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Cattlemen pack wolf hearing

April 1, 2011

Cattlemen pack wolf hearing By MITCH LIES
Capital Press East Oregonian |

SALEM — Eastern Oregon ranchers told lawmakers they feel their hands are tied when it comes to protecting their livestock and, in some cases, their families from wolves.

In testimony Wednesday, ranchers provided the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee with first-hand accounts of encounters with wolves and the devastation wolves inflict on their lives and livestock.

Joseph rancher Karl Patton said he was awakened by the sound of his dog barking at 3:30 one spring morning. When he went outside to investigate, he saw six wolves near his livestock. Patton said the wolves ran toward him, and he fired several warning shots to scare them off.

“The wolves, when they came at me that night, were coming after me and a dog,” he said. “They weren’t coming to shake hands.”

Rod Childers, wolf committee chairman for the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, said he visited seven sites last year in the days following wolf kills on livestock.

“I’ve seen the anguish on these people’s faces,” Childers said.

Enterprise rancher Todd Nash said in May of last year he found a calf, later confirmed to be killed by wolves, with only three legs.

“The head was still there,” he said.

Nash said he believes wolves have killed more than two dozen of his calves the last two years, but the one he lost last May is the only confirmed wolf kill.

The ranchers, who packed a hearing room at the Capitol, came to support four bills they say are needed to co-exist with wolves.

House Bill 3560 allows the Oregon Department of Agriculture to set up a compensation fund for wolf depredation. The fund would be open to federal, state, county and private donations and administered by counties.

HB 3561 allows the gray wolf to be delisted from the Oregon Endangered Species Act upon establishment of four breeding pairs.

HB 3562 clarifies a person can take a wolf to protect themselves or someone else.

HB 3563 allows a rancher to kill a wolf, once it is federally delisted, if it is within 500 feet of a residence or caught chasing, harassing, wounding or biting livestock or pets.

Representatives of Defenders of Wildlife and the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club opposed the bills, saying Oregon’s current wolf conservation plan strikes a better balance between conservation goals and goals of ranchers.

“We feel like we’ve gone through the process of making strong compromises in the past that forged the wolf conservation plan,” said Suzanne Stone of Defenders of Wildlife.

The bills, said Ivan Maluski of the Sierra Club, “go back on the spirit of that compromise.”

“We can’t just allow folks to kill wolves just because they come close to their livestock,” Maluski said.

Bill Hoyt, president of the cattlemen’s association, said the group isn’t looking to eliminate wolves in Oregon, just to protect themselves and their livestock.

“It is incredibly frustrating for us to not have what I feel is the God-given right to protect our livestock,” Enterprise rancher Nash said.

The committee took no action on the bills.

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