Wolf protection needs balance
LA GRANDE, Ore. -- After being hunted to near extinction by the 1940s, wolves are making a comeback in the Pacific Northwest and are in fact being seen in increasing numbers in northeast Oregon. Because they are protected by Oregon's Endangered S...
LA GRANDE, Ore. -- After being hunted to near extinction by the 1940s, wolves are making a comeback in the Pacific Northwest and are in fact being seen in increasing numbers in northeast Oregon. Because they are protected by Oregon's Endangered Species Act, they no doubt will continue to flourish.
Naturally, reports of livestock predation are cropping up, notably in the Keating Valley in Baker County, Ore. Wolves attacked sheep there in April and again in August. In all, they killed more than two dozen head of domestic livestock. Most of what they killed they didn't eat.
In September, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife took steps to destroy the "rogue" wolves that did the depredations. Kill permits were issued to federal Wildlife Service officials, who tracked the animals down and did away with them. Since the wolves were bent on mayhem, and since efforts to relocate them did not work, it's right that they were killed. But this is not the end of the story. Decades and decades of wolf vs. human conflict lie ahead. The two species never have and never will be able to peacefully coexist, not totally anyway.
While there may be some good, sound ecological and cultural reasons to re-
establish wolf populations, it seems that people in the livestock industry should have the right to protect their own private property without jumping through an endless series of hoops.
Keating Valley rancher Curt Jacobs did finally get a permit to shoot wolves caught in the act of messing with his stock, but not until months after the initial attack that killed 19 of his sheep.
Meantime, he has had to move stock closer to home, build double pens and electric fencing, install alarm systems, deploy guard dogs and hang flags from fences. In other words, he pretty much had to change the way he keeps and raises sheep. That doesn't seem fair, even if Defenders of Wildlife, a conservation group that supports re-establishment of wolves, did help him with the costs.
Defenders of Wildlife also reimbursed Jacobs for the first 19 head of sheep that were killed in April. That is laudable, but now there's more reimbursing to be done. The wolves came back in August, killed more of Jacobs' sheep plus a Nubian goat prized by the Jacobs family as a pet.
It is questionable whether Jacobs or other ranchers should be put through so much inconvenience and stress just to defend and keep what is theirs. On their own land, they should be able to take quick and decisive action against predators, even wolves.
So far, the Oregon Legislature has disagreed with that notion. Last spring, after the first Keating Valley attacks, the Oregon Cattlemen's Association and other livestock groups asked for a law giving ranchers permission to take wolves that are seen attacking or harassing livestock, guard dogs or family pets. The legislators said no.
In the next legislative session, when Oregon's wolf population is bigger and stronger and better able to absorb losses, the lawmakers should reconsider.
Wolves may have some rightful and useful place in the wilderness, but they have no business raiding stock pens and killing sheep for the fun of it.