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Wolf committee compensates ranchers for depredation

Herald and News by Lee Juillerat 10/25/16

Compensation payments were made for four cattle killed and one injured by wolves during Monday’s meeting of the Klamath County Wolf Depredation Committee.

DeTar Livestock of Dixon, Calif., which grazes cattle on the Nicholson Ranch near Fort Klamath, will receive $3,662.95 for four cattle that were killed earlier this month by wolves. The payments — $1,212.30, $792, $764.40 and $893.25 — are based on recent cattle sales. DeTar runs cattle on Wood River Valley lease lands owned by Bill Nicholson and managed by Butch Wampler.

In addition, the committee approved a $407 payment to Dave Wirth, who owns a ranch in the Pine Grove area, for a confirmed February wolf attack that injured a heifer .

A request for payments will be submitted to the Oregon Department of Agriculture in January with payments expected in February. The compensation does not include veterinary bills or other costs.

During discussion, Nicholson emphasized the payments do not consider weight losses caused by stress among cattle when they are threatened by wolves. Jason Chapman, a Poe Valley rancher and wolf committee member, echoed Nicholson’s concerns but said there is no way to quantify the impacts of stress.

The DeTar-Nicholson compensation request will be kept open in case of a future incident. Nicholson said the remaining cattle are scheduled to be shipped out Wednesday, although other Wood River Valley ranchers don’t plan to move cattle to winter pastures, mostly in northern California, until late November.

The payments were approved after the committee heard updates on wolves in the Klamath Basin and discussions on a range of topics.

Committee member Tom Mallams, a Klamath County Commissioner, complimented efforts by Klamath Falls-based offices the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, but complained that wolf enforcement regulations frequently change, largely because of legal threats by pro-wolf groups.

Wolves in western Oregon are on the federally endangered species list while wolves east of Highway 395 are under Oregon’s less restrictive wolf management plan.

Laurie Sada, the Service’s Klamath Falls office supervisor, said the agency has proposed legislation to delist wolves for several years but said no action has been taken by Congress. She said the agency “feels wolves have recovered and should be delisted” and disagrees with some pro-wolf supporters. “There’s a lot of folks who say any grazing should stop if wolves are present. No,” she insisted.

Sada and John Muir, assistant wildlife biologist for the state’s Klamath district office, disagreed with Mallams, who cited wolf-caused deaths in Canada and Alaska in 2005 and 2010 and said wolves pose a threat to humans. No deaths have been reported in the lower 48 states.

“This is not just a livestock issue. This is a human issue,” Mallams said, questioning why alerts are made about, for example, possible toxic algae in lakes, but not about wolves.

“I’m not interested in playing up the Little Red Riding Hood scenario,” Muir responded.

Muir also said wolves are opportunists, noting, “There’s no evidence wolves get a taste for beef ... If the opportunity is there, they’re teach them (young wolves) how to survive.”

Mark Coats, a member of Working Circle, a Siskiyou County group formed to create strategies to prevent wolf depredations, discussed efforts to discourage wolf-livestock interactions. He said the group wants to expand to Southern Oregon and make control “expenses more tolerable.” He said the presence of humans, called hazing, has proven the most effective method of discouraging wolf attacks.

Coats said no California wolves have radio collars used for tracking but said their movements have been observed by trail cameras and studying tracks and scat. By forecasting wolf movements, ranchers can take steps to reduce potential attacks.

He said information on California wolves is lacking because the state has no wolf depredation compensation program, which he believes discourages ranchers from reporting livestock kills.

Muir said efforts to trap and collar wolves, especially members of the Rogue Pack, believed responsible for the four recent Wood River Valley kills, have been unsuccessful. Sada said there is no chance all wolves will ever be collared, cautioning, “The reality is you’re not going to know where these animals are.”

The committee will meet in January to discuss its 2017 budget request and consider methods to discourage wolf attacks, including possible participation in the Working Circle. Last year the Klamath County requested $15,000 for preventative measures and received about $8,000.

The county has received $20,000 Fish and Wildlife Service grant to be used over a four-year period for prevention efforts and has $5,000 in state funds that must be used in the next three months for deterrent procedures, such as range riders, special fencing, guard dogs, burying or disposing of livestock carcasses, firing cracker shells and strobe lights.



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