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New Year, Same Bad Wolf Policy In Oregon

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The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Service announced yesterday that they are authorizing ranchers, or their agent, to kill two members of the Catherine wolf pack in Union County after a dead calf was found recently and determined to be killed by wolves, the third such event in the last couple of months.

According to the report, “During one of the events, the livestock producer observed wolves standing over one of the dead calves, but was unable to shoot the wolves because they could not do so unless they caught the wolves in the act of attacking their livestock,” but even the report rightly acknowledges “Sometimes wolves are found scavenging on dead livestock that they did not kill.” There have even been reports in the past of ranchers baiting wolves with carcasses, but according to the report, “ODFW searched the immediate area for any bone piles, carcasses, or other attractants during their investigations and found none.”

History Repeats

We don’t have enough information to confirm everyone is acting in good faith in these circumstances, but even assuming they are, we’ve repeatedly shown that “revenge killing” wolves often doesn’t actually solve the problem. Back in November, a young wolf was trapped and killed in Umatilla county making him the third member of the Horseshoe pack killed in that region out of a misguided sense of retribution.  In fact, according to National Geographic, which analyzed ecologist Rob Wieglus’ research, “when a wolf was killed, the chances of livestock getting killed increased the following year in that state—by 5 to 6 percent for cattle and 4 percent for sheep.”

That’s not even to mention the fact that many western states, including Oregon, pay out reimbursements to ranchers when livestock are confirmed to be killed by wolves. Oregon House Bill 3560 states, “Compensation is paid to persons who suffer loss or injury to livestock or working dogs due to wolf depredation.” So not only will these landowners get paid out by the state due to confirmed wolf depredation, they will still kill two wolves from the pack due to following bad science that suggests this will somehow prevent future depredations.

Talking Out Of Both Sides

Perhaps the most ironic part of this entire practice is that the ODFW recently offered a $5,000 reward for any information surrounding the illegal killing of a federally protected gray wolf in southwest Oregon. Gray wolves are still a shell of their former prominence in the United States, and yet repeated aggression from humans continues to stall progress as wolf advocates see the same patterns rehashed again and again. Due to the destruction of their habitat and persecution by humans, gray wolves now occupy only about two-thirds of their former range worldwide, and only about 10 percent of the continental 48 United States. As of April 2022, there were only 175 gray wolves in the entire state of Oregon. Wolves are a critical keystone species in a healthy ecosystem. By regulating prey populations, wolves enable many other species of plants and animals to flourish. In this regard, wolves initiate a domino effect – “touching” songbirds, beavers, fish, and butterflies. Without predators, such as wolves, the system fails to support a natural level of biodiversity. Yet time and again we see miseducation and misunderstanding continue bad policies in communities where wolves are attempting to regain a foothold.