Pay up (and) the wolf gets it!
By Robert Klavins. Robert is a Roadless Wildlands Advocate for Oregon Wild.
From the bottle bill to beach access, Oregonians pride ourselves on our green reputation. But when it comes to wildlife, Oregon is starting to look more like Idaho or Wyoming than the green hearted bumper sticker gracing our cars and laptops. That’s particularly true when it comes to gray wolves, the icon of American wilderness.
50 years ago, wolves were hunted into extinction in Oregon. Now, these native animals are beginning to take their first tentative steps back into our forests, grasslands, and canyons—a fact celebrated by most Oregonians. But for some, hatred and fear of wolves runs deep. Though Oregon is home to just 17 wild wolves today, the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association and other agribusiness interests seem to believe that is 17 too many.
A few numbers to keep in mind:
- 1.3 million: Cows in Oregon.
- 17: Confirmed wolf population in Oregon
- 55,000: Cows lost in Oregon in 2010 to things like weather, disease, and thieves
- <25: Cows lost to wolves since they began returning over a decade ago
- $1.65: cost to a livestock operation to run a cow/calf pair on Oregon public lands
- $30,368: federal subsidies received by the Wolf committee Chair of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association (OCA) from 2001 – 2009
Oregonians treasure our wildlands and wildlife, and time and again we have weighed-in in support of wolves. In 2005 we came together to create what was - at the time - the most progressive state management plan for wolves in the West (the bar was pretty low). Conservationists, wanting wolf recovery that worked for everyone, reluctantly agreed to support a compromise plan that set laughably low recovery numbers. We never expected a time when the state would kill off nearly a fifth of its wolf population to appease special interests who never supported the plan in the first place.
Sadly, that is exactly what is happening. In the last two years, the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife has killed 5 wolves (4 on purpose), issued 24 wolf-kill permits to landowners, and is actively hunting down more. Northeast Oregon agribusiness interests and their political allies in Salem seem to have the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) leadership in a headlock. Every time a crisis is manufactured by anti-wolf interests, the agency seems to curtail education and conservation efforts and rush to issue additional kill permits.
The justifications for killing Oregon wolves ranges from “increasing social tolerance” to “teaching the pack a lesson” and “reducing the pack’s food requirements”.
Though we have killed more than 20% of Oregon’s fragile wolf population in the last year, that still has not satisfied anti-wildlife interests. This year the Oregon legislature considered over a half dozen bills aimed at undermining our state’s already weak wolf management plan and make poaching laws unenforceable. Thankfully, most of these proposals died, but lobbyists for the Cattlemen and Farm Bureau have promised to try again.
Most Oregonians believe that coexisting with native wildlife on public lands is a basic moral responsibility,not a burdensome requirement. But as the legislature winds down, one final wolf related-bill is working its way through the Salem legislative sausage machine. If approved with expected amendments, HB3560, would create a new subsidy for livestock interests by requiring Oregon taxpayers to set aside $100,000 or more to compensate them for missing livestock (some of which may not have even been killed by wolves) even as taxpayers are already paying ODFW salaries to kill wolves at their request.
At a time when Oregon can’t afford to keep its schools open, does it really make sense to create a new entitlement program for livestock interests in return for which we get a begrudging commitment to maybe allow some endangered wolves to survive?
When conservation-minded Oregonians reluctantly supported our state’s modest wolf plan, we neverenvisioned a day when a missing cow simply meant another dead wolf, and taxpayers writing a large check to a livestock operation. If ODFW continues to respond to the political demands of anti-wildlife interests by killing more wolves, and opening the public coffers, both their credibility as a wildlife agency and public support for the wolf plan will evaporate. That may make the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association and other anti-wildlife interests happy, but it is not how most Oregonians expect our state government to behave.
June 18, 2011
Posted in Video, guest column.
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Jun 18, '11
On May 3, in a La Grande Observer story, Wallowa County Stockmen's president Todd Nash called for the extermination of the Imnaha pack. These stockmen will not be satisfied until they wipe out Oregon's wolves, no matter their protestations to the contrary. Oregonians and their reps need to apply strong pressure on the ODFW to balance their wolf management. The ODFW's job is not to oversee the second Oregon wolf extermination.
Recently there was in fact talk within the ODFW about eliminating the pack. Today the ODFW says they won't do that, but they specifically reserve the option to kill all but the four collared wolves. So the pack would shrink from 16 last year to 4 (plus new puppies, if they survive). Is this how you mange wolves for recovery?
Jun 18, '11
WOW. Its shocking that the Wallowa County Stockmen's president, Todd Nash, publicly called for the extermination of the pack. Its not that difficult to live with wolves, even for ranchers. Many ranches successfully deter wolves in Minnesota and other areas with large wolf populations. Sometimes this just seems like a witch-hunt, unjustified persecution of something wild and powerful. Its really time to start respecting nature and living in harmony with the ecosystems in which we live, even if that means making some changes to the way people do things. Luckily, sound science is proving the importance of the role of apex predators in the continuing survival of a healthy planet, so hopefully it wont be too long before the greater population catches on and starts to make positive changes, and embrace the wonderful fortune it actually is to have healthy wilderness and wildlife thriving in our beautiful state.
Jun 18, '11
A couple of comments:
I am confused by your opposition to compensating people whose livestock is killed by wolves. $100,000 is a pittance in terms of state dollars and seems like a small price to pay if it will facilitate your policy goal of reintroducing more of these predators into Oregon..
Yes, ODFW has issued a few permits to landowners. Here is one such example:
Rancher issued permit to kill wolves
I agree that ranchers should not have the right to actively hunt wolves -- and in Oregon, no such right exists, even for the handful of people who have a permit to kill a wolf -- but I have developed much less romanticized notions about "beautiful predators" since I began keeping poultry. One's passion for predators declines significantly after a few of them have killed animals that your family has hand-raised.
My view is that if people in cities want grass-fed, free-range beef instead of factory farm beef, then they need to support policies that facilitate the ranging of beef on public land.
The same thing applies to people who want to restore wolves in greater numbers to Oregon.
If you want to have these animals in the state, then you need to support policies that will facilitate a reasonable accommodation for people whose lives are directly affected by their presence. That includes both compensation and allowing people to protect themselves and their herds when they have followed all of the rules and guidelines set forth in the management plan and by its ODFW administrators.
HB3560 strikes me as a reasonable accommodation, and I would encourage BO readers to have a look at the bill before rejecting the policy outright:
PS - I think your statistics on wolf depredation are somewhat under-reporting the actual impact of wolves. ODFW reports 7 calves, 28 sheep, and a goat were killed by wolves in Baker and Wallowa County in the 2009-2010 season alone.
Jun 18, '11
Do you really think that these agribusiness level ranchers feel about their cattle the way you felt about your "hand-raise" poultry? And, given the context of your case, how do you feel about the pigeon breeders who were killing protected raptors to protect their "hand-raised" birds?
Generally, I grant you a lot of credit for your posts but this one is way wide of the mark.
Jun 18, '11
Larry, thanks for your comment.
In response to your first question...
Based on the story I linked to, yes. The wife seemed pretty attached to the nubian goat that was killed.
In answer to your second...
I believe that if the handful of cases where ODFW has issued a kill permit is consistent with the article I have linked, that they have taken a defensible course of action. I also believe that ranchers should be compensated for confirmed kills associated with the re-introduction of wolves.
As to whether that should also apply to pigeons... I have never heard of pigeon owners claiming severe economic hardship as a result of raptor attacks, nor am I aware of instances where raptors will slaughter 15-20 animals in a night, seemingly for sport. That's something that can destroy a person's livelihood, and I think that people need to be aware of when considering the public policy ramifications of the reintroduction of wolves in Oregon.
Jun 21, '11
my kids (and ex-wife) used to live a few miles outside of Monroe. they had some pet goats - until they were killed by dogs. they got no compensation, there were no "dog kill" permits issued, and no one rushed to the floor of the Leg to offer up desperately needed legislation.
predators kill herd animals. there's like hundreds of millions of years of evolution involved in this. if you want to make a living raising herd animals, you have to factor in a small amount of loss. shop owners do; manufacturers do; farmers do. but somehow ranchers are supposed to be exempt from both the laws of nature and the laws of the marketplace?
and we're supposed to pay for it?
Jun 18, '11
The true cost of beef includes wide ranging subsidies ranging from unreasonably low federal land grazing rights, corn feed subsidies, and Wildlife Services actions that killed over 2.2 million animals in 2007 alone, and a cost of $117 million dollars to the US tax papers, for the direct benefit of agribusiness. There is a reason why beef is relatively inexpensive, at least that is the illusion perpetrated by the government and the industry on Americans.
It is quite easy for this industry to be so blatantly intolerant. The apathy of Americans allows these type of subsidy programs to exist, and even expand. I was, for far too long, one of these apathetic Americans. In recent years by better half has awakened in me a desire to know and understand why America does such a poor job with regard to wildlife and wild lands. From a recent report “Writing in the Summer 2011 issue of the journal The Wildlife Professional, Michigan Tech’s John Vucetich and Joseph Bump, Michigan State’s Michael Nelson, and Canadian environmental scientist Paul Paquet call the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation seriously flawed. The commentary is the first critique that the North American model has faced.”
The recent efforts of the hunting and livestock special interests have made us all acutely aware that these industries do not have the best interest of conservation, in any form, at heart. One example is the discrepancy between USFW wolf depredation numbers from the 2010 report: “Confirmed livestock depredations by wolves in 2010 were down from 2009 levels but included 199 cattle, 249 sheep, 2 dogs, and 15 other livestock..”, yet the stock growers associations claim thousands. Another example is Idaho declaring a 'state of emergency’ regarding wolves even though 22 of 29 zones have higher than target elk numbers.
Once a wildlife and wild lands advocate, I am now an activist because of the recent events. My family, and portions of my extended family, have taken the pledge to no longer eat beef. Inconsequential initially perhaps, but more and more people are opening their eyes to the real issues at hand. The more people know about the killing of Yellowstone bison, the millions of dollars spent by BLM to remove wild horses for the benefit of cattle, and the Wildlife Services war on birds, bears, wolves, coyotes, beavers, etc. and the subsidy money used to prop up these intolerant industries, the more people will demand change that will prevent the wilderness from being turned into a manicured game farm and cattle ranch.
Jun 18, '11
OK, how hard is it too understand that by eliminating species from the eco system it is killing this planet?????? Also, Im callin B.S. here, Oregon DID IN FACT put out 24 kill permits when their were only 23 to begin with in the whole fricking state!!! WTH is that? Mass MURDER!!! The wolves are not the threat, the ranchers and hunters are, it all comes down to money and lining pockets which ofcourse the cattlemen, etc. can afford to do so they are buying politicians!!! It has been SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN that wolves are responsible for LESS THAN 5% of ALL livestock deaths. Also, anyone who is a free-thinker, look up records in 1974, the wolves were delisted as wildlife and RELISTED AS CANINE!!! So, essentially, anyone who is killing a wolf in the U.S. is commiting a crime as they are listed as canine and you just cant go around shooting dogs now can you? JAYSUS PEOPLE!!! Do your OWN research and homework, you would be sooooo suprised at the actual FACTS that are lovely state reps are completely ignoring and hiding to further their cause (which I believe is lining their own pockets at the expense of the environment, eco system and ofcourse, the wolves). Think about it. How many people DIE from dog attacks every single year in the U.S. or anywhere else? How many PEOPLE DIE from wolves per year ANYWHERE??? Get it? It's ALL ABOUT THE MONEY WHICH WILL EVENTUALLY KILL OFF ALL OUR NATURAL RESOURCES! One would think many, many deaths from dog attacks on PEOPLE would be more important than less than 5% of livestock deaths but yet, you dont see anyone killing dogs all over the place, that's because the ranchers and anti wolf groups DO NOT CARE ABOUT HUMAN LIVES!!! That doesnt dent their pocketbook nor meet their need for senseless murder. Neither do wolves but these ignorant imbeciles cant seem to pull their head out and see the writing on the wall, WHY??? Just use common sense + logic, it's that simple! C'MON OREGONIAN'S, I KNOW A BUNCH OF YOU, you are not a bunch of redneck, backwoods, ignorant dipsticks who would put money over wolves or any species for that matter, most of the Oregonians I personally know are totally into the environment and keeping their State green and full of wildlife of ALL kinds, stand up you guy's, YOU CAN STOP THIS!!!
Jun 20, '11
Enough! Wolves weren't delisted as wildlife and relisted as canine. That was a taxonomic designation that actually put DOGS in the same family as WOLVES not the other way around. It's well known that domestic dogs can cross breed with wolves and you always get fertile offspring. That means that genetically, THEY'RE THE SAME SPECIES!
You may not like it, but just deal with it please.
Jun 18, '11
Great article Rob, Its tragic that the wolf recovery is taking such a drastic turn for the worse out here in Eastern Oregon. Thank you for requesting that ODFW improve their wolf management and focus more on wolf recovery than on rancher appeasement :) I live in Union County and ALL of my friends and associates out here think its wonderful to have the wolves in our area, I hope the ranchers start to appreciate what a great opportunity it is, rather than just continuing to wrongfully persecute the wolves. Keep up the good work! All Oregonians appreciate it, especially those of us out here with the wolves living in our back yards. Hopefully we will continue to hear their howls forever!
Jun 18, '11
Thanks for a great article. Its good to spread the word about how sad the current wolf management is in our state. Traditionally, ODFW has been an agency focused on "managing" wildlife for the sake of ranching and hunting interests- However, it seems that Oregon is progressing and more environmentally responsible people are getting involved with the the government and ODFW, so hopefully in the near future we will be able to be an example of eco-friendly wildlife management, and the word "management" will no longer be synonymous with the word "killing" but will actually mean "to manage" in a more literal and positive sense. From all of us out in northeast Oregon living with wolves, who want to continue to hear their howls forever, KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK!
Jun 18, '11
This was entirely predictable when they decided to reintroduce wolf populations into the lower 48. I'm entirely for the protection of endangered species, but mixing wolves and people/livestock means the wolves are going to get massacred every time.
There is no law out in Eastern Oregon, or other areas of the ranching country. These ranchers think they own public lands and are entitled to kill whatever they choose, and use whatever resource off the public land they want. And there is no law to stop them.
Everyone in Eastern Oregon is armed, because there is no law enforcement often within a hundred miles to protect them, and they shoot whatever and whoever they damn well please. If you wander on to someone's posted land, they will shoot you. The wolf has no friends there.
Jun 19, '11
Um, this is a wee bit exaggerated. Please let's not contribute to the urban-rural perception split. I've lived in Eastern Oregon and have friends out there (including Wallowa County). I spend a bit of recreation time out there, and yes, I do hunt out there. It's hardly as extreme as you state it.
Jun 19, '11
I've lived East of the mountains. And what I said about ranchers is entirely true. They resent the Federal govt. And yes, there are places out there where there is no law enforcement. A county deputy drives once a month out to Beatty and Bly in Klamath County, so people out there are on their own. State police leave whole areas uncovered. In case you haven't noticed elections and voting patterns, there is a rural-urban divide and that arises from the cultural divide.
Jun 20, '11
Im sorry to have to disagree with you because it looks like we have the same goal BUT, I KNOW for a fact that many Oregonian's do NOT want this, yes, maybe they are armed, sowhat? So am I but that doesnt mean that im out killing wildlife or anything else, it's called protection and yes, ofcourse there are hunters there, they hunt in every single state in the US, as long as they are not being way too greedy and not leaving enough for the wildlife population to sustain itself (as it has for thousands of years)I obviously am PRO WOLF, ECO SYSTEM & ENVIRONMENT and advocate for hours each day because I have permanent injuries sustained over 2 years ago and one is my lower spine so I am very limited BUT, it gave me alot of time to research these particuliar topics. As I said before, do your OWN homework, you would be amazed at what the people DO NOT KNOW.
Jun 18, '11
Wolves have done great things in Yellowstone. During the time of the wolves' extirpation, no new aspen trees grew beyond the seedling stage in the riparian zones. Now, with the ruminants having to be more on the move, the riparian zones are recovering. And, with more aspens, beaver populations recover, too.
But the cattlemen don't care about any of that.
Jun 19, '11
I think it really all boils down to this: there are people out there that do not wolves in Oregon. They have money and connections. We cannot change their minds. We can only make choices like Daniel to not eat beef, donate time and money to organizations that support the wolves and increase our voice. I agree with the policies that Oregon Wild and other conservation groups have asked the ODFW to follow. We want to work with EVERYONE to find a solution. So let's take our indignant anger, apply it thoughtfully and effectively to help wolves thrive in this great state.
Jun 19, '11
I'm with you on beef eating. Save yourself from hardening of the arteries, mad cow disease, and colon cancer, and let's leave our public lands for the public and for wildlife, not to line the pockets of big ranchers.
A little book came out several decades ago, "Diet for a Small Planet." The premise is still true. It's best to raise food and eat from the bottom of the food chain. The world' poor could be fed and our rain forests and agricultural lands spared if we stopped using those precious resources for a Big Mac.
Jun 19, '11
The ranchers should get some guard dogs like Great Pyrenees. Worked for thousands of years at least for sheep. http://clubs.akc.org/gpca/ghist.html
Jun 19, '11
Everybody needs to read Christina Eisenberg's book "The Wolf's Tooth - Keystone Predators, Trophic Cascades, and Biodiversity".
This book will clear up the issues.
Jun 19, '11
Christina Eisenberg is a professor of forestry at Oregon State University. After reading her book, I sent her an email asking about ODFW plans to kill a wolf from the pack. The following is what she had to say about wolves and Oregon ranchers:
"in Europe people keep flocks of sheep safe against wolves by being out with their livestock intensively and moving them around. American ranchers have become used to just turning their stock loose. In the Upper Midwest, ranchers are using very creative methods of keeping their livestock safe, but all of this is labor intensive. We have much to learn and need to adjust our way of looking at ranching."
Jun 20, '11
Go Pete Go!
Jun 20, '11
I recently had a discussion with some of the staff at ODFW, including Russ Morgan, the wolf program coordinator, regarding the recent wolf exterminations carried out by the ODFW. It felt as though I was dealing with people staffed by the cattle industry rather than public servants who's salaries are paid with my tax dollars. I wouldn't be opposed to a 100k stipend if it meant that no more wolves would be killed, and the population were allowed to recover. I wonder if the cattlemen will continue to ask for compensation for cattle lost to "wolf kills", even when there are no more wolves alive upon which to attribute the depredations. The level of greed inherent in these cattlemen, and the degree to which our public employees are willing to entertain this greed is really pretty disgusting.
Jun 20, '11
You know people, you don't have to give up beef in order to support wolves. Just buy beef from a local farmer who keeps his or her cattle on private lands. That way you'll be supporting someone who wants to make a living off the land (as opposed to building houses or industrial sites on it) as well as supporting an alternative to the big agribiz model of livestock farming.
Just a thought.
Jun 22, '11
All of the wolf depredation that has been confirmed has occured on private lands, not public, so I don't believe that the public arguement in this case belongs in this discussion.
Mr. Ryan - a lot of the land that cattle is raised on cannot be utilized in any other way. No other crops can be grown due to nutrient deficient soil. The fact that we are able to produce cattle on such ground as efficiently as we do is a wonderful use of our resources.
Mr. Mainwaring - why are you stereotyping? Have you ever met a cattle rancher? The majority of cattle ranchers are not greedy by any means. Many struggle to survive on the small return they receive in every year. I would love to introduce you to some ranchers who would be more than willing to, very respectfully, answer any questions you have regarding cattle ranching, possibly tour a ranch? Please be willing to learn about who we are and what we do before making such an inaccurate statement.
According to Michelle Dennehy, with ODFW, 41 livestock and domestic animals have been confirmed as wolf kills since their return, 29 alone occured in Spring and Summer of 2009. 6 kills have occured in 2010 and 5 in 2011. While this may seem minute, it is also important to realize that an entire check-list of many things must be checked off for a confirmed kill, meaning many more kills have been made by wolves. Much of the time, wolves annihilate livestock in such a way, any remains left look tortured. The images can render you speachless.
If you're looking for some science based information, Casey Anderson with OX Ranch in ID (on the ID/OR border), has been able to track encounters of his cattle herd with collared wolves and even how close and often wolves come into near contact with residences. If you are curious about this study or would like more information, please let me know and I would be glad to help.
If the public wants a safe and wholesome product, they have to be willing to pay the extra costs. Ranchers work diligently and hard everyday. Its not a 9 am-5 pm job, its more of a 6 am-9 pm job a lot of the time (sometimes longer) and thats okay. We love what we do and we love that we can provide consumers something safe for their families and know that they can instill their trust in us.
Jun 24, '11
Cattle ranchers have been responsible for the degradation of the land in the western united states like no other group, and the extinction or near extinction of many species including wolves, bison, and grizzlies. Many of them continue to graze their stocks on public lands, while at the same time decrying the re-introduction of wolves to the state and demanding the execution of the handful that have returned. I don't feel that I am stereotyping when I call them greedy.
Jun 23, '11
@Katy Faye Wunsch: you posted, "a lot of the land that cattle is raised on cannot be utilized in any other way".
My reply: that land which in the minds of farmers and cattleman is considered unproductive could be, and surely was, habitat for wildlife, including wolves.
Adding up the facts of there being 1.3 million non-native cattle in Oregon, and only 17 wolves, and a lot of range that agribusiness deems unproductive, I would say our practices are seriously out-of-balance as regards respect for native species and their habitats.
I think a higher use of the so-called unproductive land is protection of biodiversity.
Jun 23, '11
Stephen, be careful what you wish for. I'm sure that the same principles you'd like to apply to the land that the cattle ranchers are grazing their stock on, could be applied to your own home or the land that your business or employer occupies.
Jun 24, '11
@Joanne: we humans don't need beef in our diets in order to survive. On the other hand, the native species do need adequate habitat and freedom from being shot or otherwise poached.
Take the beef out of the equation and humans and wildlife can all survive!
Jun 24, '11
Also, @ Joanne:the ability of wolves and dogs to interbreed and birth fertile offspring is not the only criteria by which separate species are designated.
Jun 27, '11
A I mentioned before, the wolf issue we are currently dealing with is on private lands. Land that these ranchers own themselves. At one time or another your home was once home to many different kinds of wildlife - their homes were paved and built on. Is it now that you would like to run ranchers off the land they own to give wildlife a home? A home that is now your backyard?
Ranchers give wildlife a habitat. Do you know how much hay is lost to deer and elk that make these fields their homes? That is free feed and nutrients to them that they would not otherwise receive.
The land isn't ruined, its sustainable. How can families ranch these lands for hundreds of years if they aren't sustained? The majority of cattle ranchers do not degrade land. Grazing is very good for the environment. It keeps the grass down so when wildfires start, they don't devastate hundreds of thousands of acres of land. You take all cattle off public lands and there is a lot higher fire danger that could potentially destroy any habitat for wildlife.
And I absolutely stand by the fact that the majority of cattle ranchers are not greedy. I am honest in saying that you should spend a day with a rancher. Your outlook might change slighty if you had the opporunity to experience their everyday life instead of listening to individuals who nothing about it, but they feel their "opinion" is fact.
Someone once told me, "Everyone has a biological opinion, what makes yours better than mine?" There is no science to your argument.
Jun 28, '11
The evidence that ranching has degraded the land is all around us. Figures on the amount of deforestation that has occurred to obtain grazing land for cattle are readily available. It's common knowledge that wolves were exterminated at the bequest of ranchers in the first place, as were bison. More greenhouse gas is created every year by raising livestock than by all transportation, worldwide. Ms. Wunch, read the paper, read a book, get a clue.
Jun 28, '11
Yes, that would be a wise decision for me to get my facts from the newspaper wouldn't it. The media is never biased and is full of only factual information. I'm sorry, but that is one of the many things wrong with this country. The media is the easiest and most convenient way to get "news", so people are spoon fed anything and everything, and they believe it.
I am not going to read one thing and believe it to be true. As far as I'm concerned, Mr. Mainwaring, I do have a clue. I've grown up experiencing it first hand, everyday, so I'm fairly certain I know what I'm talking about besides the fact that I research information. But I guess since you read about this stuff all the time you're a professional, right?
And please, feel free to give me your sources for cattle ruining the land and that cattle create more green house gases than transportation. I don't need "its common knowledge" and "evidence... is all around us". Where are your sources or do you have any?
Jun 29, '11