I can't understand why Eastern Oregon ranchers are so afraid of wolves. There only are thought to be fourteen wolves in the entire state. They're on Oregon's endangered species list.
Yet two of the fourteen were slated to be slaughtered by the inaccurately-named federal agency, Wildlife Services, after the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife issued an unnecessary kill order.
Fortunately, on July 1 four conservation groups sued Wildlife Services for not conducting a required environmental analysis. After all, killing 1/7 of an endangered species population sure sounds like it needs some careful thought.
But as I've noted before in "Ranchers overly afraid of the big bad wolf" and "Wolves and fear of the wild," top predators like wolves and cougars elicit irrational emotional reactions from many humans (maybe they heard the Little Red Riding Hood story too many times as a kid, and have an unconscious fear a wolf is going to eat them).
On July 2 Wildlife Services agreed not to kill any wolves in Oregon for at least four weeks. An Oregon Wild press release describes why this is a very good idea.
The kill order stems from recent livestock depredations by wolves in Wallowa County. In May and early June, six cattle deaths were confirmed as wolf depredations. For comparison, in 2005 — the year the wolf plan was created — domestic dogs killed 700 sheep and cows in Oregon according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. No new livestock depredations have occurred since June 4th.
According to the groups, Oregon’s wildlife agency is violating the wolf management plan by issuing the kill permits when damage is not presently occurring, the wolves are not on the land where damage is occurring, and multiple carcass dump piles were left on ranch lands resulting in “unreasonable circumstances” attracting wolves to the area.
Had Wildlife Services conducted the proper environmental analysis, the agency would have realized that wolves pose no current depredation threat and hunting them is inappropriate. ODFW has also failed to document how efforts by ranchers to avoid depredations through nonlethal means were “deemed ineffective,” or to document unsuccessful attempts to solve the situation through nonlethal means – both requirements of the plan.
Jeez. Eastern Oregon ranchers leave dead livestock lying around, then they wonder why wolves are attracted to their property. Let's do some basic predator control education of the ranchers before killing any wolves.
My wife and I live in a rural area. A few years back some neighbors got all excited about coyotes coming around. We told them they shouldn't be leaving food for cats and deer outside. Instead, they shot a few coyotes. Ridiculous.
Ranchers should be out hunting domestic dogs if they really want to reduce depredation of their sheep and cows.
As I said in a previous post from 2005, before wolves came to Oregon:
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.
Further, Defenders of Wildlife compensates ranchers for livestock killed by wolves. Their web site doesn't list Oregon as one of the states where this program is operating, but this article says Oregon ranchers are eligible for compensation.
Ranchers can apply for compensation from Defenders of Wildlife for the value of cattle killed by wolves, but they complain that it can be difficult to get confirmation that a cow or calf fell prey to a wolf.
Joseph rancher Rod Childers claims that on average around the West, only one of eight cows killed by wolves is confirmed as such."For the other seven, the rancher gets nothing," he said.
Well, if a rancher can't confirm that a wolf killed a cow, how does he know that the kill occurred? Again, the big bad wolf gets blamed for unexplained livestock losses.
Oregon's Wolf Plan needs to be based on sound science and environmental understanding, not irrational fears of a predator who plays an important role in natural ecosystems. Tell the Oregon Department Fish and Wildlife just that, here.