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óEditorialó

Endangered Wolves Endanger Livestock

4/29/09
, The Record Courier

Most local ranchers have known for several years that small numbers of gray wolves have been making their rounds  through Baker County. There have been numerous sightings as well as tracks in several areas, but it took the killing of 23 lambs during two nights this month to finally confirm it. In the beginning, state and federal officials were reluctant to call the predator that killed Jacobsí sheep anything other than a ďlarge canine-like animal,Ē but now that the two wolves were caught on camera there is no denying it. There are wolves in eastern Oregon, and here in Baker County.
The more recent loss of a calf this week on the Moore ranch in Keating, may also be attributed to a wolf.

You can hardly blame the wolf; it has  to kill to survive. And wolves have just as much right as any other wild animal to co-exist with humans and livestock. But the sad truth is, once they start feasting on domestic livestock, that is no longer a possibility if the livestock industry is to survive. 

It has been documented that once wolves get a taste of domestic livestock they will continue to include them in their diet and others of a pack that did not have a taste for sheep and cattle before will follow suit. After all, chasing down a fenced-in lamb or calf is much easier than bringing down a predator savvy deer with miles to run in the wild. To an opportunistic wolf, itís the difference between an all-you-can-eat buffet and hunting for food.

Unlike other predators, wolves donít just kill what they need to survive, they kill for the sake of killing as evidenced by the dead, but intact, lambs they left strewn on the Jacobís Ranch.

These two wolves had ventured down lower into the Keating Valley, within an 1/8 mile of homes and other outbuildings, near enough to get a whiff of human scent which apparently didnít deter them in the slightest. Wolves havenít been hunted in 30 years so they have little reason to fear humans. Wolves teach their pups what or who to avoid.

If these two wolves are a breeding pair, then we can expect to see larger packs form in the near future. The average wolf litter is five or six pups. There is also the possibility that these wolves may already be part of a larger pack from the Eagle Cap Wilderness and once they see the buffet these two have been enjoying, will feast on mutton and beef as well.

To survive a wolf requires five to ten pounds of meat per day. A small pack of five wolves could in a short period of time cause considerable economic damage to a livestock producer, and thatís not counting the animals they kill for sport.

The stress of merely having wolves hovering near a ranch can be significantly damaging to livestock, and in some instances has caused miscarriages, decreased weight gain, and a decrease in meat quality. Not to mention the sleepless nights and worry it causes the rancher.

There have been several instances in the news where a cougar or even a coyote have ventured too close to a town for comfort. In most cases the animal is immediately disposed of by authorities because there are children and pets who are vulnerable to wild predators. Just because a livestock producer lives out of town doesnít mean the danger is any less when a predator comes too close to their home, children or pets. Although historically wolf attacks on humans are rare, they have occurred.

Since wolves are listed as endangered species in Oregon, the Jacobs were told that these two wolves would be trapped, radio collared and then turned loose in the same area. Curt said he was told he would receive a signal when the wolves came within a quarter mile of his property. Then, he could haze themówhat essentially amounts to shooing them off of his property.

Have you ever tried to take away or shoo a domestic dog away from a bone? They usually wonít stand for it no matter how gentle they are, and I doubt a wolf would leave a fresh kill behind without considerable pressure. And even if you were successful in getting a wolf or wolves to leave, unless you canvassed your property day and night, they would more than likely return.

Even though wolves are considered endangered here, not allowing ranchers to shoot one that is in the process of attacking livestock or working dogs is nonsensical.
You have more legal rights to shoot a person breaking into your house to steal your grandmotherís silver from you than you have to shoot an animal that is stealing your livestock and threatening your financial security and safety.

And while we are on that subject, itís our understanding that there are no provisions in the state wolf law that specifically allow someone to shoot a wolf that is endangering a person.

It would be a shame to see these beautiful animals become extinct, and thanks to recovery efforts of state and federal agencies, populations have recovered substantially in recent years. But at the same time we canít allow these predators to kill off our food supply and our livestock industry.

We arenít asking that every wolf in the country be tracked down and eliminated, but we are asking that we have the right to defend ourselves and our livestock against the predators causing the damage. Otherwise if they are allowed to continue unchecked, and as populations increase, ranchers will soon become the endangered species. (DS)

 

 
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