Rancher v. Predator, Wolf on the prowl
Yamsi Ranch calving complicated by lone wolf on
remote cattle ranch near the headwaters of the Williamson River,
a group of cows is separated from its herd. Protectively, they
huddle in a semicircle, nudging their calves to safety behind
owner Joe Jayne loads a shell in his shotgun as a black wolf
circles the herd, possibly sizing up the mothers and whether he
should try for a calf.
pauses, holding up his shotgun to aim above the wolf, and fires
a shell filled with an M-80 firecracker into the distance.
over him once, he turns around and looks at us, and kind of
trots off. He looks at us again, so I shot in the air and he
just kind of trots right through the calves,” Jayne said.
This was the first time Jayne had seen wolf OR-25 at the
5,000-acre Yamsi Ranch, a sprawling cattle ranch marked by miles
of open pasture, stands of mixed pine and surrounded by dense
forest managed by the U.S. Forest Service.
The 2.5-year-old male dispersed from the northeast Oregon Imnaha
Pack in March 2015 and arrived in Klamath County in May. He has
left the upper Williamson area several times, sometimes for
weeks, to roam the Klamath and Sycan marshes, traveling as far
south as northern California.
When Jayne fired the shells, OR-25 was standing only about 60
yards away. Despite the deafening M-80 blast, Jayne said the
wolf appeared calm.
“He’s not scared of anything. He knows he’s got a bulletproof
vest on him,” he said, referring to protections given to wolves
by the Endangered Species Act.
tracking helps, not fool-proof
Seated at her dining room table, and looking through large
windows, Jerri Hyde points to a stand of trees little more than
a quarter-mile from her house. Jerri and her husband, John, are
partners in the Yamsi Ranch’s cow-calf operation, which breeds
more than 400 cows each year.
Jerri explains that OR-25 is fitted with a radio collar that
intermittently emits a GPS satellite signal and allows wildlife
officials to track his movements. Jerri said the ranch has a
radio receiver that picks up signals from a less sophisticated
collar feature, a VHF (very high frequency) signal that can be
tracked from the ground. The signal placed OR-25 in the trees
when the cows were were pastured near there.
“He’s very bold,” Jerri said.
Since OR-25 returned to the upper Williamson area a few weeks
ago, Jayne, John and Jerri have been scrambling to find ways to
keep the wolf away from the cattle and their newly born calves.
As of Wednesday, about 15 calves had been born. Jerri said they
are planning to birth calves from each of the ranch’s 450 female
What they did not plan on was keeping a 24-hour watch on the
cows because of one very persistent wolf.
According to Jerri, the standard barrage of non-lethal wolf
deterrents have not fazed OR-25. In addition to the M-80 shotgun
shells, wildlife officials have set up a noisemaker box, a
strobe light and fladry fencing. The specialty fencing consists
of strips of fabric or colored flags draped over a wire fence.
John Stephenson, a wolf coordinator for the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service, said the deterrents are the same that are used
to protect against wolf depredation in northeastern Oregon. They
have been successful on many ranches.
Jerri said OR-25 ran right through the fladry at Yamsi.
“Nothing is working,” she said with resignation. “Sometimes I
wonder if he’s deaf.”
OR-25 occasionally makes daytime appearances, but he’s most
active at night. Now, in addition to the checking the herd for
new calves roughly every four hours, someone must keep watch all
“At night we’ve been driving the perimeter around the cows and
when we get relatively close (to OR-25), we shoot cracker
shells,” she said.
Jerri explained that she, John and Jayne patrol the cows until
about midnight, then wildlife managers from the Oregon
Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) take shifts.
“It’s very helpful, but you worry about these guys when they’re
tired and driving back and forth. It’s really not fair to them,”
ODFW assistant district biologist Jon Muir said one main concern
is that much of the wolf’s natural prey — big game like deer and
elk — haven’t returned from their wintering grounds yet, making
calves the most abundant potential food source.
“You’ve got brand new calves hitting the ground and that’s where
he’s parked for the time being,” Muir said.
According to Jerri, a wolf could easily pick up a 70- to
85-pound newborn calf and run off with it. A loss could mean
hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to the ranch.
“But other than being present, he’s not caused any issues yet,
except for the calves in the fall,” Jerri said.
OR-25 has been in the spotlight before. After arriving in the
Yamsi area last May, he kept to himself throughout the summer.
But in late-October, early-November, ranchers became keenly
aware of OR-25’s presence in Klamath County after he killed one
Yamsi calf and maimed two others.
The three attacked calves were being held in a 100-acre pasture
with several other 6-month-old, 300- to 350-pound weaner calves.
OR-25’s GPS radio collar placed him at or near the calf carcass
several times around the time of the attacks. The two surviving
calves were sent to a ranch in the Willamette Valley. Jerri said
one of the calves has died.
She said trauma caused by a wolf depredation, or even just the
threat of injury, can be stressful to cows, especially those
that are pregnant.
Although no depredations have occurred recently, OR-25 is not
shy about mingling with the herd. His radio collar has placed
him near or with the animals in the pasture several times.
“I’ve not seen him — just his tracks,” Jerri said, holding up
her hand to indicate how large OR-25’s paw prints are.
Stephenson saw OR-25 early Wednesday morning. He said the wolf
was running away from the pasture, toward a treeline just off
the ranch property.
“It’s hard to know what he was after,” Stephenson said. “It was
right at dawn and he was heading back to the woods.”
out of options
Assistant district biologist Muir said although the ODFW is does
not have authority to manage federally protected animals, such
as wolves, he and ODFW district biologist Tom Collom are doing
everything they can to help.
Muir said he and Collom have spent several nights at Yamsi,
hazing the wolf and trying to run him away from the cattle. Muir
called the efforts “marginally successful.”
“I believe that we have been successful in preventing some
depredations. We’ll keep doing that until another solution can
be in place,” Muir said.
Muir noted that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the lead
agency when dealing with wolves. He explained that ODFW’s role
is only to investigate depredation claims. Officials with the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife must determine how the animals are
managed, he said.
“What we are doing at Yamsi Ranch and everywhere else is just
Tom and I trying to be helpful,” Muir said. “John and Jerri are
in a bad position.”
Everyone agrees that the help Muir and Collom are providing is
making a difference, even if OR-25 is still hanging around. They
also agree that what the ODFW staffers are doing is not
sustainable. Muir and Collom have taken on the wolf patrols in
addition to running the local ODFW wildlife district.
Muir said he is hopeful the Klamath County wolf depredation
committee will receive grant funding earmarked for more
“We hope to use some of that money to employ a hazing position,”
Muir said. “Somehow somebody else is going to have to do this.”
with predators accepted
When OR-25 first appeared near Yamsi last year, Jerri said the
presence of a wolf didn’t bother her. She said although the
current situation is sometimes frustrating, her feelings haven’t
“I still like the idea of having wolves here. We’ve coexisted
with them and I know that we can. But, we need to be able to
manage the ones that are creating issues,” she said.
Jerri noted that the ranch is home to a host of predators
ranging from coyotes to cougars. She believes the carnivores are
attracted to Yamsi thanks to its abundant populations of
cottontail rabbits and ground squirrels. She said wildlife is
welcome on the ranch.
Jerri’s hope is that future wolves establishing in Klamath
County do so without conflict, and that problem wolves can
eventually be managed like troublesome bears and wildcats.
“This guy, we can’t manage. The only way to manage is to be out
there all night long - and our efforts don’t really seem to be
deterring him,” she said.
Stephenson said although wolves are protected under the ESA,
officials are concerned about about OR-25’s behavior.
“We’ve got a problem situation here and we’re going to try to do
as much non-lethal stuff as we can to try and solve the problem.
If we get a chronic depredation situation where it has further
livestock attacks here, I do think removal is a possibility, but
it would be after several more attacks,” he said. “We would
never try to relocate an animal that chronically depredates on
livestock because that’s just moving the problem somewhere
Stephenson said although OR-25 appears impervious to hazing, the
wolf hasn’t been aggressive toward people. Stephenson said he
doesn’t think it’s likely OR-25 going to become a threat to
Jerri’s advice to other Klamath County cattle ranchers is to
learn from people who have experience striking a balance with
wolves and to cooperate with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
and other involved agencies.
“Try to be proactive because they are coming no matter what we
do. We’re lucky these are collared and we can keep track of
them, but they are not all collared,” she said.
Jayne said the best the Yamsi ranchers can do for now is to be
aware of OR-25’s location and continue spending more time with
“I think we’ve been successful in that we’ve not had another
depredation on that ranch, but his lack of leaving the area is
disconcerting,” Muir said. “It’s going to be an ongoing thing.”
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