Wildlife biologists concerned about cattle
for now, emphasis is on hazing wolves
FORT KLAMATH —
Wildlife biologists regard the killing of four cattle in the
Fort Klamath area as "unusual" and "disturbing," but say
there are no plans to enact lethal measures to wolves and
believe the wolves pose no threats to humans.
"We don't even
want to talk about lethal measures," said John Stephenson, a
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wildlife biologist. "What
we're trying to do is stop it with non-lethal measures. When
you have a flurry of incidents you don't jump to lethal
He believes the
Rogue Pack, which includes the wolf designated as OR-7, is
responsible for four confirmed kills. But, none of the
wolves in the pack, which includes OR-7's mate and wolves
born the past three years, have radio collars that help
track their location.
looking to trap this pack for a while," Stephenson said of
efforts to capture and collar a Rogue Pack wolf, noting
they've been seen in the Wood River Valley since 2014. "It
would help us know when they're down here."
returned to the area Thursday to investigate the most recent
incident, said the problem will be temporarily eased as the
final cattle are trucked out of the valley to winter
pastures, mostly in northern California, in coming weeks.
Upward of 35,000 head of cattle are shipped to graze on Wood
River Valley pastures each spring.
"We need to do
something ASAP. Now we have to ratchet up the effort,"
Stephenson said, noting he and Oregon Department of Fish and
Wildlife biologists have several nights camped and built
fires near remaining cattle to discourage wolves, a practice
known as hazing.
non-lethal methods are being investigated. Strobe lights
were set-up near the cattle, but the most recent wolf attack
happened near the lights. He said placing red ribbons on
fences near grazing areas are probably impractical because
"these are big pastures."
Along with the
Rogue Pack, the Silver Lake Pack is known in nearby northern
Lake County and there are wolves known as the "Keno Pair."
Individual wolves include OR-33,which is believed to have
killed two goats on consecutive nights near Grizzly Peak
east of Ashland. It was recently tracked near Roseburg.
Another lone wolf, OR-25, is the wolf responsible for
injuring three 550-pound calves on the Yamsi Ranch east of
Chiloquin last fall.
"And there are
some probably some we don't know about," Stephenson said.
Elizabeth Willy, senior wildlife biologist with the
Service's Klamath Falls office, met with Bill Nicholson,
owner of the Nicholson Ranch, where the killings have
occurred, and Butch Wampler, who manages the cattle. They
emphasized no wolves have been reintroduced to Oregon and
said genetic studies show Oregon's growing population
originated from wolves from Idaho and Yellowstone National
state nor the feds are moving wolves anywhere in the state
of Oregon," agrees Tom Collom, a Klamath Falls F&WS
biologist. He said DNA studies show OR-7s mate was from the
Snake River Pack.
biologists said wolves pose no threat to humans, with Collom
insisting, "I think it's overplayed too much. Close
encounters, those happen from time to time. The bigger issue
is with livestock."
"close encounter" involved a rancher in the Swan Lake area
northeast of Klamath Falls. While feeding livestock on an
open pasture, he jumped off his tractor and saw a wolf,
later identified as OR-33, standing a short distance away.
"Spooked the heck out of him," said Collom, who suggests
"you always want to be aware of your surroundings."
ranchers, noting they are changing some practices, such as
moving cattle to safer pastures and shipping them out of the
valley earlier. "They're adapting to this."
While hazing is
the best deterrent, he said other ways to discourage wolves
include disposing of animal carcasses and burying them at
least 6-feet deep. In cases where wolf kills are suspected,
he said ranchers should immediately cover animals with a
tarp, call the local F&WS office, and not disturb the area
so that biologists can check for tracks, scat and signs
cattle might have been dragged.
"The sooner we
can get to the scene the better chance we have to make a
determination," Collom said. "We treat the area like a crime
west of Highway 395 are still listed as federally
endangered, he said ranchers cannot shoot a wolf even if it
is seen attacking livestock, something he knows frustrates
"If you see
them out there there's nothing you can do," Collom said.
believes shipping out cattle for the winter provides a
reprieve, Collom, like Stephenson and Willy, say they need
to develop a plan to eliminate wolf depredations for next
year's grazing season.
wolves target Wood River Valley cattle, noting, "A wolf has
to make a decision if he's going to chase an elk around or
go into a pasture."
surprise the number of wolves has increased so quickly,
admitting, "If you had told me five years ago we would be
dealing with these kinds of situations, I would have told
you you're nuts."
$15,000 reward offered for wolf's
The killing of a federally
protected wolf in Lake County earlier this month remains
under investigation with no leads yet to report, according
to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).
OR-28, a 3-year-old female
gray wolf, was found dead Oct. 6 in the Fremont-Winema
National Forest near Summer Lake.
The same day reports were
published that OR-28, which was tracked by a radio collar,
was most likely responsible for an attack on a calf near
Summer Lake taking place sometime in mid-September.
The killing was a violation
of the Endangered Species Act, as gray wolves are protected
in the western two-thirds of Oregon, and the incident is
under investigation by FWS and Oregon State Police.
Various groups, including the
FWS, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Humane
Society of the United States, are offering a combined total
of $20,000 in reward monies for information leading to a
conviction of the person responsible for killing the wolf.
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