30 May 2010, 11:45pm
Wildlife Agencies Wolves
by admin

Wolf plan requires reality check

Editorial, Capital Press, May 27, 2010 [here]

Imagine for a moment that you are a detective, and you’re called to a crime scene. The victim is dead, and though no one witnessed it, the suspected killer was seen there before and after the death. In fact, no one else was seen in the vicinity and the suspected killer and accomplices were wearing radio collars placing them at or near the crime scene.

What conclusion would you make?

As the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has investigated cases of calves that were killed, torn apart and partially eaten, the conclusions — or lack thereof — have been startling. Though wolves were seen in the pastures before and after calves were killed, in some cases ODFW officials were unwilling to conclude that wolves killed the calves.

What, exactly, do they think killed the calves? Bigfoot? The Easter Bunny? Elvis?

Marlyn Riggs, a federal Wildlife Services hunter with 30 years of experience, was able to determine that wolves attacked the calves, and the Wallowa County sheriff, Fred Steen, agrees.

But the state official, ODFW Wolf Program Coordinator Russ Morgan, withheld judgment.

“We closely examined the carcass but found no evidence that the calf had been killed by a wolf,” he said in a press release. Considering the recent hubbub in Arizona over profiling illegal immigrants, perhaps he didn’t want to be accused of profiling wolves.

To settle the issue, the sheriff shipped the calf — or what’s left of it — to the Washington State University Diagnostic Laboratory for evaluation.

To Morgan’s credit, he did agree that a calf torn apart and eaten May 20 was indeed killed by a wolf.

The rub, of course, is wolves are an endangered species under state law in that part of Oregon, and under the state’s wolf plan ODFW officials are bound to protect the wolves first, no matter what it means to ranchers and their livestock.

Here’s what ODFW tells ranchers who see one of their steers being torn apart and eaten by wolves:

“Because wolves are protected, livestock producers may scare a wolf off (by making loud noises for example) but may not harm a wolf in any way, even one seen in the act of attacking livestock, without a permit from ODFW,” the department’s website states.

That’s mighty handy advice, but it doesn’t recognize the real damage wolves inflict on livestock and its owners, including the cost of the dead animals, disrupted grazing patterns and reduced weight gains.

Add to that the aggravation of dealing with a state bureaucracy that is bound to put the welfare of wolves over people and you have a pretty good indication of why the ranchers of Wallowa County are so upset.

Oregon’s wolf plan is up for revision this year. Judging from these incidents, there’s plenty to revise.

There are thousands of wolves in the continental U.S. — 3,900 in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan and more than 1,500 in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

On top of that, there are 50,000 wolves in Canada and 6,000 in Alaska.

Is the wolf endangered? The answer is obvious: No. And the wolf population is growing far faster than any of the proponents of reintroducing wolves ever dreamed.

Unfortunately, that dream has turned into a nightmare for many Western ranchers.

To allow the depredation of livestock for a the sake of an “endangered” species that numbers in the thousands is, in a word, nonsense.



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