Oregon Wolves: A Hopeful Future

OR-12, Wenaha pack male

OR-12, Wenaha pack male. ODFW photo.

Oregon wolf advocate Wally Sykes organized a recent meeting with Russ Morgan and Roblyn Brown (ODFW Wolf Coordinator and Assistant Wolf Coordinator) and a group of individuals interested in the progress our state has made in regard to Canis lupus. I’d wanted to return to the Oregon wolf country for a long time and despite the long drive, I’m glad I made the trip. One doesn’t have too many opportunities to hear our state wolf biologists speak, especially surrounded by a group of fellow wolf fans.

We met in a conference room at the Josephy Center for the Arts and Culture in downtown Joseph, named after Alvin Josephy, Jr, who owned a ranch in Joseph until his death in 2005.  Alvin was a writer of many talents, but his focus was on Native American culture and he creating a dozen books and hundreds of articles on Indian and Western history.  The center is a vibrant place for fine art in rural Wallowa County. We watched an exhibit going up of Native American art from the Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts, based on the Umatilla Reservation near Pendleton. The center also offers an array of art classes, concerts, and other events.

Russ Morgan said early on in the meeting, “I’m proud of our wolf plan,” and he spent the next two hours explaining why. Russ and Roblyn work closely with all aspects of wolf management in the state, including the development, interpretation and implementation of the Oregon Wolf Plan (OWP), which was revamped in July of this year. The changes put our plan in the spotlight because lethal removal of wolves for livestock loss is now allowed only as a last resort. Wolves are given four strikes within a six month period before the ODFW will remove the offending animal. Previously, the rule allowed only two strikes within no specific time frame.  And livestock producers must utilize at least two nonlethal measures if they want the state to step in.

According to Russ, nonlethal measures are “situation specific,” and are not always effective. He said removing bone piles is a “universal nonlethal means,” and should be implemented by all livestock producers. There are funds available to help with this process in some cases. Human presence is another effective means of preventing problems with wolves. Russ explained that range riders can be helpful but this depends entirely on the setting. Fladry works well, but only in confined situations such as calving pens. He and Roblyn deal directly with the livestock producers in Northeast Oregon, helping them determine what nonlethal measures are most likely to work on their particular ranch.

Russ and Roblyn with OR 4, alpha male of the Imnaha pack.

Russ and Roblyn with OR 4, alpha male of the Imnaha pack. ODFW photo.

Consider the time it takes to deal with each rancher, understand their situation and find ways to prevent problems with wolves. The ODFW staff has their hands full. Roblyn and Russ both reported that under the new plan, livestock loss assessments now involve a sixty-four step process, compared to a previous eight step one. And they mentioned that they’re spending a lot less time in the field, doing less counting and collaring of wolves. They did say that in December and January they’ll be out doing their annual wolf count.

Despite the challenges, our state wolf coordinators are dedicated to finding solutions that work for both wolves and humans. I imagined attending a similar meeting in Idaho or Montana. It’s doubtful the Fish and Wildlife representatives from those states would have expressed such confidence that wolves can coexist with people in areas where livestock live. Russ told us that with the changes in the wolf plan, “There was growth by everybody in the process.” Referring to members of the Oregon Cattleman’s Association and vocal advocates for wolves, he said that both had learned to listen to the other side. He talked about local ranchers who had changed their practices to reduce conflict with wolves, one keeping his cattle in longer in the spring so the calves would be larger and less vulnerable to attack by wolves.

This was heartening news. Perhaps the worst is behind us in the Oregon wolf wars. Having reasonable and responsible biologists at the helm has certainly helped. As well as a dedicated group of advocates, and also, a handful of ranchers who are doing their part to allow for coexistence of an integral native species.

Early the morning after the meeting, a few of us headed into the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest to try to catch a glimpse of a wolf, or at least see a track. The only canine we saw was Kumo, but we had a wonderful time nonetheless.

A snowy hike in Oregon Wolf Country

A snowy hike in Oregon Wolf Country. Photo by Rick Lamplugh.

Mary Strickrock, Wally Sykes, Rick Lamplugh and Wally's dog Kumo. Rick has a book called Temple of Wolves coming out soon. Watch for it on his blog http://www.ricklamplugh.blogspot.com/

Mary Strickroth, Wally Sykes, Rick Lamplugh and Wally’s dog Kumo. Rick has a book called In the Temple of Wolves coming out soon. Watch for it on his blog http://www.ricklamplugh.blogspot.com/

2 thoughts on “Oregon Wolves: A Hopeful Future

  1. Becky, I would love to read the 64 step livestock loss assesment, could you send it to me please?

  2. So beautiful and inspiring and indeed, hopeful, Beckie. Thanks for your commitment to our relatives, the wolves. Jaelle

    On Sun, Nov 17, 2013 at 12:40 PM, Wolves and Writing wrote:

    > Beckie Elgin, Freelance Writer posted: ” Oregon wolf advocate Wally > Sykes organized a recent meeting with Russ Morgan and Roblyn Brown (ODFW > Wolf Coordinator and Assistant Wolf Coordinator) and a group of individuals > interested in the progress our state has made in regard to Canis lupus. > Id”

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