ODFW Says Kill Permits Important for Ranchers
POSTED: 10:05 pm PDT June 14, 2011
JOSEPH, Ore. — About a dozen conservation groups are protesting a state agency’s decision last month to kill two gray wolves it says were killing livestock.
The groups contend there are non-lethal methods to keep wolves and cattle apart, but say neither the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife nor some of the local ranchers are taking them seriously.
Wally Sykes, a wolf advocate and co-founder of Northeast Oregon Ecosystems, says those who have taken steps such as installing a simple type of fencing called “fladry” have had good results.
“This usually stops wolves. Whereas last year there were quite a few calf deaths in the calving areas, this year there were none. Wherever there was fladry, there was no wolf depredation. That was a big improvement.”
The groups say ODFW has granted more kill permits than there are wolves in the state. The permits allow ranchers to shoot wolves if they’re caught harming livestock.
Michelle Dennehy, ODFW spokeswoman, says the agency does not intend to revoke ranchers’ permits to kill wolves seen attacking livestock, and notes that they are only given to people who are also using non-lethal methods to keep cattle safe.
“Ranchers have the right to kill a cougar that’s damaging their livestock — or to kill a bear, or to kill a coyote,” Dennehy said. “With wolves, without this permit, they can’t do anything to protect their property. And we believe it’s important to give them a tool to protect their property.”
Sykes, who lives in Wallowa County, says the wolves have added economic value to the area. They keep people employed, not only for wolf-management efforts but as part of a growing facet of tourism.
“Some of the people in the tourist business certainly recognize it,” Sykes said. “We’ve got a number of B-and-Bs now offering wolf tours for their guests, and bringing in wolf biologists, and even some ranchers who can talk about it, and people like myself, activists. People really enjoy it.”
Dennehy denies rumors swirling in Union and Wallowa counties that ODFW intends to remove the Imnaha pack.
“We’re not intending to kill off the entire pack, or stop the viability of this pack, because it is very well-established,” he said. “We know a lot about this pack, because it has four collars on it. And we want to continue to see it thrive in northeast Oregon. We just don’t want to see them killing livestock.”
The conservation groups say Oregon wolves have been responsible for 12 cattle deaths since 2009. They are asking that ODFW revoke the kill permits and make wolf recovery its priority. In Eastern Oregon, wolves are listed as endangered by state law.
Chris Thomas of the Oregon News Service provided this story.