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Published April 05, 2011, 10:52 AM

Oregon Legislature considering bills to control wolves attacking livestock

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — As wolves spread through Oregon from Idaho, ranchers are trying to get the right to shoot wolves they see attacking livestock, and for the state to pay for cattle and sheep that are killed.

By: Jeff Barnard, Associated Press

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — As wolves spread through Oregon from Idaho, ranchers are trying to get the right to shoot wolves they see attacking livestock, and for the state to pay for cattle and sheep that are killed.

The batch of wolf bills being heard by a House committee in Salem, Ore., includes one that would make it easier to take wolves off the state endangered species list.

Oregon Cattlemen’s Association President Bill Hoyt, a Cottage Grove, Ore., rancher, says ranchers don’t want to wipe out wolves, but need the tools to defend their livestock.

“I appears that the political and cultural will of the state of Oregon is to have wolves, and we have no problem with that,” he says. “We don’t want to kill every wolf that walks. We simply want to get along as well as we can. But if there is a conflict, we need to be able to defend ourselves.”

Rob Klavins of Oregon Wild says conservation groups don’t oppose paying ranchers for wolf kills. But they feel the other bills are an attempt to get around the extensive public process that went into Oregon’s Wolf Management Plan. That plan leaves it to state and federal wildlife agents to decide when and where to kill wolves. He adds the bills would make it impossible to prevent poaching.

“With less than 25 wolves in the state, now is not the time to make it any easier to kill them,” he says.

Extirpated in the early 20th century, wolves began moving back to Oregon in the 1990s from Idaho, where they were reintroduced by the federal government. They now number 23 known individuals in the northeastern corner of the state, says Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy. State and federal wildlife agents have confirmed about 40 livestock kills since 2009.

Compensation program

The federal government pays ranchers in most states for wolf kills, but not in Oregon, says Suzanne Stone of Defenders of Wildlife in Boise, Idaho. Defenders will stop their own program paying ranchers Sept. 1.

Stone says coyotes, cougars and bears account for far more livestock losses than wolves, but as the new predator on the block, wolves get more attention. Surveys show paying compensation does not increase acceptance of wolves, but without it ranchers would be more opposed.

House Bill 3013 would direct the state Fish and Wildlife Commission to establish a compensation program for wolf kills. House Bill 3560 would give the state Board of Agriculture the same responsibility. House Bill 3561 would reduce the goal for restoring wolves in Oregon to four breeding pairs statewide. House Bill 3562 would allow people to shoot a wolf attacking them or another person. House Bill 3563 would allow people shoot wolves attacking livestock or dogs, and within 500 feet of the person’s home.

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