Endangered Wolves Endanger Livestock
The Record Courier
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
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)