Karla Kay EdwardsCascade Commentary

Living with Wolves and No Right of Protection

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by Karla Kay Edwards

Imagine one day you were told that by law you no longer can lock your home. As you leave your house, two suspicious people are sitting on your front porch. So you get your kitchen broom and shoo them away. But they are still in front of your house on the sidewalk (legally not on your property). You call the police. They file a report and promise to monitor the situation. You eventually have to leave your home to run errands. When you come back, your computer that you use to run your business is gone. While you are confident that the folks you ran off your porch and who witnessed you leaving are the culprits, the police inform you that they found no fingerprints. Therefore, they aren’t sure if you simply misplaced your own computer.

This is essentially the scenario livestock producers face every day with wolves in Wallowa County and other parts of Oregon, except for ranchers it is even more emotional. It isn’t just an inanimate object that ranchers are unable to protect. They are beloved pets and livestock which ranchers have spent a great deal of their life raising and nurturing.

Casey Anderson of OX Ranch lives on the Oregon-Idaho border. He shared with me a story of just one of the many calves that have been attacked and maimed by wolves on his ranch. The calf received a significant injury to its leg, but after a month of daily doctoring he was able to save the calf. With a crack in his voice, he said that a year later the same calf was killed by a second wolf attack.

Oregon currently has two state-recognized wolf packs and breeding pairs. But according to Russ Morgan, wolf coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), 27 wolf sightings were reported in November alone. He would not be surprised if two additional breeding pairs were confirmed by the end of 2010. This is significant because according to the management plan, once there are four breeding pairs for three consecutive years, wolves may be considered for delisting statewide as a protected species. Until wolves are delisted Oregon ranchers have essentially no right to protect their livestock or other property from wolves.

The reintroduction of wolves into Oregon will continue to take an emotional and an economic toll on rural communities, specifically on livestock producers. During the recent five-year management plan review, livestock producers requested amendments that would enhance their ability to protect their livestock. Unfortunately, many of their recommendations were ignored by ODFW.

There are significant impacts to ranchers managing livestock in areas with wolves. The depredation loss of the livestock is just one of several issues that must be considered:

  • Inability to protect livestock and pets from wolf depredation in a proactive and preventative manner. Currently, a producer must prove a pattern of livestock loss before a permit can be issued to have the wolf removed through either lethal or non-lethal means.
  • Time and financial cost associated with injured or killed livestock. Though a small depredation payment (which is not a market-based value) can be received upon proof of a wolf kill, there is no compensation for an injured animal.
  • Inability to “condition” the larger wolf populations that are harassing livestock to fear interactions between humans or livestock through use of lethal or near-lethal deterrents. Currently, a permit must be issued before a rancher is allowed to do anything other than yell or shoot in the air.
  • Changes in livestock behavior due to constant wolf harassment which affect weight gains, conception rates, pasture management practices, general animal husbandry and handling practices. These impacts have not been recognized in any formal manner by management agencies.
  • Ranchers’ emotional stress from the additional management strain and the financial risks to his business. These are also currently unrecognized impacts.

More than two hundred years ago, James Madison wrote, “The personal right to acquire property, which is a natural right, gives to property, when acquired, a right to protection, as a social right.” Oregon ranchers should have been provided with a number of tools with which to deal with the impacts of reintroduced wolves. For ranchers, no right is as basic as protecting their own livestock from predators. It is absurd that a rancher must witness a wolf “in the act” of attacking an animal on private land and then receive a permit to allow the taking of any action that would cause harm to the wolf. It is rare even to find a carcass from wolf predation, much less catch a wolf in the act.

To allow ranchers to use lethal or near-lethal means on their own property to protect their animals from wolves is essential to a strong wolf management plan, but that has seemed to fall on deaf ears at the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission. In 2011 the Oregon legislature should propose new legislation to address wolf management in Oregon that protects the right of citizens to protect their families and property (including pets and livestock) from wolves.

Karla Kay Edwards is Rural Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization. She has held positions of leadership in numerous organizations focusing on agricultural and rural industries and issues, including the Fresno (California) Farm Bureau, Washington Cattlemen’s Association and the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

7 thoughts on “Living with Wolves and No Right of Protection

  1. The ranchers should have an Eastern Oregon legislator introduce a bill that gives them the right to use lethal or non-lethal means of getting rid of wolves on their property just as farmers can get a permit to kill an elk.

  2. The lawmakers and bureaucrats are bumbling fools. Look at the mess they have created. You can appeal all you want, it will do no good. Do what most of us do, make your own law. Any wolf on my property gets shot dead, buried and its over.

  3. By the rhetoric being saturated in the media, one would think Oregon is being conquered by the evil wolf armies of the east. Oregon ranchers are fully aware that many more of their precious bovine are killed each year by coyotes, wild dogs and cougars than wolves. I am a life long Oregonian who wants to see the full spectrum of the “original ” predators back to restore order to the wildlands of both eastern and western Oregon. To me more wolves and less catlle would be a good thing. To say these animals are being introduced is a lie. They were here first before our white ancestors decimated their stocks and replaced them with helpless cows that are unsustainable to raise. Ranch land owners need to get their heads out of their you know whats and start to ranch more sustainably. Maybe they should raise buffalo who can defend themselves better against predator threats….

  4. The wolves are predators that Oregon could do without and did for a lot of years. I say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The ranchers and rural Oregonians need protection from these beast. I have seen the government work done by Oregon State Univ. Professor, Dr. Doug Johnson, who has created the collars for the wolves so he could study their habits…see where they go, see where they kill, see where they congregate…and they do congregate. I saw the slides with locations of the wolves…collars transmit every 15 minutes…and you can track them 24 hours per day.

    When I double checked my facts with Dr. Johnson, this is what he had to say…” the wolf pack was within 350 meters for a complete 24 hour day (4am to 4am). Wolf B446 was within 100 meters of houses on several occasions.”

    Folks, that is approx 328 feet from the homes of ranchers, a lot closer than 500 feet. So, I say it is time to get out the ole rifles and protect the home place.

    Another way to look at this is…like Karla Kay said in her scenario of unlocked doors of a business only to return later and find that your computer, printer, phone system were all missing…you’d report it to the police as you had been robbed…robbed of your ability to make a living. That is exactly what the wolves are doing to our ranchers. They are robbing our ranchers from making a living. But, who do they get to call? Will anybody even listen? How many times would he have to replace the stolen items? In this economy how long would it take this businessman, mentioned above, to go out of business? And, if these ranchers did not live in these eastern Oregon counties, there would not be enough taxable revenue to support county services for the others in the county.

    Since the wolf was eradicated from Oregon, the areas in which they roamed has changed…ranchers have moved in and used the land to raise crops in some areas where water is available and cattle. But, those insisting that wolves be reintroduced should have realized that the rancher/wolf equation did not work the last time and it is not working this time. When will do-gooders put the people equation in when they come up with these ideas of reintroducing predators? Sure, it was to keep the elk moving so they would not damage streams and eat all the small trees on the banks, incidentally that cattle got blamed for. But, wolves would much prefer to not work so hard and just corner a cow or calf against a fence and go in for the kill. So much for the policing of the elk herds that the wolves were supposed to do…somebody forgot to tell them.

    We need to protect our ranchers so that they can continue to provide us all with Oregon grown meats. Give our ranchers the “tools” they need to protect their livelihood and protect their families, including the family dogs.

  5. It would seem that rural Americans only trust government agencies and information when it is beneficial to one of their industries or causes. Otherwise, you folks consider the “Feds” persona non-grata in most cases… Also, do you know how many people have been killed by wolves in the last century in North America? There has been one known death up in Canada last year and it involved a case where you guessed it, in a previously uninhabited area, miners had come in and started dumping all their garbage around. The wolves became habituated to human refuse and associated humans with food. So if not for the stupidity and laziness of humanity, there would actually have been no human fatalities from wolves in the last century. The fearmongering among you rugged eastern Oregonians is amazing. I grew up in Alaska back in the 60s and would walk to school every morning with mother moose in the vicinity. We also had many brown bear sighting in the outskirts of Anchorage back then, not to mention an occasional wolf too. As a community we did not expect the “government” to protect us and kill every wild predator that made Alaska Alaska. I’m afraid todays Alaska is much different than the one I grew up in, but nonetheless, my experience taught me that humans can and must adapt to the changing environment. Nothing stays the same, we might want it to, but thats not reality. The reality is, whites came to the Northwest only a few hundred years ago and drastically altered the natural ways of the eco-system and now they want things to somehow stay this un-natural way for their foreseeable future. Mothernature doesn’t work that way, and the wolves coming back to Oregon are a sign that we humans have progressed somewhat from the days of Red Riding Hood. Lets move forward with some educated discussion on how best to live symbiotically with wolves and not resort to juvenile fear tactics..

    1. I would like to add that in the previous article I mentioned that I was a life long Oregonian. For clarities sake, I must say my first ten years of life were in Alaska. The last fourty have been here in the great Northwest and so I do consider myself an Oregonian and not an Alaskan..

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