Wolf opponents, proponents face off in
and News by Holly Owens 5/23/17
The two sides
of the wolf conservation movement faced off in Portland on
Friday as the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife hosted
a public meeting on the proposed conservation management
plan for the embattled canid.
On one side,
ranchers, mostly from the northeastern corner of the state,
told wildlife commissioners that the current draft of the
plan didn’t give them enough leeway to take lethal measures
to protect their cattle and other livestock from wolves.
On the other
side of the debate, conservation advocates referred to the
most recent numbers released by the state — which showed
population growth of wolves was stagnant at best — while
arguing that wolves needed at least the same, if not
greater, levels of protection they’ve enjoyed in the past.
“This is a very
divisive issue,” said commission chair MIchael Finley,
addressing the dozens of people who gathered in a conference
room at the Embassy Suites Hotel near Portland International
Airport. “Our job is to come together to protect these
animals and to do so reasonably.”
As a backdrop,
fish and wildlife officials said in February that the wolf
population had stabilized and passed a threshold of three
consecutive years with greater than seven breeding pairs.
Officials decided to remove the animal from Oregon’s
endangered species list in 2015, but the wolf remains under
federal protections in Western Oregon.
There were at
least 112 wolves counted in the state in 2016, but that
represents an increase of only two over the previous year’s
count. Last year’s annual wolf report documented seven wolf
deaths in 2016.
One of the
most-urgent requests from ranchers was to include language
in the plan to give some local control to officials who
could facilitate investigations after livestock is killed.
Specifically, ranchers have asked the state to empower state
police and county sheriff’s to make rulings on the cause of
of the Wallowa County Stockgrowers Association, said that
one of her calves was discovered dead on her property
earlier this month, but because it was a weekend, there were
no investigators available to take on the case. She had to
wait until the following Monday to drive the carcass into
town herself, and by then, she said, evidence the kill had
been perpetrated by a wolf had been washed away by rain.
eventually ruled the cause of death as “other.”
Rob Klavins, a
farmer from Wallowa County and field coordinator for the
advocacy group Oregon Wild, told the commission that local
elected officials should not be the ones ruling on the cause
of death in suspected depredation events.
sounds good,” he said. “But consequential decisions should
not be subject to local politics and pressure.”
documented 24 confirmed killings of livestock in 2016, a
significant increase from the nine confirmed the year
before. The state investigated 67 incidents in 10 counties
where ranchers or livestock owners claimed a wolf killed
their animal, but were only able to confirm the 24
In the previous
version of the plan, chronic depredation was defined as “two
confirmed or one confirmed and three attempted depredations”
in any given time period. The draft would change the
definition to “three confirmed depredations or one confirmed
and four probable depredations within a 12-month period.”
rejected the proposed definition as untenable, saying there
were fewer than four depredation events deemed “probably” in
the entire state last year. Wolf advocates argued the
Also at issue
was a provision in the draft that would allow the state to
issue permits for hunters and trappers to kill wolves
identified in chronic depredation events, an idea favored by
legal director for the conservation group Cascadia Wildlands,
pushed back on the proposal, saying it would effectively
incentivize the killing of wolves and could lead to innocent
animals being killed.
“We oppose the
use of public or private hunters,” he told the commission.
“We can’t have a situation where a cash-strapped agency
charges money to kill wolves. It creates an incentive.”
didn’t take any action to change the plan on Friday, but did
plan for another meeting to discuss the topics raised at
their next meeting on July 8 in Salem.
A date for
adoption of the final plan has not been set.
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