Young Wolf Killed By Bad Policy
Third Killing In Two Weeks
A wolf from the Horseshoe Pack in Umatilla County, Oregon was trapped and lethally removed on Thursday, Nov. 3rd, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has reported. This marks the third wolf that has been killed from the Horseshoe Pack since Oct. 21st and comes after the lethal removal permit was extended from 2 wolves to the 3 on November 1st. The permit has now fulfilled its original guidelines, but the update made sure to include a caveat stating: “Cattle remain in this area, so the permit may be re-issued if there are additional depredations.” It’s unclear how many wolves remain in the pack, but as of our last update, there are a minimum of four wolves left in the Horseshoe Pack, including at least one pup after this most recent killing, which involved an uncollared juvenile male wolf.
Lethal Removals Ineffective
The true tragedy of these 3 wolves being killed as a reaction to alleged depredations on livestock on October 16th lies in the proven ineffectiveness of such measures at preventing future depredations, and that’s if the livestock deaths were due to wolves at all. According to Carter Niemeyer, a retired federal wildlife biologist, and current wolf advocate, who wrote a 2010 memoir called “Wolfer,” often natural livestock deaths get blamed on wolves. While the Umatilla depredations were confirmed by ODFW, the reaction has proven to be statistically ineffective in the past. In fact, according to National Geographic, who 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. That system has come under scrutiny due to seeming fraud, with several ranchers and organizations overstating livestock deaths due to wolves. As Tony Schick at OPB.org put it in a 2017 article, “The result is a system with spotty evidence and large gray areas, meaning legitimate claims could be denied and questionable ones could be paid.
In one case, the state paid nearly $1,500 for a confirmed wolf kill, only to realize it wa sn’t one more than a year later. The county was allowed to simply move the funds to the “missing livestock” category.”
Expanding A Flawed System
That’s not to say these most recent depredations weren’t legitimate, but the question remains whether 3 lethal removals of wolves were a necessary step in a process that already reimburses ranchers for confirmed kills, often even when the lines are blurred whether a wolf was to blame or not. As recently as February of this year, several Oregon representatives were looking to add $1 million to a state fund that compensates farmers and ranchers who’ve lost livestock to wolves. While that would be all well and good if it resulted in less retributive killings of wolves after depredations, it would seem that Oregon needs to work out its systems of determining how much blame really lies at the feet of wolves. According to Haley Stewart, a program manager for wildlife protection at the Humane Society’s Oregon chapter who was quoted in the Oregon Capital Chronicle when the proposal went to a legislative hearing: “Missing livestock claims go unverified, and payments provide an incentive to blame wolves for losses that most likely have other causes.”
This isn’t the last time a wolf or several members of a pack are going to be killed to assuage a private interest with a financial incentive to blame wolves for the depredations of livestock. Some of these claims are legitimate, and some are not, but focusing on that is missing the point anyway. While sometimes wolves have killed livestock, in absence of other food options, they also regulate coyotes and keep herds of larger mammals’ numbers in check. Wolves are a key part of ecosystems all around the world and they need people advocating for them so we aren’t doomed to repeat the bloody history of the centuries-long expirtation of wolves in the early United States that led wolves to dwindle to near extinction. Consider joining us in our fight to expand recovery efforts across the U.S. and tell your local representatives that you care about the wolf policy in your state and beyond.