ODFW authorizes removal of two wolves

Jun 25, 2010

Late last month, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) granted authorization to representatives of USDA’s Wildlife Services Division to remove two of the wolves that have been harassing livestock in Wallowa County since last February. However, officials have been instructed to limit the removal to two uncollared wolves in order to protect the pack’s breeding pair, thought to be the only breeding pair residing within the state. “The lethal action is aimed at killing wolves that are showing an interest in livestock, not wolves simply living in the area,” said the release. “It will be limited to an area where three of the confirmed livestock kills are clustered.” Though originally limited to June 11, the deadline on the authorization has since been extended to June 25.

To date, ODFW has confirmed six cases of livestock predation by wolves in Wallowa County, beginning in early May. Wildlife Service representatives have classified an additional three kills, but ODFW has so far declined to confirm them. Under Oregon’s current wolf management plan, ODFW has the final say on confirmations, the number and location of which are critical in determining whether or not the wolves can legally be removed. Despite the authorization, ranchers are still calling for changes to the wolf plan, and asking that ODFW defer to Wildlife Services in the matter of confirming kills, as is the case in other western states, claiming that ODFW lacks the experience necessary to make the all-important determination. In at least one of the unconfirmed cases, separate samples were sent to Washington State University for independent analysis by the Wallowa County Sheriff’s office. In a release earlier this month, Sheriff Fred Steen indicated that the University’s findings were consistent with the trauma seen on other wolf-killed carcasses. In response, ODFW agreed to amend their report, but still declined to confirm the case as a definite wolf kill. To Rod Childers, rancher and chairman of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association Wolf Committee, this is indicative of ODFW’s naiveté on the subject. “To me, that’s a lack of the experience and expertise that’s needed to be out in the field doing these investigations,” he says.

Oregon’s wolf management plan is up for review this year, and ranchers are hopeful that they will gain more latitude when it comes to protecting their livestock from the predators. Looming over it all, however, is the threat that a federal district judge will return wolves throughout the west to federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. As a result of lawsuits filed by several environmental groups, Judge Donald Molloy heard arguments on June 15 in Missoula, MT, and is expected to render a decision later this year. — Jason Campbell, WLJ Correspondent