management plan is up for public review as the
ODFW Commission once again attempts to balance
the restoration of an apex predator with the
havoc they can cause in rural areas.
The commission will
take comments on a draft conservation and
management plan during Friday’s meeting at the
Running Y Ranch Resort, and will repeat the
process May 19 in Portland. The commission
eventually will adopt a five-year management
plan; no date is set yet.
wolves as a “special status game animal.” The
draft plan allows ODFW to authorize hunters and
trappers to kill wolves in two specific
“controlled take” situations: Chronic livestock
depredation in a localized area, and declines in
wild ungulate populations, principally deer and
elk. The draft plan does not allow a general
hunting season, a prohibition that would hold
for five years after the plan is adopted.
“I can’t predict
what will happen to wolf management years and
years out, but during this planning cycle,
absolutely not,” said Russ Morgan, ODFW’s wolf
program manager, of a possible sport hunting
season on wolves.
and wildlife activists don’t like aspects of the
The Oregon Farm
Bureau and Oregon Cattlemen’s Association said
it makes it harder for ranchers to protect their
animals because it increases the number of
confirmed attacks required before allowing
lethal control of wolves.
The draft plan
requires three confirmed depredations or one
confirmed and four “probable” attacks within a
12 month period. The previous standard was two
confirmed depredations or one confirmed and
three attempted attacks, with no time period
The groups also
believe ODFW should continue collaring wolves,
and should set a population cap for wolves in
Oregon. Without a benchmark, “we will not be
able to tell when wolves have reached their
natural carrying capacity” in the state, the
Farm Bureau said in a statement.
Cattlemen also want
local biologists to make the call on lethal
control of wolves, not department administrators
in Salem. Todd Nash, the association’s wolf
policy chair, said ranchers’ views aren’t
reflected in the draft plan.
“It doesn’t look
like we were even in the room, and that’s really
disappointing,” he said.
however, believe ODFW is moving too quickly to
relax conservation safeguards, including the
decision in 2015 to take wolves off the state
endangered species list. Among other things,
they point to the annual wolf count figures
released this past week as proof the population
is fragile. The minimum count of 112 wolves at
the end of 2016 was only two more than in 2015,
after years of sharp growth. Even ODFW described
the population gain as “weak.”
The department said
a combination of factors probably contributed to
the modest increase. At least seven wolves were
killed in 2016, including four members of the
Imnaha Pack shot by ODFW for repeated livestock
attacks. Blood samples taken from captured
wolves indicated many animals were exposed to
recent or severe parvovirus infections, which
can take a toll on pups. Finally, bad winter
weather hampered efforts to count wolves.
Wildlife officials stress the annual population
figure is a minimum number, and believe the
state has considerably more wolves.
Cady, legal director for the Eugene-based group
Cascadia Wildlands, said wolves aren’t the
“exponentially growing and undefeatable species”
that opponents sometimes describe.
“One hard winter
and there’s no growth,” he said.
Cady said wolf
recovery faces numerous hurdles. Anti-predator
bills pop up in the Legislature on a regular
basis and ODFW is deferential to hunting
interests that provide budget money through
license sales, he said. The state appears headed
to a wolf management approach that allows
hunting while doing “basic level monitoring so
they don’t go extinct, which I think wolves are
not ready for.”
opposes killing wolves if deer and elk
populations drop. Cady said proper habitat is a
greater factor in ungulate populations than
wolves. The group also opposes draft plan
provisions that allow USDA Wildlife Services to
conduct livestock depredation investigations.
Cady said the agency is too quick to blame
wolves for every attack.
came under intense criticism this spring when it
killed an Oregon wolf with an M-44 cyanide
poison trap set to kill coyotes. Soon after, a
dog in Idaho died and a teenage boy was injured
when they encountered an M-44. Wildlife Service
subsequently announced it would not use the
devices in six Eastern Oregon counties where the
majority of the state’s wolves live.
“Given their track
record, they shouldn’t be involved in predator
management in Oregon in any capacity,” Cady
Past wolf hearings
have become displays of the state’s urban-rural
divide. Wildlife activists from Portland and
Eugene, and from out of state, tend to celebrate
the presence of wolves restored to the
landscape. Cattle ranchers and other rural
residents tend to testify about the expense of
defensive measures and the grisly results of
As the draft wolf
plan authors put it, “people with the most
positive attitudes about wolves have been those
with the least experience with them. People who
live in areas with wolves have more negative
attitudes toward wolves than the general public,
and negative attitudes are further amplified by
wolf predation of livestock.
“In Oregon, it is
expected that an increasing and expanding
population of wolves will result in more, not
less, conflict in the future,” the plan
The plan says the
impact of wolves on deer and elk is mixed, and
is complicated by the presence and feeding
habits of cougars, bears, coyotes and bobcats.
When hunting elk,
“wolves continually test prey to identify weak
individuals” they can single out for attack.
Such “near constant hunting pressure” could
change the habitat use, vigilance, movement
rates and migration patterns of elk, according
to the report. The fitness and reproductive
potential of elk could be expected to decline in
Wolves don’t eat
mule deer that often, but their presence could
force cougars into steeper terrain where they’d
be more likely to encounter mule deer, according
to the report.