Wolf plan at final stage
Cattle ranchers protest federal government having
By CHARLES E. BEGGS Associated Press writer
SALEM — The final
plan for managing protected gray wolves that
migrate into Oregon will prohibit ranchers from
killing wolves that attack livestock and will not
include compensation for losses to wolf attacks.
The state Fish and Wildlife Commission had
included compensation and authority for killing
wolves in the management plan adopted in February,
pending approval by the Legislature needed to
change state law.
But lawmakers failed to agree on those two
provisions and bills to make the changes went
nowhere. So the commission intends to remove them
from the plan at a Nov. 4 meeting.
Wildlife officials say what remains is a solid
plan, while cattle ranchers say it does nothing
for them when the federal government has the final
The gray wolf is protected under the federal
Endangered Species Act, as well as under the
state's equivalent law.
The proposed compensation fund and right-to-kill
provisions of the plan "were about getting some
additional tools into landowners' hands,'' said
Craig Ely, wolf plan coordinator for the Oregon
Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The rest of the wolf plan stands, he said, because
it did not require legislative endorsement.
Under current law, wolves cannot be killed except
in self-defense or by wildlife managers. Ranchers
must contact federal authorities if their
livestock is attacked and wait for an agent to
decide if wolves were responsible and whether to
harass or kill the animals involved.
Even if state law had been changed to give
ranchers authority to kill wolves, federal law
would have banned it until their protected status
was downgraded from "endangered'' to
Without the change in state law, Ely said,
livestock owners will be prohibited from killing
wolves even if federal protection is reduced. Such
a downgrade could occur once enough breeding wolf
pairs are established in the state.
The wolf management plan sets a goal of seven
breeding pairs in Eastern Oregon.
There have been no confirmed recent sightings of
gray wolves in Oregon, Ely said. Between 1999 and
2000, at least three wolves made their way from
Idaho into Oregon. One was hit by a car, one was
shot, and one was captured and returned to Idaho.
Experts say it is just a matter of time before a
pack takes up residence in Oregon.
Sharon Beck, a past president of the Oregon
Cattlemen's Association and La Grande area
rancher, said Friday that the organization opposed
the right-to-kill provision because it put too
many restrictions on livestock owners.
The measure would have allowed ranchers to kill
wolves only when caught "in the act'' of killing
livestock. It would have been meaningless for
ranchers whose herds can be scattered over
hundreds or thousands of acres, she said.
Beck said many ranchers believe the state's
general wildlife laws allows them to kill any
species damaging their livestock, including
wolves. But said she would expect a legal battle
over the issue because of the federal protection
She said she hopes federal wildlife officials
would take steps to protect livestock if wolves
migrate to Oregon.
The proposed legislation to change state law for
the wolf management plan also would have also
created a $200,000 state compensation fund for
damage done by wolves. But Beck said compensation
is not a high priority for ranchers.
"We want control of our lives and want to be left
alone,'' she said. "If we can't protect our
livestock, we don't have control of our lives.''