Wolves, once hunted to extinction in the lower 48, are making a comeback, reports the Corvallis Gazette-Times. Rancher Denny Johnson complains that the predators have killed five of his cattle since last fall, including bull worth $5,000. “We’re not raising cattle for the government zoo,” he said. “Most of the people I know in the county who are for the wolves have no skin in the game. But it’s changing our life. It’s more stress on our family.” More than 1600 wolves reportedly live in the Northern Rockies today—enough that Congress has removed them from the endangered species list in the eastern third of Washington and Oregon. Of those 1600, about 25 are believed to live in Washington and Oregon.
The State of Oregon says that it will pay ranchers for confirmed wolf kills of livestock. But the state accepts only about half of ranchers’ claims. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is charged with both dealing with problem wolves and maintaining wolf population levels. Johnson thinks this is a conflict of interest. “There’s going to be a bias and it shows up,” he said. “They feel they’re going to be challenged by enviros if they go to kill wolves, and they’ve set the bar so high that nothing is ever confirmed.”
The Department of Wildlife disagrees. “Our people who are investigating livestock losses have been doing this for years, they’ve just been doing it with cougars, bears and coyotes,” said spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy. “They’ve had extensive training on recognizing damage caused by wolves and our methods have been reviewed by experts.”
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