Recently, this newspaper ran an article about the ODFW order to kill wolves in Wallowa County. While the gray wolf may be an icon to some, it is a terrible threat to others. The conflicts they create are being addressed as outlined in the Oregon's Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. This plan is now receiving much resistance from those who originally supported it.
The state's wolf management plan was created by a 14-member stakeholder group appointed by the ODFW Commission. Two members, including the Oregon Cattlemen's Association (OCA), submitted minority reports with disagreements. OCA has consistently requested the same types of management tools accorded ranchers in other wolf states even before their population goals were exceeded.
Collared wolves have been scattered throughout the Imnaha wolf pack area and even with numerous reported sightings, ODFW seldom looks for wolves outside the telemetry area due to their work load. The assumption that removal of two problem wolves will leave an alfa-female and one pup does not account for the remaining confirmed members of the pack. This causes needless negative reactions to ranchers who are working within requirements of Oregon's Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.
Prior to lethal control of wolves or compensation for losses ranchers must implement non-lethal control measures. In most cases, ranchers are never fully compensated for nonlethal methods. With documented depredation lethal action is a last resort.
Little has been published about losses ranchers have endured from wolves for many months. Cattle are staying closer to home, being literally run to death and found with blood dripping from their mouths, broken legs and bite marks. Livestock encountering wolves become stressed, lose weight and have lower fertility rates. Due to the interaction with wolves, cattle are showing aggression towards cattle dogs and become more difficult to work. The impacts of these occurrences have no compensation.
Ranchers care for their livestock and have limited options to defend against problem wolves. The impact of a wolf kill is often described as brutal. Many times evidence is scattered across great distances and confirmation is difficult; however, all confirmed wolf kills on livestock in Oregon have occurred on private lands.
Comparison of statewide cattle and wolf population numbers is specious and misleading. A handful of the same ranchers are bearing the burden because wolves are concentrated in one area of the state. Ranchers do not seek conflicts with wolves, but require the opportunity to protect their animals and be allowed to continue to feed a hungry nation. Taking problem wolves out is the only way to effectively address chronic depredation and allows the wolves that don't prey on livestock to proliferate.
Name-calling, threats and lawsuits do nothing to address the serious effects on rural communities, wildlife, and agriculture caused by wolves. It is time to engage in a more meaningful approach to resolving the difficult issues Oregonians face.
Bill Hoyt is the president of the Oregon Cattlemen's Association, and Rod Childers is the OCA Wolf Committee chair.