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Wolves worry ranchers. Wolf population increases by one third statewide
“We’re definitely concerned,” said Jason Chapman, a Poe Valley rancher and also a member of Klamath County’s wolf depredation compensation committee. “Especially now that they’ve packed up and have some pups on the ground.”In the past year Oregon’s wolf population has grown by about a third, the Oregon Department of Agriculture announced in a wolf update last week.
By the end of 2013, there were 64 wolves in Oregon making up eight packs.“Oregon’s wolf population increased in both distribution and abundance in 2013,” the ODA wolf press release said.
That population increase, and the threat it poses, has not gone unnoticed by ranchers.“They’re killing machines,” said Bert Holzhauser, a cattle and sheep rancher from Dorris. “It’s going to kill the economy. When the wolves come in here, they’re going to finish things off. That’ll stop everything.”
Wolf killsHolzhauser said when OR-7 came through Klamath County in the past, he saw three deer killed on his property. He is convinced it was the wandering wolf. But he said proving a wolf kill to the state is a difficult task.
“If they do pay anything, you have to have a video of the wolf killing your livestock,” Holzhauser said, illustrating the extreme evidence needed to document a wolf kill.So far, official incidents of wolves killing livestock have been isolated to northeast Oregon. Wallowa, Umatilla and Baker counties have experienced the most activity, and received 90 percent of the money the agriculture department’s 2014 wolf depredation compensation grants. Those three counties received $134,860 of the total $150,830 allocated. In all, eight counties east of the Cascade Mountains received funding: Wallowa, Umatilla, Baker, Union, Morrow, Crook Wheeler and Malheur counties.
“The state has paid 100 percent of the claims submitted to ODA tied to confirmed or probable livestock losses to do wolves,” the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s statement said. In 2013, that meant Wallowa and Umatilla counties. Wallowa County received $7,482 and Umatilla County received $1,000 compensation.If there was a confirmed case of a wolf killing livestock in Klamath County, the wolf depredation compensation committee would work with the Oregon Department of Agriculture on that compensation.
But confirming a wolf kill can be difficult for Klamath County ranchers, Chapman said.When cattle are turned out onto national forest land for forage, a rancher may not see cattle for months.
“If you’re missing a calf there’s no way of saying if a bear or cougar or wolf got it,” Chapman said.In northeast Oregon and in Idaho, where wolves are more common, ranchers will hire range riders to keep an eye on the herd, Chapman said. Dogs also can be used to protect cattle.
“Other than that, there’s not a whole lot of options,” Chapman said.“How in the world, when we turn our cattle out here on the range, we cannot get out there and ride every day,” Holzhauser said. “Even if we did, the wolves work at night. They kill at night. They’re a very smart animal.”
Preventative fundingThe agriculture department announcement said about 70 percent of the 2014 funding — $105,500 of the $150,830 — is going toward preventative measures. Those include:
• Reducing Attractants — Bone pile removal, carcass disposal sites;• Barriers — Fencing, fladry, electrified fladry;
• Human Presence — Range Riders, Herders or other guarding;• Livestock protection dogs and other guarding animals;
• Alarm or Scare Devices — Radio-Activated-Guard (RAG) Device, other light and sound making devices;• Hazing or Harassment of Wolves — Loud noises, spotlights, or other confrontation with wolves;
• Livestock Management/ Husbandry Changes — Changing pastures, night feeding, reduced calving period, birthing earlier, changing herd structure;• Experimental Practices — Bio-fencing, belling cattle;
Other concernsHolzhauser also worried about diseases wolves carry, and they could pray not only on livestock, but also pets like cats and dogs.
Both he and Chapman said wolves will kill beyond just the need for food. Chapman said they will “pleasure kill.”“The wolf is the number one predator,” Holzhauser said. “He’s the top of the food chain.”
Also, because wolves are a protected species, ranchers can’t outright protect their herd from wolves.“A big difference between wolves and coyotes and cougars is you can protect your livestock against coyotes and cougars,” Chapman said. “If you see a cougar stocking your animals you can kill it. If you see a bear stocking your animals you can kill it. Same with coyotes. If you see a wolf kill your livestock you can’t take any lethal means against it.”
“I’m not for making anything extinct, that’s for sure. I love animals. I’ve been around animals all my life. There’s a place for the wolves and there’s a place for the ranchers,” Holzhauser said. “Cattle has to be managed, sheep, deer, elk, coyotes, wolves — everything has to be managed. God put us here to manage the animals. If we’re not managing them right, something is sure going wrong.”
Two of wolf OR-7’s pups peek out from a log on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, June 2, 2014.
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Page Updated: Friday July 04, 2014 03:39 AM Pacific
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