Oregon ranchers, who I’d think would be pretty tough guys, are scared to death of the mere possibility that a few wolves might one day find their way into this state. No wolves yet have crossed the border from Idaho, but the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission has been laboring on a plan to deal with them if they do.
The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association is freaking out about the plan, which is slated to be voted on tomorrow (December 1). They want ranchers to be able to kill wolves that even look cross-eyed at livestock, notwithstanding the fact that so far there are no wolves in Oregon and no livestock being threatened by the non-existent wolves. So it’s difficult to understand what the Cattlemen’s Association is so frightened about.
Yes, I realize that most of us grew up listening to the song, “Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?” If you’re a pig who lives in a house made of hay or twigs, and there’s a big-lunged wolf at the door, it’s reasonable to start quaking in your porcine boots. However, for the rest of us—which includes Eastern Oregon ranchers—wolves aren’t a threat to be much concerned about.
Check out these wolftrust.org statistics: Minnesota is estimated to have 2500 wolves. In the 22 years from 1979 to 2001, wolves killed 1200 cattle and 879 sheep. So each wolf killed less than one livestock animal per year. Idaho has only several hundred wolves. Oregon, zero.
So even if a few dozen wolves decide to come to Oregon, that’s no big deal for ranchers. Wolftrust.org shows that in states with wolves, predation from all types of animals (coyotes, mostly) accounts for only 1-2% of unplanned cattle and sheep deaths. Disease and severe weather kill hugely more animals.
Ranchers should chill about wolves and spend their energy worrying about other more serious problems. Like, how much longer is the public going to let them get away with welfare ranching?
Many ranchers in Oregon graze their cattle on public lands. According to the “Welfare Ranching” book, federal permittees pay only $1.35 per month to graze a cow-calf pair while the average monthly cost of grazing a cow-calf pair on private lands is $11.10. So us taxpayers should have a lot to say about what happens on public ranchland, since we’re the ones subsidizing the ranchers.
And I say, let the wolves alone. I don’t object to setting up a state-funded program to compensate landowners for wolf-caused livestock losses, but ranchers shouldn’t be able to kill wolves—whether or not a few livestock have been lost. That’s just the cost of doing business in a state that values wildlife and the environment.
I don’t see Oregon vineyards demanding that all birds be shot because they lose some of their grape crop to them. And I don’t see Oregon timber companies demanding that all deer be shot because they lose some young plantings to antler rubbing. So why shouldn’t Oregon ranchers accept that in the future they might lose a few cattle and sheep to some wolves?
Again, they’ve got other things to worry about. Like, as noted here, people are eating less beef for health reasons, the nasty environmental problems caused by cattle on public lands are becoming increasingly obvious, and more beef is being imported from other countries.
The big bad wolf should be one of the least of Oregon ranchers’ concerns. Let him be.
Some of what you say makes sense, but guess you have never raised livestock to believe a rancher should have no right to kill a predator in with his livestock. When you raise animals, you are out there when they calve or lamb, you feed them well, you look out for their health, and to believe as you said that it's just a few animals is to not understand the business or why anyone gets into it or stays with it.
We raise cattle and sheep and pretty much ignore coyotes not near the animals, when they are not paying any attention to the lambs and going about their business of eating small rodents, but when we have lost an animal or we have a coyote that is moving in closer to the sheep, the guns come out. I would fight for the same thing to be true with a wolf-- and they will kill livestock. It's not like a wolf has a moral reason to say oh hey, it's George's cow, it would be a sin to kill it! the only thing that keeps wild predators from killing livestock is fear of consequences and tsk tsk doesn't cut it.
When we are in the Lamar Valley, we are thrilled to hear the wolves, understand why many would like them in Oregon but to deny a rancher the right to defend his stock, is to take the heart out of him. Those animals rely on us and we will be there for them and fight for their protection.
Posted by: Rain | December 01, 2005 at 12:18 PM
Rain, I appreciate what you're saying about wanting to protect your livestock. But I see a difference between coyotes and wolves. There are lots of coyotes and very few wolves. None in Oregon, in fact.
Wolves are an endangered species (or at least threatened). Coyotes aren't. Coyotes kill lots more livestock than coyotes. So it seems to me that ranchers shouldn't be free to kill wolves, especially as a preventive measure to prevent livestock losses.
Society also has rights. Like the right to determine which species live in the wild. As I said in my post, it might make sense to compensate people for livestock killed by wolves. However, I'm not willing to trade the lives of wolves for cattle.
As with coyotes, cattle aren't endangered. Wolves are. So it seems crazy to kill precious wolves in order to save some common cattle. Should we kill bald eagles because they catch a rabbit or two being raised on a ranch?
I'll all for ranchers "having hearts," as you put it. However, I think ranchers sometimes forget that we live in an interconnected world and ecosystem. What one person does affects what happens elsewhere. People don't have the right to do whatever they want on their property, whether that be a ranch or whatever.
Posted by: Brian | December 01, 2005 at 12:46 PM
so are grizzlies next? want them next door to where you hike? *s* Some of these things are no longer here because they don't get along well with humans.......... The people who want them reintroduced often live in towns and won't ever get out to where they roam or have to deal with them. Money is no compensation for the loss of breeding stock that you take years raising up. Wolves are btw not an endangered species (to the best of my knowledge) but rather in many places a protected species. They are doing quite well in Yellowstone as well as across the western states; and if they stay off ranchers'land, leave cattle alone, they may do well here too...
Posted by: Rain | December 01, 2005 at 01:08 PM
Are we to assume that we are to make the entire world "safer" for humans by disposing of all other possible natural threats? As I understand it by your comment "Some of these things are no longer here because they don't get along well with humans..." we humans have the right, nay, the obligation to destroy anything that gets in our way to prosperity and nice leasurely hikes. When I go on a hike, I enjoy even the possibility that I might see wildlife. Yes, I am very affraid of bears and I don't particularly want to come face to face with one while hiking....an yet...the thrill of the encounter, the even bigger thrill of not being eaten! They, as well as wolves, are magnificent animals that embody what was (and is, to a certain extent) wild with this continent. I remember reading an account by an early Spanish explorer (I can't remember who now)that mentioned how astounded he was that, while standing at a beach, there were hundreds of animals, including bears and deer, roaming without much interest in each other or the humans (Native and Spaniards) while looking for fish. The Native Americans were part of nature, just one more animal. Yes, there was always the danger of becoming lunch for a larger predator, but that is nature. And nature is cruel, heartbreaking, and beautiful. We have lost our place in nature and now we want nature to comply with us and our new status. And that is not right.
P.S. Later in the same account it told of how the newcomers realized the "easy hunting" opportunity and soon, the other animals never approached the humans fearlessly again. Our place had changed.
Posted by: Eric | December 07, 2005 at 10:15 AM