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Wolf policy creates ruin across ranches

January 24, 2011

Living with Wolves and No Right of Protection
by Karla Kay Edwards
Oregon Cascade Policy Institute

Imagine one day you were told that by law you no longer can lock your home. As you leave your house, two suspicious people are sitting on your front porch. So you get your kitchen broom and shoo them away. But they are still in front of your house on the sidewalk (legally not on your property). You call the police. They file a report and promise to monitor the situation. You eventually have to leave your home to run errands. When you come back, your computer that you use to run your business is gone. While you are confident that the folks you ran off your porch and who witnessed you leaving are the culprits, the police inform you that they found no fingerprints. Therefore, they aren’t sure if you simply misplaced your own computer.

This is essentially the scenario livestock producers face every day with wolves in Wallowa County and other parts of Oregon, except for ranchers it is even more emotional. It isn’t just an inanimate object that ranchers are unable to protect. They are beloved pets and livestock which ranchers have spent a great deal of their life raising and nurturing.

Casey Anderson of OX Ranch lives on the Oregon-Idaho border. He shared with me a story of just one of the many calves that have been attacked and maimed by wolves on his ranch. The calf received a significant injury to its leg, but after a month of daily doctoring he was able to save the calf. With a crack in his voice, he said that a year later the same calf was killed by a second wolf attack.

Oregon currently has two state-recognized wolf packs and breeding pairs. But according to Russ Morgan, wolf coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), 27 wolf sightings were reported in November alone. He would not be surprised if two additional breeding pairs were confirmed by the end of 2010. This is significant because according to the management plan, once there are four breeding pairs for three consecutive years, wolves may be considered for delisting statewide as a protected species. Until wolves are delisted Oregon ranchers have essentially no right to protect their livestock or other property from wolves.

The reintroduction of wolves into Oregon will continue to take an emotional and an economic toll on rural communities, specifically on livestock producers. During the recent five-year management plan review, livestock producers requested amendments that would enhance their ability to protect their livestock. Unfortunately, many of their recommendations were ignored by ODFW.

There are significant impacts to ranchers managing livestock in areas with wolves. The depredation loss of the livestock is just one of several issues that must be considered:

– Inability to protect livestock and pets from wolf depredation in a proactive and preventative manner. Currently, a producer must prove a pattern of livestock loss before a permit can be issued to have the wolf removed through either lethal or non-lethal means.
– Time and financial cost associated with injured or killed livestock. Though a small depredation payment (which is not a market-based value) can be received upon proof of a wolf kill, there is no compensation for an injured animal.
– Inability to “condition” the larger wolf populations that are harassing livestock to fear interactions between humans or livestock through use of lethal or near-lethal deterrents. Currently, a permit must be issued before a rancher is allowed to do anything other than yell or shoot in the air.
– Changes in livestock behavior due to constant wolf harassment which affect weight gains, conception rates, pasture management practices, general animal husbandry and handling practices. These impacts have not been recognized in any formal manner by management agencies.
– Ranchers’ emotional stress from the additional management strain and the financial risks to his business. These are also currently unrecognized impacts.

More than two hundred years ago, James Madison wrote, “The personal right to acquire property, which is a natural right, gives to property, when acquired, a right to protection, as a social right.” Oregon ranchers should have been provided with a number of tools with which to deal with the impacts of reintroduced wolves. For ranchers, no right is as basic as protecting their own livestock from predators. It is absurd that a rancher must witness a wolf “in the act” of attacking an animal on private land and then receive a permit to allow the taking of any action that would cause harm to the wolf. It is rare even to find a carcass from wolf predation, much less catch a wolf in the act.

To allow ranchers to use lethal or near-lethal means on their own property to protect their animals from wolves is essential to a strong wolf management plan, but that has seemed to fall on deaf ears at the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission. In 2011 the Oregon legislature should propose new legislation to address wolf management in Oregon that protects the right of citizens to protect their families and property (including pets and livestock) from wolves.

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TheReviewer January 27, 2011

This another example of overbearing environmentalism that hurts people and doesn’t actually help our environment.

Matt January 27, 2011

If the state wants to protect the wolves, they should provide reimbursement for wolf attacks to the ranch owners. Some sort of insurance fund of which the premiums are paid for by the state. There should be more monitoring of the movements of these wolves too, they need 24/7 monitoring where they are going to further support wolf attack claims by ranch owners. Likely a radio collar on every wolf and radio triangulation would work.

Bob January 27, 2011

The wolves were there first. Perhaps the wolves see humans as the suspicious characters.

Sam January 27, 2011

I agree with the right to protect your property, but wolves have rights too. The right to live, amongst other things… Instead of advocating for lethal control options (i.e. their extinction), shouldn’t we address the bigger picture? We are destroying their habitats, they have nowhere to go…

It is a perhaps better idea to support initiatives for the creation and intelligent management of protected areas as sanctuaries for biodiversity, including predators. Also, one should understand that this problem, at its source, is created by us humans, by our lifestyle, so it is also there, ultimately, that the solution lies…

curt January 27, 2011

The example about not being able to lock your door is absolutely irrelevant and a terrible example related to this case. If you want to have wolves not kill your cattle, do what they did in the older days, ride out with them….you dont have to kill anything just because you dont agree with how nature works. Scare it off by firing into the air. Simple. Just because natures laws works differently and you dont agree with it there are things you can do to work with it that doesnt mean destroy it. In the end this really just comes down to money. “That wolf kill prevented me from making money off killing that cow later on.” Quite sad that just over money you want to kill whatever caused that just trying to survive. Pathetic. And as a couple of others have mentioned, we are the ones taking all the habitat away from them and everything else.

Dave January 27, 2011

Sam, Curt, Bob, please give me your address’s and leave your doors unlocked when you go out. Matt – the only reasonable one here, besides me that is.

Chris January 27, 2011

This one is easy. shoot, shovel, shutup. problem solved. By the way wolves don’t run when you shoot in the air.

curt January 27, 2011

Now mind you I have not disagreed with Matt in this case, and yes he has a very reasonable idea, perhaps I spoke in not a good time for myself as today is not going very good at all. But I also spoke not knowing the full picture. That and being nowhere near there and understanding how its affecting everyone doesnt help either. Surely they will come up with a solution that works out for all of them.


ashole January 27, 2011

you mean to tell me hundreds of years of technological advancements cant solve a problem like this without having to resort to shooting wild animals in their own natural habitat so you can carry out your dream of selling beef.

Nicole January 27, 2011

Look into better fencing. For example, the fences used to keep deer or elk in will keep wolves out. And simply electrifying the bottom wire will prevent them from digging in. No loss of life, and, although expensive, surely worth it.

Deaddoc105 January 27, 2011

When we killed off wolves in the Midwest you know what happened? The few left bred with coyotes and now we have hybrids that have the tight pack mentality of the wolf along with fearlessness of humans thanks to the coyotes. We messed with nature and they evolved to fight back.

Yea, it sucks your cows got eaten. So maybe if you didn’t destroys woods and natural habitat which got rid of the elk and deer the wolf would normally eat that wouldn’t happen as much.

Get dogs to stay with your herds. Big shepherds or labs from the local pound will do. They bark and stick together and they’ll make it harder for the wolves. Stick with your herds when they’re out grazing, and put better fencing up to try and keep them out.

Ranching sucks, and you knew that when you started. You have to balance with the environment and its habitats. Adjust to the changes and deal.

MR BILL January 28, 2011

How much can a pack eat in a year? If forced to live with predation and no defence there should be fair compensation. that is compromise but if there is no fairness to the rancher then shoot the wolf and bury it. If you want the wolf to have total freedom then pay the rancher for his loss.If you dont feel the rancher deserves to exist because you dont like what he ranches then you are environmentally greedy. The fact that there are still steers and wolf means that they dont eat all the cows at once. Coexistance is possible but expensive. seems thats the way of the world.

Oldcrow January 28, 2011

Sam January 27, 2011
I agree with the right to protect your property, but wolves have rights too.

No they don’t they are animals, last time I looked the Constitution was not ammended to gives animals rights anywho I would like to see some facts here such as a study of how much predation is going on exactly and is it the wolves or other predators also, how much it is costing the ranchers. In the article you only mention one attack on a calf are there more and exactly how much? This lack of facts makes the whole article suspect.

K January 28, 2011

Mankind naturally evolved the ability to create machines and systems to protect themselves and to prosper. Do not make the mistake of assuming that these tools and systems are somehow any more unnatural than a termite mound, weaver’s nest, or animal hierarchical social order. We simply execute the construction and implementation of our tools and systems with far greater efficacy than other forms of life on this planet do with theirs.

Given this viewpoint, the issue at hand is not one of natural versus unnatural since everything that exists is truly natural. The issue of what form of life has more rights than another within the system of human law is what is under debate. Therefore, resolution to the issue will come not from an appeal to the “natural order of earth,” but rather from a compromise between the rights of ranchers to protect property and the wolves’ given rights to continued existence.

Oldcrow: The wolves have been given rights by counties of the State of Oregon in the form of protection programs, and the sovereignty of states’ rights are protected by the 10th amendment of the Constitution:

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

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