Wolves in Oregon: Don’t be so quick on the trigger

Opinion in the Oregonian-

The Oregonian is the state’s leading newspaper. They printed an editorial telling the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife not to be so quick to kill wolves just because some livestock were killed.  That is fine with me, but I’d really see the additional argument that in deciding to kill from among the small number of Oregon wolves, there ought to be some attempt to kill those wolves likely to actually have done the deed, and to do so within a reasonable time.  Otherwise it is just revenge.

Unlike what the paper writes of Idaho and Montana which they think of as places where experience has been gained in controlling wolves, these states now make almost no attempt to match depredations with wolves.  They just go in and kill entire packs for any tiny reason.

Presumably we are not medievalists who believe in retribution against animals of a species because of the acts of one or two of the members, but all we have to do is examine some of the policies now in force to see that those in power are not far from that mindset.

Wolves in Oregon: Don’t be so quick on the trigger. Saturday, July 10, 2010, 3:35 PM. PDT
The Oregonian Editorial Board

Montana Wolf Attacks Spike in ‘09, Sparking Backlash

There might be a backlash, but it is doubtful related to a spike in wolf attacks on livestock-

Matthew Brown from AP wrote this story. It has some good facts in it and a lot of wild anger from livestock owners.

I think what sparks backlashes are not the number of livestock killed. It is the number of news stories about it.

I think if someone did a content analysis of the news about wolves and livestock and compared it to the number of wolf-killed livestock each year since the reintroduction, there would be no relationship.

Matthew Brown points out that “The sharp increase over 2008 livestock losses, reported Thursday by state officials, was fueled largely by a wolf pack ravaging 148 sheep in southwestern Montana near Dillon in August.”

This single story got a lot of media attention, and I never read a single good account from the media or the Montana government giving the details of how this happened. At the time on this blog, I complained day after day about the lack of facts, except that a lot of sheep were dead.

As far increasing the hunt quota next because of the perception of large livestock losses, Montana FWP’s report was very clear that the hunt removed far fewer wolves in areas with livestock than they hoped, and more in livestock-free parts of the backcountry.  Therefore, increasing the quota would be purely a political move unrelated to wolf depredations in fact.

Wolf supporters have got to win the delisting case, as the state wildlife agencies are nothing but political pawns. I am sick to death and furious!

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The statement that there are 8 dead livestock by wolves for every one found is often repeated as in this story. It seems to me they used to say “1 in 5,” but at any rate in checking, this all seems to come from one small study by John Oakleaf.  The area studied was hardly representative — a remote section of public land leased for grazing that was  known to have a high density of wolves. No doubt in less rugged and accessible country the number not found would be less.

If you think about it, the broad statement is absurd. The percentage of livestock killed by wolves and not found would vary everywhere. Every season cattle and sheep are simply missed (not rounded-up). They linger and die of the cold. They are also lost to accidental injury, sickness, poison plants, and other predators. Most carcasses would be scavenged by many scavengers, including wolves.

To sum it up, this “one in eight” figure appears to be an effort to inflate a relatively small problem for political purposes, and is based on a single unrepresentative study.

Fencing, Bright Lights and Loud Noises Keep Wolves at Bay

314 livestock were lost to wolves last year. Between 5000 and 10,000 head lost to other predators-

This feature ran on a number of radio stations.

Non lethal management of wolves, which keeps both wolves and livestock alive is feasible.

However, most livestock operators are not like Mike Stevens (see in story) because the U.S. government will kill the wolves for free for you and it looks like Idaho is about to get a million dollar slush fund to compensate operators for animals that were or might have been killed by wolves — a pretty strong incentive to conduct livestock business as usual.

. . . and In Wyoming, if a wolf kills your lamb or cow calf, steer, etc. you get compensated seven times its value! That is one royal payoff.

Cost of controlling Buffalo Ridge Pack revealed

The killing of the Buffalo Ridge Pack in Idaho prompted an inquiry bringing forth some interesting information about the cost of wolf control.

The information is in a letter by Gloria Carlton in the most recent Idaho Mountain Express.

I wonder what the dollar loss of livestock to the rancher (said to be Wayne Baker) was and the cost of measures that would have made the pasture less attractive to wolves?*

I imagine direct expenditures by conservation groups to keep this wolf pack out of trouble plus volunteer time was easily $50,000.  The efforts were mostly in Squaw Creek where the pack denned each year and was quite easy to see in the winter until about the end of May.

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* Note it was never proven the Buffalo Ridge pack killed the several small calves that were confirmed to be killed by wolf. The East Pass Creek pack is in the area and their are other scattered wolves.

Posted in Wolves, Wolves and Livestock. Tags: , . Comments Off on Cost of controlling Buffalo Ridge Pack revealed