News of the livestock deaths most likely caused by the Rogue pack has traveled fast. Yet, there are still many unanswered questions. I don’t have any inside information to offer, but here is what I know of the facts.
On Monday, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) released news of three confirmed livestock attacks by wolves in Klamath County. The incidents occurred in the Wood River Valley and all were on private land.
The depredation investigation reports discuss the examinations done on the three calves, which ranged in weight from 300 to 800 pounds. Two were dead and mostly consumed while one was badly injured. The attacks were estimated to have occurred on 10/2, 10/3 and 10/5/16. Wolf tracks were seen around the site and the specific details, which I won’t go into here, indicate that wolves were clearly involved. The ODFW report states “The Rogue Pack is known to frequent this general area this time of year.”
Other wolves also spend near the Wood River location, including OR-33 and OR-25. Both are from the Imnaha pack and unfortunately, have previously been involved in livestock deaths, OR-33 just outside of Ashland and OR-25 at a ranch along the Williamson River. However, from what we know, these were isolated incidents and non-lethal actions have helped prevent further problems.
USFWS biologist John Stephenson is quoted as saying it is “very possible” the Rogue pack is responsible for the attacks. I’m sure I’m not the only one who held out hopes that OR-7 and his pack would continue to steer clear of cattle. They had for so long. Journey left northeast Oregon in September of 2011, and thus far, had not been implicated in any livestock deaths. What changed? The growing size of his pack (possibly up to 9 now) and the need for more prey? Perhaps the shift had something to do with Journey’s age. Seven is old for a wild wolf and maybe his hunting skills are ebbing.
What’s the Good News?
Oregon wolves living west of Highways 395-78-95 are protected by the Federal Endangered Species Act. So, the Rogue family has that on their side, and they also have John Stephenson, who when asked if the attacks would lead to lethal control, said, “That’s not being contemplated at all. We’re trying to stop it from continuing.” Newspapers report that Stephenson put up special fencing (fladry, I assume) and increased human presence in an effort to keep the wolves away. He also plans to keep tabs of the wolves by renewing efforts to capture and collar members of the Rogue pack.
What Can We Do?
The Oregon Wolf Plan, as you may know, is currently under review. Changes made to this plan will affect the future management of wolves statewide. Keep an eye out for future public comment meetings or contact ODFW regarding the importance of providing continued protection for wolves.
These recent depredations, as well as the Profanity Peak pack fiasco in Washington and the lethal removal of the Imnaha pack this spring, are reminders that wolves need large areas of land to roam on, land that is free of the temptations of free-ranging cattle and sheep. The Rogue pack lives near the nearly 9,000 acre Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and if the current efforts to expand the monument succeed, thousands more acres of primarily BLM land would be added to the monument. This land is free of livestock and is just what wolves need to stay out of trouble. While we can’t keep wolves from leaving the monument, at least there would be a safe space for them. KS Wild and Friends of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument are two groups working for the expansion. There will be a public hearing in Ashland on October 14, click here for details.
While we’ve witnessed a lot of livestock producers that have failed to protect their livestock and have pushed for lethal control of wolves, from what I’ve read the ranchers in the area of the current issues have been quite proactive and patient regarding wolves. When OR-25 attacked a calf in western Klamath County, the rancher there put forth a lot of effort in hazing to prevent further problems. And the livestock owners outside of Ashland who lost two goats and a lamb to OR-33, from all appearances, chose to support the use of non-lethal measures on their land rather than raise a stink about the losses.
Wolves are a natural predator, bound to necessitate change as they return to lands they have not inhabited for decades. Let’s hope this part of Oregon will continue to support this return and learn ways to live with Canis lupus.