Oregon ranchers: Wolf delisting OK
PENDLETON, Ore. (AP) A proposal to reduce federal protection of wolves means none would migrate to Oregon, a conservationist said at a meeting in Pendleton. Ranchers from Eastern Oregon said that would be OK by them.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service held the meeting Wednesday to explain a proposal to remove the gray wolf from the list of threatened and endangered species in the Northern Rocky Mountains and slivers of eastern Oregon and Washington.
Biologists have not confirmed that any wolves now live in Oregon, although immigrants from Idaho have been expected as the population in that state expanded. However, allowing states to manage wolf populations would result in sharp reductions in their numbers, said Greg Dyson of La Grande, executive director of the Hells Canyon Preservation Council. Today, Idaho has 650 to 750 wolves, but Gov. Butch Otter has said they should be hunted until their population drops to about 100. Hes said he wants the first permit.
If this happens, there will be no wolves in Oregon. Zero, Dyson said.
Ranchers say wolves migrating from Idaho would hurt both domestic livestock and wild game.
We are looking at a lot of predation on livestock, on deer and elk, said Larry Hoeft, a Pendletonarea rancher.
Rancher Rex Christensen of Pilot Rock said state attempts to reimburse ranchers for kills are doomed because dead cattle may not be found for weeks or months. It can be impossible to confirm that a wolf made the kill, especially after other predators and scavengers move in, he said.
Josh Laughlin, director of the 700-member Cascadia Wildlands Project in Eugene, said Oregon could support 2,000 wolves.
Right now is a historic opportunity to ensure recovery occurs in Oregon, he said. We have a moral and ecological obligation to do so.
Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the Fish and Wildlife Service, said an estimated 1,250 wolves roam Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.
The wolf population is doing well, Bangs said. There are a lot of wolves in a lot of places.
Wolves roamed northeastern Oregon through 1921, at least, according to bounty records. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife adopted a recovery program in 2005.
Under the federal plan, Bangs said, wolves would remain on the endangered species list west of U.S. 395 in Oregon. The highway runs from Pendleton to Burns in Eastern Oregon.