strike again near Fort Klamath. Now 12 confirmed kills in three
Juillerat, Herald and News 8/24/2020
In this photo snapped Sunday August 23, a wolf stand and watches
in a nearby field as rancher Jim Popson deals with a dead steer
deemed killed by the Rogue Pack. Photo by Jim Popson
Wolf attacks on cattle in the Fort Klamath area by the Rogue
Pack are continuing at unprecedented levels, with the confirmed
number of yearling steers and heifers killed since May now
“It’s unacceptable,” said Jim Popson, one of several Fort
Klamath ranchers who are upset, angered and frustrated by the
Popson has now had seven confirmed kills on his ranch, including
one yearling steer found Sunday morning after Oregon Department
of Fish and Wildlife biologists confirmed it was killed by
“The wolves have more rights than I do,” he said, noting wolves
west of Highway 395 are protected under the Endangered Species
Act. “It’s a pretty helpless feeling.”
A separate Fort Klamath yearling steer kill was reported and
Bill Nicholson, a neighboring Fort Klamath rancher, said the
onslaught has created other problems. He noticed grazing cattle
are not showing their usual weight gains.
“When they (wolves) have the other cattle stressed out, that’s
worse than the kill,” he said.
Adding to the frustration is that some of the recent kills have
occurred in daylight hours, not at night. And the attacks are
happening even though ODFW and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
staff are working with non-lethal deterrents to try to scare
During at least five of the kills, hazers had been active,
driving around and staying overnight on the Wood River Valley
pasture lands, trying to keep wolves away from cattle. But the
human presence hasn’t deterred them.
“They’re getting pretty brazen,” Nicholson said of the Rogue
Popson said the hazers use a variety of techniques, including
spotlights and cracker shells.
In recent days, three or four wolves were seen standing 400 to
500 yards away while biologists examined a dead steer.
“I have no complaint about their efforts,” Popson said of ODFW
and Fish & Wildlife biologists. “They’ve got people out here,
but it’s not effective.”
Larry Nicholson, a partner with his father Bill at the Nicholson
Ranch, echoed the concerns of his father and Popson.
“They’re just hanging out,” Larry Nicholson said of the wolves,
which have been seen during the day. “It’s having a tremendous
impact on the weight gain (of grazing cattle) because instead of
sleeping they’re running around all night because they’re
Butch Wampler, who oversees the Nicholson Ranch’s cattle
operations, said he found the badly-eaten remains of two other
cattle, but did not have biologists check those because it was
unlikely a wolf kill determination could not be made. No
investigation was made of third set of remains on another ranch
that were also nearly totally devoured.
“They want enough left of the animal (steer) to confirm it,”
Without OR-7, Rogue Pack has changed
The Rogue Pack, made nationally famous because of OR-7, was
established in 2015. OR-7 migrated from the Wallowa Mountains of
northeastern Oregon to southern Oregon in 2011 and mated with a
female believed to also be related to a northeastern Oregon
OR-7 has not been observed and is presumed dead as of 2019.
Biologists have not been able to place radio collar tracking
devices on any of the Rogue wolves, but based on many
photographs from trail cameras believe the current Rogue Pack
consists of two parents and three yearlings. Until this year,
the pack roamed between Klamath and Jackson counties.
“The pack moved over (to Fort Klamath),” said Wampler. “Why they
did that is hard to say.”
He speculates the shift may stem from the Rogue Pack having a
new alpha male. He doesn’t see why the pack’s new hunting
strategy will change any time soon.
“I’d love to have the decision makers come out here and tell me
where it goes,” Popson said of the accelerated number of wolf
kills. “I don’t see any action. How many kills do we have to
have, a dozen, 20, 50, 100?”
Defenders acknowledge problems, recommend non-lethal defenses
Zoë Hanley, northwest representative for Defenders of Wildlife,
said her organization has kept apprised of the increasing
attacks in the Fort Klamath area. She said she sympathizes with
ranchers experiencing losses, and is currently working to
provide non-lethal options to individual ranchers and to state
and federal biologists working in the area.
Hanley said federal protections for wolves in the area are still
necessary, and that killing wolves can exacerbate the problem,
or provide only a short-term solution until a new pack moves in.
"I totally acknowledge that (sustained livestock attacks) are
not good for the producers and not good for acceptance of wolves
on the landscape,” she said. “But in terms of lethal control, we
do believe that is an absolute last option. That’s not a long
term solution for reducing conflict.”
She said the organization is looking at ways to provide
technical support to ranchers, including ways to re-teach cattle
defensive, herd instincts. They also offer financial support for
range riders and other non-lethal deterrents. There were plans
to hold in-person community meetings, but those may take place
virtually during COVID, according to Hanley.
Attacks were rare in 2019, but compensation remains low
In 2019, ODFW documented 158 wolves and investigated 50
suspected cases of wolves attacking livestock in Oregon. One
incident was ruled as “probable” wolf depredation, 12 were
“possible or unknown,” and 21 were determined not wolf-related.
In some cases, by the time a state wildlife biologist arrives at
the scene there were too few remains for the death to be
definitely linked to wolves. Biologists look for such signs as
wolf tracks, evidence of physical trauma, and often after the
hide is removed, a wolf’s “unmistakable” bite marks.
If cattle deaths are confirmed as being by wolves, ranchers can
be compensated through the Oregon Wolf Depredation Compensation
and Financial Assistance Block Grant Program, which is
administered in Klamath County by the Wolf Depredation Advisory
The group also oversees grants to fund non-lethal prevention
measures, such as flagging on fences, the use of blank shotgun
shells and flashing lights. Earlier this year, the council
approved the compensation rate at $1.20 per pound. There was
only one confirmed Klamath County wolf kill in 2019, which
resulted in a compensation of $876.
Butch Wampler, who oversees cattle operations on the Nicholson
Ranch, noted ranchers are compensated for the weight of cattle
when they are killed.
“If these steers would live to the weight when we ship them out
it would be a much higher value,” he said. “Even though you’re
compensated it’s not a winning situation.”
— Tim Trainor contributed to
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