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Wolf foes, friends have their say

Citizens speak out about wolf management at ODFW hearing

Citizens who wish to provide testimony regarding the draft wolf management plan may still submit comments via email at odfw.commission@state.or.us or in person at the May 19 Portland meeting at the Embassy Suites Portland Airport. For more information visit www.dfw.state.or.us/wolves.


Wolf management was at the top of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) Commission hearings Friday at the Running Y Ranch Resort.

Roblyn Brown, acting wolf program coordinator, told the gathering there are 112 known wolves in Oregon, comprising 11 packs and eight breeding pairs. She noted that population growth has slowed, but added that severe winter weather, particularly in Eastern Oregon, inhibited wolf count efforts.

There has been seven known wolf deaths in 2016, three of which were collared wolves, she said. Of these, three were removed by ODFW due to excessive depredation in Eastern Oregon, one was shot by a rancher while caught in the act of killing a sheep, and two others are still under investigation.

Brown called wolf depredation management the highest priority of the department, totaling 67 investigations last year. She said depredation incidents are down since wolves were re-introduced in 2009.

The current Wolf Management Plan, established in 2005, creates rules for monitoring and managing wolf populations, as well as steps to take when livestock losses occur as a result of a wolf attack.

Additionally, every five years the plan is reviewed in detail. It is structured on a three-tier basis, Phase 3 being the most stringent rules due to large populations and depredation incidents, which allows under certain circumstances lethal enforcement to manage wolf populations. Phase 3 is currently in effect in Eastern Oregon, while Western Oregon — including Klamath County — remains in Phase 1. In the Phase 3 areas, wolves have been de-listed as an endangered species.

More than 40 organizations. alongside private citizens provided testimony, both in favor and opposed to the draft plan.

A particular point of contention was a change in confirmed wolf depredation instances defining chronic wolf depredation for elevation from Phase 2 to Phase 3 status, set at three or one confirmed and four probable rather than the current established level of two confirmed or one confirmed and three attempted. Opponents to the draft plan urged that the current levels be maintained.

“We know that for each confirmed wolf kill there will be seven other livestock losses, so producers must absorb 21 losses before wolves are removed,” said John O’Keeffe, Adel-based rancher and president of Oregon Cattlemen’s Association.

“Wolves are now part of the landscape, they are here to stay. Now it’s about managing a species that is significant on the landscape, not a small number newly placed. It’s only right that management goes under a new set of rules.”

Among the changes proposed in the plan is a clarification of conservation population objectives, not as a representative of a desired population level nor a minimum; population analysis when a zone is elevated in Phase status, strategies for radio telemetry of radio collars in phase 3 areas, removal of a specific number requirement for wolves in a pack to be collared, and adds specific certification and procedures required before hunters and trappers can be used for population control.

In an effort to increase communication and collaboration, the plan also implements a citizen advisory group intended to improve the overall management of wolves.

“We believe there are more wolves than are being documented,” said Greg Roberts, chairman of the Jackson County Wolf Committee. “We encourage cameras and surveillance. The Rogue Pack has been without a single functioning radio collar for the last two years, and we have been begging to get collars into the pack to get a better idea of areas that the pack is using.”

Others urged non-lethal efforts to be prioritized for management while making efforts to limit wolf and livestock interaction.

“Killing wolves will not help sell more elk tags,” said Nick Cady, director of Cascadia Wildlands. “Why give authority to kill up to 22 percent of wolves in the state under revised rules?”

Others spoke in more generalized and pragmatic terms, pleading to change policies that for years have allowed willful environmental destruction and adverse impact on ecosystems.

“Ecosystems are being destroyed daily, and sprayed with poisons,” pleaded Diana Larson emphatically, a Myrtle Creek resident. “I love nature more than humans, and nature and all of her children cannot speak for themselves. I scream inside for the ignorance and complacency of people. The environment has been suffering for the sake of ranchers for decades. Bullets and poisons are cheap, it takes motivation to make people do things the hard way.”

Many urged more local control authority, and some hunting enthusiasts suggested hunting of wolves to be permitted going forward. General season hunting is outlawed under the current plan, also upheld under the revised draft plan.

“My concern is depredation of wildlife and game animals,” said Mark Wilcox, a Klamath Falls resident and self-described avid outdoorsman. “I think there should be hunting on wolves.”

Wolf Program Coordinator Russ Morgan stressed that the draft presented is a first draft and subject to change.

“We don’t always get to collar every wolf we want, and we don’t get to capture every wolf we want,” Morgan explained. “We’ve collared more wolves this year than ever before. We don’t have breeding pairs collared in every pack, we’re trying to balance out everything.”

No decision about the wolf plan was made at the hearing, pending an additional meeting scheduled for May 19 in Portland at the Embassy Suites Portland Airport. A final hearing for the draft management plan has not yet been set.


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