolves before an attack on livestock occurs and when wolves are spotted near a residence. They say it’s matter of safety and defending their livelihood. But barring the ability for individuals to kill wolves, the cattlemen support managers killing wolves to protect livestock.
One of the requirements for lethal removal of wolves – both for state and federal managers – is that non-lethal methods have to be tried first. For northeast Oregon near Joseph, these are the methods have been used so far, according to ODFW:
“Landowners in the area have used electrified fladry (flagged fencing known to deter wolves), removed bone piles that can attract wolves, and installed Radio Activated Guard (RAG) boxes that emit a sound when collared wolves draw near. ODFW has been tracking wolf location information received by radio and GPS collars and a range rider is monitoring wolves and protecting livestock in the area. Wolves have also been hazed away from livestock operations. Many landowners in the area have changed grazing practices to reduce the risk of depredation by wolves.”
Wolf advocates would rather the state continue trying non-lethal control methods, and they say they’re disappointed the state has moved to killing wolves so quickly after regaining authority. But Rob Klavins of Oregon Wild said this proves the state wolf management plan gives the state enough “tools” to manage conflict between wolves and livestock – a hint at his opposition to proposed legislation that would change Oregon’s state wolf management plan to make it easier for ranchers and citizens to kill wolves (I’m told those bills are not moving this session).
“Today’s decision demonstrates that Oregon’s wolf plan gives the state more than enough tools to deal with conflict,” Klavins said. “This represents the second time in as many years that endangered wolves have been killed to appease livestock losses. Wolves also face threats from poachers and a purposeful campaign of misinformation and fear. The last thing we need to do is make it any easier to kill wolves.”