Oregon Yearling Wolf Killed By Wildlife Services 2009
Guest Post by Katie, Oregon resident and wolf advocate.
June 21, 2010
The Oregon Wolf Management Plan is currently under a 5-year review and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is accepting comments from the public until June 30th. However, before I tell you about the plan and its obstacles, here is a brief history of the Oregon wolves.
In Oregon, the last gray wolf was eradicated from the state by the 1940s. It was almost 60 years before another one was seen. The first wolf to migrate to the state in 1999 was recaptured and sent back to Idaho. In 2000, two more gray wolves made the journey, but sadly they were both killed; one by a car and one by bullet. The fact that wolves were returning was undeniable, so the state decided they needed a plan. The ODFW sat down with wolf advocates and livestock owners to decide what should be done. Though the livestock owners may have gotten more say in the plan, wolf advocates seemed glad to simply be getting wolves back in the state. The result was a wolf management plan that everyone agreed on. Oregon became one of the first states to willingly open the doors for gray wolves to return.
In 2008, a female Idaho wolf was located in Oregon using the signals from her radio collar. The gray wolf was identified as “B-300″. To bring more attention to wolf recovery in Oregon, the members of a local environmental group, called Oregon Wild, nicknamed the wolf “Sophie”. Eventually finding a mate, Sophie soon became the alpha female of the largest pack in Oregon with 10 wolves total; the Imnaha Pack. Another pack of four wolves was also discovered in 2008. Together, the two packs made up Oregon’s known gray wolf population of 14 individuals.
The plan seemed perfect. Wolves were returning and things seemed to be going well. However, in 2009, two yearling wolves were convicted of killing 29 domestic animals from five different incidents. When non-lethal techniques failed, Wildlife Services was sent in and killed both wolves. Personally, I don’t blame the wolves, they were just pups. Being too young to hunt elk, it was either that or starve. They had no known pack and just seemed to have traveled into Oregon from Idaho on their own. It is possible that their family was killed by a rival pack, but I believe it is more likely that they were killed for “management” purposes.
Now, in 2010, history seems to be repeating itself as two more wolves are being targeted by WS. With only 14 known wolves in the entire state, killing two individuals would be a huge loss. ODFW has also issued seven kill permits to local ranchers, which could spell disaster for such a fragile population.
Oregon current Wolf Management Plan included three phases for population recovery:
“Wolves may be considered for statewide delisting once the population reaches four breeding pairs for three consecutive years in eastern Oregon…. The plan calls for managing wolves in western Oregon as if the species remains listed until the western Oregon wolf population reaches four breeding pairs.”
This means when there are four packs in eastern Oregon and four in western Oregon, wolves will be stripped of ESA protection statewide.
The average gray wolf pack size is about 8 wolves. If packs in Oregon follow the norm, then roughly 64 wolves will be present when they are delisted. A recent study suggests Oregon could support up to 2200 wolves and still maintain a healthy ecosystem. I don’t know about you, but 64 wolves doesn’t sound like recovered to me.
“Once the wolf is delisted, more options are available to address wolf-livestock conflict. While there are five to seven breeding pairs, landowners may kill a wolf involved in chronic depredation with a permit. Five to seven breeding pairs is considered the management population objective, or Phase 2.”
Five to seven breeding pairs? Oregon currently has two breeding pairs and seven landowners have been given permits to kill wolves. Again, five to seven breeding pairs is 40-56 wolves if they are the average pack size.
“Under Phase 3 a limited controlled hunt could be allowed to decrease chronic depredation or reduce pressure on wild ungulates if confirmed wolf predation leads to declines in localized herds.”
Sound familiar? Idaho and Montana initiated hunts mere months after wolves were delisted. The difference is there were 1500 wolves in Montana and Idaho when the first hunts began. In Oregon the hunt could start with less than 100.
As you can see, the Oregon Wolf Management Plan is weak and gives livestock owners plenty of tools to deal with wolf depredation. However, the Oregon Cattle Association wants more power. Since the plan is under a 5-year review, OCA is suggesting changes to the plan that will suit the cattle industry, not wolves.
1. Delisting rules (combine the whole state and begin delisting when there are 4 breeding pairs statewide)”
Four breeding pairs would be approximately 32 wolves. Even if each pack was as big as Sophie’s that would still only be 40 wolves, which is definitely not recovered.
2. “Relocation, location, and translocation eliminated”
The current management plan allows for “problem” wolves to be relocated to the closest wilderness area. The closest wilderness area is usually where the wolf came from before it found the livestock. This part of the plan needs to be strengthened, not weakened.
3. Ownership of lands ,IE; state lands is the only lands the Oregon ESA has authority on”
They are asking to change Oregon’s ESA. Not only would this be bad for wolves, but it would also allow anyone to shoot any endangered animal if it was on their property. Remember, these are changes they want now, not when the gray wolf population is 60+, but when there are only 14 wolves in Oregon.
ODFW is currently accepting comments from the public about changes they should make to the plan. ODFW has not said what they are thinking of changing but the first draft is scheduled to be done some time in August. The deadline to comment is June 30th.
1. Make sure to let them know you want the wolf plan STRENGTHENED, not weakened. Tell them eight breeding pairs statewide are NOT enough. Mention the study that states Oregon could support 2200 gray wolves on its landscape.
2. Wildlife officials need more options to relocate wolves. Suggest national or state parks, or larger wilderness areas.
3. Ranchers need to do everything possible to protect their livestock before any action against wolves is even considered. Suggest proper fencing, fladery, radio collar activated sounds, guardian animals, lambing and calving sheds, frequent patrols of pastures, placing livestock in barns at night, and tracking packs to avoid placing cattle in areas where wolves are known to be.
4. Tell them wolves are more valuable alive than dead, because they are. Support this idea by stating Yellowstone Park makes $7-10 million annually from just wolves (The GYA brings in $35 million wolf generated dollars). Explain the positive impacts wolves have on the environment, like increasing beaver populations (beavers are Oregon’s state animal). Wolves keep ungulates moving, which prevents them from over-browsing vital beaver and songbird habitat. Wolves keep ungulate herds healthy by culling the weak, sick and old.
5. Tell them to increase the funding of the wolf plan. Currently the wolf plan is very underfunded and only has a few members on its management team.
6. If you don’t live in Oregon, you can choose to boycott the state if they weaken the management plan. Tell them you will not buy anything from Oregon or visit the state unless the plan is strengthened.
7. Think of the Imnaha wolf pack and how much they need our help. Their exigence as a pack is in danger. How sad it would be to lose the only breeding pair of wolves in Oregon.
Don’t forget to email your comments to ODFW and voice your opinion about the Oregon Wolf Management Plan. Comments@state.or.us
*These numbers do not include Wildlife Services killings.
This blog is dedicated to the memory of Wolf 253, the beloved Yellowstone Druid wolf named Limpy, who was shot and killed in March 08, on the very day ESA protections were lifted for the gray wolf, by the then Bush Administration.